I know it’s been years, probably decades, but just when did American culture devolve to the point where merely calling 911 makes you a hero?*

I used to think a “hero” was the person who went far above duty, above what one would expect of a really good person, at great risk to his self and probably life, to do the right thing.

A member of the military? Definitely not a hero just for being a soldier/sailor/airman/marine. Tell me what he did that went beyond duty. (Note: serving well is not sufficient; competence does not equal heroism; it’s the extraordinary thing you do with that competence.)

A cop on the beat? Not a hero; he’s paid to be on the beat. Well paid these days. Might the cop also do something heroic? Maybe; but so might you at work at your white collar job.

A fireman fighting a raging fire? Again that’s what we expect him to do; it’s his job. Now, if he races into a collapsing building to rescue a kid from otherwise certain death: hero.

A bus driver calling the cops for something wrong on his bus? Not a hero. Possibly even a coward, since he just wanted someone else to deal with it.

So threshold for “hero” has gotten pretty low.

And heroism’s range has become narrow. Once upon a time, if a man were out walking for exercise and encountered another guy beating up a helpless woman, it would have been no more than common decency — the everyday right thing to do — to try to stop the beating. Some years ago, I encountered just that situation. I didn’t simply rush in and punch out the goon; for all I knew, the woman might have started it and I just happened to see the man’s defensive response.

But I did approach, watching as I did, listening. I saw and heard enough to convince me that this was just a guy beating up his girlfriend because she hadn’t been complacent/compliant enough. So I yelled as I came closer, “Hey! Miss, do you need help?”

That distracted the thug, and the woman broke and ran. The guy looked at me, then ran the other way. That’s it; nothing more. End of story. Nothing heroic. Normal, everyday, common decency: offer assistance, if needed. Once upon a time.

For doing nothing more than yelling out an offer of help, I’ve been called a wanna-be superhero, a vigilante, a nut trying to be Charles Bronson.**

Doing one’s job and dialing a phone is heroic. Offering help is delusional, crazy. When did that happen?

Of course, I know how it happened: Years of public indoctrination day camp teaching to respect authority/don’t get involved/let the police handle it/people shouldn’t be capable of doing for themselves/you’re helpless sheep who must be cared for by the gov-approved-and-employed shepherds. All the better to control us.

So that’s why it happened. But why did “we” let it happen? Why and when did enough useless, helpless, frightened panty-pissers decide they’d rather be controlled than decent?

* I’ve called 911 exactly once in my life. That was just to cover my ass because I dealing with a known mentally deranged woman with a history of filing false reports on… everyone (and yes, the lunatic did file a report on me, claiming I was kidnapping little boys and hiding them in my tiny efficiency apartment; that’s what she usually reported on people according the officers that responded). It’s a medium-long story, and I’m morally certain that she killed her own child at some time in the past).

** Dear Bog, if you think that’s bad, you should see some of things I’ve been called when they learn that I actually fended off three mugging attempts. With an evil gun!


5 thoughts on “Heroes

  1. TRX June 8, 2015 / 9:41 am

    “Hero” became a meaningless word about ten years ago when I first noticed it being applied to ball players.

    “You krrp uding hat word… I do not think it means what you think it means.”


    • Bear June 8, 2015 / 10:12 am

      Nah. Goes back at least to ’91 when every beer-guzzling REMF who was theoretically in theater, watching the “war” on CNN satellite TV, got callled a hero on return from Desert Storm.

      Come to think of it, that’s the only time I’ve ever been called a hero, and I was pretty damned definite in denying then, too.


  2. MamaLiberty June 8, 2015 / 3:06 pm

    I remember being taught that police and firemen were “heroes.” In “school,” of course. Mother had a slightly different take on it. Even though most of them were pretty good guys, people who were paid with stolen “tax” money could not actually be heroes, she said.


  3. TRX June 9, 2015 / 7:52 pm

    Policemen and firemen seek out their jobs. Most of them get special training. That’s their profession, same as miners, the guys who rivet steel beams 75 stories over the street, or other risky jobs. They’re not “heroes” for doing their jobs.

    The “heroes” were ordinary schmucks who dropped their briefcases or shopping bags and ran into a collapsing, burning building to drag the injured to safety. They didn’t have any special training. They didn’t get paid to do it. They saw something that needed to be done, and they did it.


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