A True Hero
As I read David Halberstam’s ideas in his essay, “Who We Are” (2004), I started thinking about our nation’s leaders and heroes. September 11th came to my mind and the many firefighters and rescue workers who heroically risked their lives to save complete strangers. Then, I remembered that the media dubbed Jessica Lynch a hero when she came back to the United States. Not only Jessica, but also many other American soldiers fighting abroad are called heroes. I started wondering if their bravery actually makes them true heroes or not. I asked myself, what is a hero? Do people need heroes? Where does the belief that we need heroes come from? This belief has caused us to over apply our use of the word to almost everyone: leaders, firefighters, and even sports figures. Sometimes, those who we title heroes are merely good people in the right place at the right time or are simply doing their jobs. Essentially, we shouldn’t need “heroes.” Instead, we should seek role models and acknowledge the everyday worker. However, the ultimate search for a hero should be within us. We all have the capacity to embrace our inner strength in order to lead our lives with courage and nobility.
I. Archaic Definitions
In a US News & World Report special online issue about heroes, Clark (2001) gives several definitions of a hero: [heroes] go above and beyond the call of duty, they champion a good cause, and (my favorite) they serve as a calling to our higher selves. In an online “Answers” dictionary, hero is defined as “a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life” (2005). There is a song sung by Bonnie Tyler called “Holding Out for a Hero” in which a line is: “I need a hero, I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night. He's gotta be strong, and he's gotta be fast, and he's gotta be fresh from the fight” (Steinman, 2005). Thinking under such an old light causes unclear shadows to be cast on our ideas of who we call heroes.
II. Popular Definitions of a hero
Today, the archaic meaning of “hero” has transformed so that there are not only larger-than-life heroes, but also ordinary people with the title. Instead of looking far and wide for a hero, we just have to look near and close for heroes. These heroes most often exist in the unlikeliest of places, right among us. Helen Keller once said, “The world is moved along not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker” (Think Exist Quotations, 2005). Honest workers are ordinary people who perform extraordinary accomplishments. They make the world a better place by simply doing their jobs and being the best person they can be. In A Choice of Heroes, Mark Gerzon (1982) discusses men who “symbolize the emerging masculinities” or archetypes, which he calls The Companion, The Mediator, or The Nurturer, for example. However, these men that Gerzon describes as his...