January 14, 2011, - 3:16 pm
I have a theory about heroes and heroism in America, today. And a few heroes–most of them brave men–at Saturday’s shooting in Tucson by an anarchical nut don’t change it.
They’re “Heroes” Only in Our Hero-Inflation Age
Not only are there fewer heroes in America, today–fewer people to live up to the moment and fight and do what is called for to save life and limb–but there is tremendous hero inflation. Barack Obama’s narcissistic pep rally in Tucson on Wednesday Night is a great example. He’s a “hero” for delivering a speech. And in that speech, he tells us how we have to live up to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’–“Gabby,” in Obama’s “magic healer” parlance–expectations and vision of what America should be like.
Uh, no, we don’t. I’m sorry she was shot and that six others were murdered, and I pray for “Gabby’s” recovery. But none of this makes her a hero or in any way requires me to “live up” (or, rather, down) to her liberal views of a porous American border and socialized medicine. She’s just a person who got shot who happened to be an elected official. She’s not a hero for surviving a massacre. If she were, then I would also be worshiping James Brady because he survived getting shot . . . and every Tupac and Jawan who gets shot in the hood and survives must, by that, definition also be a hero I’m supposed to live up to. And I would also worship every single person who ever survived anything because of the grace of G-d. And while I have tremendous sympathy and empathy for most of them, not a single one is a hero for getting shot and living.
The heroes, Saturday, are the men (and supposedly a woman, though I think that’s trumped up for feminist political correctness’ sake–another aspect of hero inflation) who instantly risked their lives to finally foil Jared Loughner and hold him down, so that he could not shoot any more people than those he had already maimed and killed.
The thing is that, now, not only is “Gabby” a “hero” (for being shot and no other reason), but EVERYONE–or at least a pretty high number of people–in America are now “heroes.” A new study took a sample of 4,000 adult Americans and found that 20%–that’s one in five!–were heroes. I think that’s a bit high.
Don’t get me wrong. America is a heroic nation. We are the greatest country on earth and a light among nations. We have the moral high ground in the world. And we are a heroic people. But I just don’t believe we have that many individual heroes among us. On the contrary, we’ve, more than not, sunken into mediocrity and a general unwillingness to do the right thing.
If this was during World War II–when Americans were more polite, they were smarter, and they exhibited more common courtesy and the willingness to sacrifice for their country–I’d believe that figure. But, now, I think it’s just a figment of the egomania and excessive self-esteem that are the sad symptoms of our dumbed-down, me-me-me, sex-at-age-12/boob-job-at-15 society.
And get a load of how the study found that these people were heroes. It’s a textbook case of narcissism (and probably embarrassment–as in, too embarrassed to say no and not claim some glory to a poll-taker):
Philip Zimbardo, a Stanford University professor emeritus and colleagues used a nationally-representative sample of 4,000 adults and found that 20% qualified as heroes — they had helped during a dangerous emergency, taken a stand against injustice, or sacrificed for a stranger.
It used to be that helping during an emergency or sacrificing and fighting injustice was the right thing to do. It was the basic, expected level of behavior, NOT heroic. But we’ve reached such a low point that basic human decency is now “above and beyond.” Exactly as I said: hero inflation. Oh, and in case you didn’t get it: there’s a little racism and bigotry thrown in. Apparently, this study says that White people are half as heroic as Blacks and Hispanics. But, if you read the way this absurd study was conducted, White people are just half as willing to be bragadocious egomaniacs. In other words, White people are just a tad more modest and less afflicted by uber-inflated self-esteem.
In the study, both Blacks and Hispanics were twice as likely as whites to have performed heroic deeds. Zimbardo says they want to do follow-up research on the reasons for the racial/ethnic differences, which he speculates could be attributed to “greater opportunities to respond” or “being discriminated against makes them have more compassion to others in need.”
The study, supported by the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford, asked participants “Have you ever done something that other people — not necessarily you yourself — considered a heroic act or deed?” Those who answered “yes” selected from a list the actions most similar to their own: helping another person in a dangerous emergency; “blowing the whistle” on an injustice with awareness of the personal risk or threat to yourself; sacrifice on behalf of a non-relative or stranger, such as an organ donation; defying unjust authority; or other.
By this definition, Black Panthers could consider themselves “heroic” for shooting cops, and a Muslim would consider him/herself heroic for illegally fundraising for HAMAS. (Hey, Imad Hamad is now a “hero.”)
As America and Americans are dumbed down and continue to define deviancy down–as we focus more and more on the vapid and unimportant like the Kardashians and MTV’s teen moms–Americans are less heroic. And there are fewer individual heroes among us than there once were. People just can’t be bothered, and fewer and fewer care. It’s not that America has more heroes. It’s that more people have the conceit to think they are heroes for pursuing their own selfish ambitions and their followers buy into this emperor with no clothing act (Sarah Palin is a great example of this).
America needs heroes. And we still have them–serving in our Armed Forces on the battlefield, saving people at the Safeway in Tucson on Saturday, and in the New York Subway, where a brave Vietnam Vet, Wesley Autry, risked his own life to rescue someone who fell on the track, a few years ago.
But the only thing I learned from Barack Obama’s speech Wednesday and the hype over Gabrielle Giffords is that America hyper-inflates who the heroes are. And I already knew that.
With our pop-culture induced dumbing down of the definition, far too many Americans are considered heroes. But they did nothing heroic.
And, by definition, in a world where everyone is a hero, no one is.
Tags: Barack Obama, Gabrielle Giffords, hero, Hero Inflation, Heroes, Jared Loughner, massacre, Safeway, Tucson