I am on a human quest to find and define a hero, my task taking many turns. Why are some municipalities, schools, down playing or removing names on buildings and parks, removing once-honored military monuments? Is there something afoot to denounce the once-hero status of men and women? Is deep scrutiny and second looks at lives present and past revealing some oft-overlooked dark truths?
For example, is George Washington a hero? What about Abe Lincoln, WWII medal winner Audie Murphy, Surely Walter Cronkite, Martin Luther King Jr. , John and Bobby Kennedy? How about baseball, greats Mickey Mantle, or Babe Ruth? Saint Mother Teresa must fall somewhere in the hero categories? What...Tiger Woods is...imperfect?
Let’s take the much-honored broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite. By today’s standards he would be grilled and slathered for all the ‘freebies’ he acquired from influential sources. Shenanigans with women and a ‘bugging’ of a GOP committee room at a convention would not bode well in today’s environment.
War hero Audie Murphy was an admitted drug abuser, gambled to extreme and overall was a bad businessman and actor.
Babe Ruth shot himself up with what was believed to be the equivalent of steroids in the Roaring Twenties, sheep testicle extract. His debauchery with alcohol and woman was well known.
Mickey Mantle was an all-out alcoholic and womanizer extreme, but we still consider his feats at the level of hero.
Mother Teresa was proclaimed a Catholic Saint under very dubious statistics and stories. Her love of publicity was outstanding, as well as her very unsanitary treatment and deaths of patients, all mixed with unsavory business and political connections.
Civil rights activist and legend Martin Luther King Jr. plagiarized dissertations, speeches and book writing to the extreme. Womanizing beyond belief was a calling card in his real dreams.
Oh, George Washington inherited his first wave of slaves at age 11. He reportedly even paid slaves to pull out teeth to complete his many bridges. Wife Martha had as many as 84 slaves when she wed the ‘Father of the Nation. His military prowess was never an actual reality in many defeats and guffaws.
John and Bobby Kennedy were political opportunists, womanizers, hung out with unsavory people, had ‘forked tongues’ when it came to reality.
How about good old Abe Lincoln? In reality, he was never particularly interested in Black freedom. He used the Emancipation Proclamation as a tool and actually favored sending Blacks back to Africa. He also never believed Blacks deserved political and social standing among Whites.
Yes, looking back, naming a school building after a quasi-historical hero does and should need questioning. History is written, not on a level playing field, but all too often myths and monoliths. We present a medal to the soldier who performed a great military undertaking and often ignore the soldier who was killed because he/she turned left instead of right.
• To me, the real hero is the White/Black/Hispanic husband who kept the family together instead of fleeing and abandoning them.
• To me, the hero is the Honduras migrant mother walking thousands of miles to ensure her children’s safety and future.
• To me the hero is the mother or father working countless hours at a low paying job to feed the family, accepting perhaps embarrassing charity to ensure the next meal.
• To me, the real hero is the millionaire/billionaire divesting his/her money to make a better world.
• To me the hero is the journalist literally dying to expose the truth.
• To me the hero is the politician who chooses truth over Party Policy.
• To me, the actor in the background making a living is overshadowed by the star receiving a phony accolade for his/her performance, all too often for the sake of more money, more fame.
You never see, nor often hear about the real heroes that make our short time on this planet workable, the unknown ones behind the scenes.
It is somewhat ironic that statues, buildings, parks, military bases are named using questionable heroes, people who have carved out a name for themselves, appointed by history to be our ‘heroes’.
The problem is that we need heroes, but heroes are human and have faults. So in the end, what do we name our elementary school buildings? Which monuments should be removed, if any?