Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hero vs. Celebrity

James Bradley wrote, in Flags of Our Fathers, that "Today the word 'hero' has been diminished, confused with 'celebrity.' ... Celebrities seek fame. They take action to get attention... Heroes are heroes because they have risked something to help others." I got to thinking about his words as I finished his book last night, having also recently watched an ABC Good Morning America clip showing U.S. servicemen and servicewomen reuniting with family and friends. Mr. Bradley puts it down well enough for me not to try to rewrite it in my own words.

My own truth is this; there are very few true heroes. And this is okay. There are more than few truly good, generous, caring, humble people out there. So, they are virtuous. And let me be clear, we need the virtuous as much as the heroic. Both categories deserve the most credit and honor, although those truly virtuous or truly heroic would most likely share whatever credit they are due, which is ironically evidence of virtue. And as bonus, probably true. In my experience, both heroes and the virtuous needed others' love or camaraderie to stay afloat. They encouraged others to serve, thus amplifying their own efforts. And often, they were materially supported by others as they, in turn, served those same folks and society at large.

As I mentioned, we need virtue. We can all seek to be virtuous and achieve it in some humble measure. We can all serve our fellow citizens. We don't all have great courage, nor do we -- if we are lucky -- find ourselves in situations where personal courage is required. If we do find ourselves in danger or moral crisis, we are best served by simply serving our pursuit of virtue.

While we all can seek virtue, seeking heroism is contradictory. Seeking heroism is reckless, although being heroic isn't. You just don't seek it, nor do you know if you have it. Simply put, seeking virtue thrusts some of us, unwittingly, into heroism. We should honor heroes for their courage, while perhaps highlighting their basic service and pursuit of virtue equally.

Mr. Bradley's father was virtuous by choice and action. He was, by his own admission, heroic by accident. He wanted to be remembered for the latter, and he didn't particularly care for or about the latter. We could do worse than to follow his ideal.

1 comment:

Please don't take me too seriously.