Tuesday, July 31, 2007
We could be heroes
This front-page promo groups the obituaries of three notable people. It's a reasonable attempt to give some 1A presence to these people, whose only real connection beyond time of death was excellence in their respective fields.

But are they heroes, as indicated in the headline? Whenever I see that word applied to people in the news, I always think of this exchange from an old "Simpsons" episode:

Homer: That little Timmy is a real hero.
Lisa: What makes him a hero, dad?
Homer: Well, he fell down the well and ... can't get out.
Lisa: How does that make him a hero?
Homer: Well, it's more than you did!

Tom Snyder, Ingmar Bergman and Bill Walsh did more than fall down a well, and they did more than I'll probably ever do. Their work is significant, their lives newsworthy. But I am not sure they match these definitions of hero:
  • a person distinguished by exceptional courage and nobility and strength;
  • a being of great strength and courage celebrated for bold exploits; often the offspring of a mortal and a god (classical mythology)
Some heroes are tragic, others epic. And some are folksy. Whatever type, let's be careful not to confuse achievement with heroism. Luke Skywalker, Rosa Parks and Mahatma Gandhi were heroes. (So was Hero, if only in name.) Snyder, Bergman and Walsh? Probably not.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 1:38 PM | Permalink |


  • At 11:21 AM, Blogger Pam

    Excellent point, Andy. We've taken to labeling all sorts of people as heroes, some of them simply because they were somewhere at the wrong time.
    Want to start a fight? Ask whether every first-responder killed on Sept.11 was a hero or simply someone standing at the scene when the building came down.

  • At 6:47 AM, Blogger The Ridger, FCD

    Rosa Brooks takes on the depreciation of the term "hero" today:

    Heroism and the language of fascism