HeroismReading various blogs and other media outlets, I've been struck by something. Something that seems part of a broader trend in this country. It seems that the only people who are considered heros are soldiers. The only people considered men (or women) of honor are soldiers. The only people considered brave are soldiers. The only way to show courage is to be a soldier. The only way to serve your country is to be a soldier.
I don't have anything against soldiers and do not wish to dispute these descriptions but when I was growing up, my dad was my hero. He used to be my hero long before I found out that he'd volunteered for the Air Force at the height of Vietnam. He was my hero because he was a great guy, because he was my role model, because he was the kind of person I wanted to grow up to be. But he would be one of "our heroes" because of his 3 1/2 years as a number cruncher in the Air Force, not because of his 33 years of being a parent or his decades of activity in the community or his years of teaching church school. To many, military service is the only service worth a damn. And I'm sorry but I resent that.
It's incredibly sad that the qualities I mentioned above are so rarely applied to non-soldiers or non-military professions. Are there not teachers or coaches or doctors or parents who are heroes? Is picking up an M-16 the only way to show honor? Do policemen show bravery? Do firemen show courage? What about humanitarian aid workers who go into many of the very same dangerous situations as soldiers, but without the protection of weapons, body armor, tanks and armed comrades? Are they brave, courageous, honorable heroes?
What about people who help feed the homeless? What about people who teach the illiterate how to read? What about people who spend their time helping at risk youths? What about people who voluntarily serve on school boards or neighborhood watch programs? Aren't these people serving their country? Maybe not by killing people and blowing shit up, which gets people's adrenaline going. But they are certainly trying to improve our society. I'm not asking for bumper stickers, parades, rallies, ribbons, newspaper editorials and daily presidential speeches in their honor, but don't these people deserve our plaudits once in a great while?
We praise our soldiers because they are fighting AGAINST something. It's no coincidence that all the 'support our troops' ribbons, etc. came after the launching of the so-called war on terror. I guess we didn't support our troops when they were "only" trying to keep the peace in Bosnia or Korea. But this is human nature and I understand this. Still, it's a sad mentality we have in this country that we forget to praise the people who are fighting FOR something. I wonder if it's simple thoughtlessness or if we as a society simply view physical courage as the only worthy sacrifice, the only contribution of value. Where's the balance?
We need to remember those who are fighting FOR something. For literacy. For humanity. For kids. For a better country. They're heroes too.