January 16, 2009
By Seid Suleyman SILVER, Silver Spring, Maryland
Seid Suleyman SILVER, Silver Spring, Maryland
5 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Hero, hero, hero, what’s in a hero? A dash of bravery, a sprinkle of intelligence, maybe a pinch of modesty. Sorry to disappoint you but… no one knows. Of course its been experimented upon, dissections and blood tests and all that good stuff, but no real results have been set in stone. Walking down a busy street, a person can’t help but wonder, what’s going to happen next? Is it going to happen to me: maybe the person ahead of me? And the thought in the forefront, who’s going to come and make everything better? The average Joe expects…no, demands that that person be what they picture them to be: if there’s a discrepancy, then their just a copycat, right? We have a natural tendency, maybe even instinct, to paint the world as we want to see it. It doesn’t mean we try to white out the atrocities of the 21 first-century, but it also doesn’t mean we listen to every news report about a serial killer or feral raper. And so following this principle, it can be concluded that people already have a picture of what a hero is, in fact several stores of them, one for every occasion that happens to pop up. These pictures convey everything there is to know about the hero. They must be morally right, they must be playing with a full deck-of-cards, and they absolutely positively must be modest. And yeah, a lot of heroes are like this. But this is so stereotypical. The inner demons that haunt people shouldn’t be used by others to deny them the title of hero.

“Hero: In mythology and legend, a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and favored by the gods.” A simple enough definition. Except now-a-days, it’s pretty hard to be of divine ancestry. Even if you do achieve this, God knows how, you need to achieve everything else, such as having great courage, being celebrated for your bold exploits, amassing great strength, and oh yeah, being a man. Odysseus was such a man, albeit of godly descent. He fought countless enemies, beating them all down. He sailed the world with the only thought of returning to his family. He was amazingly cunning, incredibly strong, and had the boldest exploits known to man. Unlucky for us, he only existed in the lands of mythology and legend, the home of the Tooth Fairy and black presidents. Oops, spoke to soon, (Obama 08’!). “Hero: A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.” Doesn’t that sound easier to live up to? The disheartening thing is that it’s such a simple definition. Hero’s can’t be defined with a constant meaning. They are the fluid that never cease their endless eddies. But we can put temporary labels to them. One such label is “a hero is someone who attempts to do the right thing in a given situation where their morals, senses, or better judgment, for lack of better words, is challenged.” A hero doesn’t need strength or courage, godliness or divinity. Someone could be scared to death as the walls of a building are collapsing around them in a blaze of fire. They could be praying to whatever to leave them unscathed. But when they hear a cry of distress from inside the building, that, that moment, is the point that defines whether or not that person becomes a hero. “I should get the hell out of here! I can already hear the firemen approaching.” But another scream shatters their thought process and, with no heed to the heat or flames everywhere, they jump in and rescue the poor child. And so, they become endowed with the honorary title of hero. Know, whether or not the world is clued-up of their deed is left to the hero’s themselves. They can either walk away in modesty…or they can announce it to the world in a shout of pride and overzealous joy at the fact that they did something worth writing about. Then they become your everyday commercialized superhero, fighting crime with an iron fist. They do something reckless like becoming a policeman or a fireman with no conscious thought to the consequences. In short, a hero is the label we place on the people that defy their better judgment to do something which, in the grand scheme of things, helps someone out.

The matter of who the hero is is quit simple. Anyone. A one word answer that sums it all up. Amazing, huh? The explanation is still simple, albeit a little wordy. Anyone can go and defy their better judgment to do something that, in the grand scheme of things, helps someone out. Note, I say “go against their better judgment”. If you see something wrong and acknowledge it as something wrong, but your better judgment tells you that you either won’t make a difference or that it’s just too much to deal with, what with your busy life, or that “someone else will take care of it anyway, right”, you are in the wrong. The mysterious “someone else” has retired and moved to Cancun. It’s you and just you, you and the situation, you and your better judgment, excuse the sarcasm. It’s your responsibility as a human being that when you see something wrong, you try all that you can to fix it, not just switch the news report to the sports highlights. This isn’t an attempt to belittle the countless out there who are struggling themselves or who are just barely holding on as it is without the weight of this nationwide homelessness or global genocide being added. The thing is there are exceptions. The most obvious of course are the ones that need the saving. They can help themselves and through that become a hero, but for now they are excused. The other people are the ones that are barely holding on as it is. They have enough troubles in their life: maybe soon their going be the ones that need saving, but for now, their excused. Now we come to the last group out there who, for who knows what reason, just don’t care. This isn’t an attempt to play the role of a psychic, it tends to make one conceited, but it can be said with a lot of conviction that what they probably think when they see the evening news report is “oh god, now what. Can’t these people take care of themselves? Always asking for help. It’s your own country, FIX it.” To meet someone like this must be disquieting. They must have a reason, maybe always looking out for number one and number one only or always oversimplifying the situation to a point where it seems the only obstacle in a refugee’s life is their laziness. These people need to open their eyes, “pull their heads out of where the sun don’ shine.” Pulling back to the subject, there are exceptions, but in general, almost anyone can be a hero.

We always take things for granted. We can’t help it. We as humans are imperfect. And as such, we take real heroes for granted. Oh, we celebrate and throw parties in their honor. But after a while, we can’t help but feel that, “yeah, you did save us and all, but now, you know, we gotta move on, look ahead. Anyway, thanks for all you’ve done. So… yeah, see you.” Just like that the hero is lost in the annals of history. And guess what? Next time a disaster occurs, where’s the hero to save the day? Amazingly, their out West in a bar trying to drink away their sorrows and maybe quit the discord that’s trying to overthrow them. And so we come to the most unusual thing in this study of the modern day hero, the Byronic hero, named after the man who idealized its traits, Lord Byron. This is someone who we can attribute some of the stereotyped characteristics of the epic hero. Their smart, cunning, charismatic, and even magnetic. What we don’t expect when we look at them is their bad traits. Their self-critical, arrogant, an exile, have dark behaviors, are cynical toward almost anything, and above all have a self-destructive behavior. This is the hero that walks away from the scene, the one who faces away from the camera, the vigilante that places cops and criminals on the same level. Naturally, this scares us. We don’t want this person around us. The thought of them even looking at our children sends tremors down our backs. But we do want them around. This is the point where the paradox becomes apparent. We try to push them away yet hold back their services. It’s a slavery of sorts. But Byronic heroes aren’t the only type of hero. Countless others exist. They include the firemen, the policemen, the advocates for world peace, and the missionaries for coexistent just to name a few. We look at them in a positive light because they are the ones that we can relate to, the ones who exemplify everything that we ever thought of in heroes, the paintings we have stored away in our mental cellars. On the subject of the Byronic hero, we throw them out as the drawings of a mad man, someone who had a brief felling of empathy towards others and manifested it into live action, nothing less, certainly nothing more because how could someone with such a destructive behavior be a hero? Well, that’s left to the minds of the masses to ponder upon. But just take this little hint with you. Don’t ponder. Accept.

In closing, let’s not try to look at a person’s past and belittle them for it. What they do now, be it saving babies from burning buildings, chasing down arms dealers, or even swinging in the night sky in a bat suit chasing criminals, is what defines them. A hero lies within all of us. Whether you let it shrivel up and die in the midst of apathy or whether you let it grow in radiance in the midst of compassion is up to you. Don’t think of pressure when you think “hero.” In this day and age, it’s amazingly hard to reach the level of Odysseus or Hercules, even if you took out the divine ancestry and godly strength. Besides, in today’s age, Odysseus wouldn’t even be considered a real hero. A master of weapons and words, yes, but not a hero. He never did anything to help someone out. The reason he did anything, in fact, was so he could get home to Penelope and Telemachus, his wife and son. So never match yourselves with “heroes” like Odysseus. Neither should you do it with policemen. Their trained men and women who know what their doing, who every time they put on their uniform know their fatality rate just increased 10-fold. Do what you do. If what you want to do is be a cop; if you can deal with the constant reminder at the back of your head that says maybe this time the speeder might pull a fast one and leave you on the side of the road; if you can deal with that, then be my guest. And this applies to every hero post out there. Being a hero is a full time job which, even with the perks, will drain you of a lot of the important things in life, like your family. Just keep this with you as a little mental note card; don’t jump in the middle of a hostage situation because then, you’re not a hero, you’re an idiot.

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