Sunday, June 15, 2014, 04:33 AM - Philosophy
Posted by Seven

As I watch the news and read through the histories of man, there is a strange word that shows up from time to time. I've yet to find two definitions of the word that match, and it's meaning seems to be wholly at the whim of the person using it. It's been used to describe soldiers, paramedics, cancer survivors, truck drivers, nurses, police, crime victims, athletes... Practically anyone who's at all helpful or navigating any sort of obstacle in life seems to be a "hero" these days.

In history a hero was mainly someone who achieved some sort of distinction on the battlefield, and even then the reasons were fairly vague. St. George was a hero for slaying dragons. The 300 at Thermopylae were heroes for holding back an army of much greater size until the Athenian army had time to mount a defense. Pope Urban II described the people in the first crusading armies who pillaged their way through arab lands and massacred the population of Jerusalem as heroes. So what exactly is a hero?

Is it possible to find heroes among the ranks of your enemy? What if that enemy was the Nazis, or Al-Qaeda? Are heroes only on the winning side? Are they only on the side that is right? Is being a hero more a measure of martial ability, or upright morality?

That's alot of questions but you have to wonder if our overuse of the word "hero" these days is lessening the meaning of the distinction, if the distinction ever had a coherent meaning to begin with. Is everyone who puts on a uniform and carries a weapon a hero? That's the point of view the media and our government is pushing, but what does that make Audie Murphy? He was the most decorated soldier in WWII and undoubtedly a hero by any definition of the word. And the soldier who spent the war in a motor pool repairing vehicles and cleaning up parts? Is he on the same level?

Today, the word has uses well beyond war stories and people who are actively fighting off a disease are also called heroes. Children, fighting to survive against their own bad genetics are given the same honors as a soldier who threw away a perfectly healthy body to shield his comrades from the blast of a grenade. In modern culture both are described as heroic and "courageous". We've become such linguistic extremists that anything remarkable is "awesome", "amazing", and "insane". The sensationalism of the media and entertainment industries has made everyone who faces any sort of adversity a hero. Strange... I narrowly dodged a rabbit in the road today on my way home. Where's my medal?

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