The heroes of my childhood and teen-age years spanned the centuries: Jesus Christ, Spartacus, King Arthur, Robin Hood, El Cid, Don Quixote, Joan of Arc, the American revolutionaries (Thomas Jefferson, Tom Paine, George Washington, John Paul Jones), the leaders of the French Revolution, David Crockett, the leaders of the initial Russian Revolution which overthrew the czar, Lawrence of Arabia, Sgt. Alvin York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy.
Some of your heroes may be on that list and I’m sure you have others you own.
Of course, I have personal heroes, too: my dad, my mom, several uncles and neighbors and several coaches and teachers.
But the real and legendary heroes of history were the subjects of books, movies, and song. They seemed bigger than life, especially when portrayed in movies by the likes of Errol Flynn, John Wayne, and Charleton Heston.
On the surface, these heroes had in common bravery, conviction, and perseverance. They were not afraid to speak their minds and to act on their high ideals. These heroes were able to lead great masses of people to fight for freedom and overthrow tyranny. They listened to their inner voices. They listened to voices from on high. Whether they lived with reckless derring-do like Robin Hood or deeply passionate faith like Joan of Arc — those around them were drawn to their strength and their calls to action.
Generally, these heroes fought for equality and justice. They spoke up for those who had no voice in the direction of their daily lives. They spoke up for the downtrodden.
If one is to believe most historical accounts, some of these heroes were selfless and modest. Others were bombastic and egotistical. A couple, during their lifetimes, were considered to be quite crazy. Such is the range of personalities we find in the pages of history. Most of them were killed as a result of their actions or beliefs. Thus is the fate of most heroes. What, then, becomes the fate of those who look up to these heroes?
Many, like myself, become liberals. Oh, sure, some of these heroes would present real problems if they were to run for election as president. I can hear Rush Limbaugh’s questioning now…
Rush to King Arthur: You want to construct a large, round table in order to promote “equality” among the nights. One questions: Who’s going to pay for this table?
Rush to Gandhi: Hey, pal, here’s a coupon to the beef and Bologna Bungalow. And get yourself a new tailor.
Rush to Robin Hood: Rob the rich and give to the poor? At knifepoint? With an economic plan like that, you won’t get four years in the White House. You’ll get seven to twelve years in the slammer.
Rush to Joan of Arc: Hey, Joan, have your voices ever told you to get a man? Go weave a tapestry or milk a cow, will ya?
Rush to Jesus Christ: Turn the other cheek? Turn the other cheek?! You call that a defense policy?
Rust to Martin Luther King: You gotta be “dreamin’…”
Yes, indeed, these liberals would have a hard time getting their programs past the scrutiny of ol’ Rush and his fellow Conservatives. Granted, sometimes heroes need great historic conflicts to rise to the occasion. Repressive regimes like Imperial Rome and Nazi Germany inspire the best in some people.
But nearly ever day can be an opportunity for us to stand tall for the little guy, for us to speak out against an injustice, for us to give to those less fortunate instead of taking for ourselves.
These are the lessons I learned from those I admire.
Almost anyone of them would get my vote. I regret to say that most of them would still be crucified or burned at the stake today — at least figuratively, if not literally.