February 23, 2010

"I can't remember ever having a 'hero' when I was a kid, or at any other time."

"And if I did, it was a ridiculous idea, not a concept that I'd insist remain untarnished for the kids of the present and future."


rdkraus said...

My hero was Mickey Mantle.

Then I read Jim Bouton's book, Ball Four.

That fixed that.

It was actually a very good lesson for me at just the right age.

Expat(ish) said...

@ann: I think this idea of having heroes is not a good value.


I could whip out an easy list of a hundred people I'd label as a hero for the ages. Certainly for Americans.

You're a lawyer, how about Hammurabi for promulgating the first known written legal code?

I'm currently reading "The Last Stand of the Tin Can Navy" and I am often on the edge of weeping as I read about the sacrifices those men made for our country.

Do you really live in a world without heros? Real ones, not transitory sports stars. Must be a pretty spare landscape to look upon.


PS - I'd certainly understand if someone chose Robinson, Zaharias, Owens, or Pheidippides. Sports stars to be sure, but much more than that.

Hoosier Daddy said...

George S. Patton. Still is too.

Ann Althouse said...

@Expat(ish) If you watch the diavlog, you'll see that I say dead historical figures might be good role models. Also: Jesus.

Oligonicella said...

Sounds more like a misunderstanding of what hero means. Common malady of the left. Woods was not a hero. He was a good golf player.

Also easy to say it's ridiculous without explaining why. Will such an explanation come?

AllenS said...

"I can't remember ever having a 'hero' when I was a kid, or at any other time."

I can't imagine going through childhood feeling like that.

TosaGuy said...

Feel sorry for you, kid. I guess you won't be someone else's hero then.

Oligonicella said...

Yeah, the live glass hanger who went into the building risking his own safety to help confused and dazed people out doesn't qualify.

Expat(ish) said...

@Ann: Sorry, at work so audio is indiscreet. I pulled that from this transcribed section:
But the idea that, oh, here is an icon, you should worship him -- I don't think that is good. I don't think those are good values. I think this idea of having heroes is not a good value.


Hoosier Daddy said...

I can't imagine going through childhood feeling like that.

Maybe because you weren't raised with an overinflated sense of self worth.

Ann Althouse said...

@Expat Bob Wright was making a big deal out of Woods's status as a hero for kids. I was saying that Woods shouldn't have been inflated like that. He is only a man, and it did not serve him well to have been put on a pedestal. Kids heroize sports and pop stars. I think that's a bad idea. I suggest real-life individuals in the child's own environment as role models: parent, teachers, etc. — people who can actually talk to you. Not people at a distance on TV.

Ann Althouse said...

"I can't imagine going through childhood feeling like that."

You can respect and admire other people without turning them into a big hero. A musician should be loved for the music, not for some imputed moral values.

Values can be understood in the abstract. Teach honesty because honesty is good, not to be like Tiger Woods who is honest. That's what I and Jac are talking about.

Salamandyr said...

It is likely that you (jac) had role models, whether you thought of them as such or not; people you looked up to, emulated.

To an extent those aren't quite the same thing. There are people I tried to copy, because I liked their look, or I admired some ability they had...for instance, as a child, I wanted to look like the Fonz, sing like Jim Croce, and play like Eric Clapton. (nowadays, I don't care about the first, can kind of do the second, and no way in hell will ever be able to do the third).

Then there are heroes, people whose actions inspire you to be a better person. You don't want to copy them; oftentimes you can't, but you hope that when you are called upon to do great things, you can do them half so well. Those are heroes.

Mine was Harriet Tubman.

AllenS said...

Maybe your house, but most kids need some space to dream.

Scott M said...

Having a hero as a child is an exercise in self-identification and emulation. Having a hero as an adult is less a self-identification (reality, after all, does tend to set in) but remains an attempt at emulation.

I believe the art world is more to blame than anything else for the wholesale deconstruction of what Americans might consider our institutional heroes. Aside from endless attempts at showing the dark and troubled sides of the greats, nothing thrills the artist more than shocking ma and pa out of their little boxes for ill or good. In this respect, I often wonder if the old science ethic, "just because we can, should we?" should apply to art at times.

MadisonMan said...

George Washington.

Also Sojourner Truth, but only because her name is so cool (And yes, I know it's not her real name).

Hoosier Daddy said...

Values can be understood in the abstract. Teach honesty because honesty is good, not to be like Tiger Woods who is honest. That's what I and Jac are talking about.

Then its more of an issue of picking appropriate heroes or role models. It helps teaching honesty to a child by providing them with concrete examples. Kids don't tend to grasp theory quite as well as something they can see.

Oligonicella said...

Scott M --

"I believe the art world is more to blame than anything else for the wholesale deconstruction of what Americans might consider our institutional heroes."

Agreed. I'd call it projection.

ricpic said...

Boys need heroes. They have no choice in the matter and will make heroes of netherworld monsters if they are denied positive heroes, or, to use the horrible modern term, role models.

Girls, contrary to the barrage of feminist propaganda, don't need heroes. What do they need?..training bras?

AllenS said...

I'm interested. Did you ever play sports in school, jaltcoh?

Oligonicella said...

ricpic --

Don't agree. When my daughter was growing up, she had heroes. They tended to be female, strong, self-sufficient, smart, honest and stood up to bad. Pretty much the same characteristics as male heroes.

save_the_rustbelt said...

Gee. I grew up with lots of heroes and mentors and role models, mostly men and women you would have never heard of.

Sorry kid.

bagoh20 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Palladian said...

Boys who grew up without a strong father figure often find the concept of heroes an alien construct.

Dave said...

"If you watch the diavlog..."


I'd rather be waterboarded.

bagoh20 said...

The idea of hero in our culture has greatly degraded.

A heroic act in my mind requires the hero make a conscious knowing decision to risk a serious loss, pain, injury or death for the benefit of others.

Sports figures are not heroes. The soldier that dives on a hand grenade is a hero. The same word cannot possible fit both people.

Henry said...

I don't see any reason why a hero can't be fictional. In many cases historical heroes and fictional heroes fill the same space in the mind. Winston Churchill has been a hero of mine. And the way Churchill became a hero to me had a great deal to do with how William Manchester wrote about him, especially in the second volume of his biography of the man: The Last Lion: Alone.

In contrast Wright bypasses character and gloms onto celebrity as the defining characteristic of hero. This is pathetic. Wright pins the label of hero on Woods partly because of his supreme skill at a sport but mostly because he is famous. The sports star's hero status is not of his seeking. It is assigned to him by others. It is a bludgeon the non-heroes use to keep the sports star in line.

I have been a fan of many sports figures from childhood. I read Boys of Summer and became a fan of Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese. But that's faded away into something like "respect." I respect them for who they were and what they did but I'm not really a fan anymore. They have changed from living fictional characters into historical icons and so faded away from the center of my consciousness.

So there's a semantic problem. You may respect or honor heroes, but that's a different level of distance than a hero that you emulate. And it's far removed from the hero that is your father or mother or brother or mentor, the one whose character directly influences your own.

Scott M said...

Sports figures are not heroes. The soldier that dives on a hand grenade is a hero. The same word cannot possible fit both people.

Not necessarily. There are certainly heroic achievements in sport. The kicker with the broken toe that grinds through the pain to kick the winning field goal that wins state for his team, for example. If nothing else, that player is a hero to his teammates.

Trooper York said...

Every kid should have his dad as his hero.

If even just for a little while.

bagoh20 said...

Scott I agree that is a minor heroic, but very minor.

To me it comes down to the decision to risk yourself for others. That athlete did not risk much, since refusing to play was probably worse for him than fighting on. Even if he failed he would maintain his honor.

For me the most heroic act is one where the hero sacrifices with no chance of gaining honor for it. This is the pinnacle of heroics.

bagoh20 said...

In sports, I would find the most heroic act to be an injured player taking himself out of an important game if it allowed his team to win.

Dave said...

"For me the most heroic act is one where the hero sacrifices with no chance of gaining honor for it. This is the pinnacle of heroics."

I thought that was a martyr.

"somebody who makes sacrifices: somebody who makes sacrifices or suffers greatly in order to advance a cause or principle"

Trooper York said...

My dad was my hero. He taught me how to tie my shoelaces. Throw a baseball. Ride a bike. Do a tax return. Be a man.

Fred4Pres said...

That is too bad that John never had a hero. I do not mean a silly hero like Tiger Woods or some sports figure. You can admire excellence in sports and strive for it in whatever endeavor you pursue, but to describe such figures as "heroes" seems to diminish what a hero is.

But real heroes are important, as Joseph Campbell used to teach. Our lives are lesser without them.

bagoh20 said...

"Martyr" generally require sacrificing your life, and yes that is heroic, unless you do it for your own glory or a pack of virgins.

MadisonMan said...

Roberto Clemente.

Fred4Pres said...

And yes, parents are often our first heroes. And I am sure John thinks of Ann as a hero of his.

Fred4Pres said...

Some sports stars transcend mere athetic ability to be heroes.

SteveR said...

Because my dad was military (WWII and Korea) and I grew up with his experience and example, the people who have (and are serving) were always up there for me.

Otherwise it was Sandy Koufax, Lou Gerhig and Roberto Clemente. It was more than just baseball and I've never felt like I didn't make good choices.

Dave said...

Disagree about martyrs being heros. You either a martyr or a hero. Unless you were a hero first and then a martyr later. Then you can be both. Just at different times.

Dave said...

Now that I think about it, it's interesting that in Islamic terrorism martyrs seem to be preferred to heros. Especially since one the the distinguishing differences between Islam and Christianity is that Islam was founded by a hero and Christianity a martyr.

AllenS said...

When I was real young, the Cisco Kid and Hopalong Cassidy were my heroes. Then I graduated to sports figures as heroes. I'm not sure when, but for sure, by junior high school I was over the hero stuff.

Now I only look up to Jacob Leinenkugel.

Sixty Grit said...

A hero goes out, is changed, then returns. Joseph Campbell, shorter version.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

My hero was my Mother and my Father co-hero status.

I greatly admired (and still do) my parents and appreciate the values, morals, education,love of life and the lifestlye that they gave to us at great sacrifice often of their own personal desires.

Of course I didn't realize the sacrifice part until I became a parent myself.

I can't remember having a hero or admiring a public figure beyond appreciating their talents and skills.

The concept of a stranger being a hero to children and that children should look up to and admire an artifical construct of a person seems rather obscene to me.

bagoh20 said...

As a kid one of my heroes was the Kung Fu character: A pacifist who always managed to kick bad guy ass every week. That's the basic hero archetype: the reluctant ass kicker.

Irene said...

My hero was Dr. Kildaire.

Scott M said...

I have an 18-year-old that lived with his mother until he left for college last year. While I stayed as involved as possible, being in the service and then in radio moved me around a lot. I finally settled down near him when he was ten and from then on I got a first-hand lesson on how I interact with a son. I'm very thankful for this opportunity to find these things out because I've got a 5-year-old, 2-year-old, and 4-month-old that I am raising. I'm avoiding rookie mistakes (mostly) because of my oldest boy.

Basically, I'm a hero in training and I'm trying to cram a lot of stuff into my head and hands before they get old enough to realize there are other people out there, possibly smarter than their dad. This training has taken the form of finally learning the guitar, brushing up on my Spanish, and going after both woodworking and small engine repair with a passion.

Moose said...

The whole concept of not having a "hero" (define at your peril) when growing up is really very sad.

If you denigrate the concept of hero to include people who are not exceptional, then I might agree. However to grow up not looking up to someone as what you'd like to be when you grow up is obscene. Sorry. I can't imagine having that sense of wonder and admiration whipped out of you, somehow.

You can be analytical about it, and define your heroes anyway you want to. But to avoid admitting you might have had one growing up is rather tragic.

To actually not had anyone to lookup to in that manner is a tragedy.

Palladian said...

Leonardo da Vinci. Benjamin Franklin. Issac Newton.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

However to grow up not looking up to someone as what you'd like to be when you grow up is obscene

However, to grow up looking up to deceptive people like Tiger Woods, OJ Simpson, John Kennedy, Ghandi; or "fake" people from comic books, movies and television is even more obscene.

Yes, we should admire the qualities of those cultural figures (like those listed above) that we aspire to emulate, but we shouldn't hold those people up as "heroes", because we will always be disappointed because our "heroes" will always proove to have feet of clay and turn out to be human beings with all the flaws that are part of being human.

Creating "heroes" out of illusions is a good way to set yourself, and your children, up for a big disappointment and a big fall.

I think that the Obama voters are learning this lesson now....the hard way.

Dave said...

"we will always be disappointed because our "heroes" will always proove to have feet of clay and turn out to be human beings"

My hero was Luke Skywalker.

bagoh20 said...

I find it really hard to imagine that John truly had no heroes. I think it may just be a matter of definition. Surely, there were characters in fiction or real life that he admired. I think it's imposable to not look up to those we see as more powerful, good, successful, or honorable. It would be like not seeing up and down or dark and light. It's part of the basic psychology of being human.

bagoh20 said...

There is a problem with heroes, but heroism. Real live people as heroes will likely, but not always disappoint. I'm fine with less than perfect heroes. Expecting them to be perfect would be my failing not theirs. Heroes must poop and they look ridiculous doing it.

Peano said...

Don't have heroes??? What a perfectly awful idea.

When a hero falls, as Tiger did, there are lessons other than "Don't have heroes" a child can learn.

- He can learn that the virtues he admires as heroic must be maintained and can be lost.

- He can learn to distinguish between different aspects of a person's character: Tiger's dedication to the sport and his striving for excellence are admirable (heroic) parts of his character. His betrayal of wife and family are not.

Your suggestion that heroes are to be "worshipped" is a straw man. Heroes are to be admired and emulated, not worshipped.

Paul Zrimsek said...

"Do you know who the real heroes are? The guys who wake up every morning and go into their normal jobs and get a distress call from the commissioner and take off their glasses and change into capes and fly around, fighting crime. Those are the real heroes." --Dwight Schrute

dannyboy said...

Rudolph Valentino.

Trooper York said...

Of course you can't have a hero if someone is tearing them down everyday. People love to mock and belittle heros. Even everyday heros. It's what creates cynical hipster dofous types.

p.t. fogger said...

For the most part, I never really had a "Hero" in the sense of putting the entirety of the person up on a pedestal. There were people who I intensely admired for something they had done, but I never lost sight of clay feet. i.e., Musically, for a while I was way into Hendrix; but I knew he died choking on vomit, which is just pathetic and sad.

I deeply, deeply admired my Grandparent's next door neighbor, who was an infantry sergeant with Patton's 3rd Army during WWII. He was also a shutterbug with a supply sergeant buddy, so he managed to keep stocked with film and also retain a surprising number of battlefield finds. Anyhow, he had loads of cool pictures he would show and stories to tell behind the pictures. The pictures were after-battle or before-battle shots; pictures of various buddies, pictures of soldiers they had captured. Stories along the lines of "this German here turned out to be the second cousin of our BAR rifleman, Schwartz", or "here's a line of Sherman tanks that got shot up by one Tiger tank. Those Tigers were a bitch!!" But I could sense that he was holding back. The stories weren't particularized, personalized in-battle stories, they were more along the lines of gee-whiz do you know what happened. And I figured there were pictures he could show, and stories he could tell, that he just didn't. Something about that made me really respect and admire him. Anyway, I didn't pry; but much later after he died I was talking to his wife and mentioned how I had respected him, and she confirmed that he did have a photographic catalog of battle horror, and stories to match. He had shown it all to her, and to his children when they grew up, and that's about it. That made me admire him more. Oh, and after the war he spent most of his life as a regional manager for a small line of grocery stores.

There was, however, one group of people whom I held in stupid, open-mouthed adoration: Astronauts!! Those dudes got on top of a rocket and let the thing go off under them. Lots of them were reckless fighter jocks who were also self-disciplined, focused and self-confident beyond anything I could ever imagine being. If somebody had pointed out, say, Buzz Aldrin in a crowd, I would have completely lost my teenage cool, rush up to shake his hand and say "you were an astronaut!! That's awesome!!" and then stood there dumb. I did meet John Glenn once while he was a senator, and all I was thinking was "He was an Astronaut!! Wow!!." I took my girlfriend to see "The Right Stuff". I was in heaven. She was bored.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Don't have heroes??? What a perfectly awful idea.

When a hero falls, as Tiger did, there are lessons other than "Don't have heroes" a child can learn.

I suppose that it would depend on your definition of 'hero' and how you teach your children to respond to 'hero' personages.

There ARE many admirable people in the world, from the local volunteer fireman to astronauts.

A parent should teach their children that there are people and qualities in people to admire and to emulate. A parent should also teach their children that while these people, Tiger Woods for example, are admirable and have some exceptional talents, qualites and skills.....they are just people. Not Gods. Not infallable. As Wesly said to Inigo Montoya: "Get used to disappointment"

I think we should teach and learn those lessons...before the fall.

If you accept and teach some reality along with the illusions....you won't end up like THIS GUY

Palladian said...

Hmm, the scare quotes around "hero" reminds me of something...

Joe said...

Even as a kid, I thought the notion of someone needing a hero to be idiotic. Thank God it wasn't a strong meme (and pretty much delegated to the babbling fringe.) The notion that we "need" heroes is a modern invention as is turning everybody into a hero. (How someone who gets cancer and survives is a hero is beyond me.)

That said, there are people who are honest to God heroes and I have great respect for them. At the very least, a genuine hero is someone who puts another's life above their own and not in a figurative sense.

(One thing that does annoy me is how freely they've been throwing around The Congressional Medal of Honor.)

MamaM said...


Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!"

"Look! Up in the sky!"
"It's a bird!"
"It's a plane!"
"It's Superman!"

He was a hero with a weakness. As Clark Kent, he was also a bumbler. I watched the show everyday after school, followed by Love that Bob.

traditionalguy said...

Male Role Models are good for boys who can desire to imitate the successes they see. Believing that something is possible is the start of an effort that leads somewhere. Barak Obama is a great role model to racially non-white kids. The heroe meme comes from a Super Heroe comic books. the idea is that the Heroe is more than a man...he is super endowed with super human powers. The greeks called descendents of human women with an angel/god as its father Heros.

Scott M said...

The notion that we "need" heroes is a modern invention as is turning everybody into a hero.

There have been heroes as long as there have been the words to describe their deeds. The modern invention is making everyone a hero. That's more of the same described below.

How someone who gets cancer and survives is a hero is beyond me.

That's an invention of soft-news producers needing fluff pieces. Well that and the embracing of mediocrity that goes along with a progressive disdain for merit-based outcomes.

Sokmnkee said...

I did. I called her "Mama."

Fred4Pres said...

Tiger's dad was a hero.

slarrow said...

I don't know if people need heroes, but I certainly think that peoples need heroes. That is, maybe a John Althouse Cohen can grow up undamaged by not having any private heroes, but a society that tries to get along without its public heroes is in big trouble. Public heroes help establish cultural identity and provide common cultural touchstones for members of a society. Heroes are valued for some public virtue, usually excellence in some fashion, and we need them.

Our society makes three big mistakes, it seems to me, with heroes these days. (1) We get lazy in choosing them--instead of the exploits of the Congressional Medal of Honor winners blazoned across newspapers and websites, we settle for the Bachelor and Survivor castoffs. (2) We know way too much about our heroes, making them approachable people instead of larger-than-life figures to follow. (3) When our heroes err (as they do, being human), we don't let them fade, we blow them up instead (a la Tiger Woods.) Pull these stunts for too long, and a society forgets who it is and what it's about.

edutcher said...

My heroes were Kit Carson, Davy Crockett (real and Disney versions), and the Lone Ranger when I was very young. Still are. Not too many sports guys, Duke Snider and Don Newcombe, mostly. Even Hernando Cortez.

I've added people like Teddy Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur (a lot of the same people who criticize him for his ego admire Patton, who was no shrinking violet himself), and Armstrong Custer for their accomplishments, while being aware of their flaws, as I've come to understand the way left wing academia has misrepresented who and what they really were.

Salamandyr is right about what heroes can do to help mold a young (or not-so-young) person. I also think ricpic is right in saying that this is a boy thing and one of the reasons you don't see heroes offered up to boys is that feminism declared war on boys a long time ago. I also think the Lefties don't want that kind of idealism in society, only despair because it makes you more likely to depend on government, rather than yourself, to save you when you're in trouble.

I wouldn't have wanted John's experience, it seems awfully drab. I don't know if Ann was the deconstructionist, post-modern feminist all professional women were supposed to be at the time, but, if so, I think she did him a disservice if she actively discouraged his having heroes.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

(Superman) He was a hero with a weakness. As Clark Kent, he was also a bumbler. I watched the show everyday after school, followed by Love that Bob.

Zorro. Also a hero with flaws in his 'daytime' persona.

Interesting how it is necessary for our literary and fictional heroes to have flaws, while our flesh and blood heroes are not allowed to be flawed. The fictional character of Superman or Zorro would not be realistic if they were not flawed in some way.

Yet, we take a person like Tiger Woods and elevate him to almost non-human hero status in the eyes of the public and for children, then when he turns out to be JUST another flawed human being, we are ready to eviscerate him publicly and hound the poor man into insanity.

Elevating living people into hero status in today's society is doing them no favors.

We need to have people (historic and fictional) to admire, but we also need to be realistic and accept the good with the not so good. This is the problem now, that we refuse to accept or acknowledge the flaws and punish the 'hero' when he/she turns out to be just a human being.

veni vidi vici said...

MLK and Jimmy Page were mine from early on.

The Crack Emcee said...

Long story short:

You have no heroes because you're a Leftist, born into an ideology where there's no one more important than yourself, and, if you encounter one, they must be torn down. Anyone attempting to be correct in their outlook is a potential fascist, and anyone declaring there is no such thing as right and wrong is considered wise - you and everyone you know says so - then, as you watch the world that was here before you slipping down the drain, you wonder how, and who would allow, such a thing to happen.

It's at that point a mirror comes in really, really handy.

For the record:

I have always had heroes, and currently have more than I can count.

AJ Lynch said...

I'd have to say my heroes have ranged from Columbus to The Founding Fathers to Pope John Paul II to Lech Walesa to Jagger & the Stones to Jimmy Rollins & Chase Utley to Tim Rossovich to my late brother-in-law to my grade school b-ball coach to Mike Royko to Charles Krauthammer to Paul Revere to JFK to the early astronauts to Instapundit to Geo Washington to Abe Lincoln to my father to Thomas Sowell.

kentuckyliz said...

As a cancer survivor, I want to say amen to the idea of not calling us heroes.

Those who did not survive fought a much harder battle than I did--a fierce battle with inescapable pain. Something we all fear if we've seen it.

Did they "lose"? No. They experienced the natural end result of a natural process of Cells Gone Wild.

I really hated when people told me I was so brave. No I wasn't! I didn't have a choice! Well, yes, I did--I could have refused treatment, but that wouldn't have been a rational decision. We all have the instinct of self-preservation and will choose that path unless something is seriously wrong medically (acknowledging the endiness of end stage, like Mom did when she met her mets), or psychologically (depression, suicidal ideation, fatigue with the struggle of life).

It didn't take courage.

It took peace and patience and equanimity and diligence in problem-solving and curiosity to find out the best way to cope with some serious demands.

I guess I'm hoping I have the insight and the grace to recognize the right moment to say, "Well, I've had a good run," and make the best of my remaining quality of life.

Self-sacrificing for others, especially to save their lives or guard them from harm. Clearly heroic.

People who go out on a limb for justice, to help others, to rectify a wrong, to advocate--also heroic. Like the Climategate whistleblower. I want to kiss that person for sparing the unnecessary widespread suffering the "solutions" would have caused. He or she may or may not have risked his/her own life--who knows how desperately wacko the Deep Greens can be! But clearly one's reputation, career, ability to make a living was at stake. The greens are eager to crucify the nark.

People who pursue developing their talents (like Tiger) are admirable but not heroes.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Clay feet abound. The only hero without clay feet is the one whose feet I'd like to wash with my tears.

He is The Hero. All others are a pale imitation.

AJ Lynch said...

I left out the Buddy Ryan Iggles including Reggie White, Seth Joyner, Jerome Brown, Wes Hopkins and Dirty Waters who all played a big part in the infamous Body Bag Game!

AllenS said...

Heroes, when you're a kid are mythical figures. My parents weren't heroes to me. They were mom and dad. The never had great horses, wore six-shooters, and never punched out bad guys. Later, I discovered neither could throw a baseball or football very well. Johnny Unitas, Mickey Mantle, those were a heroes to me. To have heroes, is to dream.

El Pollo Real said...

I look for and find heroes everyday.

They're still out there.

Mark O said...

My dad was my hero and still is, even though he died long ago.

I know people who have no heroes, who can't identify anyone whose opinion they trust or anyone from whom they would take direction. I find them to be limited, hostile (although generally in a passive aggressive manner) and lacking in both a real sense of humor and curiosity.

DADvocate said...

Don't know if anyone's touched on this yet. I haven't read all the comments. BUT, we should distinguish between sports/celebrity heroes and real heros.

Few sports heroes are real heroes, but serve as idols. They also serve as role models whether they or we like it or not. As a kid I would try to emulate the way somebody played a sport but rarely felt of them as a hero. Maybe I was jaded as a kid but I had no big heros. No pictures, etc on my bedroom wall. I only got one autograph and that was from a college basketball player who happened to be at the YMCA the same day as I was.

Heroes are people like my one time landlord, Tex McDonald, who played on a state championship basketball team and lost his leg fighting the Nazis.

AJ Lynch said...


Back in the 1950's and 1960's the foibles and rap sheets for sports heroes were not part of the news. So they were still hero material.

Mom said...

I disagree that girls don't have heroes. Here's one former girl who certainly did have heroes, or heroines as the case might be. They certainly weren't musicians, sports figures, or any other popular-culture celebrities, though. Such folks may be famous, admirable, talented, impressive in many ways -- but they rarely have the qualities of courage, principle and willingness to sacrifice that I think of as heroic.

One person I can remember thinking about in heroic terms as a child is Miep Gies, who helped hide Anne Frank and her family at enormous personal risk. Another was my grandfather, a general practitioner who kept making house calls long after other doctors stopped doing it and who accepted payment in potatoes, Christmas trees cut from the back of the farm, or promises he knew could never be kept, so that he could keep taking care of the poor rural people who made up his caseload.

Even as a grownup, I still have heroes, such as a friend who's raising a profoundly disabled child and doing an amazing job of it. I can't even imagine what it would be like to live without noticing and admiring those few people who do more than the rest of us and, when necessary, give up more than the rest of us to get it done. It must be immeasurably sad to grow up that way.

WV: soless -- really!

k*thy said...

Interesting how it is necessary for our literary and fictional heroes to have flaws, while our flesh and blood heroes are not allowed to be flawed.

Mine are allowed to be flawed. Humility and the ability to not give up, qualify you, in my book.

…then when he turns out to be JUST another flawed human being, we are ready to eviscerate him.

His story isn’t over yet. If he does end up getting himself out from under this rock, he will quietly be a hero of mine. Quite honestly, his image of perfection, I found boring.

Moose said...

Not having heroes for fear of their one day disappointing you is a good rationale for avoiding love, friendships or taking chances in general.

When children learn later in life their heroes were human, all the better. You learn much more about yourself then than you learn about your hero...

Sixty Grit said...

My hero was, and remains, Ebenezer Scrooge. Or maybe Unca Scrooge. Tight, but wealthy. Penurious but cheap. Stingy yet loaded. Frugal and stinting. It's good to have role models. Hetty Green. Oh yeah...

Meade said...

My brother was my hero.
Then, when I was about two, I discovered he was flawed.
So I decided to be my own hero.
That worked pretty well until I discovered my own flaws.
I was astonished at how many I found.
So I tried to adopt a few of my brother's many admirable characteristics.
I was astonished at how many I found.

madawaskan said...

This one goes out to "JAC"-

Here Come Cowboys


Synova said...

I agree with Jac and Althouse.

I'll explain later, why. But I think that anything remotely like worship of a person is actively harmful.


Anyone hurt by Tiger's fall from grace was in that hurtful realm.


bagoh20 said...

Yesterday, today and tomorrow there are men and women in places like Afghanistan who choose to defy some Taliban thug who warns them against sending their daughter to school or dressing inappropriately or talking to their fellow citizens or an American or doing any number of things because it's a free act in their own best interest. The risk for defying them is the highest possible. Torture and death to themselves or their children. They often take that risk to save their country, neighbors, friends and family from a life not worthy of human beings. Some get caught and suffer unimaginable horrors for it. Those are heroes - not some guy who practiced hitting a ball so he could get rich and famous and chicks for free. How can we possibly use the same term to describe these two different choices. It's embarrassing.

El Pollo Real said...

Anyone hurt by Tiger's fall from grace was in that hurtful realm.

I tend to agree, but Tiger was never a hero to me.

bagoh20 said...

Really Synova,

If you met such a person as I describe above or someone who did a similar brave sacrifice for high principle or to save the innocent, you would not hold them in high respect and awe, and tell your children that was an exceptional person, better than most and worthy of respect and honor?

mrs whatsit said...

What could be more heroic than having flaws and overcoming them to accomplish something great?

Synova, I rarely disagree with you, but this time I do. There's an important difference, mentioned by several others in this thread, between "worship" of a hero on the one hand, and recognizing, admiring and wanting to emulate someone's heroic qualities on the other. Worship is for gods, not for people, and those who try to worship some other fallible human being are in for a major disappointment (see for instance what's happening right now to many former Obamabots). That has nothing to do, however, with whether human beings can be heroic, or whether it's good for other human beings to be able to recognize and admire those who manage it.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

There is a big difference between admiring someone for heroic, courageous, selfless, innovative, ground breaking actions or holding them up to be a Hero.

I can admire the person raising their disabled grandchild. I can be awed by the heroism of the man who pulled the people from the burning IRS building without regard for his own safety. I am awed and humbled by the heroic actions of men and women during war and moments of crisis. I'm also awed by those who live in silent unobtrusive courage with illnesses and pain.

While I'm awed and humbled I wonder if I would have the courage and fortitude and hope that I would when should it come that I were tested. I would hold their actions as a goal and hope to aspire to achieve the same.

But...to make those people to be Heroes with a captial H is to elevate them beyond being human and to deny or minimize the foibles and flaws.

We can admire and still be realistic about the lack of perfection.

This is what is wrong about holding persons to Hero status in our society. We aren't realistic. We demand perfection and when it isn't given....we set ourselves and our children up for disappointment and disillusionment.

It isn't not having heroes for fear of disappointment. It is being aware that no one is perfect; there is always going to be disappointment and living with it. Accepting that and still admiring the good qualities for what they are.

Pogo said...

Without heroes, there's no heroism.

Quite a loss, the latter, merely to avoid the former.

Heroes are completely anti-egalitarian. They are better than you. Some find this off-putting.

Oligonicella said...

Lots of people here have a gross, Hollywood misunderstand of the word hero. No wonder they don't think there are any.

Oligonicella said...

Synova --

"I'll explain later, why. But I think that anything remotely like worship of a person is actively harmful."

That is a failing of the worshiper in not understanding what the term hero means, not the heroic individual.

Oligonicella said...

... or the concept that there are heroes.

Lost that first time.

Pogo said...

Heroes have flaws because they're human. It's their heroism that is "worshiped" (admired, really), but they themselves are not.

To think that heroes cannot be admired because they have flaws is an adolescent view of the world, but typical of utopians.

madawaskan said...

Kids these days are sheltered enough.

Give them more credit. They don't have to be sheltered from-"the value of having heroes".

They can deal with it.

madawaskan said...

Roberto Clemente!

Jeebus I use to beat the crud outta my brother every time he stole my Roberto Clemente card.

The condition of that card-not so good.

former law student said...

I can't remember ever having a golfer for a hero. "Wow that Jack Nicklaus -- I want to be just like him when I grow up." But who's to say a guy who gets laid a lot would not be someone a boy would want to emulate?

I guess there are two types of hero: one that I would like to emulate (trooper's dad hero) , and one that is too cool for emulation to be possible (someone who gets killed trying to save someone else).

One problem with celebrities as heroes for kids is that every negative aspect is scrubbed from their biographies. You don't learn that Albert Einstein was a rotten husband, and that Thomas Edison was a rather neglectful parent. Thus the first time you find out your hero has flaws, it's shocking.

Pogo said...

"Thus the first time you find out your hero has flaws, it's shocking."

Merely part of the maturation process.

What you believed about heroism at age 8 should no longer be acceptable at 16, and should again evolve by 24.

Or as they say about Santa Claus:
First you believe in Santa, then you smile while others still believe, then you are Santa.

Skyler said...

A sportsman is never going to be a hero or role model to me. I admire sportsmen, but only for being good athletes. There is nothing heroic about being an athlete.

Heros are people like Washington, Horatio, or even Ghandi. These are people that did something, or a lifetime of acts that showed moral strength, or courage or a willingness to keep to a high plane of behavior despite the risks or temptations.

traditionalguy said...

Ordinary men who succeeded at brave exploits risking death for others can also be called heros even if they flawed men. The current culture has an over-developed talent for demeaning and despising everyone they meet. The Family Guy show, that took a mild shot at Palin, is a show that ridicules all people all of the time...and it has its lovers for that great talent. IMO the act of saying thank you is an instinct that is in a person or it is not. Thank you to all you little known heros that did so much. One of my favorites is Merritt Edson.

Peano said...

Meade said...

My brother was my hero.
Then, when I was about two, I discovered he was flawed.
So I decided to be my own hero.
That worked pretty well until I discovered my own flaws.
I was astonished at how many I found.
So I tried to adopt a few of my brother's many admirable characteristics.
I was astonished at how many I found.

Your initial error was to think that "hero" entails "flawless" -- thereby eliminating the very possibility of a hero.

Christy said...

My first hero was a beloved uncle who lost a leg to the Nazis. He told great stories, child appropriate but real enough that I learned about collateral damage when I was 8 from a man who'd barely escaped it several times and regarded it as inevitable. We found his Silver Star after he died. That was one story he never told me.

Then there was Saladin. Hard to keep him in mind these days.

Next was Emma Peel. No flaws there that I can remember. The character was strong, self-reliant, really good at math, and still managed to look good. What's not to emulate?

Scotty. I wanted to grow up to be chief engineer on the Luna Colony.

Dixie Lee Ray, 1st woman governor of Washington, marine biologist, chair of the Atomic Energy Commission. In the 60s and 70s a girl needed the role model of professional women - especially if she were entering a field that decades later is still almost exclusively male.

Oddly enough, Ted Kennedy. When I learned of my own flaws and met with a few failures, I looked to him for how to hold my head up. Skipped the drinking part, though.

The Passengers of Flight 93.

Brian said...

New commenter: I learned from a sports coach and have taught my own kids that you can learn only one thing from one who does wrong. How not to do a thing. But you can learn an infinite number of things from one who does something well. There is a reason for heroes, moral or otherwise. We learn from them. Should our sports heroes be our moral heroes? no

Anga2010 said...

My hero still is Roger Staubach.
Mr.Staubach is still leaving a huge wake here in Texas.

mrs whatsit said...

This thread is played out but this link belongs here just the same:


You'd have to work hard to fail to recognize the hero in this story.

mrs whatsit said...

Whoops. I am no hero when it comes to posting links, it would seem. Trying again:


Synova said...

Me: "I'll explain later, why. But I think that anything remotely like worship of a person is actively harmful."

"That is a failing of the worshiper in not understanding what the term hero means, not the heroic individual."

I'm tempted to be snotty and type, "You think?"

So many of the comments in this thread seem to assume that all a "hero" is, is someone who is admired. If that's true, why does it matter what Tiger Woods does? What he was admired for is still intact. The fact is, as much as people don't want to admit it, that the general understanding of a child having a hero is that the hero is up on a pedestal.

Tiger Woods is no different than Miley Cyrus, and even *she* is smart enough to realize that anyone who expects a 16 year old to raise their child for them is wacked in the head.

And what did Miley do to get parents up in arms about her not being a good role model? I don't even remember but it was something pretty mild.

And the fact is that parents were thinking of her as a moral stand-in for their young daughters to emulate... which has nothing to do with who the kids viewed as a hero but to what parents, yes really, do expect from these childhood role models.

(Miss Cyrus works every bit as hard as Tiger Woods, for certain.)

But to protest that what is really meant is just that kids ought to have a number of people they look up to misses that the reality is that whatever it was Tiger Woods did that made him a "hero" is still exactly the same. Thus, something else is going on.

I actually wrote a blog post about heroes recently. It's pretty much right up there on the top since I haven't written much since - in case anyone wants to know what I think of heroes.

Maria Teresa Chavez said...

I do have a hero. I didn't have one last year but now I understand the value of having heroes and what a hero is and I have many heroes. Most of them are people I already met... Although if I had to choose just a single person I would say Laura Deming