Sunday, January 6, 2013

Valuing Heroism

I've been pondering a recent news piece in the States about a couple of football players who are being charged with kidnapping and sexual assault of a drunk and passed-out girl. They allegedly found her unconscious from too much alcohol, picked her up, and dragged her to various parties unconscious while sexually assaulting her. Personally, I hope that they rot in prison for their crimes.

Many people have expressed disgust with the people who witnessed this event and did nothing to prevent it. "If I had been there, I would've stopped those horrible people," is a paraphrasing of a popular statement. I question the sincerity of that declaration because Heroism is not valued in our society.

How is that possible, you say? After all, our media and culture celebrate the Hero. Every movie, TV show, and piece of music sing the praises of the Hero who swoops in and saves the day from the Evil Doers and their Henchmen. Everybody *loves* the Hero and wants to be the Hero. The problem is that being the Hero is only fun after the challenge is over and the success is ensured. While the challenge is happening, being the Hero sucks.

When an event takes place where you could step in and prevent it, stop it, or take a stand against it, most of us will freeze, not knowing what to do. It might also be that you just don't understand what is happening and you are unsure what action to take, and by the time you figure it out, the moment is passed and there's nothing you can do. There is also an unwritten rule, especially in urban areas, to not get involved. It's not your business, you don't want that kind of trouble, and you might get hurt, so just move on and let someone else take the risk.

Also, being the Hero is lonely. Unless you can get some support, it's usually the Hero against the world. The Hero needs to be confident that his position is the right one and that he is willing to put himself at risk (both personally and socially) to secure that position.

Remember the hockey riots that took place in Vancouver in 2011? People went on a mad, violent spree in downtown Vancouver. There were instances where Heroes tried to stand up against it and were met with violent resistance, sometimes resulting in hospital care. Watch what happens when these guys try to take stand against the destruction:

It's scary being the Hero. It puts you in harm's way and occasionally, you will get hurt or even killed. Most people don't want that kind of trouble, they stand idly by and hope someone else will do the right thing.

When I think about that incident in Texas, what would have happened if someone had taken a hard stance to defend the unconscious girl? I can see at least a violent confrontation between the Hero and the other football players and their supporters. And if the Hero decided to call for police intervention, I can see that there would be social backlash against the Hero, both privately and publicly.

I have a friend in Northern Ontario (let's call her Bora) who is being actively shunned by her community for being the Hero. She was at a party where a friend, who drives truck in the military, was intoxicated when he tried to get behind the wheel of his car. Bora tried to stop him, but he drove off anyway. He crashed his car into a tree, but miraculously, walked away from the wreck with only minor cuts and bruises. He returned to the party, but when he tried to leave again, Bora again tried to stop him. He shook her off and borrowed a friend's car and subsequently wrapped it around another tree. Bora then called the police and the ambulance to deal with the person, despite her friends insistence that she shouldn't. Now Bora is being shunned socially because her community sees her heroic act as irresponsible because the public record of his DUI put the guy's job in danger (I forget if he did lose his truck-driving job or not).

Bora did the right thing, but her Heroic action was not valued by her immediate community. Would she do it again? Knowing her, absolutely, and Gods love her for it. Does she regret her Heroic action? Knowing her, probably not. Did any of this make it easier to do the right thing? Definitely not, but we're all safer knowing that Heroes like her are out there and they should inspire us to be Heroes when we get the call.

The Good News

It's within all of us to be these Heroes, but we need to practice Heroism. You don't need to jump into a hail of bullets to be a Hero, but walking away in fear not only weakens you, but it also weakens others. It doesn't need to be dramatic Heroism all the time: it starts with small actions, inconsequential gestures that can have huge impacts, not only on the people you help, but on yourself as well. You can take your stand, make your mark, and know that you did your part to make the world a better place.

The good news is that feels great to be kind, to be generous, and to know that your small gesture helped someone else. It can even be as small and personal as taking the time to notice and share beauty. In social media, it's trendy to share pictures. video, and commentary that exploit the worst of humanity. Your Heroism can express itself in simply not indulging in that kind of negative pornography, but rather sharing moments of positive and beauteous inspiration.

Your small acts of Heroism can also be contagious and inspire others to act on their Heroism. With enough practice, when the big moment comes for you to be a bigger Hero, it won't seem so impossible, so daunting.

Go on: give a little Love and get a little Love in return.