True Heros

We overuse the word hero.  We often use it to describe people who find themselves in an impossible situation and react well.  Or we use it in relation to people who are unfortunate enough to contract a terrible disease and face it with courage.  Fair enough.  In ordinary circumstances, describing such folks as heroes may stretch the word a bit, but no worries.

But with overuse, a word that deserves to be reserved for selfless and extraordinary courage and sacrifice in the service of others loses some of its power.  That’s unfortunate.  It is important to recall that the word “hero” means, or should mean, something more than that. 

I am not saying that someone who faces cancer or disfigurement or grave disability with courage and good humor doesn’t deserve accolades.  I am not saying that an impoverished single mother who sacrifices to help her children succeed is not worthy of respect.  I don’t mean to devalue their contribution to all of us.  But I am saying that there should be a word reserved for those, like Medal of Honor recipients, whose selflessness is truly extraordinary. 

Today, we have the first pictures of the heros of Fukushima, the nuclear power plant in Japan that was disabled by a 9.0 earthquake followed by a massive tsunami.  Beyond the plant, the risks of leaking radioactivity seems to be overblown, but within it the risk is real, severe, and immediate.  Yet these heroes are braving the dark, dangerous confines of the plant, the risk of further explosions, and potentially dangerous radiation levels to get that thing back under control.

These heroes are not stricken with an unavoidable disease and dealing with it admirably, or raising a child they chose to bring into the world.  Instead, they have a choice.  They survived the catastrophic disaster, and are now putting their lives in peril for their country and countrymen. 

True heroism is a rare and beautiful and terrible thing, and it should be acknowledged.

Published in: on March 23, 2011 at 11:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

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