Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich

United States Representative Joe Walsh is apparently an expert on heroes. Who knew? I thought that perhaps someone who is an expert in a particular field might have some experience in that same field. But I see no sign in Walsh's biography of any heroic activity. 

Perhaps he's been too busy defending America's 1% against the tyranny of unscrupulous taxation to extend himself in any heroic behavior. Or, wait, perhaps defending the wealthy from taxation IS his heroic behavior. 

But, I digress, even before I start. :-) 

Rep. Walsh criticized decorated U.S. veteran Tammy Duckworth as not a "true hero." She's not a "true hero" because true heroes don't talk about their heroism, says he. And it is this silence that explains why we are "in awe" and "indebted" to real heroes.

Tammy Duckworth is a veteran of the war in Iraq, during which she lost both legs and the use of one of her arms. Now, Joe, if you want to have a discussion about whether simply fighting in a war makes one a hero, I'm open to that. It seems a bit like Vietnam boomerang to me, this insistence post-9/11 that all veterans are heroes. 

Websters suggests that a hero is "a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability; an illustrious warrior; a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one who shows great courage."

I don't think it is disrespectful of the great service and sacrifice veterans have given our country to suggest that perhaps calling them ALL heroes dilutes the term. That perhaps the need to do so is similar to the current societal norms that all children deserve A's or that everyone should get a trophy for participating. 

But to suggest that because a veteran refers publicly to her service she is somehow less deserving of our respect or that her war service and sacrifice becomes somehow less heroic is, at the very least, ridiculous. At the most, it seems misogynistic. 

Once upon a time, men believed that speaking about challenges, pain, and hard times was something only the weak did. And, since men ruled the world, Western culture accepted this bias as normal. But the boys are no longer in charge. We know that preferring to speak openly of life's challenges is just as acceptable as opting to keep them private--and perhaps healthier.

Duckworth is doing what every politician does. She is running for office on her past experiences. The constituents of the Eighth Congressional District would be better served if Walsh explained his own experiences and behavior rather than dissing a vet's choice to discuss hers. 


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