Question: Heroes or victims of circumstance?

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It’s Memorial Day weekend, a national holiday dedicated to the soldiers who have fallen serving their country. By definition, that makes them heroes. Or are fallen soldiers victims of circumstance? Soldiers have a very important job to do, and we ask them to do their duty for us. Does doing that duty make them heroes? What exactly are we celebrating here? This is an issue I admit to being very confused about, as you can tell from my muddleheaded podcast.

What do you think: Are we right in asking soldiers to do their duty? Are they heroes or victims of circumstance?

Please post your response with a link to this question post, or comment.

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2 Responses

  1. Note to self: It’s about gratitude, stupid!

    I certainly wasn’t the only person thinking about heroism on Memorial Day. Elementaryhistoryteacher mused about “hundreds of websites dedicated to celebrity gossip…what do we really value in America today and have our core values changed so, so much?”

    She also linked to an article by Peggy Noonan, “Those who make us say ‘oh!'” “More than most nations, America has been, from its start, a hero-loving place. Maybe part of the reason is that at our founding we were a Protestant nation and not a Catholic one, and so we made ‘saints’ of civil and political figures.”

    Fox featured John McCain: “What is a hero to me? As memorable as such things are, it’s not heroic to hit a two run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when your team is down a run. Heroism is another, rarer order of human endeavor than the most storied achievements of skill, fortitude and intelligence; rarer even than a show of courage. For heroism must have as its object something other than success, reward, renown. It must, at least for a moment, overcome the strongest instincts of human nature and value someone or some virtue more than self-interest. Heroism risks self-interest for the sake of that other value. Even the instinct for self-preservation cannot constrain it.”

    Edward Cline was more literary and cited Aristotle: “The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper.” This means that becoming a victim brings out the hero in a person – very much the McCain story. Cline summarizes “Their heroism was always deliberate, and never mindless.”

    But noone touches on the ethical quandary that war throws the individual soldier and us as those he protects into. When push comes to shove, those who don’t go out as soldiers to meet that challenge are the “wimps”. It seems that the safe territory is to honor our dead soldiers out of gratitude, pure and simple, and leave musings about heroism to literature. So we celebrate heroism in the time-honored rituals that homo sapiens needs to find peace in a war-torn world.

    And what do I think? Dear reader, I think we need to dig a little deeper.

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