Friday, September 09, 2005

"Heroism," again

My heart goes out to all those people whose lives were completely turned upside down, inside out, and every which way in the Gulf States. Really, it does. I feel for them.


This week on the news, I heard the announcer talk about a Katrina victim who was bused into the District and who spent the evening at a Washington Nationals game. He got to toss out the opening pitch.

The newscaster mentioned how he received "a well-deserved standing ovation."

Okay, I'm going to have to take exception here. A well-deserved standing ovation? What did he do to deserve a standing ovation?

Answer: He didn't die.

Is this something really worth giving a standing ovation for?

I'm sure all of us have survival instincts which kick in when the going gets tough. Faced with the devastation of Katrina, some people probably folded and let the waters rush over them. Many probably fought to the best of their ability to stay alive, but in the end Mother Nature won.

This guy, as did many others, fought successfully, and survived.

This makes him some kind of hero? Have we so lowered the bar for praising people that the mere act of staying alive is something worthy of accolade?

What if Katrina hadn't happened, and he survived another day in his otherwise mundane existence? Is he a hero for making it through another day? Why don't I get a standing ovation for making it to work today? Why don't you? We're still alive! We deserve some kudos!

The other day I was at the beach. The waves were stronger than I was expecting, and three times I was literally picked up and tossed into the sand. (I am a slow learner that way.) Each time, I felt like there was a chance I would die, either by drowning, or by getting slammed head first into a hard patch of sand which snapped my neck. But instead, I put my hands out in front of me and, after a few seconds, I found myself standing up again. I survived the waves! Give me a standing ovation!

Yes, yes, having a wave wash over you at a beach is nothing compared to Katrina. I'm trying to make a point here. You selflessly save someone else's life, you're a hero. You invent some medical cure that could save many lives, you're a hero. You survive a life-threatening experience -- you aren't really a hero. Sorry.

My friend Emily just had a malignant tumor removed from her thyroid, making her a cancer survivor. (She'll have to undergo additional chemo in a few months, but hey.) Is she lucky? Yes. Are we, her friends and family, happy that she survived? Absolutely. Is she a "hero" for battling cancer, undergoing surgery, and beating it? Much as I love Emily, I'm going to go with "no."

So for the newscaster guy who thinks the Katrina survivor received a "well-deserved" standing ovation, just for making it -- I expect you to give Emily some sort of "well-deserved" praise.


Will said...

Harsh man. Not that you're wrong... but harsh just the same.

Steve said...

I totally missed that story, and like what Will said, it may sound a little cold, but I'd have to agree.

Even Steven said...

I think the term "survivor" would be more appropriate than "hero".

SB said...

I'm with you, D. I think that not dying gets too much credit these days. Lots of people haven't died.

"Hero" should be reserved for actions that put one above the rest of the crowd. Not simply luck (or an absence of it) and avoidance of death.