Heroes don’t ask permission

DanOur notion of heroes has changed during my lifetime. Young people might want to know about the evolution of heroes. I deem it a decline, perhaps even a tragedy.

Heroes—real heroes—are not obedient. They do not ask for permission to do what needs to be done. They shape the world according to their convictions, whatever the consequences might be to them and the people who hang with them.

John Wayne was our iconic image of the hero when I was young, and he still fills that role for me. He liked to address people as “pilgrim.” I am now watching The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, and I have heard pilgrim half a dozen times.

pilgrim |ˈpilgrəmnoun, a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons.

Now we have Jon Stewart. While I admire and respect him, it’s a very different situation. Jon does not model manhood. He models outrage and shock, and mockery. It’s not the same thing.

In the days since John Wayne we have watered down our notions of manhood and heroics. We now press ourselves into obedience and passivity to hold a job. We ask permission for just about everything.

Apart from Robert Reich we lack role models for heroics, and the honorable Mr. Reich is not John Wayne. He lacks a following because his potential followers want to ask permission. Who can they ask? Who can assure them of a sufficient level of safety and approval?

Jimmy Stewart is in the Liberty Valence movie. He also starred in It’s a Wonderful Life. In that film he discovered his own heroic qualities. I have seen the movie many times. It is a beautiful tutorial in heroics.

We need a new John Wayne and a new Jimmy Stewart. We don’t have a lot of time. We need to journey to a sacred place in praise of being heroes.

What are we waiting for? I Welcome your thoughts.

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