This week the families of the eleven men who died on the Transocean and BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico were invited to the Whitehouse to meet President Barack Obama. Why? There have been almost 5,500 American men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since those conflicts began. Have their families been invited to the Whitehouse? No, of course not, we call them heroes on a weekly basis but we don’t go so far as inviting their families to the Whitehouse, apparently the eleven lives lost in the Gulf of Mexico are more important than our fallen soldiers.
Now before all you conservatives start cheering me on for sticking it to Obama, you might want to read a bit further. We are only bringing those folks to the Whitehouse because it looks good politically. Just like it looks good politically to declare half of the damn country as heroes. These days, if you are a fireman, police officer or soldier you are a hero, if you’re a teacher, a nurse or a Sean Hannity listener you’re not only a hero, you might even be a great American. Bullshit, plain and simple bullshit. Politicians and political commentators use these words to sound good, if they call these people patriots or heroes they sound humble and patriotic, they make you feel good by using these words because let’s face it, who among us doesn’t have a cop, a firefighter or a soldier in our lives?
Now let’s be clear, I have the utmost respect for the police, firemen, nurses, doctors, teachers and particularly soldiers. How can you not have respect and feel indebted to the people who risk their very lives so that we can have the life we have here in America. However that does not make each of them heroes and I do not want the word hero cheapened by political hacks or commentators, often hacks themselves so they shouldn’t feel left out. These people are to be respected and lauded, but I’m sorry, just because some kid from Mississippi didn’t have any other good options in life, enlisted in the army and ended up doing truck repair in Düsseldorf, Germany doesn’t make him a hero. It makes him smart and respectable and hopefully it will help him have a better life, but how do you even start to compare him to a fireman who rushed back into the twin towers on 911, or the soldier standing guard on a fire base tonight in Afghanistan or Iraq?
I’ll even go a step further and this is where a lot of you are really going to get angry at me, just because a soldier dies in a war zone, he’s not a hero. He died in the line of duty and again, that sacrifice is amazing and selfless, but that doesn’t make him or her a hero. There have been many deaths in the war zone from suicide, truck accidents, illness and soldiers who made stupid mistakes. Those deaths are no less poignant, no less tragic for their families, but they are not heroic in any sense of the word. The majority of deaths that have occurred in our two current wars have come from improvised explosive devices (IED). So even a battle casualty may not be heroic, a new kid, just in country driving back from the airport in a Humvee that gets hit with an IED is not a hero.
So what is a hero? A hero is someone, man, woman or child, who engages in a heroic act, who puts the survival of others before their own life, who goes above and beyond what is expected of a person in that role to do something truly special. Those fireman and police officers who charged into those towers on 911 were heros, the soldier who runs out into the middle of a fire fight and drags his buddy to safety is a hero. I am sure on a daily basis in Afghanistan and Iraq, that heroes are not in short demand, so please, I beg of you stop calling so many people heroes, save it for those 911 heroes, for those men and women in the wars who go above and beyond, for the Mother Teresa’s of the world. Don’t cheapen their actions by so carelessly wielding the word hero.