Thursday, January 20, 2005

So what does it mean: hero?

(((To who might give a shit: I did not mean for anyone to think that I would not be posting here anymore. Far from the truth. I am simply trying to tone it down a bit so I can focus more on other types of writing. Bygones.)))

I have met some amazing people in my life. People who were unafraid of testing boundaries, others who did not lead unto temptation, and some who simply didn’t bend without good reason. And I find these characteristics to be fascinating.

I believe I find them fascinating more because I am not prone to put much into pseudo-heroes. Superman is a pseudo hero, possibly the most popular of fake heroes. Spiderman is a fictitious character with no good explanation for existence. Batman is a Hollywood joke. Wonder Woman is just plain ridiculous. These are implausible and unreasonable heroes in my mind. They are unattainable goals, characters with unlimited resources to focus on the correction of invented ills.

What about real issues? Like, when some asshole successfully robs a liquor store and decides to shoot the clerk anyway? (The robber is an asshole because he shot the clerk, specifically, not because he robbed the store, which might be cool with me – case-by-case basis judgment on that one) Is the “super” hero a true hero because they pulled the gun from the robber's hand (after crashing through the window, and then destroying the entire store in the process of subduing the criminal) just before he tugged the trigger? “Foiled” is the term of choice, as I remember, for the comic characters. Or is it the politician who lobbies for higher minimum wage; the Grant Writer churning out proposals for social works programs for the unemployed; the director of a local hospital who is putting together a free-clinic system for the substance-abusing homeless? Is it the nameless, thankless social slaves who push for programs designed to prevent the desperation behind robbery (as a criminal act) in the first place? Seriously, what about REAL heroes? Superman is a joke, in my mind. As is The Punisher, Flash, Wolverine, or any other born-with-a-gift ninnies who may or may not benefit someone or something in the short term by muscling their way about. Worthless fiction. Certainly not worthy of being up on a platform, or given the title of Hero.

My Grandfather is a hero to me. My Father’s Father. He is a real hero, to me, because he actually DID things and MADE decisions which were beyond my scope of difficulty or understanding. He quit high school during the depression to go to work in cotton fields to help feed his family, after his father got injured on the job. He told me stories of abstracted currencies, rampant diseases, Central Texas scrips, and bartering for food during those dark times. And even though his formal education ended there, he never stopped pursuing knowledge. He taught himself auto mechanics (starting on Model Ts), electronics (“appliances” and “consumer electronics” including the Television were invented during his lifetime, so this was some cutting edge shit), and advanced reading comprehension through a never-ending library of books and periodicals. Then he had four kids, and his wife fell to osteoporosis, leaving him to raise all four (3 boys, 1 girl), cook, clean, and put in full-time factory work.

He never complained about his life. He never asked for anything. He never claimed to be “owed” anything by anyone. He always did what he believed was right. And most important to me, he did everything in his power to make sure that his brood had a one million percent better chance of success than he had. No cape. No tights. No killed-parents to “avenge” the death of. No gay-ass logo. No cut chin or endless technology to fall back on. He survived on will alone. He provided for everyone around him through sweat and sacrifice. He built everything from scratch, and did so without so much as a whimper. THAT is a hero. THAT is a character to extract something from, a model to try and live by.

But he did have his flaws, as all humans do. And I am mindful of those flaws, as I do not believe anyone is perfect. One of his most disturbing flaws was his tendency toward racism. There is no apology, in my opinion, for such beliefs. But he did grow up in segregated society, in Texas, in post-slavery times. Given that, I understand where he got it from, but I refuse to accept or condone it. There's a bit difference between recognition and acceptance. I recognize that my ass won't wipe itself after I drop the kids off at the pool, but I will never see my unwiped ass as acceptable. See the difference? For anyone who does not know me, just so we're clear: I find the idea of categorization by race for any reason beyond light-hearted conversation (as in: black people have hair which requires a different technique to cut when compared to whites) is evidence of stupidity, and latent tendencies toward other damaging cults-of-thought like Dianetics or Oprah Winfrey's Book Club (if she weren't black, of course, to the heartless racist).

Here’s where another hero of mine comes to mind. My Mother’s Mother. When anyone even attempts to mention something that even resembles a blanket generalization, racist or otherwise, she’ll call it out for what it is: lazy stupidity. In front of your wife and kids. Ruthless. Not because she is against racism specifically, but because in her mind, all blanket generalizations are typically the idle product of a lazy mind’s attempt at analysis, where the result is half-baked and anger-fueled, and therefore deserving of ridicule. As an example, if one were to say to her, as an off-handed comment, a possible conversation starter (about drunken driving trends, perhaps) something like: “it looks like there are more Mexicans driving drunk around here these days.” She’d cynically reply, “where did you get that from?” To which you’d recognize the judgment in her voice, and nervously reply, “I read the paper, and that’s what I’m seeing.” To which she’d snap, “you aren’t reading close enough, because that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. And demeaning. That really is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” Don't even try to backpeddle. She caught your lazy ass out there, mumbling some half-baked mumbo-jumbo, so don't even try to deny it. Just apologize for not thinking it through, and change the subject.

She’s not calling you a liar, or that the newspaper is not indeed focusing on a potential rise in Hispanic drunk-driving incidents in your area. But she is calling your analysis lazy. Or: that you are lacking the use of common sense toward the easy-to-manipulate media. So she's just calling a spade a spade, and rightfully so, you lazy turd. She is in tune with the constant logic which states oh-so-clear: we are all flawed, no one is perfect, and no one is perfectly flawed. It simply isn’t possible (well, highly IMPROBABLE, making it the exception to the rule is existent at all). I’m sure she gets scared when she’s passing a group of black teenage boys after dark, in a mall parking lot (she’s witnessed a mugging or two in her day). But I know that what she is afraid of is their desperation, not their skin color, and she is cognizant of that differentiation. She also grew up during the depression, and she’s seen her share of desperate individuals of all race, color, religion, and sexual preference do questionable things while under such influence. She knows not to be tricked by outside appearances.

Even beyond that, she knows better than to be tricked by others’ lazy-minded generalizations about race, gender, and such too. And she will not be political in her disgust when she brushes you off. “That’s just stupid. I’ve never heard anything so stupid in my life. How could you come to that conclusion if you thought it through? That’s just so… stupid.” Ruthless. And you’ll know that you have no argument against her. Even if you aren’t stupid to the core, you are certainly not proving otherwise by being so intellectually lazy in her presence. And she cut you down for it. And she’ll do it next time too. So, even though you’re only four years old, and it was just a stupid joke some other kid told you at daycare… you better buck up and figure it out quick, or she’ll repeat it often enough to start believing that you are, indeed, an idiot.

Do you want your Hero to be under the impression that you’re an idiot? That would really suck if you did.

Damn you lazy racists!

1 comment:

Truecraig said...

My mother's mother passed away on May 6th, 2005. And now there are no Heroes left for me to talk to, and too much time between today and the day when I will be enough of a person to be a hero myself.

So I'll wait. And wait. And wait.