Saturday, February 7, 2009

Men Fit to be Called Heroes

To call the subjects of this post minor lives is something of an insult, but that's the title I gave to the series and I'm sticking with it. It is quite amazing to see people, not all young, treating the likes of Che Guevara as though he were some great popular hero. Even I was never stupid enough to confuse the ability to impose your will on a large number of people by spreading fear, misery and death, with the moral and personal qualities required to be a hero. Guevara was an intelligent man, a natural leader and probably very brave, and he might have been something worthwhile, but he chose to detroy the people he should have led.

Gerry Adams also comes to mind in this regard. His sidekick McGuinness is little more than a mindless thug, but Adams is a man of high intelligence and great personal courage. He could have changed the world for the better, or at least a small part of it, something very few can do. Instead he chose to sow hatred, destruction and poverty, and reap the rewards of power and self-importance.

But enough of these evil creatures. Humanity has produced truly great men who should not be forgotten. And more importantly, the reasons they were great must not be forgotten.

So I offer you Mohindas K. Ghandi, man of peace, of unshakeable courage, and absolute faith in the rightness of some things and the wrongness of others, who changed the world for the better by his example and his indiscriminate love of all humanity. It is this love of all mankind that distinguishes him from most charismatic men, who reserve their favour for those who are useful to them.

The same applies to someone else who needs no introduction: Martin Luther King, a man who changed the world he lived in by the same unshakeable courage and love of all humanity. He did it by uniting those who disagreed with each other. He united them by showing, through his own life, that he was worth listening to. Each of them achieved far, far more than the tinpot tyrants who gather a group of friends, arm them, borrow or invent a framework of beliefs to justify themselves, and then threaten everyone who disagrees with them with death.

I like to think that the same is true of Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona who joined the Marines and was one of those who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima during WWII, an act that cost the lives of many of his comrades and whose ultimate value is hard to evaluate, but at the time it was of great symbolic importance. He lived his early manhood as he believed he should, with simplicity and without grandeur, answering for what he did and what he believed, and it destroyed him. His heart was too big for his mind. Check out this song for a narrative version of his life.

No comments: