I do not really believe in heroes. One of my favorite quotations comes from a conversation I had about twenty years ago with a man who had served in the fabled 10th Mountain Division in World War II. He was a very modest, unassuming man, and few in the community knew that he had won the Silver Star. I mentioned this to him and he said, with unaccustomed vehemence, “Nobody knows who deserves what.”
That is a fundamental underlying truth in the Christian worldview. “Use every man after his desert, and who shall ‘scape whipping?” said Hamlet. (“desert,” emphasis on the second syllable, means “what he deserves”) Jesus Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5).
That’s a long way round to what I want to say about heroes. We should be very careful about loosely designating people as heroes. Many people behave heroically over a period of years, quietly, without acclaim of any kind: for instance, the husband who cares for his wife who has Alzheimer’s. And many people who perform heroic actions, such as rescuing someone in traffic or in the subway, have acted from a rush of adrenaline and are otherwise living ordinary, humdrum, flawed lives. That doesn’t mean we should not honor them, but it does mean that we should be careful about throwing around the word “hero.”
Having said that, I will just acknowledge that one of the women I most admire in the world is Christiane Amanpour. I have followed her work closely for twenty-five years, having been greatly moved by the passion with which she reported on gruesome massacres of defenceless people during the Algerian Civil War (1991). I am therefore very grateful that the speech she recently gave has “gone viral.” Below is a link to well-edited excerpts from the speech, so that you can get the idea in just a couple of minutes; and then there is a good short essay along with it.
I am preparing to enter the battle for truth, in my small way, which in this new “post-fact” atmosphere is shaping up to be the battle of the century thus far, I don’t think we have ever seen anything like this. It’s not that there haven’t been prodigious liars and manipulators before; it’s that we haven’t had Twitter, Facebook, and endlessly proliferating websites before. As my own little opening salvo I have just joined the Southern Poverty Law Center and renewed my membership in the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Here’s the link to Christiane Amanpour and her splendid deep voice: