The other day, I read a post at Waking of the Bear that spoke of Heroes, Gurus, and Friends. He mentions that he’s not a hero, because he hates conflict, and he says that Heroes seem to love conflict.
I believe that true heroes, people I look up to and would like to emulate, aren’t big fans of conflict. (And I think Waking of the Bear might very well be one.)
I know quite a few people I think of as heroes, including some who would have to be called “activists.”
I don’t think that any of them love conflict, although I could be mistaken. But what I see are people who would prefer to live quiet, peaceful lives but who cannot stand idly by in the face of injustice. They feel that giving a pass to those who harm others is, in some fashion, condoning that behavior. They are forced, by their own internal compass, to draw a line in the sand.
There are plenty of people who do seem to love conflict. They thrive on strife and drama. They seem to be unhappy if life is settled, and will pick a fight over nothing at all, apparently just to unsettle it. They take offense where no offense is intended, and will happily turn on their friends and allies to gets a rise out of someone. They antagonize everyone, and walk around beaming if they can spread the fray, until all those they have contact with have chosen sides and gone to war.
I’ve known a few, and known of many others. You can see them in action on just about any social media.
These people are not my heroes. They are the exact opposite of everything that I find heroic.
It seems to me that their chief concern is themselves; being the center of attention, controlling the actions of all those around them. It seems that it makes them feel powerful to split friendships and cause deep rifts in organizations. If they can paralyze and incapacitate, they are overjoyed.
My heroes are chiefly concerned with others. They dislike being the center of attention, which they feel is synonymous with painting a large target on their chests. They would far, far rather that no action was necessary at all; that everyone treated everyone else with respect and honored their choices. That no one, ever, intentionally harmed another, or took advantage of someone weaker than themselves. That bullying wasn’t a thing. That greed was unthinkable. That cheating was inconceivable.
But that’s not the world we live in.
Which means someone needs to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Someone needs to speak for those who have no voice. Someone needs to organize others to link arms and prevent the bullies from breaking through. Someone needs to come up with clever ways to turn the actions of those who thrive on the pain of others against them.*
Those people are my heroes.
The ones who don’t spare a thought for their own safety when they see someone else in trouble. The ones who will gladly and generously lend their aid, their lunch, and their time when they see someone who needs it. The ones who see no division between “them” and “us.”
There is no “them.” There’s no one here but us.
People who realize that, and who reach out to everyone they meet, are my heroes.
*Such as pledging money for every minute the Westboro Baptist Church pickets an event.
The image above is a detail from “Hope”, ©2002 Robin Wood. I made it using Poser, Lightwave, and Photoshop.