Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Normal Heroics

In America we tend to love calling people heroes, courageous and brave. This gets used for everyone from soldiers, firefighters and the police to people who say things that we slightly agree with. Some would even say that by simply existing or due to their professions, some people really are heroes. Of course the giant hole in that logic is, what happens when these people fail to live up to even the basic duties of the profession they applied for? Are they still heroes? Is a rogue cop still a hero? If a soldier saves his comrades from an attack, but later abandons his guys and goes AWOL, is he still a hero? According to the law, the answer is no. Of course this is really the easy part to answer. The not so easy answer comes when we have to examine why we're calling people heroic and brave for existing.

I often see news stories about people facing some sort of awful or debilitating circumstance. A kid with cancer. A mom who got paralyzed in a car accident with a drunk driver. A story about a woman dying of breast cancer. All of these stories have the common thread of not only tugging at our hearts by pointing out our own fragile mortality, they also have the common thread of the people being called brave, courageous, inspirational and heroic for not dying. This bugs me because by doing this, it implies that when these people die, they become horrible people who were unworthy of our attention when in reality they're examples of how life can throw you a curveball and how some people choose to deal with a traumatic event that becomes a long term part of their daily lives. The other part of this that bugs me is that this type of overblown hyperbolic beatification isn't extended to victims of most types of violent crime. No one's calling the guy that got shot at a house party a hero for taking up a career as a DJ. In fact no one's calling the woman who probably got assaulted at that same party a hero for not killing herself due to severe depression. Instead we're more than likely to ask why either of them were there and then debate if they deserved it based on their lives up to that point. I guess what I'm saying is that when we call people heroes for living through or with debilitating circumstances, we're being condescending. This gets even worse when we go over the top praising people for doing normal things.......

I want to make one thing clear before the hate tweets roll in, I'm not some sort of transgender hating person. I'm legit happy that Caitlyn Jenner can be true to herself and that people are generally accepting. This is a huge step in the right direction considering how awful we've been as a country lately when it comes to treating all of us like we actually belong here and deserve common decency. With that said, Caitlyn Jenner isn't a saint or heroic for finally being comfortable enough to stop pretending to be a guy named Bruce. What she really is, is normal. She has the same strengths, weaknesses, flaws and fun that we all have. Sure she lives a more public life than I ever will but in reality she's out doing normal things(for a rich person with a TV show), trying to live a normal life and dealing with normal, everyday issues. We can't make people in to national heroes for doing mundane things while having the supreme confidence to keep it 100 and be themselves while doing it. It's condescending, it's fake praise and it really waters down the impact of the word. Just be normal.

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