(These too are Heroes)
In times of crisis people find out what they are made of. The true character of an individual is revealed by the extreme exigency of such a situation as may confront them. Be it an accident in a car, a fire in a home, or an external threat or attack, such as took place on 9-11-01, that inner character, stripped of the mundane pettiness of ordinary everyday demands and problems, is allowed to shine forth, and is often proved to be ‘selfless’, ‘heroic’, as were the over three hundred firefighters and police, men and women who died at the ‘Twin Towers’ of the World Trade Center on that terrible day. They gave their lives to save others. That is “the last full measure of devotion”. They are heroes. And we must never forget them. No less so can we forget those who gave their lives fighting for what they believed was right, even when it was wrong, as in those men whose inner valor and bravery was poured out on the battlefield of some war, fought variously for freedom, country, empire, or corporate profit.
As Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address, “We must sanctify our lives…” in their honor, in memory of their sacrifice. No less honorable is the everyday sacrifices of parents for their children, whom abandon the dreams of youth, and give up their lives, eight hours at a time, at mind-numbing, spirit-killing, boring, monotonous, dirty, even dangerous, dead-end jobs in factories and ‘sweat-shops’ around the world, owned by global corporations which maintain their corporate stranglehold on their ‘indentured’ economic slaves by the force or the threat of force of police states backed by military might. These too, are heroes.
These too are heroes, who stand alone against such tyranny and proclaim the right of freedom, justice, dignity, and equity of opportunity for all, not just the best 'gameplayers'.
Yet despite such heroism as exists, man en masse as a ‘herd’ (Nietzsche) ‘falls short of the mark’, fails to rise to the higher standard set by the example and teachings of Christ, and in the eyes of God must now be little more than an epidemic blight destroying the good earth He gave us to steward. Despite our individual accomplishments of heroism, or the beauty of our arts and music (again, gifts from God), despite a few geniuses in science and philosophy, or the occasional scattered faltering successes where the art of living the Way of Love is allowed to flourish for a time, despite ‘good intentions’, the power of our billion year old sub-conscious animal nature over our thoughts and actions is too strong to resist and overcome, or for most, to even be aware of its influence or to recognize that anything is wrong with what they think or do. Even rarer does anyone who seeks a position of leadership do so for reasons other than the instinctive desires for gain (greed), power, and prestige. Even the few ‘politicians’ whom start out with altruistic aspirations are corrupted by a system they cannot fight and stay in power. Like a modern day Don Quixote an individual is helpless, meaningless, ‘anecdotal’, against such amassed reactionary (instinctive) forces, unless one, “plays the game”, well enough to create a autonomous power base, a distinct and powerful economic or political subgroup. Yet even then to do so invites the same result which prompted 19th century British politician Lord Acton to say, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. However, man is not a helpless case. Every person has the capacity to learn anew life’s meaning and purpose, though it won’t be quick or easy. Ultimately our highest aspirations can only be set as high as the vision of the Truth we believe, that we can ‘see’ as the greatest value to ourselves, to our loved ones, and to the world. At its core this vision is based on “what we believe we can believe in”. This is the “leap of faith” of Kierkegaard. Faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen”. You cannot see Truth but it is real. Like the unseen wind we feel its presence and its purpose if we stand in the open before it, if we are ‘open’ to it. If we choose to reject it, to close our minds and hearts, to hide from contact with that ‘wind’ we can think Truth to be nothing but whatever you like or want or is easy or is to your advantage or profit without fear of repercussion, at least for now, regardless of how such a belief may lead one to mistakes that imperil one’s soul, or how actions arising from such beliefs may effect others adversely. The Truth that is the Truth cannot be reasoned away for good. It will wait. It has time. Eternity in fact! Someday we all will stand before it and be weighed in the balance. I think it wise to be prepared for that day.
Traditionally those whose deeds are considered by a given culture to be ‘heroic’ are honored and held in esteem by members of that group. For example in New Guinea less than a century ago, someone who raided another village, killed a man, cut off his head and brought it back for ‘shrinkage’ was held to be heroic. Similarly in the U.S.A. a hundred or even fifty years ago Southerners thought it honorable, even heroic to kill any person of African decent to ‘defend’ the ‘White Race’ from any infringement of their ‘purity’ and their rights to believe they were ‘better’ than others, like the Japanese believed and the Germans believed in World War II. We in America as well, believed it was our God-given-right to kill Japanese and German men, women, and children (the fire bombing of Dresden and the use of atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) by the millions to defend the world from their imperialistic conquests. Though I personally believe the world is a better place because of the bravery of the men (and women) that fought for freedom in World War II, to say that God (the God of the New Testament - not the old) would ever under any circumstances sanction the mass murder of women and children - that’s another thing entirely. “That which is good in the sight of man is evil in the eyes of God”.
It is our beliefs, our ‘Weltanschauung’ that opens or closes the ‘doors of perception’ within our minds and determines what is acceptably ‘heroic’ to an individual or culture. To many Americans fighting for our country in the Vietnam War was heroic. To many others, fighting or protesting against the Vietnam War was more heroic. Now, a year after ‘9-11’ our 2nd generation Bush (league) led government now seeks to instill the feelings of heroism in the American people, and convince them of the urgent need for War (again) against Iraq, whereby the resulting surge of patriotism associated with most Wars guarantees high approval ratings for himself and reinvigorates Republican party election hopes. Chalk up one more reason why a War should not be fought. The Republican Bush administration was characterized on today’s news (National Public Radio) as ‘unilateralist’ (versus multilateralists), meaning that they believe that by reason of, “our enormous military power” the U.S. can do anything it wants regardless of world opinion (think of a big dumb arrogant bully). Reactionist rhetoric and warmongering cannot hide the true intent, the evil in their hearts, which, in the name of ‘American interests’ would slay women and children and anybody else that gets in their way, spending the largest proportion of the nations wealth ever each year on our military “Power”! “Power”! “More money”! “More power”! “Crush those who oppose us”! This is so far from being ‘Christian’ or a ‘Christian nation’ that it should turn the stomach of every true Christian and cause them to don “sackcloth and ashes” and beg our Country to repent. If Americans “live by faith” in any sense it’s faith in guns, not God. We are the most sincere hypocrites on the planet, actually believing we believe in and follow God’s Truth - they don’t have a clue! They really don’t know that they don’t (or don’t care). If you ask 99 out of 100 American ‘Christians’ about their beliefs they will actually unabashedly proclaim their adherence to the Old Testament ‘eye for an eye’, not what Christ taught, which unequivocally replaces the old law with a higher law, "You have heard, 'An eye for an eye', but I say unto you if thine enemy smites you on the left cheek, turn to him also the right." And, "... Love your enemies..."
"And he (Christ) said unto them, "Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition" (Mark 7:9)..."Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition" (Mark 7:13). "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Mark7:7) Instead of being ‘The Way’ (to live), in modern American Christianity, Christ is but an appealing figurehead of a religion of common (selfish) interests, a ‘cult of personality’, or both. The true message, which seeks to create a new radically improved Weltanschauung, a higher aspiration, far beyond the ‘natural’ selfish inclinations of human nature, is ignored, ridiculed. If you tell one of these ‘Christians’ that you believed it wrong to kill, even in self defense, or to defend your family, or your Country, or even wrong to kill for food (vegetarianism) they laugh at you and think you an idiot. They cannot believe that such a belief is in anyway valid (they either don’t read the Bible or they reinterpret, “what He really meant was…”, cause, “nobody’s going to (believe and act) like that” (words of my charismatic-evangelical ex-wife).
In modern American Christianity the higher aspiration of Christ for the human spirit and ‘the human condition’ has been ‘dumbed-down’ to more easily accommodate and conform to the powerful base instincts that sub-consciously control most thoughts and emotions. Just as many if not most of our Christmas traditions are derived or inherited from earlier Pagan festivals, rites, and traditions, so too have we inherited a Christianity that quietly rejects the teachings of Christ which do not conform to predominant cultural norms. This is the ‘dirty little secret’ of Christianity since Constantine made it into a ‘Holy Roman Empire’, an oxymoron of tragic proportion. From the early Apostasy purges through the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Conquistadors, the Witch hunts, the toleration of slavery, ‘manifest destiny’, to the thundering silence of the church during the Nazi’s ‘final solution to the Jewish problem’,
‘Christians’ have often been the oppressors and persecutors, and warmongers, and imperialists. Many if not most of these ‘Christians’ believed what they did was sanctioned by God, was undertaken with “good intentions”, was even, “Heroic”. Perhaps we must even say that they were heroic, but misguided. Even the hijackers, one year ago today, were… heroic… but wrong. And now today, one year later, as we remember those who died at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and on that plane in Pennsylvania, where the Gettysburg address was read over the site of their deaths, as it was written for and read over the site of the heroic dead by Lincoln in Pennsylvania one hundred and forty one years ago, we must carefully and fully consider the words of Abraham Lincoln, [9-12-02]who said that day, “We must sanctify our lives" (to honor the fallen ‘heroes’). To ‘sanctify’ we must do our best, must we not? We must become the best we can be. That ‘highest aspiration’ of man and God for man, “the foundation stone that the builder rejected”, a treasure beyond price overlooked, is the Teachings of Christ. They who see the Truth of this, this, ‘Absolute Relativity’, the same shall be the highest ‘heroes’ of heaven, where, "the last shall be first".
© 2002-2021 Thomas Theodore Welborn