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September 11th and Hero Worship?
January 2, 2002 8:18 PM   Subscribe

September 11th and Hero Worship? This is an interesting take on all of the post-9-11 NYPD-NYFD adulation.
posted by {savg*pncl} (19 comments total)

 
I agree that it can't be forgotten how the NYPD abused that African immigrant a couple years ago despite their recent "heroics."

However, this article just sounds like an attempt to bring up an irrelevant point to contend. So she suspects fire-fighters aren't heroes because they may be homophobic, despite putting their lives at risk to help others.

And to call their disregard for their own safety selfish is the dumbest point she makes. If anything, it's selfless to put your life at risk for the sake of others.

Under her assumptions, no human can be labeled a hero because they are just that, human.
posted by Mach3avelli at 8:41 PM on January 2, 2002


Interesting, kinda and nowhere near as stridently doctrinaire as I thought it would be but it still comes off a little paranoid.
The authors line of reasoning seems to be "People are admiring these guys in macho professions, people in macho professions are sometimes homophobic, therefore we should be vigilant against admiring them too much." That's kind of like saying "my freind dresses well, gay men often dress well, my freind might be turning gay, we should buy him some sloppy clothes."
Now the accusation of racist and homophobic incidents described are all deeply saddening to me and if they prove to be true those responsible are disgraces to the uniform they wear. However, I believe that cops,firemen and paramedics by and large are no more racist and homophobic than the rest of us and the attitudes described are a minority view.
My best freind is an NYFD paramedic and from what he's told me firemen, cops and paramedics, generally speaking see more homosexuals, drag queens and such than the rest of us, so rather than being shocking it's downright old hat to most of them.
And besides, what's wrong with a little hero worship. Having heroes to admire gives us something positive to emulate and strive for. Should we have "do-nothing-and-complain worship" instead?
posted by jonmc at 8:42 PM on January 2, 2002


I don't think you read it closely enough Mach:

"Indeed, until Sept. 11, a lot of people may have never considered the enormous danger involved in these kinds of jobs. Now many of us have began pondering the inner strength it takes to run directly into danger instead of away from it - all in an effort to save other people's lives. This intense selflessness and bravery have caught the country's imagination, turning firefighters and cops into instant icons."

As for the "...dress sloppy" logic: it doesn't fit. Totally different mindset at work here. It's fine to have heroes ... even the silent and less "macho" variety. It's interesting how firemen and police officers are now turning up at every male-oriented sporting event.
posted by {savg*pncl} at 8:53 PM on January 2, 2002


You mean I've had to endure decades of "YMCA" by the Village People and all along gays have been persecuted within the rescue service industry?
posted by Real9 at 8:58 PM on January 2, 2002


The main problem with the hero worship, to my mind, is how much brain power is still sorely needed and unappreciated: The brain power of the people who designed the electronics needed for a war based around air power, the brains needed for investigations and intelligence (which, even if it failed before Sept. 11, was not taken nearly seriously enough here and still isn't), the brain power needed for good diplomacy and forethought in foreign policy. It's not as if brain power has failed the nation in the past. The Marshall Plan saved the United States and the world years of potential (to hear some tell it, certain) turmoil, and consequently millions of lives and billions in money needed for war. Ideas dominate at a smaller scale too. How's about the engineers who try to make buildings safer, or the people who design fire extinguishers, alarm systems, etc.? Similarly, the best fire departments spend most of their time *preventing* fires, rather than putting them out.
posted by raysmj at 10:28 PM on January 2, 2002


Idiots abound.
posted by dhartung at 11:07 PM on January 2, 2002


I think the author is trying to use the September 11 attack's resulting focus on firefighters and police to bring up a point that existed before the attack. The author seems to be worried that opinion of those groups have shifted so that previous issues that were many times ignored will continue to be ignored.

A valid point, but I don't think it has much to do with the attacks.

As for hero-worship, I am still a little more aggitated that firefighters and police have been getting 'all' the attention for being heroes. How about the office workers who risked their lives, when it wasn't even their JOB to do so? How about the Port Authority workers, janitors, and hired security personnel who died in higher percentages?

Concerts have been had specifically for firefighters and police, to raise funds for their families. Their families have been flown to Hawaii for free vacations, and they are interviewed by every media outlet that can get hold of them. Meanwhile, these professions carry better death benefits than most of the the other people who died.

And percentage-wise, there were a hell of a lot more people who were not firefighters or police that died in the attack.

I'm not saying that firefighters and police should be ignored.. but what about the other people? My wife has two kids in her class who lost their fathers - one was a firefighter, the other worked for a finacial company.

The son of the office worker got back into his routine, has kept his chin up and tried to work through it, doing homework, etc. The firefighter's kid (not to wonder how a NY firefighter was able to reside in NJ), meanwhile boasts about his free trip to Hawaii, getting onstage at the benefit concert, and hasn't done any school work - his mother defending him saying his social schedule is too busy to expect him to do homework and study. He gets letters from other schools and teachers around the country telling him that he is their hero.

As opposed to the poor kid who has more hero qualities in my eyes.

Ah, venting. I'm a sucker for equity.
posted by rich at 6:25 AM on January 3, 2002


Some facts: Looking For A Fire Department That Looks Like New York:
"In 1965 Mayor John V. Lindsay appointed Robert Lowery fire commissioner, making him the first African American ever to head the Fire Department of the City of New York. He was indeed the first black to head a fire department in any major American city. This was all the more remarkable because at that time, out of a total of 13,500 firefighters in the department, there were only 600 blacks. Almost four decades later, the Fire Department of New York has just about half that number of black firefighters. As of a year ago out of a total of 11,344 firefighters, just 321 were black. There were 341 Hispanics. As for women, according to a study by Public Advocate Mark Green issued last May, there are only 29."

By way of contrast: "Today, of the 985 firefighters in the Seattle Fire Department, 67 are women. Along with San Francisco, Seattle has the most female firefighters in the country. In fact, one San Francisco station is entirely staffed by women and that could soon become a reality in Seattle."

Ah, irony! I hadn't read Paula Martinac's column (with which I strongly agree), until it was posted scornfully--"Lesbian screed about burly firemen & cops in NYC...don't miss this." Golly, this dyke has to say "thanks DA*DI!"
posted by Carol Anne at 6:25 AM on January 3, 2002


since hypermasculinity and homophobia often go hand in hand.

Sounds like heterophobia to me.
posted by HTuttle at 6:39 AM on January 3, 2002


And the stereotyping goes on and on...
posted by Mack Twain at 10:21 AM on January 3, 2002


I'm personally quite satisfied with the New York Fire Department. What 9-11 proved to me, beyond any doubt, is that "if it's not broke, don't fix it."

I sure as hell don't want my safety and that of my family depending upon any affirmative action beneficiaries. African Americans and women who can pass the tests can join the fire department, if they can't, they can get a job elsewhere.

If there's a tradition among men who are a little more on the macho side -- even, god forbid, insensitive -- in favor of joining the Fire Department, which brings in men who'd otherwise pursue safer or more lucrative careers, then all the better -- even more safety for me and mine.
posted by MattD at 11:24 AM on January 3, 2002


MattD: "I sure as hell don't want my safety and that of my family depending upon any affirmative action beneficiaries. African Americans and women who can pass the tests can join the fire department, if they can't, they can get a job elsewhere."

Nice straw man. I didn't notice any black people at the WTC with badges identifying them as affirmative action beneficiaries.

Your safety depends on a just society more than you will probably ever realize. No matter how much you dislike the idea of it.
posted by srboisvert at 5:21 PM on January 3, 2002


Your safety depends on a just society more than you will probably ever realize

My safety depends on qualified people being in the appropriate positions. No more or less.
posted by owillis at 5:30 PM on January 3, 2002


The heroic African American firefighters who died -- and those who survived -- September 11 each earned a spot on the Fire Department in open competition, and I feel perfectly well protected by a Fire Department in which they're members.

The same cannot be said for women firefighters, almost all of whom (at least in NY) gained their jobs during a brief, court-imposed, lifting of minimum physical standards during the 1980's.

srvoisvert: giving less intellectually or physically capable people jobs on the front line of public safety on the grounds of their race or gender sounds like the definition of an unjust society, in that it implicitly values human life less than it does unearned political set asides.
posted by MattD at 7:37 PM on January 3, 2002


What 9-11 proved to me, beyond any doubt, is that "if it's not broke, don't fix it."

Of course, what the 200 firefighters who died on September 11th really proved is that what is broken won't be fixed. Thank goodness we have affirmative action squabbles to distract us while huge, glaring, undeniably killer, bipartisan problems go ignored for no reason at all.

(In other words, the AA debate can wait until the NYFD gets its act together and figures out how to handle future disasters without such appallingly tragic masochism. Personally, I'm pro-AA, but first thing's first.)
posted by Ptrin at 8:49 PM on January 3, 2002


mattd: giving less intellectually or physically capable people jobs on the front line of public safety on the grounds of their race or gender sounds like the definition of an unjust society, in that it implicitly values human life less than it does unearned political set asides

The issue Matt is whether they are actually less capable and if the standards are meaningful. Minimum physical strength requirements are somewhat arbitrary. At one point I was heavier than the minimum lifting requirements for the local fire department (no longer thanks to hundreds of hours in the gym) so even someone who passed would not have been any help to me. Fortunately, firemen use the buddy system anyway so the critical threshold is what two firemen can carry.

I haven't actually read any anecdotes of physical strength saving people from 9-11. Has anyone else? It seems to me that it was bravery more than brawn that made these people heroes. Likewise, I have not heard any stories of the female or minority firefighters not doing their jobs adequately so it appears that the Afirmative Action boogyman has only appeared in the imagination. Airport security on the other hand....
posted by srboisvert at 7:19 AM on January 4, 2002


I haven't actually read any anecdotes of physical strength saving people from 9-11. Has anyone else?
I have heard several. mostly carrying the wheelchair bound down flights of stairs.
posted by thirteen at 7:57 AM on January 4, 2002


was that by firemen or co-workers? Weren't the firemen mostly rushing up towards the fire? Which of course does take incredible physical strength, running up stairs with 100 lbs of equipment etc. All else being equal, it makes sense to choose the burliest candidates for that job.

In the time immediately after the attacks, people were looking for something to hold up as good. People who would never have bought an American flag hung them out of their windows (to see the east village covered in American flags was more than a little surreal). People wanted symbols of strength and unity.

That's what the hero worship is about too, and it will pass, and the people who are always patriotic, always worship police, will say, 'why didn't it last, why do people forget so easily' while the ones who think it's a bit dangerous and as likely to diminish consideration for non-americans, or those the police arrest etc, will say 'thank goodness that's over and we're back to normal.'

well. Four months ago I wouldn't have thought we would ever get "back to normal" and just now I wrote that without thinking, and i can sort of imagine it happening. how about that.
posted by mdn at 10:02 AM on January 4, 2002


Wheelchair incidents were all by co-workers. Another reason why I find the whole focus on the fire department and police for their heroism annoying in light of the total lack of any (not to mention equal (or even more)) focus on those that risked their lives when it wasn't their job to do so, since that is what I consider to be a better definition of heroism.
posted by rich at 7:51 AM on January 7, 2002


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