"Today's heroes don't have to do anything; they just need to be noble victims"
January 15, 2002 6:18 AM   Subscribe

"Today's heroes don't have to do anything; they just need to be noble victims" The people who lost their lives on September 11 -- office workers, firefighters, airline pilots -- have almost unanimously been labeled "hereos." Were they really, or were they "just" victims who tragically died while "doing their jobs"? According to this article, we should be hesitant to loosen the requirements for heroism: "Heroes often end up as role models, a task not well suited for victims. Moreover, by lowering the bar for heroism, we cheapen the word and, in some ways, the exploits of people who have earned the right to be called that in the past. " (via a & l daily).
posted by pardonyou? (58 comments total)
As the article notes, there were some true heroes on 9/11, including some of the passengers on Flight 93 who refused to let the terrorists decide the time and place of their death.

I'm curious how others feel. Is this just semantics, or is it meaningful? I'm a believer in the power of words, and I agree that we don't need to dilute the meaning of "heroism." (Either that or we could make a new category: "superhero." Wait, I think that's already taken).
posted by pardonyou? at 6:23 AM on January 15, 2002

Wow, it's a little bit early to be making this distinction, I think. Most people are still a little sensitive over this and will probably label this as "unamerican", but I tend to agree. I lump it in with giving all enlisted men in the Army black berets.
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 6:48 AM on January 15, 2002

I would consider firefighters and police men/women, living or dead, heroes. Working in extreme danger daily, saving many lives.

I might be missing something, but that's what I think people reffer to when they say the Heroes of 9/11. The victims are the people that worked in the towers and the ones who were on the planes. Now indeed there were people, both on planes, and in the buildings that sacrificed their lives saving others, and many of them have been recognised, but there are just too many that died to be sorting out 'hero'/'non-hero'. Indeed what happened to whom and where is hard to figure out.

Another point to make is that it depends on who is making the judgement. Some would consider Bin Laden a hero.
posted by tiaka at 6:53 AM on January 15, 2002

I've thought "hero" was overused before 9-11, but it's so out of hand now the word has pretty much lost it's originally intended meaning.

(I wouldn't equate dying tragically with risk or sacrifice of life.)
posted by jennyb at 6:53 AM on January 15, 2002

hero is almost as overused as the word love is
posted by corpse at 7:06 AM on January 15, 2002

There seems to be a real grief culture in the West these days. When Princess Diana died, this country (the UK) ground to a halt, she suddenly became 'Queen of All Our Hearts' (tm) and the greatest woman to have ever lived, her death completely overshadowed that of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, someone who had been in the caring business for many, many years. Diana went from simpering divorced ex-royal to goddess overnight, to question her greatness was to risk being branded heartless.
It's the same with the 'heroes' of September 11th, in the public outpouring of grief, all sense of proportion is abandoned. There were undoubtedly heroes among those who died, those who put the safety of others before their own, those who attempted to disarm the terrorists and so on. But being in the wrong building at the wrong time is not an act of heroism, it is sheer bad luck, they were unfortunate, not heroic.

So where does all this come from? The media (in the UK I think a lot of the blame lies with the tabloids and TV who devoted large proportions of their output to Diana after her death) or is it a need to make heroes out of ordinary people which goes much deeper? Maybe there is a lack of true heroes in modern society, are we too selfish to become true heroes? But I do believe that misappropriating the word to describe victims will not dilute it's application to those who do truly perform heroic deeds, at least not to me.
posted by Markb at 7:06 AM on January 15, 2002

There's a debate at the moment on the place that heroism has in society today. While I admire and respect all the people involved in 9/11, they don't really compare to the cases such as the ones outlined in this Independent (UK) article, which also questions the traditional definition of Heroism in today's society (or battleground). I may be hard pressed to say it, but I don't think that the stakes at 9/11 where really anything compared to WWII.

That said, I only think Bin Laden could have qualified as 'Hero' if he was flying the damn planes. He was no more heroic than Field Marshal Hague.
posted by Jongo at 7:08 AM on January 15, 2002

I don't feel comfortable labeling every person who lost their lives on 11 Sept as a "hero" and I really don't believe that "just doing their job" is an adequate description of what the firefighters, police and EMS people did that day. They all chose to do what they did, I can't imagine a better definition of the word than that.

Perhaps we lose sight of the inherent danger of some professions nowadays because we no longer are directly involved. Let's not let that blind us.
posted by tommasz at 7:09 AM on January 15, 2002

I don't wanna get off on a rant here, but Nicholas Thompson's desire to limit the definition of hero to not include the sacrifice of 911 just doesn't wash for me. I understand where he comes from, but the word hero has room for three thousand or so more people. Though this is not an all-inclusive definition, part of what makes a hero is "a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.." I just love dictionary.com. Don't you? Now admittedly, the majority of employees at the WTC were not of noble blood and some could say all they did was get up that morning and go to work. Surely not an heroic act to most. Still, their lives were put at risk and their lives were sacrificed. That applies to heroism to me.

It can long be disputed that in order to fit the criteria of heroism, one must wittingly and consciously place one's life on the line for someone else. Even so, I can still argue that these people were heroes. How? Well less than a decade before, the WTC was placed under attack. A bomb attempt was made that just fell short of the ultimate fate of the twin towers. The people who worked there every day knew that of all buildings in New York, the WTC was the tallest and most world-famous. A lot of delicate and world-effecting decisions were made there regularly. Those buildings houses embassies and government offices. It contained companies and organizations that affected world economy and a number of other influential industries. Perhaps some saw this, put two and two together and opted to turn down a job there on this criteria, but over 30,000 people did not. They got up. They went to work. In hindsight that act alone, after the first terrorist bombing in the early 90s, could be seen as an act of courage. Indeed the very next day, and the next week, and for the months following 911, there have been millions of people in this country who get up, get dressed, go to work, and look up at the corporate highrise which contains their cubicle or office, and sometimes it takes an act of courage for them to get in that elevator, hoping today's not the day that their workplace becomes a target for desperate men.

The people in the Pentagon? I'd call them heroes without having to go through several paragraphs of rebuttal. Though perhaps they never suspected that terrorists could find a way to reach the building in the way that they did, they're still civil servants and military personel, most of whom have taken a pledge to do their job to the best of their ability to serve their country. And the people in the plane in Pennsylvania did the best they can under incredibly stressful circumstances. Unarguably the real heroes of that fateful day were the firefighters who rushed up the stairs while everyone else was rushing down, bravely going where even angels would fear to tread.

Maybe some of the individuals in those twin towers committed cowardly acts. Thankfully those have not been the tales that have survived. Instead we heard about the man who stood by his handicapped friend when he knew it impossible for them both to make it to safety. We heard about Father Mychal Judge, who devoted his life in so many ways, both to his God and the people of New York. Maybe there were a few cowards that day, but courage is not a lack of fear, but an ability to face the fear.

Belittling the word "hero" by using it to define that day? Bollocks! I say on that day in some small way, we were all heroes. If anything that makes the word hero that much more powerful. Even now. We could all just fall to our knees and give the terrorists what they want. We could give in to terror. Instead, we face the fear and we move forward. That's an heroic act in and of itself.

But then again that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:16 AM on January 15, 2002

They are not heros because dieing in the WTC collapse is a heroic deed. They are heros because they, collectively, are a nationally unifying symbol of our country's pain and desire to rid the world of terrorism. To be a hero in this sense is not necessarily to be "heroic" but, simply, to represent a heroic ideal.
posted by plaino at 7:22 AM on January 15, 2002

I may be hard pressed to say it, but I don't think that the stakes at 9/11 where really anything compared to WWII.

I see what you're saying, but it's all a game of one-up-menship. Basically I could say that the battle of Stalingrad with the soldiers virtually knowing that they were going to die marching out in the field was most heroic . Or the French troops in WW1 getting out of strenches to face machine gun fire, advancing feet by bodies of thousands. Who is to know what the greatest feat ever was, certainly you can't know what and where and how each act of courage happened. If tommorow we were to find out about Joe Smith, a guy who was disabled, in a wheelchair, stormed the beaches of Normandy and killed 1000 Nazi soldiers with his bare hands while carrying 20 wounds, would we just award the highest ever, supreme Medal or Heroship and then not allow anyone else to use the word 'hero' EVER?
posted by tiaka at 7:23 AM on January 15, 2002

I think I had a bit of perspecting watching these events from here in Canada (not nearly as much perspective as I'm sure those in Europe and elsewhere would have had).

I think you need Bill Maher to say this kind of stuff. I've thought for months now that the hero worship is strange. The trouble is, people can't separate comments like that from insults to the victims and their families - it's not the same thing.

Guliani is the Mayor of the World and the Man of the Year - Bush was strong and stern in trying times, firemen are Gods.

I find all of these ideas suspect. That does not mean that they aren't true. Rather, what I find odd is that statements are made without anyone really knowing the truth - just hearing what Regis tells them.

Maybe Rudy handled the thing well - but all we joe citizens really know is that he puts on a good press conference. Same with Bush (except for the good press conferences).

I think the mayor, police, and fire fighters of any city in the world would have responded in a similar manner. I guess we're all heroes ;-)

Don't jump on me because I'm shitting on fire-fighters. They came quickly when my car caught fire and I expect them to pull me from my burning home if that ever becomes necessary, and I'm not doing a dangerous job. I respect them - but I don't think they are immune to criticism.

One positive outcome of this hero worship is the spin that ordinary people are the heroes rather than rich athletes and movie stars. That's a refreshing change.
"It is long overdue that Americans appreciate their public servants. It is also necessary to honor those who died simply for being in America. But changing the definition of hero to accommodate tragic victims may actually weaken us by diminishing the idea of role models who perform truly extraordinary acts. "
posted by stevengarrity at 7:23 AM on January 15, 2002

I don't think you cease to be a hero just because heroism is one of the requirements of your job. The hundreds of firefighters and other rescue personnel who raced into the World Trade Center to save lives are heroes by any definition of the term.

I'm amazed that a guy who rides a typewriter for a living is willing to question the heroism of a dead firefighter. Though I wouldn't call his actions heroic, they're certainly brave.
posted by rcade at 7:26 AM on January 15, 2002

I'm sorry Zachsmind but bollocks right back at you...
In the mainland UK we have been subject to an IRA bombing campaign for 30 years, is anyone who works in Canary Wharf a hero, is anyone who shops in the Arndale centre, Manchester a hero, is anyone who walks down the street in Warrington a hero? No, the possibility of being in the vicinity of a terrorist attack does not heroes make.
Get a sense of proportion for chrissakes.
posted by Markb at 7:26 AM on January 15, 2002


Instead, we face the fear and we move forward. That's an heroic act in and of itself.

No, that's getting on with life. That's what is expected. To see it as heroic is to underestimate what true heroism is.
posted by Markb at 7:30 AM on January 15, 2002

my president says that the victims are heros and the terrorists are cowards. that settles it. be a patriot. send a box of pretzels to the white house today.
posted by quonsar at 7:33 AM on January 15, 2002

jennyb: Looking at definition nr. 5, I think it's ironic that it refers to it as "Chiefly New York City".

I guess a hero ain't nothin' but a sandwich. ;)
posted by tpoh.org at 7:34 AM on January 15, 2002

They are heros because they, collectively, are a nationally unifying symbol of our country's pain and desire to rid the world of terrorism.

I don't think that America had a nationwide pain and desire to do anything at all about terrorism before 9/11. Please hear me out. I might be demonized for saying this, but I think that 9/11 had a very positive effect on the American public, in that many of them are now making a concerted effort to learn what the hell is going on in the world, and do something about it, instead of speaking some 'defender of freedom' claptrap. The Pearl Harbour analogy can yet again be used, because back then, it took a large loss of life (premeditated/not premeditated, it doesn't matter) to jolt the nation out of its isolationist shell and actually bloody well do something about it all. America was a heroic nation back then, and it really showed its colours, and what it had the potential to do. But since then, and especially in my lifetime, it's been disheartening to watch America gradually withdraw back into its shell, occasionally lobbing a few cruise missles here and there in half-hearted anger but otherwise doing not much. For example, the Genocide's that happened in the past decade, which America failed to prevent (or in the case of Rwanda, prevented the prevention of)or double standards in foreign policy, especially in the Mideast. It's just not right. Let's hope that America doesn't retreat again.
posted by Jongo at 7:39 AM on January 15, 2002

and the award for most effective cheapening of the word "hero" goes to: this guy.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:41 AM on January 15, 2002

Grabbingsand: I'm hoping someone bootlegs the unplugged version of that hideous song.
posted by rcade at 7:48 AM on January 15, 2002

This point and counterpoint reminds me of the days of Jane Curtain and Dan Ackroyd on Saturday Night Live. "Jane you ignorant slut."

Mark, anyone who lives their lives day in day out despite the risks is a hero in my book. If they're not a hero in your book, more power to you. You have an inalienable right to your opinion.

For me? Are the people who have faced IRA bombing campaigns without falling to their knees in fear heroes? Yes. IRA terrorists wanted to scare people into submission just like anyone who uses terror to push their political agendas. I happen to believe that the Irish Republican Army had some validity in their grievances, but the day they began to use bombs and guns to push their political agenda, they immediately lost the argument.

Facing terrorism and saying no to it is an heroic act. Perhaps it's not an heroic act which will get a segment on some tv news magazine, but that doesn't lessen the importance of living life courageously and being a hero to oneself.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:49 AM on January 15, 2002

Can somebody please clarify one point for me? Who ever called the office workers, building personnel, etc. who died in the attack "heroes" in the first place? Of course the term has been liberally, and deservedly, heaped on the firefighters and police (and yes, Mr. Giuliani), both living and dead, who marshalled one of the greatest mass evacuations in history. As a matter fact, I do recall a report about several families of WTC building services workers complaining that their lost ones weren't being heralded as heroes.
posted by nagchampa at 7:52 AM on January 15, 2002

your comments and statements have been noted. the senate committee on unamerican behaviours will be contacting you shortly.
posted by jcterminal at 7:56 AM on January 15, 2002

Perhaps there is a legitimate gripe to be made, but I think the writer gets a bit melodramatic in lamenting the arbitrary use of the word "hero."

Running to the dictionary does no good. Definition number five in the Webster's New World Dictionary reads, "the central figure in any important event or period, honored for oustanding qualities".

I'm not saying that, because it is in the dictionary, it is fine for people to thoughtlessly blather on about the "Trade Center heroes," but rather that it is because people use the word "hero" in this way that it appears in the dictionary as a possible definition of the word.

Instead of hearing the writer whine about what he mistakenly feels is misusage on a massive scale, I'm more interested in discovering why so many native English speakers (in the U.S., anyway) use the word this way. My own idea is that we lack a simple, commonplace word that communicates not just sympathy, but also respect, for victims of crimes or fate.
posted by Bixby23 at 8:09 AM on January 15, 2002

I'm amazed that a guy who rides a typewriter for a living is willing to question the heroism of a dead firefighter.

In other words, what a wimp. You don't what the guy's been through in a lifetime, but yet you still feel you have the right to say that.
posted by raysmj at 8:09 AM on January 15, 2002

I think there is some sense of 'America is supposed to be bad! And cops need to be bad and beat and shoot everyone, but more importantly those that are different! Or we won't have anything to be mad about." Some are mad that frat boys like GW are being called heroes with Rudy being man of the year and everything. And I agree, so, take up that issue; why drag everyone else along?
posted by tiaka at 8:16 AM on January 15, 2002

To me this issue is really about the extent to which we allow emotion to affect our judgment (and I'm not saying that's good or bad). The victims in this case are quickly labeled "heroes" because we appreciate the enormity of the event. But others who suffer the exact same fate in far less noteworthy contexts would never be called heroes.

There seems to be a corollary to the issue of compensation for victims. Obviously, people died in a tragic accident, but hundreds die every day in tragic accidents. What's the difference? The enormity of the event on our public conscience.

I guess I agree with the post that suggested it might just be too early to make these calls either way. We need the perspective only time can provide.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:28 AM on January 15, 2002

Zachsmind - I'm with MarkB on this. I don't think you really have any sense of what living with the IRA was/is like. The majority of people in the major UK cities faced IRA bombing campaigns, and so by your definition are heroes. It does not require heroism to get off the tube at a different station from intended because of a security alert - and that's the sort of thing that made up the day-to-day experience of life with the IRA.
posted by pascal at 8:49 AM on January 15, 2002

The majority of those who died in the WTC are not heroes. Some may be--those who died trying to help others get out, or who actually went BACK to help get more people out. But just passively dying with little or no knowledge of what is going on, little or no opportunity to take action, heroic or otherwise...that's just dying, and to term that "heroism" cheapens the concept in a sickening manner. Heroism requires choice. Victimization sometimes does not. The author makes an important point.

The idea that it is somehow "too soon" to acknowledge the obvious makes no sense to me. Facts are facts, there to be appreciated at any time. Sensitivities may decrease with time, but being overly-sensitive to reality is a weakness that one should try to avoid in any case. No amount of time or distance or "perspective" is going to suddenly redefine heroism to include being blown up while obliviously typing a letter or attending a meeting, with no awareness the possibility of any threat.
posted by rushmc at 9:00 AM on January 15, 2002

Hero worship was discussd before.

But beyond that, I don't agree that blanketing firefighters and cops with the title of 'hero' is right. Just because their job is hazardous, they are heroes?

A taxi driver's job is way more hazardous, and they provide a needed public service. And then you have code-breakers who's jobs aren't hazardous, but are essential to the protection of the country's every day citizen.

Figherfighters and cops get hazard pay. They signed on knowing it was a dangerous job. It's tragic that a lot of them got killed at the trade centers on September 11 (will people stop the whole 9-11 meme thing, please?).

Did they think the place was in immenant danger of collapsing like it did? No, probably not, since no one thought they would collapse. So they weren't running into a situation they thought was as dangerous as it was anyway. So, less heroic, more tragic.

I think the people who's jobs it wasn't to save people - and stayed and did - are really more heroic. And I think it is a sorry thing that people who aren't figherfighters or cops have to complain that their good deeds are largely un noticed instead of the media focusing in on the evry day people that rose above their normal course.
posted by rich at 9:03 AM on January 15, 2002

Zachsmind, living life courageously makes one courageous, not heroic. To be heroic I would expect someone to risk something of themselves for the benefit of another/others.

Not bowing to terrorists is courageous, tackling a hijacker knowing he is armed in the hope that you will avert tragedy and save the lives of others, to me is heroic.

Maybe it does all come down to semantics and interperetation after all.
posted by Markb at 9:03 AM on January 15, 2002

I'm amazed that a guy who rides a typewriter for a living is willing to question the heroism of a dead firefighter.

What a preposterous notion of the requirements of heroism you evince! Better check your history...words are the most deadly thing in the world.
posted by rushmc at 9:04 AM on January 15, 2002

In other words, what a wimp. You don't what the guy's been through in a lifetime, but yet you still feel you have the right to say that.

I looked him up before making the comment, and nothing on his personal site, Washington Monthly page, or New America Foundation page gives me reason to think he'd rush up the stairs of a burning skyscraper to save lives.

I ride a typewriter too, and would be hard-pressed to put myself in danger of even moderate harm, much less death, to rescue people. That's one of the biggest reasons I wouldn't write a column questioning the heroism of hundreds of firefighters and other rescuers who died Sept. 11.

Amusingly enough, on the jacket of Thompson's economics book, he's quoted as being "courageous".
posted by rcade at 9:50 AM on January 15, 2002

rich: "Hero worship was discussd before."

rich, with all due respect, that thread was totally different, and had to do primarily with whether the nypd/nyfd deserved adulation in light of their past transgressions. I did catch that thread, but in my mind this link raises a whole different issue.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:08 AM on January 15, 2002

pardonyou?; The link may have been different, but the issue is basically the same.. what is heroism, why is every firefighter and cop being given the title of 'hero', and so forth. And the reason that I didn't link to the entire thread, but to my specific comment was that that comment and section of the other thread I thought fit into this discussion and I didn't want to re-type the whole firefigher's son thing.

Aside from your comment about the other thread link being different, what about the actual points that I raise?
posted by rich at 10:23 AM on January 15, 2002

I'm with nagchampa on this...I think the original argument is grossly overstated. The word 'victim' has been applied more often than 'hero' to those killed at the WTC. If we've heard the word 'hero' a lot with this story, it's because so many rescue workers were involved, and so many were killed.

I consider these people heroes because, put in the same situation, I don't know if I have the courage to put another's life before my own, to have moved toward the WTC rather than away from it; however, given these beautiful examples of herosim, each and every one of them, living and dead, though I hope I never have to face the test, I know I am closer to making the right decision should the time ever come. It's unfortunate that people like rich would consider them less heroic (or non-heroic) because they were "just doing their job." (At least his oversimplified, technicality-laden arguments do more to defeat his position than support it. There's a christian fundamentalist group out there waiting for you, rich...heed the call.)

I guess I have always considered heroes more personal and subjective than universal. A hero is someone who shows us the possibility within ourselves to be something greater than our selfish desires. For some this is a comic book character (not necessarily a trivial thing, if you're familiar with the book 'Kavalier & Clay'); for others it's a Buddhist monk; for the lucky, it's someone close, like a father or uncle.
posted by troybob at 10:25 AM on January 15, 2002

"Hero of 9/11" is a phrase that gets people's attention. Temporarily, it is part of the media-language-that-gets-viewers and will continue to be as long as it works. It no longer means any more than "SEX!" or "DRUGS!" or "LOOK AT ME I'M SAYING SOMETHING I WANT YOU TO HEAR!" Look at us discussing it. We are sheep.
posted by plaino at 10:33 AM on January 15, 2002

I should add: We should find our own heroes and each, our own meaning of "hero." I can certainly find a few amongst the dead civilians, police, and firefighters.
posted by plaino at 10:36 AM on January 15, 2002

rich, I happen to agree with the points you made. I just didn't want to be tagged as a "double poster."
posted by pardonyou? at 10:44 AM on January 15, 2002

Mark, anyone who lives their lives day in day out despite the risks is a hero in my book. If they're not a hero in your book, more power to you. You have an inalienable right to your opinion.

That's nice, and I can't criticize what you choose do define "in you book", but for the purposes of a public discussion about heroism, calling everyone a here is a bit problematic. You're right that 'hero' is a relative term. We each have our own (although that's a good way to complete pull the rug out from under a good debate like this one).

As for calling victims heroes and terrorists cowards - I always thought it was funny that the US could call a suicide bomber a coward - is that not the bravest thing (however stupid and morally reprehensible) that anyone can do? I thought about this for a while until I came across a good article (can't find the link, sorry) that make a good distinction between moral cowardice and physical bravery.
posted by stevengarrity at 10:45 AM on January 15, 2002

Well, you know, I guess I can't let this go. Somewhere between my typing and posting, rich raises the question "...what about the actual points that I raise." I'll take this as a global challenge rather than directed at just pardonyou?

How about we take just one point you raise..."they [the firefighters] weren't running into a situation they thought was as dangerous as it was anyway."

Besides television fiction, on what do you base your assumptions about what firefighters thought?

Firefighters are trained (and most have the experience to know) that even something perceived as a simple house fire could present a life-threatening situation. Anything has the potential to become a disaster. Firefighters try to preven this from happening, and they try to foresee dangerous possibilities, but as their lives are at stake (not to mention those of co-workers and citizens), they remain aware that there is always the element of the unexpected.

So, let's say you're a firefighter at the WTC. (Now, I have a feeling a real firefighter would have kicked your ass by this point, rich, but let's pretend you stayed in the department after that anyway.) You're heading toward a fire at the WTC after a plane hit a building, and you hear that another plane has hit the second building. You know there are fires, that there were explosions. You know that large office buildings (not to mention the largest office buidings in the city) are a nightmare situation--thousands of confused people, many injured, many dead. You know, because you're a trained firefighter (and not some putz who's at home watching this on television), that buildings collapse. Give us some insight as to why you would minimize the danger involved in the situation.

Rich, how about in between posting adolescent journal scribblings of "clouds of white cotton-candy" and community college fiction workshop claptrap like "small directionals themselves on the snowball," you keep in mind that there are real men out there, and maybe one day you'll be one of them, but until you are you should probably keep your criticism of them to a minimum.
posted by troybob at 11:11 AM on January 15, 2002

Very manly, Troy. Especially the part where you trolled Rich's web site looking for material to insult -- while your own profile remains empty.
posted by rcade at 11:41 AM on January 15, 2002

You're right, rcade...that was low. From now on I'll observe a 15-minute delay between preview and post. I hate it when I get caught up emotionally in these debates.

Rich, I apologize. I promise I'll read your page with the respect it deserves.
posted by troybob at 11:52 AM on January 15, 2002

mmmm... cotton-candy... arrghghg
posted by nagchampa at 12:00 PM on January 15, 2002


Pardonyou? - sorry, it wasn't my intent to bill you as a double poster. I was just noting that a lot of the arguments people were having had been brought up before. The link itself does tackle a different point.

troybob - I don't know where I go from saying that the firefighters were doing their job to being a Christian fundamentalist.

As for being beaten up by firefighters, I have a number of friends who are firefighters, and I have good friends who's buddies died in the WTC as firefighters. I also know quite a number of people who died who were your desk-jockeys you seem to think were nothing more than idiot yuppies.

As for myself - I did try to get downtown from midtown to help out, but if you were anywhere near the city that day (which I'm beginning to doubt), you may know that I found that particularly impossible, so instead I shepherd people who didn't know how to get home to New Jersey, put them on ferries, made sure they got on the right trains and so forth. I wasn't some putz at home watching it on television. I was on the phone with friends who were in mortal danger. I was supposed to be at the Waters conference at Windows on the World where co-workers of mine died. I suggest heartily that you stay away from personally attacking someone unless you have something in your own little bag of history that puts you on some higher level than someone else.

What you don't seem to understand is that, without prejudice, anyone who was a firefighter or cop at the WTC is instantly branded a hero. Yet no attention, other than two or three poorly covered instances, is given to normal, every day run of the mill people who didn't sign up for a life or death job or situation rose to the occassion and saved people at the risk of their own lives.

Firefighters and cops (the ones I know) are usually somewhat reluctant to call themselves heroes, although they do appreciate the appreciation they are getting for the dangerous job they do.

As for my adolescent journal scribblings.. personally, I find them insightful.
posted by rich at 12:03 PM on January 15, 2002

Of course, I am scum. I cannot explain how I went from trying to give some kind of tribute to people who do what I could not imagine doing, to unfairly attacking someone whose reality I did not even try to understand. I could try to blame this shameful display on a lot of things, but maybe it's easier just to say I'm not the man I want to be. I'm very sorry.

As for adolescent scribblings, I have plenty, and would not have the courage to share them in the first place.
posted by troybob at 12:20 PM on January 15, 2002

Of course, I am scum.

Join the club. I could use one of those time-delay posting things too. Now your gracious apology has made me feel bad.

We have to be careful with all this talk of machismo, heroism, and self-confession. A Promise Keepers meeting might break out.
posted by rcade at 12:27 PM on January 15, 2002

Well, there is nothing wrong with tribute, or admiration for firefighters and cops. They do have a difficult job. Although it is something they signed on to do - which is important to consider and is one of the main reasons many of the people I know are reluctant to call themselves heroes.

But the lop-sided amount of tribute they are getting, from tribute concerts for just them, free trips to Hawaii, and funds for just their families, while there is no corresponding dedicated help or thought for the majority of people who died that day is annoying.

On the family side, firefighters and cops have pretty good death benefits. While that may be morbid to bring up, the families of the 'regular' people who died that day don't have benefits that are as good, and are more in need of dedicated fund-raising for them. But due in part to this cult of heroism, the money to help victims of the attacks is disproportionately going to the firefighter and cop heroes.

And troybob, you're not scum.. you just assumed too much about me. (and I may be being a bit heavy handing on the devil's advocate side, but...)
posted by rich at 12:58 PM on January 15, 2002

Do you remember that simpsons with Timmy O'Toole in the well, and the simpsons are watching TV and eating tv dinners and it's on the news, and Marge says, "that Timmy O'Toole is a real hero" and Lisa says, "but he didn't do anything. He just fell in a well."? That was a good episode. Especially the part with Sting.
posted by jeb at 1:17 PM on January 15, 2002

But the lop-sided amount of tribute they are getting ... is annoying.

Sounds like someone has Fire Fighter Envy to me.

posted by nagchampa at 1:26 PM on January 15, 2002

Now your gracious apology has made me feel bad.

Troybob! Now see what you've done!
posted by rodii at 1:27 PM on January 15, 2002

I'm so proud to have started the fpp that led to the first heartfelt apology in MeFi history. {sniff} Could someone hand me a Kleenex®?
posted by pardonyou? at 1:40 PM on January 15, 2002

Does that make you a hero?
posted by nagchampa at 1:41 PM on January 15, 2002

'Yeah, that Timmy is a real hero.'
'How do you mean, Dad?'
'Well, he fell down a well and...he can't get out!'
'How does that make him a hero?'
'Well it's more than you ever did!'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:07 PM on January 15, 2002

That was a good episode. Especially the part with Sting.

My favorite part was seeing the buried spaceship and dinosaur remains as the scene pans underground to the well.
posted by troybob at 2:39 PM on January 15, 2002

"...for the hero that thing he does is the highest deed, and is not open to the censure of philosophers"
posted by tetsuo at 6:02 PM on January 15, 2002

Tetsuo: Let's say I heat a bag of popcorn in the microwave and honestly consider that an act of heroism. You're saying that's not open to censure? Or is it only free from censure if I am an honest to god hero doing heroic things? In that case, who gets to say whether I'm a hero?

If the answer is that I decide whether I'm a hero or not, the argument becomes circular. If the answer is that others look at my actions and deem them heroic, then the statement contradicts itself, because something can't be open to commendation without by definition also being open to censure, if it does in fact warrant censure. Either way you look at it, the statement is iffy. Who said it?

On second thought, nevermind me, I'm off topic.
posted by Hildago at 8:06 PM on January 15, 2002

Beatles great Paul McCartney has signed on to lead "a tribute to the spirit of everyday heroes" during the pre-game show for Super Bowl XXXVI, set for Feb. 3 at the New Orleans Superdome...The performance is confirmed to involve 500 young people representing the 180 countries that will telecast the Super Bowl worldwide. In the U.S., the event will be broadcast live by Fox...The Super Bowl will be graced by a host of other music stars. Mariah Carey will sing "The Star-Spangled Banner," while Mary J. Blige will duet with Marc Anthony on "America the Beautiful." The pair will be backed by the Boston Pops and joined by America's Heroes Chorus, made up of representatives from the five branches of the military based in Louisiana. U2 will perform live during the halftime show.

Patriotic-Pop-Pap: another reason for me to ignore the Stupor Bowl!
posted by Carol Anne at 5:36 AM on January 17, 2002

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