Friday, January 20, 2017

A Word About Heros

On this Inauguration Day, a word about heros.

I read an interview that Mr. Trump gave to a London reporter in which he was asked who his heros were. His answer was a convoluted mess but essentially boiled down to..."I don't like the idea of heros and so I've never had any, maybe my Dad." My response to this was a one word Trumpian expression....sad.

How insular, small a life must he have led without heros? I've had heros at literally every stage of my life, and they have all had a hand in making my life better, richer and more hopeful. Heros are those people who we hold in high esteem, the people who we look to for inspiration. We marvel at their strengths and are encouraged to be stronger ourselves. We see them do great things, despite huge obstacles and we find the will to strive for greatness ourselves despite our obstacles.

My list of heros is long and varied. When I was young they were mostly athletes and mostly men. My first hero was John Glenn, the astronaut. Then came Mickey Mantle, then Joe Namath. Glenn ended up becoming a Democrat, and Mickey and Joe ended up being pretty horrible people, but at the time, all three served me well. I became a lifelong baseball fan because of The Mick, I still love how Namath guaranteed that win against the Colts, and John Glenn, despite his politics was still the bravest man in the world.

As I got a bit older, my heros began to change. Although I wasn't a big Hank Aaron fan as a kid, when he was chasing down Babe Ruth's home run record and I learned of the daily death threats, the thousands of hateful letters he received at the time, I turned into one. Never has an athlete under the glare of such a spotlight handled themselves with more grace and class than Henry "Hank" Aaron. Another one of my early heros was Art Buchwald, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist/humorist for the Washington Post. Although for the most part Art was a leftist through and through, he was a great writer. If you want to know who has influenced my writing style more than anyone else, you wouldn't have to look any further than Buchwald.

Then came different types of heros, men and women of history and faith, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Robert E. Lee, Amelia Earhart and William F. Buckley . Then came a string of writers...Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Pat Conroy, Peggy Noonan, and Earnest Hemingway. Then there were the occasional musician, artist, actor who obtained hero status, Jimmy Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Hanks, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, The Beatles, ZZ Top, Chuck Berry.

None of this ever descended into hero-worship. I was and am aware of their many flaws. But having great people to look up to, admire and respect is part of the maturation process of a human being. It asks us to look outside of ourselves for inspiration. Sure, if we are lucky enough to have a strong family, we have built in heros at the ready. Every one of my brother and sisters have taken their turn as a hero to me along with both of my parents. But, to go through 70 years of life without any heros seems something close to a tragedy for me. For the first time ever, I actually felt sorry for Donald Trump, reading that interview. No heros? Man-o-man.