Heroes and Victims

I sometimes think our culture has forgotten the meaning of heroism. Today on AOL, for instance, there’s a headline that reads “War’s Women of Glory, Shame.” Pictured are Jessica Lynch (who couldn’t possibly need an introduction after the media barrage surrounding her “rescue”) and Lynndie England (one of the soldiers involved in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners). The media continues to paint Jessica Lynch as a hero and I must say I find that absurd. Here’s what she did in Iraq: she rode in a convoy that got lost, she got wounded in an ambush, and then captured. That’s it. Where is the heroism here? What did she do that was above and beyond the call? And since when is getting captured glorious?

Let me point out that I am not unsympathetic to her ordeal. Going to war, getting wounded, going through painful surgery—terrible stuff, no question. But heroism requires selfless choices in my opinion (jumping on a grenade to save your friends, to cite a classic example). I find the actions of Pat Tillman, the pro football player who gave up a contract worth millions to join the military (and who then got killed in Afghanistan), much more laudable than Jessica Lynch. I may not have agreed with his politics, but I can’t deny he made real sacrifices for what he believed in and his choices ultimately cost him his life. To me there’s a difference between a victim and a hero and our culture seems to be confusing the two.

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