Sunday, December 20, 2009

We Need Our Heroes

I think it’s high time we rethought our definition of the word hero, with an eye toward bringing it back in line towards what it originally meant to the ancient Greeks. One thing we should note is that a hero is not by definition necessarily a “good person”, or a “role model”. With that in mind, people such as Tiger Woods and Chris Henry are not, ironically enough, excluded from consideration. In fact, it’s not going too far to suggest that heroes are mostly bad people, or at the very least, good to average people who have made stupid decisions or committed evil acts, even if unknowingly, that demand expiation. Hercules murdered his wife and child in a fit of insane rage-said to be inspired by a capricious Hera, but resulting in a blood guilt all the same. Orestes murdered his own mother, obliged by divine law to do so to avenge the death of his father. Yet due to another ancient principle, this demanded expiation of a blood guilt as well.

Thus, a hero is somebody who has to follow a certain path to rectify some wrong, maybe some grave injustice or crime. He does so knowing the outcome will likely lead to nothing but misery for him, and quite possibly even his ultimate demise, but he does so anyway, just because it’s the “right” thing to do. He has no hope of reward. In fact, he understands all too well that he has moved far beyond any hope of such gratification.

He certainly doesn’t do so in the hopes that he might make-or retain-the capacity to make multi-millions of dollars in endorsement deals because he can swing a golf club better and with more accuracy than most, or because he can catch a football under adverse condition and make significant yardage against trained and talented competitors.

It’s too late for Chris Henry, who it has been said genuinely tried to turn his life around toward the end of it. There are those who will say that Henry, whom one judge some time ago referred to as a “one man crime spree”, did not really try to change. If he had, he would not have found himself embroiled in the domestic dispute with his fiancé that resulted in his death from falling from the back of the moving pick-up truck he had jumped onto in order to continue the argument from which she seemingly was determined to extricate herself.

That of course flies in the face of the reality of human life. People don’t really change their true natures. They only change their outward actions, or try to change them. They try to adopt new lifestyles and new habits, in the hopes that this will help them mature as people. It doesn’t mean they never screw up again, or that they have become a “changed person”. It is disingenuous for some to complain that Henry should not be considered a hero. He was actually in his last months closer to the definition of the word than most other athletes, in the sense of a person who tries to rectify his past mistakes. I certainly take exception to the view of one columnist who proclaimed, with the self-righteous swagger of the politically correct know-it-all, that the recognition of Chris Henry by the Bengals and the NFL was somehow an “insult to women”. Chris Henry’s past crimes had little to do with women. Most of his crimes were actually trivial-DUI, marijuana possession, assault, a gun charge, etc. Yes, he was a thug. Possibly the worse thing he did was have underage girls in his hotel room, drinking, yet there was no charge of sexual misconduct. One woman did accuse Henry once of sexual assault, but under questioning this turned out to be a bogus charge, for which the woman was prosecuted.

Now he is dead, but the alleged domestic dispute that led to this tragedy is too nebulous in nature for us to draw much in the way of conclusions as to blame. More to the point, there is nothing in Henry’s past that would point to abuse of women as being a systemic part of his nature. Chris Henry was, in general terms, no more or no less than a talented athlete with a troubled personal life. Not a good person, but not necessarily a bad person either, just a flawed human being who wanted to turn his life around.

The only thing that disqualifies him from hero status is not the fact that he was not a good role model, it is the implication that he probably would not have cared to change his life was there no potential to save his football career. And even that is not for sure. It is something that we will just never know for certain.

Chris Henry was rightly criticized for his crimes, even though a white player with similar flaws or worse would not raise such issues, though at the same time, neither would he have been given the multiple chances Henry was granted.

And that brings us to the crux of the matter. That brings us to Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods was not a self-made man. He was a creation of a media and a society that yearns for heroes, and most especially for black heroes. I have seen this phenomenon time after time. A fairly good or basically average football player becomes a player with a lot of potential. A good player becomes a great player. A great player becomes practically a god. It is almost a kind of reverse bigotry. We hold these people up as examples of what we think black children should aspire to become. We still want them to become singers, dancers, actors, musicians, and athletes. The more of them we prop up in such a way, the more role models we can use to convince ourselves that black people have the potential to be great. The fact that we recognize this proves we are not racists, even though the reality is, we fear that without these role models, black children will grow up to be thugs, drug addicts, rapists, and murderers. We almost know they will never aspire to hold down a stable career and raise a family. We know they will all be lazy, shiftless, thieving, uneducated fools who we have to keep on welfare to keep them from really going off the rails and maybe killing and eating all of us.

There is also an even worse possibility than that. There is the disturbing and even horrifying prospect that they might be like Clarence Thomas-that is to say, as good as or better than we Caucasian folk after all, which would really make us all look like fuckwits. In order to head off that potential embarrassment, we make sure we apportion a handful of straw bosses like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and some others of that ilk, to “look out for the interests” of “people of color” (this by the way is how you should refer to them, instead of the racist term “colored people”) on the modern inner-city plantation where they are kept in line for the next election day. In the meantime, we teach them that they should be proud of their black heritage-which evidently means to make sure they father or give birth to at least two illegitimate kids before they are sent off to spend half their lives in some fucked up prison system, in retaliation for having the temerity to act in some way that might serve to illustrate that the liberal policies of the day just might not work as good as we like to insist they do.

In other words, the blacks we send to prison aren’t really being punished for being rapists, murderers, and thieves. We know they can’t really help that. They are being punished for being uppity blacks who a few too many times it seems left the reservation, where the race as a whole is being helped up the evolutionary ladder, courtesy of the kindness of white progressives and the expropriated funds of the white working and middle classes.

Of course, we understand that it might take a few generations before they get to the right level. And that is where people like Tiger Woods comes in. Although we deny it, a large percentage of blacks are naturally gifted at sports. This is partly due to genetic factors, but just as importantly, it is due to selective breeding going back through multiple generations as practiced by white slave owners. They were purposely bred to work long hard hours in adverse conditions. Over time, this translated into the capacity to excel in sports. It also gave them the capacity to be sexual titans in the bedroom. Of course, we don’t like to see that, and we will crucify anybody that points that out (and yes, I know, I’ve got it coming), but this is because we can’t face up to our own guilt. We can’t face up to our own crimes.

Instead of seeing things the way they are, we instead look for ways to modify our guilt. Blacks don’t have to be physical brutes who might well fuck our precious-and ready, willing, and eager-little girls and leave us with the embarrassment of mulatto grandchildren we have to pretend to love because they are “just as good as the others”.

They can be like Tiger. They can be civilized gentlemen who excel in sports and life and raise stable, caring, functional families. Black people should really be like Tiger, you see, so let us prop him up and make sure black kids see that, if you work hard and play by the rules, you too can be a successful sports hero and multi-billionaire.

And everybody will love, admire, and perhaps even worship you.

Well, as it turns out, he got more than his fair share of love. The last I checked, he was just one woman shy of having enough to station at every hole of a regulation golf course. Well, make that two, as his wife has seemingly had enough. Not that I feel the least bit of sympathy for her. Well, I do, but only if she was so fucking stupid as to actually believe she was in this marriage as anything but a trophy wife-yet another symbol of the success and promise of what a black man can attain. If they’re good little boys, that is.

The only thing that is amazing about all of this is how people are so willfully blind to this incredibly obvious process that we partake in. Our attempt to create and stage manage black heroes for public consumption, the edification of the black community, and mainly as a means of guilt expiation, is itself almost a heroic effort, if it wasn’t at once so laughable, yet so tragic. Yet, we do it because we feel we must. We derive no real benefit. We just hope we as a society derive some degree of justification for our past excesses.

In the meantime, we overlook the real heroes. A cop who dies in the line of duty while doing the right things, even though he knows he will derive no real benefit if he does survive. A soldier who throws himself on a grenade when he can just as easily jump the other way, to save an already wounded and dying soldier and give him just a few extra seconds chance to pull through in the unlikely event reinforcements might arrive. The working stiff who holds down a dead-end job, maybe two of them, just to feed a family who really doesn’t have enough sense to appreciate the sacrifice he has made and continues to make every day. The teenage unwed mother or father who chucks all hope for the future in order to provide for the new life he or she has brought into the world due to his or her own stupidity.

Maybe even the prostitute who continues to sell her body because that’s the only way she can provide for her child, even though she knows she is technically a criminal, a social pariah, and a danger to her customers and to herself-yet she continues to demean herself out of love for that child. What else can she do?

If she’s lucky, she might one day get to stand by that eighteenth hole. She doesn’t hold out any realistic hope of that, or of anything remotely better than what her prospects are in reality. That is what makes her a hero. She wants to do something else, and possibly could do something else, but in order to do so, she would have to absolve herself of her responsibilities. She will not do that. Rightly or wrongly, for good or bad, she will continue.

Like I said, heroes aren’t always good people. They are not always role models. We might not actually need them. But somebody somewhere does. Unfortunately, we too often forget, heroes are humans, just like the rest of us, only graced, or perhaps cursed, with an obsessive drive to fulfill a destiny that will give him nothing but misery in return, only because it’s the right thing to do.

Yes, a human being like Tiger Woods or Chris Henry can, if he is willing to make that sacrifice, be a true hero. Will Tiger turn his life around? If he does it despite losing his fortune and the respect for the image he has crafted, he would be a hero. If he only does it to retain his wealth and status, then he is not a hero, by definition. He will be just another self-serving public figure whom many people will continue to build up, and even worship, while many of us will just as wrongly continue to tear him down, as a punishment for having the temerity to actually be the real Tiger Woods, as opposed to the little god we created in our own self-serving image.

That is what we are.


Rufus said...

It's weird you mention the Greeks and Tiger Woods because I just read a new translation of some odes to olympic athletes from the archaic age. The way they saw their heroic athletes was pretty much a matter of fate- they were chosen by the gods and given a gift that they chose to develop. But, of course, none of that has anything to do with inner goodness or wickedness. The gods don't care about your conscience- they choose you because it amuses them to do so.

In terms of Tiger Woods, he is a genuinely great golfer who is maybe a lousy husband. Who cares? He's still a great golfer. Unless he quits over this shit, which would be a shame because I was hoping to go to the Canadian Open next year.

The Pagan Temple said...

People confuse the terms hero and role model. They are not necessarily interchangeable.

Chris Henry was one of my favorite football players. No particular reason, I just liked his style, and considered him underrated next to some of the others who play for the Bengals. But I was never under the illusion that he was a role model.

As for Tiger, I don't judge him morally, other than the obvious fact that he was somewhat of a hypocrite, but that would be somewhat understandable. Also, I do feel somewhat bad for his kids. If anything, I would reserve the lion's share of judgment for the people who have built him up to the level of near divinity, only to tear him down just because he turned out to be just as human as any of them, which should come as no great surprise.

The worse thing about him is it kind of shows he is really a pretty stupid person, as well as a hypocrite. It shows a degree of hubris mixed with some self-destructive elements to his personality that is almost incredible. Chris Henry was merely a thug who just naturally gravitated towards trouble. Woods actions shows he really knew better, but did it anyway. If Chris was a one man crime wave, Woods was and is a class-action sex abuse and paternity lawsuit in the making.

I wonder how long it's going to take before some bimbo accuses him of raping her. One of them has already laid the groundwork by saying that he supposedly "likes it rough".

I would go to that Canadian Open whether Woods played or not. It would be better if he was there, but I would still think you would enjoy it, if you like golf. Frankly, it's one of the few sports I can sit through on television for very long. There's something about it that is compelling, and even exciting and yet relaxing at the same time. I can understand how people that play it can become so addicted to it.