Human heroes

I’ve never really had a hero. I admire a great many famous historical figures (Churchill, Lincoln, and the rest), but everyone has feet of clay; these people are too flawed to be heroes, aren’t they?

One problem is that almost every famous historical figure was powerful. Power gives people the opportunity to indulge in sins that we commoners would never countenance, and protects those who wield it from suffering the repercussions of those sins. It protects them not only while they live and can threaten those who might expose them to the wages of their misdeeds, but also after they have died. Historians treat the powerful with respect. Alexander is “the Great” and William is “the Conqueror.” Those without epithets are still given paragraphs in history books. Even villains have high status in the backward glance of history. Stalin is demonized, but his name will not be forgotten; the millions he crushed are treated as though they did not exist except as the object of Stalin’s villainy.

(Lord Acton put the above point more eloquently than I.)

The closest candidate is Cato the Younger. Alas, he too had clay feet.

I see heroes as personifications of the ideals one wishes to impress others with or inspire in oneself; given such a definition, I don’t see how it’s possible to have a hero outside of fiction.

How common is my conception of a hero? If others share it, do they respond as I do, by not elevating people to such high posts? Do they have fictional heroes? Do they simply not feel a need for a hero?

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