This was a week to remember heroism.
The teachers who used themselves as human shields in Newtown, Connecticut were heroes. Heroines, actually.
Victor Cruz, a Giant with a humble heart was a hero, making genuine efforts to ease the pain of a grieving family by visiting the parents of the little boy who was buried in a replica of his football jersey.
Senator Daniel Inouye was the most classic version of a hero, overcoming racism and unfounded suspicion to defend his country’s principles on the battlefield and later, in the Senate. He bore the physical scars of those first battles for the rest of his life.
Judge Robert Bork, a man who stood up for his conservative principles at a time when such things were unpopular and was martyred for it-at least in the judicial arena-was a hero.
And Barack Obama, who is possibly the most polarizing leader since, well, the guy he replaced is a hero to the extent that he put aside partisan differences and spoke to the nation with sincerity in a genuine attempt to help us mourn. To transcend politics, even for a brief moment, is heroic in this climate where everyone is supposed to have ulterior motives.
Only two of the above-referenced could earn a consensus on heroism. The women who faced down a crazed gunman with nothing more than love for the little children in their care, are the epitome of Christ. In giving of themselves for others, and doing so without calculating the risk, they will have their names forever etched on the eternal scroll.
Daniel Inouye watched as his country was attacked by the Japanese, even as he himself was considered an enemy alien by the government. Instead of bitterness, he found within himself desire and loyalty and petitioned that same government to let him fight. He did. In Italy, he stormed a set of German machine gun nests and neutralized them, losing his right arm in the process. The Medal of Honor he received nearly 50 years later was a belated thank you from a grateful nation.
The others mentioned above are more controversial. Some don’t believe that we should revere sports figures because they contribute little to the betterment of society. Some of those figures, like Charles Barkley, don’t even believe they themselves should be considered role models. But I think Victor Cruz deserves appreciation for putting himself in the shoes of devastated parents, something that he had recently become, and trying to show them their little boy Jack is still alive in his eyes.
Robert Bork had long since ceased being the ‘devil’ to the far Left, since they’d long moved on to other targets. But those who lived through his excruciating confirmation hearing know just how unfairly he was treated by the Democrats who made him pay for their anger at Reagan. They turned him into a caricature, ignored his brilliant mind, and guaranteed that the confirmation process would forever after become a political circus. The fact that President Obama is having trouble getting his own people on the bench is the sad legacy of that time. And yet, through it all, Bork never lost his dignity, even though he was personally embittered by the experience. And he continued to fight for his beliefs with integrity, instead of retreating into silence.
Which brings me to the President. After his speech last Friday in the wake of the horrific Newtown shootings, Obama gave what many, including this writer, thought was a truly moving speech. It was simple, unrehearsed and to the point. And yet, there were those who mocked his delivery and emotion, even to the point of questioning whether the tears he shed were legitimate. Anyone who could have taken sides in that moment of communal grief is impervious to true heroism. Because, I think, that is what the President showed.
Both Daniel Inouye and Robert Bork died this week. So, tragically, did the educators in Newtown. They are now with God, and have nothing to explain or apologize for. They have all earned their places among the angels.
The others are still with us, President Obama and Victor Cruz, as well as the countless other heroes like the first responders in Connecticut, the funeral directors who wipe their own tears while preparing a child to go home, the soldiers on the front lines who don’t have the luxury of stopping to grieve, and journalists like Richard Engel who risk their own safety to keep us aware of this dangerous world.
It is important to acknowledge the heroism that occurs on a daily basis. We are all too often focused on the villains among us, the people who make it unbearable to share this earthly space with them. People who make is almost impossible to believe that heroes can exist.
But they do. And they always will, as long as we let them.
This was a week to remember heroism.