ABC News interviewed the extremely nice guy who found a terrorist bleeding to death at the bottom of his boat and called 911.  So far, I’m with you.  Certainly interesting to hear what that must have been like.  But for two minutes the chyron beneath the story read, HERO BOAT OWNER BREAKS HIS SILENCE; while the correspondent said, “people are calling you a national hero.”  And that is where I just felt like mentioning — no disrespect to this truly nice fellow (who I am certain sought none of the praise), but out of respect to actual heroes, and out of regard for the English language — well . . . really?  A hero?  For going outside to get some air once the police sounded the all clear, as he described he did?  For noticing something funny about the adjustment of his boat cover?  For taking a look?  For seeing a body?  For calling 911?  What kind of idiot, seeing a body lying at the bottom of his boat, wouldn’t call 911?

For heroism to be invoked, it seems to me, two conditions must be met:  first, that something of consequence was attempted and/or achieved for the good of others — be those others the football team (and thus the school or the city it represents) or the man who’s fallen onto the subway tracks or potential polio victims (wasn’t Jonas Salk a hero for coming up with a vaccine?) or all of mankind, more or less, as when Alan Turing broke the Enigma Code and turned the tide of World War II.

Which brings me to the second condition:  that it’s got to be dangerous.  Or difficult.  Or both.

Running into a burning building?  They may say it’s just part of the job — and maybe it is — but if you ask me, the men and women who do it are heroes.  Riding a rocket into outer space?  Not me, friend.  I’m barely brave enough to go to Brooklyn.  (Though having done so I can report: Brooklyn’s terrific.)  Cracking the Enigma code?  Not dangerous but virtually impossible — until one brilliant man, to the benefit of hundreds of millions of others, did it.

I expect the lovely guy with the boat would agree.

(And while we’re at it, would it make sense to find a word that conveys deep sympathy for and common humanity with  — but not automatic heroism on — the victims of tragedies?)


Amazon has started producing TV shows, minus the TV.  For example, watch the pilot for Garry Trudeau’s new series, Alpha House.  With John Goodman, no less.  By Doonesbury’s Garry Trudeau, no less.



Pilot length (no commercials)!

Don’t be late for work . . .



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