Heroism, Spotlight

CNN Heroes: Not Heroes

Reblogged from Running Chicken:

Writing in the University of Mary Washington student newspaper, Sarah Grammar identifies the problem with “CNN Heroes”

CNN finds everyday people in communities all over the world who are reaching out to increase the quality of life for those around them. These people devote their lives to others and for many excellent reasons. The 2013 top CNN hero of the year, Chad Pregracke, dedicated his life to cleaning up the Mississippi River when he realized no one else was bothering to do it.

He first started pulling up tires, washing machines and other discarded items out of the river fifteen years ago and has since then gained about 70,000 volunteers. Is this really Heroism though? Cleaning up a mess no one should have made in the first place? Sure it is a great thing for us and for the environment, but should it be considered heroic?

It certainly takes a lot of effort to do the volunteer work that Pregracke did. But it’s not heroism.

Pregracke did not go against his family, or tradition to accomplish his goals; no one stood in his way.

One would say a hero is someone who overcomes obstacles, sometimes dangerous ones. What obstacles were in his way that could not be easily solved? What dangers did he face?
Unquestionably, we should all do more to help other people and our communities; most of us really don’t do much at all. And perhaps that’s what CNN is trying to inspire with its awards show: Put some feel-good stories on television and encourage viewers to do likewise.

But using “hero” to label any positive action that takes some effort or that not everyone is doing is a mistake; it downplays what it really means to do something heroic and, at the same, it also might be setting these “heroes” apart from the rest of us by putting them on a pedestal that we might think is out of our reach.

Running Chicken is the heroism-and-politics science of professor/human rights thinker Ari Kohen. It’s the only blog I read daily. You can check it out for yourself.

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