Commentary: Now is the time for heroes

Commentary: Now is the time for heroes
February 01
09:55 2018

Two popular movies currently are being screened in cinemas across the nation. Both deal with struggle, courage and hope.

The first, “The Darkest Hour,” dramatizes Winston Churchill’s first days as Britain’s prime minister in the spring of 1940.  His nation was at war with Nazi Germany and most of Britain’s army was surrounded and trapped at Dunkirk, a section of beach along the French coast of the English Channel.

Churchill’s opponents and supporters alike urged him to make peace with the Germans and capitulate to Hitler’s demand that England withdraw from the war in Europe. But in a show of extraordinary courage, Churchill resisted the temptation to “play it safe.”  Instead, he found a way to save his army and went on to become a celebrated hero of the war.

“The Post” is the second film currently enjoying acclaim. It follows the publisher of the Washington Post, Katherine Graham, during the days that she stood up to a bullying U.S. President Richard Nixon and published the classified “Pentagon Papers,” exposing the government’s lies behind the Vietnam War.

The decision to print the secret government documents could have spelled ruin for the paper and Graham herself, but nevertheless, she persisted. When the Pentagon Papers were published, public opinion against the Vietnam War rose to such a pitch that America ultimately had to withdraw from the conflict.

What makes both these films so popular is that people admire heroes who show courage in the face of daunting odds.  But heroes such as these are hard to find today. Corporations and big money interests have bought the hearts and souls of most of our politicians and media executives. America is starved for heroic action. But if we want to see the type of heroism we crave, we must sit in a darkened room and watch it projected onto a screen in a two-hour fictional narrative. “The Darkest Hour” and “The Post” are heroic escape fantasies for Americans today, just as the glittering Hollywood extravaganzas of the 1930s were fantasies that helped Americans escape the dreariness of the Great Depression.

I am not saying that we have no heroes, but we do not have enough.  There are too few heroes in our legislative bodies in Washington D.C. and in our state capitals.  Too many elected officials spend more time trying to get re-elected than doing right by the people they are sworn to serve. Too many media personalities and executives are more interested in ratings than speaking truth to power.

The everyday working man and woman who struggle to keep their families fed, clothed and properly cared for are real heroes, but they are betrayed by selfish national leaders who refuse to put their shoulders to the wheel to bring about changes for the better.

We should not look for leadership from politicians and media celebrities who do nothing but tout their own non-existent accomplishments. Leaders who have neither the will nor the ability to take heroic action when needed do nothing more than squander the public trust.

We, the governed, must learn to be critical of our government if we are to improve our lives. We must become “critical thinkers.”  We must become thoughtful, logical and informed and we must consider the source of our information and disregard that which is not credible or is meant to manipulate us.  We should not accept old saws such as “All politicians lie.” We must not accept being lied to by those in power, nor should we accept liars as our leaders. Liars must be voted out of office if they are elected in the first place.

As consumers of information, we must learn to be critical of what we are told in print and over the airwaves. We must use our common sense when listening to the news and reading newspapers.

We must refute new lies and not let them poison our nation unchallenged. To do this, we not only must be critical thinkers, but we must become the heroes that we are looking for.

It will not be easy to bring about change at a time when simply surviving is difficult to manage. We live under a hostile federal government as well as many hostile state governments. But we have been through worse. As a people, we have survived much worse and we have forged ahead.

 To continue to forge ahead, we must always vote. And we must not allow our friends and family members to stay at home on Election Day.  We must always vote because there are those who would take our vote from us.

We must also become active. And as activists, we must not allow our friends and family members to be inactive. We must encourage good people to run for office, and we must support them when they do. And we must actively oppose those who govern us unjustly and unwisely.

As activists and critical thinkers, we must not allow our friends and family members to swallow lies. We must make them critical thinkers as well.

Now is the time for each of us to find our inner hero.


Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.

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