Uses and abuses of “heroes”

In the last thirteen years or so, since September 11, 2001 to be precise, the frequency of use of the word “hero” has increased exponentially. (Ouch, listen to me, “the frequency of use has increased exponentially”… I thought I’d left my engineering self in the past…)
Yes, those firefighters were heroes but after that, whenever someone does a good deed, he’s called a hero. A guy climbs up a tree to bring down a cat that has been stuck there for two hours, and he’s a hero. I’m not making this up, the cat story was on the news a couple of years ago. A calf fell into a pit in Flagstaff, Arizona and the policeman that pulled it out was called a hero on the Flagstaff local news. The people that survived the Boston marathon bombing last year were also called heroes; the ones that got injured were greater heroes than the others –the plain heroes. It seems to me that the word “hero” has replaced less extravagant characterizations such as “brave” or “courageous” or “admirable”. For some reason, the first person that comes to my mind when I hear this word is Manolis Glezos, who climbed up the Acropolis and tore down the swastika back in 1941, when the Nazis had entered Athens. That is a hero. To equate bringing down the Nazi flag from the Acropolis with bringing down a cat from a tree is just absurd.

Of course we don’t have go to back to a war to look for heroes. There are many among us. I am a member of the Facebook group “Living Donors Online”. Yesterday a member wrote:
Hi all, just donated a kidney to my cousin 2 hours ago! I feel hopeful my gift can make the recipient better”.

Another member replied:
You are a true hero. I can’t wait until I donate on July 15.. Hang in there, get well and keep us posted.

And then another member said:
Welcome to the real life super heroes club, bro. Speedy recovery.

Now these are heroes. Super heroes indeed.  Giving life, looking forward to taking out part of themselves to offer it to someone else. These are heroes. Let’s use the word where it is appropriate and deserved.