Wow, has this ever been a month. Can we all agree on that, maybe, for just a second? I've revised this several times, unsure exactly what it is that I want to say about heroes. Certain only—based on the evidence of my abandoned-for-the-sake-of-my-sanity Facebook feed—that whatever I do say, someone will be sure to find fault with it. It will be too much, or not enough.
So I will let another, far more accomplished, historian do it for me.
I am passionately interested in the colonial beginnings of the United States, which led me to Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower. I reread it in October, which is when I highlighted the following passage. It remains valid now.
When violence and fear grip a society, there is an almost overpowering temptation to demonize the enemy. Given the unprecedented level of suffering and death during King Philip's War, the temptations were especially great, and it is not surprising that both Indians and English began to view their former neighbors as subhuman and evil. What is surprising is that even in the midst of one of the deadliest wars in American history, there were Englishmen who believed the Indians were not inherently malevolent and there were Indians who believed the same about the English. They were the ones whose rambunctious and intrinsically rebellious faith in humanity finally brought the war to an end, and they are the heroes of this story.
--Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War (2006)
It seems like I often find that the real heroes are the people who manage to see the humanity in everyone, even their enemies. Is it "intrinsically rebellious" to have faith in humanity? I don't know, but—again based on the evidence of my Facebook feed—it seems like it might be.
It's possible that this is the hardest kind of hero to be, the kind of hero that sees people, fellow human beings, even when she looks at her enemies.