You hear sometimes that, now that we know the sordid details of the lives of some of our leading figures, America has no heroes left. When I was writing a book about the Wounded Knee Massacre, where heroism was pretty thin on the ground, I gave that a lot of thought. And I came to believe that heroism is neither being perfect, nor doing something spectacular. In fact, it’s just the opposite: it’s regular, flawed human beings, choosing to put others before themselves, even at great cost, even if no one will ever know, even as they realize the walls might be closing in around them.
This is beautiful, elegant, and I really needed to read it tonight. Thank you for reminding me that "People are wrong to say that we have no heroes left. Just as they have always been, they are all around us, choosing to do the right thing, no matter what."
“The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around…. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.” MLK
Dear HeATHER COX,
I MUST SAY THAT YOU ARE INDEED A HERO OF MINE! I HAVE LEARNED A LOT I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN LONG AGO, AND YOU KEEP ON GIVING. HERE'S TO YOU!
In Thich Nhat Hanh’s life, which was a very long life, he only named two living people as bodhisattvas. Martin Luther King was one of them. Their relationship was stunning, and something few people know about. It was because of Nhat Hanh that King decided to come out against the war in Vietnam, even though many people in the civil rights movement did not approve. I love what you wrote tonight. There are so many bodhisattvas all around us. Little ones and big ones. I myself, think you’re in the running! Thank you for your tireless work on behalf of freedom and justice! Not to mention, you’re a great writer!💫
This post just makes me cry. In a good way. Thank you for offering us hope.
Heroes often don’t show up in the public eye. In the more recent occupation at Wounded Knee, there were young Native Americans who belly-crawled out of Wounded Knee every night to bring the true story of what was happening because there was an FBI-imposed news blackout. And people who then drove to the Twin Cities with the facts, and others who took all night to type it up and run mimeograph machines so copies could be distributed. And attorneys who belly-crawled at night, back onto the reservation, to advise. All risked their lives and their freedom, and few people were aware of their actions. Or of the legal team who defended Means and Banks in court until all charges were dropped. In short, those we designate as heroes are only a glimpse of the many who also make commitment and sacrifice. A hero could be anyone…it could be you.
Tank Man, a protester who tried to stop Chinese tanks moving through Tiananmen Square, has never been identified.
As it’s Sunday night, I was expecting a beautiful picture. Well, I got a beautiful picture in words, sheer heart-swelling poetry for my heart and soul. I’ve asked myself that hero question and given myself an affirmative answer for at least thirty years. And there is sometimes something so simple about choosing to do the right thing. We will all die. That’s how life goes. And sometimes something will happen that calls for any one of us to to risk our own lives or comfort because it will spare or save someone else, either their lives or their safety or their sense of dignity and self. I loved this Letter.
Thank you, Professor. You are my hero as was Dr. King. I hope to be a hero someday. Thank you again and again and again.
Please publish this each year at this time. Deeply moving.
Beautiful piece, thank you. I wonder if any generation came of age in a time of such hope and then faced such disappointment in the end as mine. (I'm a boomer, 76.) We had the post WW2 economic boom, well funded public schools, vaccines, the peace corp, the moon, voting rights, civil rights, marriage equality . . . We also saw our leaders shot before our eyes, JFK, MLK and RFK, unlike any other generation, and the horror of Vietnam. It wasn't all a cakewalk. But we had hope. If we put our shoulder to the commonweal we could make a better world.
It feels like Chutes and Ladders to me. We got so close to the top with Obama, only to have the Trump card played, sending us back to the bottom rung.
Chutes and ladders was invented in India and called Snakes and Ladders. It was to teach children about morality, and how one misstep could send you to the snake pit. And here we are.
Thank you, HCR.
You are one of my vital everyday heroes.
Thank you for being the clearing through which I can see the stars.
Thank you for your helpful words. As we honor Dr. King tomorrow let each of us pledge to do what we can to work to make this a country where all can thrive.
I have tears. We need to all meet on the mountain top.
Beautifully written HCR! You bring so many gifts and I’m forever grateful to have been guided by a friend to your Letters from an American! Blessings and quiet enlightenment flow from your pen (fingertips actually)! 😉💕🌼🇺🇦