Thursday, July 26, 2012

Forgetting the monsters

While discussing the horrific shooting in Colorado, a poster on a forum I peruse a member posted the following regarding the Aurora, CO shooter, James Holmes: "I dream of a day when everyone has forgotten this dirt bags name. That way no one will remember him. because he doesn't deserve remembrancea day when we only remember the people who he killed that day. A day where him, his thoughts his plans and his life are forgotten."

I personally disagree. I think his name needs remembrance. We all remember Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini. We remember Saddam Hussein, Muammar Quaddafi and Osama bin Laden. We remember Ed Gein, Lee Harvey Oswald and Charles Manson. History needs villains. People need to be able to look back on history and see what happens when villains are allowed to practice their craft. What happens when no one stands up and says "no more."

Heroes are the antithesis of villains. For every Hitler there has to be an Audie Murphey. For every bin Laden there has to be a Navy SEAL who double-taps him into oblivion. Heroes are what happens when an otherwise ordinary individual steps up to the plate and says "you have come this far, but no further." When someone forgets about themselves and focuses on fixing the problem, no matter the cost. But a hero isn't just someone who fixes a problem. It's someone who fixes a problem no one else can or will. Anyone can rescue a cat from a tree, or even tackle a mugger or give CPR to someone after an accident. Not that those people aren't good, commendable people. But to be a hero requires one make or be willing to make a greater sacrifice. Heroes stare death in the eyes and continue forward. I'll see your passerby who stops and gives CPR to a heart-attack victim, a truly commendable and selfless act to be sure, but I'll raise you the random passerby who sees a child about to be hit by a vehicle and risks their own life and limb to toss them out of harm's way, or the warriors on the beaches of Normandy who knew there was a good chance they may not come back. Heroes are extraordinary people who combat extraordinary evil at potential great cost to themselves.

Now I'm not saying that we need people to display great evil so that we can have heroes. I'm saying that people will display the capacity and willingness to do great evil one way or another. We need heroes to fight that great evil. Heroes exist because a few stand up in the face of danger. Without great evil there would be no heroes. That's why we need to remember the evil. People need examples. Without examples, evil is just an abstract concept, maybe even an artificial construct. When someone cries "evil", people go on with their lives. When evil has a face people stop and take notice. Faces and names serve to remind people of what evil is capable of, what happens when its leash is too long and that it is indeed real. So history needs villains. Villains frighten the common man deep inside, but for some... For a few among us, villains inspire resolve and strength. Those few will look upon the face of evil and say to themselves, though they may never meet such evil, "this far, and no further." They will resolve to stand in the face of some great, as-of-yet unknown villain, look them in the eye and stop them dead in their tracks.

We need to raise up our heroes and show the world what people can be. We need to remind people that humans have the capacity for extraordinary behavior and accomplishment. People like superheroes because while stylized and over-exaggerated, superheroes represent someone who will fight what they themselves fear. Heroes are who everyone else looks up to. But if we don't remember the villains, people will see no reason for heroes. So give evil a name and a face. Give them their lasting infamy. Maybe that's just what someone needs to strengthen their resolve. Maybe someday someone will look at the name James Holmes and decide there and forevermore that they will not allow such evil on their watch. Let history remember the villain. Maybe he's just what a soon-to-be hero needs to see.

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