Free «Should Firefighters and Police be labeled as Heroes?» Essay

Should Firefighters and Police be labeled as Heroes?


Since the days of the ancient Greeks, heroes have been defined as those who performed extra ordinarily. Such people’s deeds frequently challenged gods and their memories persisted in the society even after their death. They are people who were highly esteemed and believed to have lived at a state more or less between men and gods. They were also seen as sources of prosperity to those who praised them. On the other hand, American society has traditionally cherished heroes as brave persons who have performed beyond average to fight for the Truth and Justice to the advantage of the society as a whole. These heroes performed acts that were generally beyond the people’s expectations.

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On the September 11, almost 3,000 innocent Americans died in cold blood following a series of well coordinated attacks by Al Qaeda. After the attack, the congress passed a bill, “True American Heroes Act” to award Congressional Gold Medals to all government officials who perished in the September attacks. Similarly, in order to pay tribute to the September 11 heroes, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson as well as Stevie Wonder had $150 million raised for those who suffered in the attack. On the other hand, in honor of one fallen hero, a former National Guardsman, who suffered after the plane he piloted crashed into the pentagon, Thomas Davis, a Republican congressman from Virginia, successfully obtained for a full burial plot for the pilot in Arlington National Cemetery. Those who died on that day have since been considered heroes. The question is, however, whether they deserve the honor. We should, therefore, avoid simple labeling of corps and firefighters as heroes.

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Redefining Heroism

Some of those who perished in the September 11 tragedy unconditionally deserve the label of heroism. For instance, some of the individuals on United Flight 93 thwarted the hijackers plan and individual police officers and firefighters who worked beyond their job specification. Usually, heroes are those who end up as role models, people the society yearns to emulate. It represents a position that one does not attain just by falling victim of tragedies. Labeling victims as heroes lowers the bar for heroism and cheapens the meaning of the term as well. In addition, this act seems to further cheapen the exploits of those who attained the state of heroism in the past. This victim-centered culture in the modern America society places people on pedestals on the basis of what an individual has endured, but not because of the achievement. This has left nothing to be admired in the American heroism. The memories of the true heroism symbolized by individuals such as John Wayne have all been erased since the Vietnam War.

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If the modern society defines heroism in accordance with the level of risk that workers put their lives in, then policemen would be positioned miles away from being regarded as heroes. The Department of labor rates on-job-fatalities for garbage collectors, gardeners, timber cutters, commercial fishermen among others higher than that of policemen. In fact, occupational fatality rate for fishermen is fifteen times higher, than that for policemen. Despite this, it is rare to hear fishermen, who risk their lives to ensure constant supplies of fish, labeled as heroes in our society. Policemen as public servants undertake noble tasks and cover our support as they undertake their duties. However, pushing the public to the belief that policing is a quite risky and daunting task and, therefore, deserves the reward of heroism should not have place in our current society. It is possible that public servants such as policemen and firefighters can be heroes; however, we need to save the term for cases when its use is deserved.

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Before September the 11th, there were only a few heroes left in the USA. An opinion poll showed that more than a half of the citizens could not name even a single public figure that they knew as a hero. It seems that this shortage in supply of heroes has left Americans with no option but to celebrate heroism of the people who are merely ordinary. The firefighters, as well as the few policemen who attended to the crisis at Twin Towers in September 11, have been cheered as the nation’s favorite heroes. However, these devoted Americans were merely attending to their assigned duties rather than performing extraordinary acts that would warrant them to be referred to as heroes.  On the other hand, recognizing the entire team helped lessen the pain that the country was undergoing and help heal the wounds that were inflicted by the tragedy.

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The labeling of policemen and firefighters as heroes has seen them play special interest in politics. When both police and firefighters were called in Seattle when a dinghy capsized in a lake, a squabble broke between the teams. First, firefighters put their diver in the water to save the situation but a policeman ordered them out to enable his team do the job. The source of contention here was not public safety, but the question of who was worth receiving the glory after the operation has been done. On the other hand, some people have viewed police as a department that is still struggling to overcome racism, sexism among other forms of discrimination. Creating the notion that police are heroes may only be seen as a cover up for these. While wedging war against drugs, police would arrest drug dealers of color, but allow the white buyers of the same drugs to turn their cars and move to their homes. The act of labeling the blacks as more likely candidates for criminal activities and carrying out biased check-ups at the roadblocks have characterized American policing. This does not only depict racism, but also poor law enforcement since the whites are also likely to posses or use drugs. On the other hand, the NYPD’s six-foot requirement for officers shows that the force remains to be dominated by males but not females.

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Such organizations as civic groups and social service agencies groups have historically served our society and their unrecognized sacrifice makes them the unsung heroes of our time. The groups have selflessly devoted their energy and time, as well as talents, in order to serve humanity notwithstanding the cause. These groups are often driven by internal passion to put their lives on line amidst war, times of political unrest and in the event of natural disasters.

It must however be noted that granting heroic status to individuals because the same are victims of terrorism is a worrying trend and causing a lot of discomfort in the society. The death of victims during the attack was tragic and horrific; they surely deserve Americans sympathy. However, simply because one is a victim of circumstances does not warrant us to label the same as a hero and mobilize the society to begin celebrating them. Most of the victims in the September 11 attack perished in the incident just like several others often perish in house fires or highway accidents. A victim can be a hero and a hero can be a victim but our sympathy to the people who perished does not surely convert victims to heroes.

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