I get it. Heroes are still human. Fallible. They fall from the pedestal from time to time. But to me, the real superpower of my heroes has been the ideals they stood for. Sure, their accomplishments grab our attention. Their charisma opens doors, and draws increasing numbers of followers. Their persuasive powers expands their platform.
But I was always drawn to the purity of their cause. The integrity of their purpose. That injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere. That truth, equality, and liberty were ideals to be protected and cherished for all races, genders, ethnicities and religions. Right was right, and wrong was wrong, regardless of political affiliation.
Yet many of my former heroes have been unmasked. It isn’t their humanity in question, but their integrity. In a world that has swiftly grown more and more divided, they are taking sides. In a world where extremist views and voices are emboldened, these heroes are conditionally silent. When the distress signals of injustice flare in the sky, they selectively choose to remain in their caves or look the other way if the call to arms isn’t from their chosen side.
Their capes no longer represent the defense of ideals that should be applied to all of us, but instead they have specific labels and colors, mostly blue or red, for the segments of the population they identify with. These fallen heroes have traded ideals for ideologies.
Sure they still fight for truth, justice, and liberty, but now it is conditional. No longer do they protect principles and populations. Now they specialize in protecting parties and storylines. They share your thirst for justice, unless it calls into account someone from their team. If your freedom is threatened, they’ll come to your aid, as long as you wear their team colors.
Disillusionment sets in when we see our heroes unmasked. We struggle to believe they can be so myopic. So partisan. So conditional. Perhaps they’ve lost their way for a time, and will eventually see the fallacy of choosing ideologies over ideals. Perhaps they’ve grown tired or protecting our national values, and have chosen an easier, narrower path. Hopefully, as the number of distress signals continues to rise, and our nation is further divided, a new crop of heroes will answer the call.
We’ve lost a fair number of heroes in the past few years. Our values and ideals are under assault from some of the very places expected to uphold them most. As Dr. King reminded us, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. May idealists everywhere reject disillusionment, and continue to cherish the principles our nation was founded upon, finding ways to answer distress calls without furthering the divide.