As if it weren't enough trying to pin down who a true hero might be, the U.S. Justice Department has taken on the issue of fake heroes.
A couple of excerpts from the story:
-- The Stolen Valor Act makes it a crime punishable by up to a year in jail to falsely claim to have won a military medal, whether or not an impostor seeks financial gain.
-- The Stolen Valor Act, which breezed through Congress in 2006, revised and toughened an existing statute that forbade anyone to wear a military medal that was not earned.
"Stolen valor" ... wrap your mind around that. To claim there are fake heroes implies by definition that someone knows who the real heroes are at the same time that those considered "heroes" would be the first to dismiss any heroics. And suggesting that medals are the yardstick for heroism is the kind of thing only a chair-warmer could imagine.
And yet there is a longing and an insistence and a need to have heroes, whether or not those heroes agree: Somehow I am raised up by imputing heroism....
And maybe the same is true in spiritual endeavor: It is encouraging to assess and elevate those who are "holy" or "enlightened" or "compassionate" or ... well, pick a medal, any medal. To choose a hero is to encourage my own thoughts and actions -- to act better, speak better, live better. But does such an encouragement make the assessment true? How would the object of our praises and affections reflect on such instruments of valor?
I'm not saying that heroes and saints are a bad idea. But I do think they are only a good idea as measured by the thoughts, words and deeds of those who choose to name them. Other than that, it all strikes me as hot air and a consoling fraud.
But maybe I've missed something..