I have, what I would consider ridiculous, recollections of my days at Rural Point Elementary School, in which we were asked to do some rather strange, if not pointless, rituals that each of us must go through as children. The pledge, two laps before recess, eating lunches that had no real nutritional value, but one case that stands out in particular is that of writing an essay about who our heroes were. Now, being young, I did not have any realistic heroes. All of mine were either from video games, comics, or cartoons. But when asked, kids normally respond with the typical answers: Mom, Dad, the grandparents, the uncles, the aunts. I did not really have an answer that they, the teachers, were looking for, and by that, I mean that I had no answer, whatsoever.
When it occurred to me is not clear, but, at some point, I realized that what the other kids were saying was complete bullshit, because it was a concept that they, themselves, did not yet grasp: heroes. The main fallacy with their entire argument, was why these people were their heroes: “Because my (insert family member here) takes care of me, feeds me, and clothes me.” That is their JOB, you stupid kid! No one should receive praise for doing what keeps their asses from being flung into a jail cell with a round guy named Bubba. It is like if I said that my doctor is a good physician because he sees his patients. That does not make him a GOOD physician; that makes him a physician!
If a grown person used that same argument, you would think to yourself, “Well, jeez… What kinda fuckin’ lousy people did they encounter in life with to make that their hero’s best feature?” Now, do not get me wrong; I love my parents, but the people that I call my heroes influenced how I think, how I act, how I speak, and how I write. Not to mention that they all can be viewed in one way or another as “corrupters of society,” which I find to be a redeeming quality. They are who shaped who I am at this second, and hopefully who I will be by the time you are done reading this, and I have three of them. Count ‘em…three.
First, and foremost, there is the man who helped shift the way I think about life, death, and everything in between: George Carlin. Aside from being the funniest damn man who ever grazed the surface of this planet, he also was one of the smartest; poking fun at small things in our society and taking a sledgehammer to the bigger and touchier subjects. Not only would he tell you what he thought, he would explain in deep detail what his argument behind it was, and did so with a grandpa storyteller’s prose. From cancer, to human sacrifice, to AIDs, to dogs, to cars, to advertising, to abortion, to rape, to Muhammad Ali, to the very English language, nothing was too touchy or too improper for him to talk about. And out of the millions of words he spoke in his life, just seven of them got him sent to the Supreme Court.
Next in line is Jack Kevorkian, the most famous doctor in the United States and a hell of a nice man. While, I never got to speak to him face to face, his legacy is a hard one to miss, as he was the leading advocate in our country for the pro-euthanasia movement. Showing compassion for the terminally ill patients that he helped and seeking help for those that he could not, made him a great doctor, but what made him my hero was something more. He was an advocate for common sense (an oxymoron if there ever was once), in that he hated to see patients suffering and did not settle for the common practice of watching patients wither away. Though his motives for euthanasia being legal in our country may have been selfish, he did help a lot of individuals who were too weak to help themselves.
Final hero on my list is a bit of a wild card and why he is my hero is still a bit of a mystery to me. An outspoken chef, traveler, and writer, Anthony Bourdain has dove into the belly of the gastronomical arts and brought back with him the guts of the food world so that we might see what really goes on in the kitchens of our world. Described as a badass, Tony says that he feels less like one with each passing year, but still, his zest and flair are not lost on those who know who he is, love him or hate him. Enemy of fast food corporations and corrupt food bloggers alike, he is an advocate for healthy food, but more, he is an advocate for GOOD food. I suppose what makes him my hero is the fact that he is not a sellout like so many people in his field today, a field which I am very passionate about.
Not the most typical list of heroes you would expect someone to give, I admit, nor do the three really have that much in common with each other. The reoccurring theme though that makes them my heroes are that they are all promoters of common sense thinking whether it is about our politics, our health, or our food. Each of them makes a concerted effort to see that our species thrives in a ways that they see best, and that is what any human does, but what makes what they speak different is that they often are viewed in a less than friendly light because of it and still they do not give in. They continue to fight for their causes, despite being attacked on all sides for it. I suppose that they do have a bit more in common than I previously thought.