When I was in college (sometime in 1997) I read an opinion piece about the lack of heroes in America and I wrote a counterargument for a class I was taking. I remember focusing on the small, everyday heroes (firemen, teachers, the occasional cop), probably unable to find the large scale heroes the piece was longing for, thus inadvertently proving the author’s point. I wish I had that counterargument. I think I would be amused at how naive and self-absorbed I was. Here was this prophetic piece of writing in front of me and I dismissed it completely. I actually believed the things my parents, teachers, politicians, and news anchors told me. I didn’t look elsewhere because I had the opinion of everyone that mattered. Even through college I remained ignorant of what was really going on around me. I probably would be to this day if I hadn’t met my husband. (Man, that revelation is going to piss some people off.) It terrifies me to think of how many things I missed in my youth. But it horrifies me more to look ahead.
I see what this drop in the economy is doing to my city. I’m watching my students get more depressed and angry by the day as their parents lose jobs, their rent goes unpaid, and they try to study on empty stomachs and lost hopes. They’re afraid to graduate, knowing there’s not really anyplace to go. We send some to college, but trade school is becoming a waste. Who wants to get into student loan debt when there’s no promise of a job when you graduate? They refuse to join the army and I’m torn between being proud that they won’t fight this pointless war and upset knowing that their salary would have provided them three meals a day and kept their family afloat, especially when supplemented with combat pay. There’s an up-rise in violence, especially toward law enforcement. This means that people are angry at the establishment, and as our nation degrades financially, the violence will get worse.
There are no heroes in this city. There are no heroes in this country. No one is standing up and saying, “Look around you. We are killing each other. We are letting each other die. Our children have little education and no health care. Our young men and women are hustling on the streets to survive. Our families are broken. Unemployment is high. Teenage pregnancy is high. Truancy is high. This has to stop.” Not loud enough to be heard. Maybe the problems seem so overwhelming that no one has any ideas(except Al Gore, Ron Paul, and Dennis Kucinich). They’re stunned. They’re looking at the wreckage of our city and our country and shaking their heads. We need a hero. Or maybe we have the heores, adn we just won’t listen.