When John Glenn died on December 8, 2016, we lost what was, by most accounts, a true American hero. Those are few and far between today.
Heroes aren't just defined by what they do; it's also about who they are and the credibility they symbolize. John Glenn symbolized courage, a can-do spirit, and America's place in the world as the good guy in the Cold War.
The heroes of our time are quickly disappearing. The media of our time makes it impossible for none but the purest of the pure to survive the scrutiny that comes with the position. This isn't a complaint piece; it is what it is.
The more we learn about our politicians and business leaders, the more we realize their fallibility. Few are beyond rebuke. Even the big names of the past aren't immune when certain back stories are brought to light.
Then there are those that used to be considered heroes just by the virtue of their position. The American soldier used to automatically fit the bill, but then we learned about the occasional war crime. Police officers used to be in that category, but, you know...
The defense is always simply, "We're human, too," and that's fine, but the American hero we crave in our mind doesn't jive with, "Sorry, I'm human," and there are people who make their living making sure we know just how very imperfect our heroes are.
That is as it should be; truth is always better than denial. But the world has operated for thousands of years on the stories of not just heroes, but also black-and-white stories of good versus evil.
Now we don't. We know more than ever that not every intention is pure, and that few things are black and white. The major adjustment period we seem to be living in is that movement leaders still seek to portray simple narratives and attempt to get a lock on the truth, but outside of totalitarian regimes, it's a difficult task. Everything is complicated and nobody has a lock on the truth.
Perhaps it's this new reality, rather than changes in super-power status, that defines the new world order. The new world order is about the power to command the narrative, and the fringes, both good and evil, have just as much of a shot at it as the mainstream.
It's this, as much as anything, that makes our world today very different from the one in which we grew up.
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