Column like I see ‘em

The hubris of human heroes

Kevin Niederman

Jared from Subway is a pedophile. It's shocking even writing these words down. For years Jared inspired thousands across the world. He gave conferences and helped people through difficult times. He helped with weight loss and self-esteem issues. He was a symbol; something to aspire to!

But suddenly he isn't. Suddenly he's less than all of us. Suddenly, he's trash.

I feel like we have a tendency to color the people of the world either black or white. We are in need of heroes and role models, and we often let a single defining trait dominate how we feel about a particular hero.

Take Hitler for example. The Germans loved him!

Why wouldn't they? He did wonders for Germany. He brought a dwindling bankrupt country back to the forefront and reclaimed a superpower status for his nation. That's what the Germans saw. A man who could rejuvenate their broken land. They were completely blind to anything else he was doing.

Greatness and fame blind us to the big picture. We are drowning in heroes. Everywhere you look you can see "great people" doing "great things," but who are we to know? We are constantly told not to judge people.

Does that not include judging people to be perfect?

How many people considered Bill Cosby a hero and inspiration? What about Abraham Lincoln? You know, that guy who ended slavery?

In a 1858 presidential debate, Abraham Lincoln said: “I will say then that I am not... in favor of bringing about in anyway the... equality of the white and black races... nor ever have (I) been in favor of making voters... of negroes... nor to intermarry with white people... there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.”

I'm at a loss for words. Seriously, Google this quote, he goes on at length.

The one man, I've been taught, for as long as I can remember, who "freed the slaves" was as bigoted and racist as the rest of them. I'm beginning to think that every person I've ever looked up to was never worthy of my worship.

All I've ever seen, all I've ever been taught to see was a single defining characteristic. Christopher Columbus discovered America and murdered countless natives once he got here. Thomas Edison "invented" the lightbulb and slowly killed his assistant with over exposure to X-rays after ignoring warnings of potential danger and skipping straight into human testing. Nelson Mandela ended apartheid after he cofounded a terrorist ring responsible for the deaths of over a hundred people.

The heroes of this world are not black and white. Every one of them falls into the gray no-man's-land in between. Every idol you've ever held dear is bound to eventually disappoint.

After all, they're just human. Like the rest of us.

This is why God is important to me. None of us are perfect. Not Subway Guy or Walt Disney or Charlie Chaplin or Winston Churchill or Gandhi. I am constantly looking up to other people who I assume are better than me, and they are not.

We are all the same, flawed rejects, but we need something to look up to, and if I'm looking to find perfection, I'd rather not be disappointed.

Kevin is a junior studying nursing.