We are all heroes

in our own minds, except that we are not. When I was about 31 or 32, I read The Winds of War by Herman Wouk. It is one of those book with lots of characters and shows the wind- up to WWII from different view points and if you haven’t read it, I would recommend it – although I may be wrong, as I did read it almost forty years ago and our collective sensibilities may have changed – if you like historical fiction. Anyway, a couple of the characters are Aaron Jastrow and his niece, Natalie. They are Jewish – duh! – and in Europe. From almost the beginning of their part of the story, it became obvious – from my view point of looking back on the war – that they were going to end up at one of the German Death Camps.

When I would get to the Aaron and Natalie sections, I would just skip ahead. I couldn’t read all the bad choices they were making; choices I knew that I would not have made. In my mind – at 31 or 32 – I would have, heroically, made much better choices. Now – forty years later – I know that I would not have made those heroic choices of my fantasies. Now I know that I couldn’t read many of those sections because I saw myself in Jastrow’s mistakes.
These remembrances came up when I read a  blog post by Ta-Nehisi Coates today. In it, he writes about how easy it is to think we would do something different than what the slave owners and slaves actually did do, if we had lived in the slave society of the pre-Civil War south. It is a constant theme of Coates and was brought up by an article by some fool white guy saying what he would do if he were a black kid being raised in poverty. Read it, really! It goes directly to the question that people who are raised in poverty tend to stay in poverty and should society try to change that or just say, It’s their fault, with all the ramifications that brings.
By the way, the prison camp photo above is one of the camps we – we being the United Sates of America – built, in one of our racist fits, to intern our Japanese citizens during WWII. I want to say that I would have been against these camps if I had been my parent’s age when they were built, but I doubt it.


2 thoughts on “We are all heroes

  1. Agreed! Thanks for posting this. Folks should read your post and the one you cite. I’ve been thinking about social mobility as it affects democracy and this is a key issue.

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