As I’ve been pondering villainy and heroes over the last few days, I thought it a good time to revisit an old post I’d made on the Black Gate Livejournal page a few years ago. I imagine a lot of you haven’t read it; if you have, I apologize for the repeat.
During the school year my little girl brings home reading practice sheets every week. Each day we’re to time her reading the fluency sheet for a minute, three times, the idea being that it will improve her reading. She does get better at reading each time through, naturally, but she also gets pretty bored – I suppose I would, too, if I had to read the same thing over and over three times a day. But she’s also bored because the stories as a whole haven’t been very interesting. Except for one.
She brought home the story of Butch O’Hare. I’d never given much thought to whom O’Hare airport was named after. I suppose I assumed it was named after a politician. None of these fluency stories can be read completely in a minute—she was only about a third of the way through when the minute timer dinged. My son, her older brother, was so interested that he looked up from his own homework and said “actually, that’s pretty interesting.” I agreed, and asked her to keep reading, and she was intrigued enough herself that she kept going without complaint.
Stories about heroes fascinate my family, and, I believe, humanity as a whole. I think that we’ve become so cynical that we sneer a little when we hear stories of heroics and imagine that it can’t really be true, or we wonder if the hero secretly beats his wife. We are programmed to think that we REALLY need to read stories of ordinary people or cowardly people or despicable people and that stories of heroes are for children. We’re savvy enough now not to believe everything we hear or read, because, God knows, we’ve been fooled plenty of times.
But we still need heroes. And Butch O’Hare was one.