Looking for heroes in all the wrong places

If you weren’t too busy getting caught up – or maybe even getting started – with your spring planting, you might have noticed an interesting news item about the Nevada rancher who created a stir by forcing a standoff with the feds over his right to graze cattle on public land.

I’ve read this story from several angles now – from the liberal left and the radical right – and as best I can understand, this individual, Cliven Bundy, is a state’s right advocate who claims that he and his family before him have been grazing cattle on land for more than 100 years, thinking that the land belonged to them or to the state of Nevada.

The Bureau of Land Management claims it is federal land, and that Bundy owes the government more than $1 million in grazing fees. A federal judge upheld the government’s claim and the assessment, but Bundy refused to pay, resulting in a standoff with federal agents. The feds backed down, and self-proclaimed militia members continue to stand guard around Bundy’s ranch.

You can spin it anyhow you want – as a tyrannical, overreaching central government imposing its will on a freedom-loving rancher, or as someone, in this case Bundy, getting something for nothing. The facts of the case don’t concern me so much as what happened next.

Suddenly, Bundy was catapulted by some factions to the status of hero and patriot, practically lionized by certain politicians who always seem too eager to hitch their wagons to the hot-button issue of the day.

And then it happened. Bundy, while basking in the glow of his own limelight, said something incredibly stupid – stupid by any measure – and he said it out loud to a reporter from The New York Times. Anyway, the politicians and others who so eagerly jumped to his defense in the beginning just as quickly disavowed themselves of him. He was persona non grata, and the platitudes about him that had flowed from the mouths of so many stopped.

What troubles me most is the rapidity of Bundy’s ascension. It seems to me that too many people seem so desperate for someone to admire or to elevate to hero status that they’ll settle for most anyone, even someone they know little about, and someone who, comparatively speaking, has accomplished very little.

It has been my life experience that the most dependable and durable heroes are those closest to us, those who quietly go about their daily lives and set examples in the process. Many of us have been fortunate enough to have parents who fit this description, and I’ve become friends over the years with countless farmers whom I would consider American heroes. I’ve also known men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and who have dedicated their lives to preserving our freedom – they’re undoubtedly heroes, in the finest sense of the word.

Cliven Bundy doesn’t fit the bill, at least not for me.

The heroes I know and have known don’t seek the spotlight, and they don’t seek credit for their accomplishments. True heroism can be seen in a person who gracefully and routinely handles the necessary mundaneness and toil of everyday life without complaining or whining about “unfairness,” whether real or imagined.

The lesson here is that real heroes are usually close by, and what we know about them isn’t limited to what we hear on the news.

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