One man’s hero

may well turn out to be another man’s terrorist. Sometimes I long for the days of childhood when heroes were heroes, and villains were just plain evil.

Despite the fact that I may well have joined the Armor branch because of some long forgotten love of John Ford westerns, I quickly learned that being a “John Wayne” type would get you in trouble with the drill instructors, and, even worse, more than likely get you and your men killed in Vietnam.

Recently I’ve noticed the term “hero” being thrown around awfully loosely. In the old days heroes actually won battles. Now it seems just being killed is enough to make you a hero. Funny, I’d always thought that those killed were just Victims of war.

Some Muslim communities obviously believe that those who blow themselves and their enemies up in suicide bombings are heroes, just as the Japanese held the kamikazes in such high regard. Here in America where the individual seems to have more value than the society, both are regarded as “fanatics,” though we might well regard someone who dies carrying out a suicidal attack as a hero if they don’t manage to survive.

Little wonder, then, that modern society might see past heroes in a slightly different light a hundred years later, though others might still cling to older views. Inspired by my recent discovery of Louis Riel and the Metis, I’ve started reading Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

While reading the chapter entitled “The Long Walk of the Navahos” I was reminded of the song “Kit Carson” by Bruce Cockburn. However, when I did a search for the lyrics, I found that every site listed had a statement that the lyrics had been removed at the Cockburn’s request, though strangely enough you can still find the lyrics here. I found that somewhat strange, but I suspect that the rant going on
at Wikipedia which is longer than the actual entry on Kit Carson might have something to do with their removal.

Though I’ll have to admit that Kit Carson was never one of my childhood heroes, after reading Dee Brown’s accounts of his methods of conquering the Navaho, I’d have a hard time seeing him as anything resembling a hero, but, then, that might be expected from someone who even as a child viewed Geronimo as a hero.

In fact, the description of Kit Carson in Dee Brown’s work seems to fit the one found in Cockburn’s song quite accurately. Of couse, as Brown points out, he was attempting to tell the story of the West from the Indian’s point of view, not the view more commonly promoted in our history books.

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