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Published on November 13th, 2012

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Brandon Loran Maxwell: Inquiry Into The Nature Of A Hero

Heroes aren’t molded they are etched—fashioned by endeavor—born of resolution’s unholy dalliance with circumstance. They are mortals who, in the foreboding face of destitution, unearth the valor to rise to the unforgiving moment. They are angels whose optimism illuminates the forgotten aspirations of desperate men and waning servants.

Over the course of mankind’s cruelly longwinded existence, heroes have ascended from an assortment of pallet boards—assemblages doggedly wedded to no particular color, creed, age, or sex. But while the precise nature and composition of a hero may be as marvelous and innumerable as the smoldering stars showered across our companionless galaxy, one distinguishing denominator accentuates the determinations and objectives of them all: the pursuit of liberty.

 Undoubtedly, this praiseworthy pursuit has complimented some of America’s greatest protagonists. Heroes such as Genevieve Clark, Lydia Chapin, Frances Wright, Ernestine Rose, Lucretia Mott, Margaret Fuller, Susan B. Anthony and Maria Stewart, all toiled tirelessly in the name of social and economic equality—the right to speak in public and the right to cast a ballot. Sojourner Truth rallied for, among other things, freedom to take part in the market revolution.

Frederick Douglass, in his unquenchable thirst for liberty, actually failed to escape the dreadful and depraved void of human bondage twice before finally succeeding in 1838 and eventually finding refuge in New York, then later Massachusetts. Consequently, he would be condemned to a dejected lifetime of evading roving “man-hunters”—contemptible men whose primary aim was to hunt down runaway slaves.

But instead of capitulating to the abyss of obstruction or discouragement, Douglass courageously engaged the treacherous task before him, and did so with nerve and sophistication. Not only did he recognize that with tragedy emanates opportunity. He utilized his situation to sit down and brilliantly pen one of the most poetic and influential anti-slavery odes the world has ever known, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

History has illustrated that it is not uncharacteristic or beneath heroes to band together to sustain moral strength under conjoint motives and causes. Suffragist, Angelina Grimke, once insightfully inscribed on the loathsome institution of human bondage:

“Since I engaged in the investigation of the rights of the slave, I have necessarily been led to a better understanding of my own; for I have found the Anti-Slavery cause to be…the school in which human rights are more fully investigated, and better understood and taught, than in any other [reform] enterprise…Here we are led to examine why human beings have any rights. It is because they are moral beings.”

Likewise, Frederick Douglass would reflect on the women’s suffrage movement and poignantly observe:

“When the true history of the Anti-Slavery cause shall be written, women will occupy a large space in its pages; for the cause of the slave has been peculiarly women’s cause.”

And so it is in this heroic nature of inclusion that effective social undertakings have transpired, matured, and succeeded. We saw this in 1930 as Mohandas Gandhi bravely marched 241 miles to the sea with close to 100 activists at his side in protest of Britain’s occupation of India. We saw this again in 1963 as Martin Luther King Jr. brought close to a quarter million protesters to the streets of Washington D.C. to rally for equality, masterfully delivering his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

But such attitudes are not the work of minds competently familiar with the potency of freedom or the thunderous riverbanks of autonomy. Rather, they are the works of subservient predispositions—the merchandise of minds meandering the rigid skies of moral malfunction and deprivation. Indeed, heroes live today, just as they did at any other time in history.

14-year-old Malala Yousufzai is one such example. After advocating women’s education in Pakistan, young Malala was systematically hunted down and shot twice—once in the head and once in the neck—by a Taliban gunman for promoting “obscenity.” Yet, in spite of her attempted assassination, Malana has continued to robustly condemn the oppressive nature of her government and culture and passionately demand women’s rights from her hospital bed. If this is not heroism, then what is?

None of this, of course, serves to naively suggest that liberty’s interpretation comfortably lounges or subsists undisputed. On the contrary. To some, liberty exemplifies deliverance, emancipation, alleviation; while to others, liberty embodies justice, truth, and righteousness; and still to others, liberty denotes all of the above, stalwartly void of distinction or ideological favor.

But while one might not, for example, equate the governmental antidotes offered by, say, Friedrich Engels to the systemic remedies presented by, say, Lysander Spooner. It would be brutishly improvident to affront or overlook the role of either man to their respective audiences who, to the contempt of one, but delight of another, considers the flamboyant sponsor of their imaginings and ambitions an inspiration and hero.

So the question inevitably arises: In a world where one hero is seemingly pitted against another, where do we—those of us that advocate a free and liberal society—fall?

The answer is none-too-complex: We don’t fall. Instead, we rise. We become heroes ourselves. We familiarize ourselves with the extraordinary circumstances that surround us every day. We understand that it is up to us to engage the occasion—to set the example—and to demonstrate the courage to become the inspiration, rather than idol and lethargically await inspiration. We understand that it takes an army of heroes to beat an army of heroes.

And only after we have done this will we have gained a better understanding of the true nature of a hero.

About the Author: Brandon Loran Maxwell is an essayist; political analyst; satirist; playwright; and freelance journalist. He has been published in various local and national publications, including: The Hill, The Washington Examiner, PoliticIt, The Oregonian, Free Republic, Freedoms Journal, Hip Hop Republican, Street Motivation Magazine, and UtahPolicy.com. In addition, he has been personally profiled in a number of other publications and has been a guest on various news programs. In 2009, he spoke on judicial reform alongside then Congressman Wu. He is a winner of Portland, Oregon’s One Act Festival; a political activist; and a political science and film studies major.

This blog post originally appeared at StudentsForLiberty.org

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