Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Congresswoman's Heroic Staffer

It never fails. Whenever there is a mass shooting, or major incident, some person's actions are raised to the level of heroism. They are painted as the face of the better angels we would all like to believe would take us over if we were ever caught in such a scenario.

The shooting Saturday of Gabrielle Giffords at a Tucson shopping center is no exception to this role. In fact, there are two competing images of heroism happening.

The first is the story of one of the dead. She is being held up as a kind of tragic hero. Born on Sept. 11, 2001 as our nation was wrestling to the attacks against the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon. The day we all sat glued to our televisions as the twin towers collapsed in a cloud of grey dust which filled southern lower Manahattan with whisps of dust. She was Christina Taylor Green. The Washington Post has dubbed the 9-year-old "A Face of Hope." The newspaper writes that she often wore red, white and blue in honor of the country.

But Ms. Taylor Green is dead and it is easy to idolize a dead child and mourn her lost innocence.

Daniel Hernandez however might not be as easily idolized in the lexicon of American heroes. He ran to the Congresswoman's side, and provide aid and comfort to her while the bullets were still flying and until the medical professionals arrived. He told ABC News, according to Huffington Post:

"I had to lift up the congresswoman because she was severely injured, and I wanted to make sure that she was able to breathe okay because there was so much blood."

The 20-year-old Congressional intern did what we would all like to believe we would do faced with such a situation. But Joe Jervis, of the blog Joe.My.God, raises a troubling point. Why is it that we see Daniel, the hero, stripped of his full humanity?

Jervis writes:

"Yes, it IS relevant that shooting hero Daniel Hernandez is gay. If he were straight, the lede in every story would be something like 'The married father of three rushed towards the Congresswoman...'" Reminds me of Oliver Sipple who saved President Ford on Sept 22, 1975, but died disowned & penniless, dead in apt for 2 weeks. Oliver was a hero too."

Oliver Sipple, downplayed his sexuality in 1975 when he saved then-President Gerald Ford from the bullet shot at him by Sara Jane Moore. He said it didn't matter anymore than the color of his skin or the color of his eyes.

Yet the man who saved a President died, alone, in 1989, penniless, disowned by his family and forgotten. So forgotten in fact, he had been dead in his home for two weeks before police found him, a letter of gratitude from Ford on the wall near his rotting corpse.

Let us not allow the heroism of Daniel Hernandez end in the same tragic way.

Hernandez says he went to the Congresswoman to aid her. He said doing so while the bullets were still flying was likely not the wisest choice. No, Mr. Hernandez, your actions were the actions of a true American hero. Thank you.

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