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Marathon: Heroes or hero inflation?

Posted by Joanna Weiss  May 2, 2013 02:46 PM

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The word "hero" has been used a lot -- especially by the media -- in the weeks since the Boston Marathon bombings. To describe police and first responders. The brave carjacking victim whose escape triggered the manhunt. The sharp-thinking bombing victim who helped to identify the suspects, just after his legs were amputated. The calm Watertown resident who called 911 after spotting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in his boat. Even the 1950s MIT students whose technology led to the robots that tracked the suspects.

But not everyone wants the honor. Danny, the Chinese immigrant who was carjacked by the suspects, has repeatedly said he wasn't a hero -- just a guy who was trying to save his own life, and in the process wound up possibly saving Times Square. Is Danny right? Is this a case of media overreach? Hero inflation? Or just widespread admiration for quick thinking, tough jobs, and good deeds? Below are some "hero" headlines and some thoughts about what makes a hero. Share yours in the comments below, or tweet at the hashtag #BostonHeroes.

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andruzzi twitter.jpgI am definitely not a hero. I am just a bystander, and that led to my help. Many heroes that I look upon are people like my three brothers that are running into burning buildings when others are running out. Explosions are going off and they are driving their cars down Boylston right into the heart of the scene. They are the people that don't care about their safety and are worried for other people's safety and survival.
Joe Andruzzi, former Patriots guard
Carried a woman from the bombing site

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dante mug.jpgHeroism is when ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary peril and act in courageous ways that protect others. Carjack victim Danny's calm, well-structured thinking in the face of physical danger is a rare and valuable quality -- or at least one that I suspect is lacking in, well, me.
Dante Ramos, @danteramos
Boston Globe deputy editorial page editor

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chomsky photo.jpgCan't define the term. It's one of those things we either understand or won't understand better with a formal definition. There were authentic heroes, particularly the runners and spectators who ran towards the explosions to help the victims, whatever the danger.
Noam Chomsky
Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, MIT

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schlussel twitter.jpgWe’ve inflated every minute action to heroism when it isn’t. We’ve equated victim status–such as Gabby Giffords having been shot in the head–as some sort of heroism. It ain’t. Heroism isn’t doing what you should do–doing what you’re supposed to do. It’s doing something super-extra beyond that, something that involves sacrifice on the part of the hero.
Debbie Schlussel
Conservative commentator

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