Walndering Thoughts: Heroes

I’m an escapist. I read, watch and play fantasy whenever I can. I know I shouldn’t so much; reality isn’t as boring as it used to be. But I can’t help it.
I love playing the hero. As Hermione said of Harry in “Order of the Phoenix,” I have a bit of a “saving people thing.” And it used to be, when I read, that I loved being able to tell who to save. There were always good guys and bad guys—anyone else was just background.
I loved being the hero because it was easy to be the good guy. The hero was beloved by all because the hero could only do good. And the hero would always win. It was a child’s fantasy, but it was a good one. What better adventure than a fight you knew you could never lose?
But as I grew up, I began to lose interest in those books I once loved. It was too simple now, good and bad, save one and defeat the other, respectively. So I ventured further into the fiction section for something new.
No longer enjoying the triumph of good over evil, I read about the chaos of worlds where everyone considers themselves good and the others evil, though each had traits that could be justified as one or the other, depending on how you look at it. Ambition can easily look like greed, trying to protect can look like trying to control (ask any parent about this one). It becomes a lot harder to root for the hero, because it becomes a lot harder to find one.
The decisions get harder, and it becomes clear before long that the hero—whomever you choose the hero to be—isn’t going to be able to win every battle. And now this hero has to make choices about who to save, about who is “good.” And the hero has to decide who matters more. For the hero has to let some people go, and to them the hero isn’t much of a hero anymore.
And suddenly, up against such odds, being everyone’s hero isn’t so easy.
Because the world isn’t full of people who sulk in castles with hooded cloaks laughing maniacally. For the most part, it’s good, well-meaning people on the Earth, it just happens to be good, well-meaning people who don’t agree with each other.
But the moment we begin to argue in earnest, we forget that. We make our own villains, shout them down until all anyone hears is noise, and we go back to the childhood fantasy of a fight without conflict, the fight we always won.
Except this time, everyone loses.