Who is the hero?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 22, 2002

There were two criminal cases under discussion recently that expose two faces of the American mentality - a dichotomy that has been a source of conflict in our country since the first pound of tea was dumped into the Boston harbor.

About a year ago, two men were shot in a robbery. One died. The suspect in that case has been in hiding

ever since, although

the police and the family of the victim know of his general whereabouts. They have posted signs and posters, only to have them torn down by the residents of that community, who have closed ranks to protect the suspected murderer.

Just this week, two men robbed and kidnapped a store clerk. The sister of one of the kidnappers not only convinced the men to let the woman go, she escorted the victim to safety, stayed with her until help arrived, and then led the police to the alleged perpetrators.

Yet who will be hailed as the hero here? The community that protects its own, or the sister who "narked" on her own family? The terminology says it all. Despite the fact that she put the well-being of the young woman, and society itself, ahead of family loyalty, despite the fact that she was working for the greater good, the sister will be called things like "narc," "stoolie" and "squealer."

Much of this attitude lies in the Robin Hood mentality – the charming outlaw, defying the bad authority

figures, fighting for the common man. This theme is carried on through out

history - the James Gang, Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, D.B. Cooper… There is a romance attached to the outlaw that blurs the edges of reality and makes the public sacrifice fact for fantasy.

There is nothing

heroic in defying the laws that were established to protect all of us. There are times, perhaps, when the "crimes" are committed to protest policy or bad laws. But the fact is –

there is nothing

romantic or charming about murder, robbery or kidnapping, especially when the motive is greed.

Think about that young woman today, the one who chose the right road, the hardest road, for the right

reasons. She has a heavy burden to carry, and a loss to bear as her brother faces jail time. That burden should not be made heavier by unwarranted scorn from a society that, perhaps, does not always choose its "heroes" wisely.