I am at the gym and ESPN is on the television in front of me. I see two commentators discussing last night's basketball game and the tussle between two highly-paid and famous players. I see video footage of one of the men taunting the other. He laughs about what he did and steps to the man who tells him to admit to it. He is not a hero.
* * *
I am away from the Internet all weekend long, and when I return it is to pictures everywhere of a young punk. Ugly, goofy, red-rimmed eyes from a night of drinking and bad choices. Because of his sports status and white privilege and because both of his parents are defending what he did, he takes no ownership of the horrible things he did to a young woman. Despite his Olympic dreams, he is not a hero.
* * *
I am watching the news as I make dinner. Donald Trump is campaigning again. He is talking about building walls and keeping people out and saying misogynistic things. My boys listen to every word. They know he is "not being nice." They know he is no hero.
* * *
There is another shooting on the news. The worst mass casualty since 9/11. The shooter claimed allegiance to an organization which believes it's doing good in the world. He claimed he killed those people because what they were doing is wrong. He is not judge and jury. He is no hero.
* * *
The world needs heroes. My sons need heroes. They need to know that just because someone plays sports and makes millions of dollars, he is not automatically a hero.
They need to know that just because you pledge allegiance to a religion or movement or political party, it does not give you a free pass to use those beliefs as a reason to hurt people.
They need to see men acting responsibly and owning up to their mistakes. They need to see men who do the right thing, even when it's hard or hurts their pride.
They need to know more men like their dad.
They need to know about how polite he was when we first met. How he treated me like a woman he respected rather than rushing to get "a piece of action." They need to know how he supported and encouraged me in my career, on the good days and the bad. They need to know how he respected my friends and felt protective of me when those friends were being less than friends to me.
They need to know how hard he worked in school, even though he didn't like it and even when it was hard for him. They need to know that it took him a while to find his passion in life; but once he did, he didn't let anything stand in his way. Not the difficulty, not someone telling him he could never do it, not a cross-country move.
They need to know that he found a life partner who respected him as much as he respected her. How he considered her feelings in everything he chose, everything he did, everything he said and didn't say.
They need to know how he planned a future for his family. They need to know about how he unselfishly saved money for us - for them - so that we could have a comfortable life. He didn't squander away his savings on frivolous things. He planned for his family to have a future despite what he may have wanted in the present.
They need to know how equal of a partner and parent he was. How, when his wife was bedridden for three months, he cooked and cleaned and shopped and cared for her, all while working full-time. How he lovingly bathed his newborn babies and warmed bottles in the middle of the night and changed even the poopy diapers.
They have seen the way he cares for his home and his yard, mowing and preening and planting and watering even after a long day at work when all he wants to do is recline in his chair. They have spotted him in the crowd at their ball games, in his work clothes, there to cheer them on whether they get the hit or not.
They have heard him apologize and admit that he lost his temper. They have seen him back up those words by actions, by fixing what needed to be fixed. They have seen him own up to his mistakes and make a change for the better.
They have seen the way he treats his wife. Caring about the things she cares about, knowing what she likes and doesn't like. Buying her nice things, yes, but also treating her with respect. Being an equal partner in raising them. Being an equal partner caring for their home - cooking, cleaning, and parenting.
They have seen the way he treats his nearly 87 year old mother. Going to her house and doing tasks for her, taking her to brunch on Sundays, offering her rides when the weather is dicey. Calling her on her birthday. Thanking her for being his mother.
They have seen the way he treats his five sisters. With brotherly love and respect. He cares about them, he listens to them, and values his time with them. They have seen the way he honors and respects women. The way he talks to them and the way he loves them.
They need to know the way he treats his patients with kindness, care, and humor. The way he puts them at ease when they are experiencing something painful and scary. They need to know the way he treats his employees, with fairness, honesty, and respect. They need to see what others see: that he is a good man.
They need to know that he is grieving the loss of his own father and his son. They need to know that men cry and care and hurt and feel and deal with their grief in very real ways, too. They need to know that he has been strong for his family even when he hasn't wanted to be.
Every boy needs a hero. There are a lot of them in this world. And yes, he could be a pro-athlete, a musician, a politician, an astronaut, a police officer, a religious leader, a neighbor, or a teacher.