Americans love the idea of a superhero, someone possessed of supernatural powers used for the common good.
Joe Thomas, a professor studying this phenomenon, remarked, "They explain mystery. They model behavior. They inspire. They make mistakes ... and learn from them. They are life lessons. They give hope that no matter what the odds, even one person with no superhuman powers, one person can make a difference."
But even superheroes need courage.
G. K. Chesterton, a British writer and Christian thinker of a previous generation, described courage like this: "Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live, taking the form of readiness to die. 'He that will lose his life, the same shall save it' is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes.
"He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then there will be a suicide, and he will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine."
Like my friend, John Keaveney.
Francis Lewis High School in Queens, New York, must have seemed like a distant planet to 21-year-old Cpl. Keaveney as he carefully scanned the bleak, sandy stretch of ground in front of him. Small, ancient pagodas dotted the barren turf between him and the wounded Marine and medical corpsman penned down by sniper fire just over a hundred yards away.
It might as well have been a hundred miles.
The heat and humidity mingled into a suffocating blanket over the Cua Viet River as it slipped silently past them, disappearing into the jungle. Time seemed to slow down as the second lieutenant asked for volunteers to move across the open ground and bring the wounded men to safety.
The next thing John knew, he was leading a team of three other Marines zigzagging across the open ground to their objective.