As we English teachers read great literature with our high school students, the question of what makes someone a hero frequently occurs. We question together what qualities in a person cause us to be inspired by her or him. We discuss what uplifts us about human beings and what we want to emulate in the actions of others. In every discussion about what is heroic, students bring up the idea of a hero having an individual conscience and doing what the person thinks is right, regardless of the personal consequences.
Recently, Captain Brett Crozier, the captain of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, was fired from the United States Navy for doing just that. He reported that 100 men on the aircraft carrier tested positive for the COVID19, and, to save the lives of the crew, the aircraft carrier needed to dock. He was fired for that action. However, the great grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, for whom the aircraft carrier is named, not only supports what Captain Crozier did but also wrote that his great grandfather did the same thing. The sailors onboard the aircraft carrier were grateful to Captain Crozier for his lifesaving action and cheered for him as he disembarked the carrier. The crew sees their captain as a hero.
Future high school students will bring in the example of Captain Crozier as they analyze the motivations and actions of Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch, Arthur Miller’s John Proctor, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Toni Morrison’s Sethe. They will also bring in examples from the current President and his cabinet who condemn Captain Crozier’s motivation and actions. Those students will, without doubt, analyze the current administration as being totally bereft of real leadership and not possessing any shred of a moral center.
The nature of tragedy in our national life is monumentally expanded by the current President. To our devastating peril and our national shame.