I’m a Tina Turner fan, but she got it wrong in her hit a few years back called “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” The song goes on to say:
We don't need to know the way home, ooh
All we want is life beyond Thunderdome.
A full life needs hope, inspiration, an understanding of the value of charity, and a following of the precepts of what is honorable. So yes Tina. We do need more heroes.
I found my first hero when I was eleven. We visited, my hero and I, as a Saturday morning ritual. I would leave my house at 8:30 am, mount my prize possession: a Red & Black Schwinn Deluxe Hornet Bicycle. Then it was a five-block ride to the local Sears store. My mother, bless her soul, had given me a nickel to buy a bag of popcorn on the first floor of the store. Then it was up the stairs to the TV department when all the new TV sets were on display.
No, we didn’t have our own TV at home. None of the kids in my neighborhood did. So when I arrived at the displays of new black and white TVs, I propped down in a corner to watch my hero, the king of the cowboys, Roy Rogers. He fought the bad guys in each episode, riding the western plains on his golden palomino horse Trigger.
Author Bob Greene, a past guest on my syndicated radio show, pointed out to me that, besides his weekly fight for law and order, old Roy was also full of sage advice. In one episode titled “Uncle Steve’s Finish,” Roy warns young boys not to idolize flashy con men. “He found out that there’s the wrong kind of hero worship, and that his father the schoolteacher was a much better man than his uncle the outlaw.” Who could disagree.
Then in another Saturday show called “M Stands for Murder,” Roy advised how greed can ruin a person: “He didn’t want some money. He wanted all of it. You know, that’s the funny thing about greed. It’s sort of grows on you. It starts out when you’re young by wanting somebody’s baseball bat or football that doesn’t belong to you, then later on wanting somebody’s job. First thing you know, you’re wanting everything in sight.”
There is sound cowboy advise in just about every episode. In “Quick Draw,” a man bemoans that he might be a coward because he was reluctant to fire his gun. Roy comforts him by saying: “You’re not a coward. You just won a great victory over yourself. Maybe now you’ll know what guns are really for. To protect, not to kill.”
And in “The Scavenger,” my cowboy idol imparts the importance of generosity when he tells a skinflint: “The church needs a new steeple and the school could use a new library. Wouldn’t you rather the people remember Moses as the grand old man whose money did so much for the town?”
Roy rode the western plains with his cowgirl wife, Dale Evans, emoting this kind of wisdom each Saturday, show after show. I continued to watch my icon until his series ended in 1957. I sure miss those peaceful Saturday mornings, my black Schwinn bicycle, the nickel popcorn, and getting an education about upbeat and optimistic living from my first hero, Roy Rogers.
It's hard to be a real special champion today because such heroes are often denigrated by cynics, including the media. Politicians succeed by tearing others down. Investor Ray Dalio points out: “The cynics are people who haven’t accomplished much themselves and stand on the sidelines while criticizing the heroes who are on the field of battle. Politicians are now more polarized than collaborative, more inclined to hurt each other than to be respectful, and more likely to vote along party lines than vote based on principles about what’s right and wrong.”
Heroes are more important that ever today. Not just to help us survive, but to help us thrive and bring out our very best attributes. Yes, Tina, we do need heroes. And thank you, Roy Rogers, for being my inspiration over these many years.
Peace and Justice
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