Heroes For My Son, by Brad Meltzer
It can be wondered whether this particular book constitutes a form of child abuse, in that the author chooses heroes for his son that actively attack the manhood and potential goodness and happiness of his child. Although parents are not perfect, as some of us know all too well, few parents advertise their failures to seek the best of their children in as dramatic fashion as the author does in portraying some truly reprehensible human beings as heroes for his son to model. While it can be said that there are at least some worthwhile heroes included in this list, even the better choices are often chosen for the wrong reasons, or at least incomplete reasons. The man who the author appears to want his son to become is the sort of wimpy and sissy person who is not likely to be a very good man, at least not the sort of man that anyone should want to respect, the sort of man who can stand up for what is right and face the fights and struggles to do what it is right. The author appears to oppose religious morality and to choose people because they were sex symbols or because they had some sort of hipster or celebrity cachet, not because they were genuinely heroic people.
The author begins this book by waxing poetic about how much it means for him to have a son, but unfortunately his desire to pass on wisdom to his son does not include the sort of heroism that makes for a good life. Here in this lengthy list of heroes one will find no Winston Churchill, but they will find Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama. If you want athletes, there is Roberto Clemente, Pele, Muhammad Ali, Jesse Owens, and Lou Gehrig. You find Abraham Lincoln, but not for leading the United States through the horrors of the Civil War, but for his declaration of the rights of blacks during his 1858 Senate campaign. The author appears fond of celebrity culture, including Mr. Rogers, John Lennon, Dr. Seuss, and Jim Henson. He is fond of civil rights heroes in South Africa and the United States, and particularly fond of activists like the loathsome Bella Abzug. The author even chooses Paul Newman because of his salad dressing and “sex appeal,” which is a terrible excuse to be a hero for a boy.
It is indeed difficult to point out all the ways that this book fails. On the one hand, the book fails in choosing heroes that help encourage someone to be a real mensch. No heroes are chosen for their physical courage, and not all of the supposed examples of moral courage chosen are worthwhile or good causes. Many of the heroes chosen supported morally corrupt causes or were themselves morally corrupt in their personal life, but the author does not dwell on such unpleasant matters, assuming that if a boy is raised to think highly of politically correct causes and figures that he will grow up to be the sort of man who can be comfortable on Oprah’s couch and not a man that anyone would respect for standing up to the evils of our own corrupt age. The author seems to want to urge people to stand up against the evils of the past, but the evils of identity politics and abortion and the breakup of the family do not appear to be evils that the author is concerned about at all. This author has terrible heroes and appears to wish a great deal of weakness and misery upon his son. Let us hope his son picks out better heroes for himself than the ones his father has so poorly chosen.