By What Measure Is A Hero?
Imperfection is a constant when it comes to the human condition, with perfection a fleeting goal fated to dangle perpetually out of reach. Nevertheless, some people expect those among them who do extraordinary things to be about as perfect as the heroes depicted in Hollywood movies. Charles Ramsey, with the help of Angelo Cordero, did the extraordinary by playing a key role in the release of three women who were abducted, confined and abused in a nearby home for a decade. He could have turned a blind eye and keep walking, but he didn't. That's what makes this so extraordinary.
Charles Ramsey isn't a perfect man. He, like all human beings, has his flaws. He's certainly made some bad decisions in his past. The Smoking Gun made sure to remind people of those bad decisions by digging up Ramsey's criminal record.
Does this make him any less of a hero? It depends on how one views his actions. Advocates in the fight against domestic violence would not be inclined to give Ramsey a pass just because he did something heroic later on, and they shouldn't. Others would say Ramsey's past shouldn't overshadow or devalue the good he's done. Does a heroic act wash away or cancel out an act of violence? It doesn't. Being a "pillar of the community" while engaging in vile behavior is the height of hypocrisy.
Unfortunately, the narrative of the day calls for any hero to be flawless in character, otherwise said hero winds up becoming a target for denigration. Our natural inclination towards hero worship demands heroes with impeccable character and moral grounding. It's part of the reason why "perfect" superheroes like Superman exist on print and film.
But just as there aren't any perfect humans, there aren't any perfect heroes, either. We manage to emphasize and reconcile ourselves with deliberately flawed heroes like Batman and the Punisher, but it seems impossible to use to do the same with flawed people in real life.
It's tough to reconcile the good someone does with the bad and to judge which one outweighs which in a given circumstance. It's even tougher to acknowledge that both can not only exist, but be seen on the same plane at the same time with an objective eye. It's worse when anyone uses the bad in a deliberate attempt to smear and marginalize the good that person's done.
Charles Ramsey is a hero, but he's also a man and a man with his share of flaws, at that.