Monday, January 10, 2011

Arizona Heroes

Not much good comes out of any murder but at least the shooting of a congresswoman in Arizona produced four genuine heroes. Three of those people worked together to prevent more shooting and a forth administered first aid, possibly saving the life of Congresswoman Giffords.

Our heroes acted courageously and appropriately, even risking their own lives. There may have been other heroes I don't know about but we should applaud at least the following:

First Daniel Hernandez, and an intern for the congresswoman. Mr. Hernandez started administering first aid, applying pressure to stop her bleeding. He took that action not knowing if the shooter was still active and likely to go after him. I disagree with Hernandez on one point however. He denies being a hero. In that he is wrong.

Second Roger Sulzgeber and Joseph Zimudie who tackled the shooter in spite of the gunfire. Since the criminal was apparently shooting anyone in sight that action almost certainly saved lives. Those two men had the courage to charge the criminal instead of running. It was a struggle and the shooter still had his gun and was reaching for another magazine so he could continue shooting, even after they tackled him.

Finally Patricia Maisch heard someone yell “Get the magazine.” She grabbed the magazine, depriving the shooter of ammunition and the ability to reload and continue shooting. To do so she also had to be close and not running away.

The county sheriff estimates that 31 more people might have been shot without those heroic actions. My hat is off to all of that “fighting four.” Furthermore I think we can learn from them.

One of the most important lessons those heroes can teach us is that in urgent situations we need to take action ourselves. If they had waited for the police SWAT team, many more people would have been dead, probably including Congresswoman Giffords. Police can respond after crimes are committed but they are seldom able to intervene during the commission of a violent act.*

Second, it takes courage to act appropriately. It would have been easier for those four heroes to run and attempt to save their own skins. Instead they went toward the danger.

Third, there is danger in either fleeing or taking action but in many cases it is better to take action. Had those people fled they might have been shot but of course when they charged into the fray they could have been shot doing that. In that situation there was no safe way to flee.

Forth, age is less important than just doing what needs to be done. Hernandez is 20, Maisch 61. They were neither too young nor too old to become heroes.

Finally those heroic actions were a manifestation of self-reliance, something this country needs. It is easy to say “why doesn't somebody do something.” The more difficult task, but the important, one is to realize that I am “somebody.” In fact I am the somebody who can act in this situation. My own religion teaches that there are things to act and things to be acted upon and that humans are in the category of things that should act. When we wait for others to do what we can and should do, we move ourselves into the category of things to be acted upon. By so doing we lose our humanity.

Police and other officials are important but it is more important that citizens take action on their own when appropriate. After the crime is committed we should call the police. During the commission of a crime we should often take action on our own.

*For more on when it is and is not appropriate to take action see