The Lie of Heroism
Several elements combined to make the California fires a mega story. And most prominent among the media attention were stories of firefighters that, for the most part, treated “hero” and “firefighter” as synonymous. In fact, little else was said about those men and women on the fireline. The firefighter apotheosized, hallowed and revered, is the dominant image of firefighters we have nowadays. And with this image comes a set of beliefs about what makes firefighters tick, what makes them deploy themselves on the seam between life and death. Firefighting requires courage and selflessness enough, but in referring to firefighters always and only as heroes, do we not look straight through them?