|c/o History.com's Teddy Roosevelt gallery|
There was a time, not that long ago, when a man could speak of his hero without having to also concern himself with making the immediate transition to defend his exemplar of choice in lieu of those who grudgingly object. As if the belligerent is on some sort of mission, such disputes have become more common amid this often stomach-turning age of antipathy. Still the irony comes, by and large, when such individuals reveal his/her own personal group of idols, most of whom ordinarily represent the antithesis of those who personify the spirit of Americana.
Here's an example from my own personal set of esteemed paradigms:
Theodore Roosevelt was our 26th President. But unlike most of the 18 men who followed, the man who disliked being called "Teddy" was considerably more than a politician. Descended from two uncles who served in the Confederate army, Roosevelt was a northerner by birth and a devoted student of natural history from his adolescence who grew from a frail youngster into the definition of masculinity.
Both an author and a soldier, Roosevelt became more famously identified as a "Rough Rider" and a "Bull Moose." Likewise a Judo brown belt under Yamashita Yoshiaki and a steadfast supporter of the Boy Scouts – now considered prejudiced in the eyes of some – who pursued "the strenuous life" almost to his dying day, each notable achievement in his life of public service was indicative of the Big Stick diplomacy he advocated that ultimately etched his countenance alongside Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln on Mount Rushmore.
Though it's easy to forget that he is the first American to win a Nobel Prize, even fewer seem to recall that Roosevelt once spoke for a full 90 minutes after he was shot – literally shot in the chest earlier that same day – by a would-be assassin. To paraphrase the man himself, it takes a lot more than a silly little bullet to kill a Bull Moose.
In over 60 years, various surveys and scholars have yet to rank TR lower than seventh all-time among the elite fraternity of men who have held the highest office in the land. A devout Christian, Roosevelt's brand of progressivism differs noticeably from the kind employed by liberal Democrats today. In fact most contemporary progressives would object (as I do) to the picture of Roosevelt above, as there is rarely a legitimate reason to kill a vulnerable animal in the wild.
Imperfections notwithstanding, the best of those who shaped our exceptional nation remain worthy of acclaim because of what they exemplify and inspire. Those who object only succeed in exposing their own biases held in the deepest recesses of their misguided convictions.
"They wouldn't be heroes if they were infallible, in fact they wouldn't be heroes if they weren't miserable wretched dogs, the pariahs of the earth, besides which the only reason to build up an idol is to tear it down again."
– Lester Bangs (1948-1982), music critic, journalist and author