Everybody is Sitting on the Curb: How and why America's Heroes Disappeared

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996 - History - 256 pages
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The traditional American hero has disappeared and is unlikely to return. Dr. Edelstein explains in fascinating detail how and why that disappearance occurred and the consequences for the nation. Using a sociological approach, he examines the changes that have taken place within American society since World War II to bring about the demise of heroes.

The United States has run out of heroes. Hero refers to a national hero, a Universal American around whom we all would rally if called. The hero is the man--rarely the woman--who inspires children and adults, and reflects the finest qualities of the American people. He is recognized as an inspiration, seen as someone engendering our best qualities. It is not that the hero represents most if not all Americans; it is that most if not all Americans are happy to have him as their representative. This is the man, the role, gone from our lives, permanently.

Edelstein gives a vivid description of heroes of America's past, and offers an explanation of the national appeal of such men as Billy the Kid, Babe Ruth, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr. He describes how many of the fields from which Americans once drew their heroes have disappeared, and how the structures of other fields that were once sources of heroes have been altered, thereby obstructing the creation of new heroes. Not that heroism is dead. To the contrary, many Americans are often found performing heroic acts: police officers and fire fighters, federal agents and everyday people are regularly commended for committing acts above and beyond the call of duty. But these heroic actions are usually noted only on a local level. To be an American hero is to be a national hero. This is accomplished by an act of an individual that demands and receives national attention. But that doesn't seem to happen anymore. It is difficult to recall the last ticker-tape parade for an individual American hero. Parades now celebrate groups: freed hostages, winning sports teams, returning service personnel. The book concludes with a discussion on the ramifications of the disappearance of the American hero.

 

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Contents

No More Heroes
3
The Gulf War and Its Aftermath
21
Understanding the American Hero
31
Americas Past Heroes
49
Introduction
51
Military Heroes
55
Sports Heroes
65
Political Heroes
77
Conclusion
153
Why Americas Heroes Have Disappeared
155
Introduction
157
Values
163
Bureaucracy Rationality and the American Hero
177
The Effects of Homogeneity Heterogeneity and Population on the American Hero
185
Adolescents Take Over
193
The Media and Heroes
199

Entertainment Heroes
85
The Heroes of the American West
97
Intermediate American Heroes
115
Lesser American Heroes
131
Why Few Heroic American Women Are Recognized as Heroes
145
In Conclusion Americans and the American Hero at the End of the Twentieth Century
211
Notes
229
Bibliography
245
Index
251
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Page vi - Unhappy the land that has no heroes! . . . GALILEO: No. Unhappy the land that needs heroes.

About the author (1996)

ALAN EDELSTEIN is Associate Professor of Sociology at Towson State University and the author of An Unacknowledged Harmony: Philo-Semitism and the Survival of European Jewry (Greenwood, 1982).

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