Arrow-right Camera
News >  Features >  Washington Voices

Heroes for the put-upon do-nothings

I am a folk hero.

I’m a folk hero because I hung up on every annoying, pestiferous, political candidate robo-call I received in this summer’s primary season. And, as I deplore out-of-state politicians stumping for locals, I hung up especially hard on Sarah Palin before she could utter a “you betcha.” That was my “mad as hell” moment and I refused to take it anymore.

Of course, my folk heroism hasn’t been certified by Facebook, Twitter and the chattering masses in the blogosphere yet. But I anticipate an attendant media swarm with psychologists solemnly weighing in on topics like Election Exhaustion or Candidate Cacophony, and a homespun YouTube ballad. I’ve even been practicing a smug wink-wink smile to grace front pages across the country.

“But I hung up on robo-calls, too,” you whine, “and even wrote a letter of complaint to the editor; how come you’re a folk hero and I’m not?”

Ah, but you’re a folk hero, too. That’s right! You “stuck it to the man” with each phone slam; every hard-pressed, downtrodden, infuriated voter feels your pain, and stands with you in sympathetic solidarity.

See, it doesn’t take much these days to be a folk hero. Had it at your job? Irritated by a rude customer? C’est simplement. Throw a profane, toddler-esque hissy fit, grab a brewski, and slide your way to celebrity, fortune, and probable book/film deals.

Going to jail for your heroism? Even better! The misunderstood con is a legendary and beloved folk hero. Why, it’s just too darn easy. Go wackadoo, capture the zeitgeist, and get your 15 minutes of fame … or infamy.

Just because millions of people do their jobs every day with fortitude and courtesy doesn’t mean I should. I mean, I used to do that, but it’s so tedious. It’s more fulfilling to make the grand statement and kick some butt while I’m at it.

Since this is America, where nobody gets pushed around for long, we’re all going to be folk heroes. Any day I expect that those who put colored plastics in the recycling bin, wash colors with whites, drink red wine with fish, neglect turn signals, and put soap in the Riverfront Park fountain will all be designated as folk heroes. We can have official Folk Hero T-shirts; hey, maybe we can get Willie Nelson to write a theme song.

With language now fabulously cheapened, especially the word “hero,” there are so many ways to be one. In these smart postmodern times, you don’t have to stand in front of tanks in Tiananmen Square, take out a nest of machine guns after a commander flees, be imprisoned for opposing injustice, or fight terrorists in desolate lands.

No, no, no.

That is heroism for what you do. Now you can be a hero for what you don’t do, or even better, for what you just won’t put up with any longer.

Let others be brave soldiers, donate hair for cancer patients, police the streets, volunteer at the food bank, advocate for the helpless, or aid the suffering in Haiti, and stuff like that. Do they get sympathy, adulation and ballads? Ha! Not like JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater who, when push came to shove with two pugnacious passengers, jettisoned his training with a theatrical meltdown, and then deserted ship with beer in hand, first class with style, all the way.

What an inspiration for us slackers! I’ve now dedicated myself to faithfully hanging up on all future robo-calls, no matter the personal cost.

It’s tough being a folk hero. Gotta grab a cold one.

You can reach Deborah Chan at