What Charles Ramsey did — now THAT’S redemptive (as opposed to what Mark Sanford did the next day)

My initial purpose in writing this is to second what Joan Walsh says on Slate — that despite very bad things in Charles Ramsey’s past, including domestic violence, what he did the other day still makes him a hero:

In hindsight, maybe Charles Ramsey was trying to tell us something when he insisted to Anderson Cooper Tuesday night that he’s not a hero. “No, no, no. Bro, I’m a Christian, an American. I’m just like you,” he told the news anchor.

Maybe he knew the whole hero story line would come with an unhappy ending: Now we’ve learned, via the Smoking Gun, that Ramsey was charged with and served time for multiple domestic violence counts. He was also convicted and imprisoned on drug charges and receiving stolen property.

All of that is awful, particularly for his ex-wife and daughter. But it doesn’t change the fact that Ramsey was a hero when he helped Amanda Berry escape Monday night. It may make him even more admirable, if he had an inkling that his sudden fame might expose his troubled past…

Of course he’s a hero — one with deep flaws. But all heroes are flawed. That Mr. Ramsey’s are what they are makes what he did this week, if anything, more laudatory.

I’m not dismissing his past offenses as some sort of colorful details. To me, there is no crime more contemptible than domestic violence, except the abuse of children — which is its close relative. Wife-beaters are right down there among the lowest of the low.

But what he did Monday was a redemptive act. One more excerpt from the piece:

To dismiss the character Ramsey showed in rescuing Berry is to suggest that nobody who’s ever done something bad should try to do something good, because the bad will always matter more. It would be a shame if Ramsey’s exposure, and the cackling about his past from some quarters, served to discourage other ex-convicts from helping others for fear that their pasts will come back to haunt them.

What Mr. Ramsey did on Monday didn’t erase his past offenses. Those are still on his ledger. But it was still heroic, and it has redemptive value.

This brings us to Mark Sanford.

I was pretty upset with the news headlines I saw in a couple of SC newspapers saying that Sanford had achieved “redemption” through his victory. Note again, these were news stories about the election, not opinion pieces, expressing a highly debatable opinion about the meaning of his win. More offensively, they were using the language of faith, of theology, making an assertion about the salvation of a man’s soul. Unless they were talking about trading in pop bottles for the deposit — the only other common use of the word “redeem” I can think of — and we don’t do that in South Carolina.

They had no business doing that. Especially since Mr. Sanford presumes to speak for the Almighty a lot, with his line about the God of… what’s he up to now, by his own count… eighth chances? (As I said in a comment yesterday, I think God should get a good lawyer and seek an injunction to stop Sanford from going around blaming the election result on Him.)

Managing to con a Republican district into voting for you with a campaign that consists of frightening them with a big picture of Nancy Pelosi — a cheap, generic, off-the-shelf, appeal to visceral partisanship — does not constitute “redemption.” Showing Nancy Pelosi and saying “Boo!” is like striking Republicans on the patellar ligament with a rubber hammer — you get a reflexive response. Earlier, when he was talking about himself, he was losing.

So don’t talk to me about redemption.

“Oh, but that’s just your opinion, Brad,” you say. Absolutely. It’s a carefully considered, supportable opinion that I think a lot of people would share. Which is why that word shouldn’t have appeared in those headlines.

I’m about to get back to Charles Ramsey, in just a moment…

For close to four years now, Mark Sanford has been going around asking us to forgive him, being careful to mention that God has forgiven him — the heavy implication being, so what are you people, better than God? He does this in that casual, unconcerned way that he has of expressing himself. Within the context of his other actions — such as his repeated violations of the terms of his divorce decree — it all comes across as just another element in his powerful sense of self-entitlement. Mark Sanford does whatever he wants — ditch the job to run off to Argentina, abandon his boys on Father’s Day weekend, lie to his staff about where he’s going, veto the entire state budget, block stimulus money that his state needs so he can posture on FoxNews about it 46 times, carry defecating piglets into the State House to make a cheap political point and leave others to clean up the mess, use state funds to visit his mistress in the Southern Hemisphere when he’s making state employees on state business double up in hotel rooms (because he’s such a fiscal conservative), enter his ex-wife’s house without permission repeatedly, because he feels like it. Because he’s Mark Sanford, and he’s entitled. And if any of it gets him into trouble, then we’re supposed to forgive him.

Meanwhile, Charles Ramsey is a sinner who’s done jail time for his crimes. He doesn’t ask us to forgive him, much less expect us to forgive him. He doesn’t ask anything of us. He exhibits no sense of entitlement. He’s just this dude who, when a woman cried for help while he was eating his McDonald’s, went out of his way to help her. A guy with a low-enough opinion of himself that when a pretty young white girl comes and hugs him, he knows something is wrong.

What he did doesn’t erase what he’s done in the past, and he doesn’t go around telling us that it should. But it was a redemptive act, and it was heroic.

87 thoughts on “What Charles Ramsey did — now THAT’S redemptive (as opposed to what Mark Sanford did the next day)

  1. Doug Ross

    I think people are going WAY overboard with calling Ramsey a hero. He broke open a door to let the women out. It’s not like he fought off their abductors. He and another guy opened a door. So now we learn he’s been charged with beating a woman three times. Those are the times we know about. I’d say he’s got a lot more to do besides opening a door to make up for that.

    At some point you’re going to have to accept the fact that Mark Sanford isn’t evil incarnate. He did some legislative things while governor that you HATE – yet they are totally consistent with the philosophy he had demonstrated for years. In that regard, he was the governor that the people who elected him expected him to be. He wasn’t going to govern the Brad Warthen way and he shouldn’t be hammered for that. The rest of the personal stuff was wrong and unfortunate but not even in the same ballpark as beating a woman.

    You seem to have given John McCain a pass for taking a similar route with his first wife and their children. He cheated on his wife, dumped her, and married younger (rich) woman a month later because as his ex-wife has said “‘My marriage ended because John McCain didn’t want to be 40, he wanted to be 25” .
    Why does McCain get an endorsement for President and Sanford gets eternal damnation? Because Sanford has libertarian tendencies and John McCain is a TRUE HERO and MAVERICK and COMPROMISER OF THE HIGHEST ORDER!

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      1. I don’t think Mark Sanford is evil incarnate. I just don’t think he should be trusted with public office. And I’m very insistent about it because, even after all this time, lots of people still don’t seem to understand that. So I keep trying to explain it. Because it’s important that he not hold office.

      2. If you think my problem with Mark Sanford is that he cheated on his wife — as did John McCain — you haven’t paid attention to anything I’ve written. That’s a false comparison. Even if the Argentina incident were my only problem with Sanford (which is far, far from the truth), the difference is staggering. Was McCain in public office at the time? Did he abandon his post, leaving his staff with nothing but a lie (unknown to them) to explain his absence? Did he, in spite of making a self-righteous fetish about his fiscal conservatism, spend public funds in order to indulge his peccadilloes? No. We’re talking night and day here.

      3. Actually, when Mark Sanford ran in 2002, he did indeed run as someone who was going to govern “the Brad Warthen way.” I mean that quite literally. He lifted our restructuring platform word-for-word, and ran on it. Then he wasted the next four years unnecessarily alienating the Legislature (thereby insuring that nothing he wanted would happen) and wasting what political capital he had on things like tuition tax credits. Then, when he ran for re-election, he came in to meet with us and said, “THIS time I’m going to get restructuring done…” Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, and there’s no way I’m equating Sanford’s sins with beating women. I just made the point that what Ramsey did, in that one moment anyway, was more redemptive than anything Sanford has done.

      1. Doug Ross

        And I’d say Ramsey did what pretty much anyone would have done in similar circumstances. Hardly redemptive… wonder if he would have done it had he known his past would be exposed?

        1. bud

          Doug you’re being far too cynical on this. Cut the guy some slack. He did do something that NOT everyone would have done. There are far too many stories of people looking the other way when someone is in distress.

    3. Ralph Hightower

      WWSD? What Would Sanford Do? in the case of the Cleveland abductions?

      Probably Sanford would’ve continued walking down the street since he is only interested in himself.

      The fact is that Mark Sanford lied to South Carolina when his staff said that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

      Will Sanford lie to the 1st District of South Carolina? Absolutely! It’s in his nature.

      I’ve lost count of the number of years lost by loser governots of South Carolina. The last effective governot that South Carolina has, I would have to say is Carrol Campbell. Hodges, Beastley, Sanford and Haley? Losers!

      Those are lost years that we can’t get back!

  2. Doug Ross

    Add to that the fact that McCain was a serial adulterer – he has admitted to it – and that he said
    “My greatest moral failing, and I have been a very imperfect person, is the failure of my first marriage”

    When asked what faith in Jesus means to him, McCain replied, “Means I’m saved and forgiven. Our faith encompasses not just America but the world.”

    How is that so much different from Sanford?

    1. Scout


      Are you seriously unable to separate personal moral failings from professional incompetence? Yes, they both behaved deplorably in the realm of their personal moral life, but only one of them allowed their deplorable actions in their personal life to intrude on their professional responsibilities and in the process demonstrated deplorable professional judgement and complete dereliction of professional responsibilities, and worse, never even acknowledged or seemed to understand that that was a problem.

      I’m not a huge fan of John McCain, but he’s way better than Sanford in the professional realm. There is no comparison here.

  3. Silence

    Brad – Your post made me think of this:

    “Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this… and totally redeem yourself!” – Harry Dunne

  4. Doug Ross

    Another data point: Sanford beat Hodges 53-47 in 2002. He beat Moore 55-45 in 2006, receiving MORE votes than he got in 2002. Obviously, the people of South Carolina hated him so much that more of them voted for him after four years of his libertarian antics just so they could hate him even longer.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Surely you don’t see significance in a comparison between a statewide vote against an incumbent, and a vote in a district specifically drawn to elect Republicans — which gave Mitt Romney 58 percent in 2012?

      1. Doug Ross

        I’m saying that you keep trying to push this message that Sanford was a terrible Governor and yet the people of South Carolina disagreed. He beat Bob Peeler in a primary runoff in 2002 by 20 points. He beat Oscar Lovelace in 2006 by 30 points. Republicans HAD other options. They liked what they got with Sanford… and Tuesday proved they still like him despite his flaws.

        1. Mark Stewart

          I dion’t like the way he is evolving, Doug. We are supposed to become wiser with age and experience. He hasn’t; I’ve wised up to that fact.

          1. Doug Ross

            I guess Sanford will just have to live with winning every election he has been involved with. More than half the people in District 1 disagree with you.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            I’ll grant you that — even though technically, only a majority of the 20-30 percent of eligible voters who showed up disagree with me.

        2. bud

          GIven the sorry state of affairs in South Carolina the fact that the people continue to elect Mark Sanford speaks volumes about the character of the state’s voters. Whether you agree or disagree with his politics it is unmistakable that the performance of our state has demonstrably not improved during his tenure. It really is baffling why folks don’t want to try a different path rather than suffer poor life quality measures year after year, decade after decade.

          1. Doug Ross

            Because Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley have nothing to do with the quality of life in South Carolina.

        3. Scout

          So are you saying you think the choice of South Carolina voters is a valid measure of quality in a governor? Yes the people of South Carolina disagreed, but that doesn’t prove that Sanford wasn’t a terrible governor. It could just as easily be an indicator that the people of South Carolina don’t pay much attention or don’t know how (or have enough information) to judge what they see in the realm of the Governorship. I come down on the side of option B.

          1. Doug Ross

            Same applies to the President and any other politician, right? Or is just when conservatives/libertarians win (and get re-elected with more votes the second time)?

          2. Scout

            Doug, you are a master of not answering the question – are you sure you’re not a politician?

            Yes, the same would apply if the voters of South Carolina ever chose anybody other than a conservative or libertarian…..or the president, for that matter.

  5. bud

    I always thought John McCain got off way too easy with his wife dumping. After all she did wait on him as a loyal wife for years while he was in the Hanoi Hilton. Then there was this narrative that John McCain was so much the better man after his incarceration. That whole adultery thing was pretty much ignored in that narrative.

    But having said that I must say what Mark Sanford did was worse. McCain never left his post in order to conduct his affair. In effect this was between him and his first wife, not an entire state. Sanford has further exacerbated his situation by continuing to rant on and on about forgiveness then turning around and disobeying a specific court order WHILE he was claiming redemption. Nor did McCain consistently act like a bizarre sort of circus performer with stunts like the infamous “Pork” and “Barrell” fiasco.

    So on balance while McCain was granted far more leniency than he deserved, his behavior is, overall, a notch or two above that of Mark Sanford. And given the First District’s willingness to set that aside, Tuesday was not a good day in South Carolina.

  6. Mark Stewart

    When I heard this guy Ramsey had served time for domestic abuse, I kind of did a 180 on him. Thanks for the perspective on the difference between those who seek to confirm their own redemption and those who accept their failings and continue on. I hope he does decide to support his child though. Can’t call him a hero if he isn’t going to try to contribute there.

    And by the way, women can beat their husbands too. Equal agony there. Nobody needs to be the focus of another’s rage, regardless of whether one can or cannot physically stop the abusive act.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, technically, under certain circumstances, a woman can abuse a man. But the overwhelming problem here is physically stronger, testosterone-fueled men beating on women. The opposite situation is relatively anomalous.

      If domestic abuse occurred no more often than the number of times a woman hurts a man, we wouldn’t be talking about this as a societal problem, because the incidence would be so rare.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Also, I’ll admit that there’s an emotional component here for me.

        As unjust as it might be for a woman to beat on a man in anything other than self-defense — either because the man is disabled or something and therefore physically weaker, or because the woman takes advantage of his reluctance to hit back, or whatever — it just doesn’t make my blood boil the way the idea of man hitting a woman does.

        I’m neither a Vulcan nor a Mentat. But when my emotions are involved, I should acknowledge the fact…

        1. bud

          Interesting. So a wheelchair bound, elederly man getting abused by a young, very strong woman doesn’t get your blood boiling? Not sure I see the difference between that and a man beating up on a weaker woman. Both seem very wrong to me.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Of course both are wrong.

            I’m just saying “woman beating man” as a concept doesn’t get me as angry as “man beating woman.”

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Which was big news BECAUSE it was unusual. Man bites dog. Usually it’s men murdering women.

            Well, that, and the sex stuff…

      2. bud

        It happens more often than you think. Men are far more reluctant to come forward than women. They are simply too embarrassed.

      3. Mark Stewart

        Is it? Or does it just appear that way? Of course I would not disagree that women are probably more often abused physically (and with greater physical injuries). But it would also seem intuitive that if domestic abuse by men is under reported by x percent, then domestic abuse by women is probably under reported 10x.

        I would imagine being punched, slapped, shoved or just plain verbally abused by a spouse would be equally traumatic for the victim, regardless of sex.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          No way. I am large and strong for my sex, but almost any healthy man can kill me with his bare hands. I doubt I could do likewise physically. This makes a huge difference.

          No one would be abused, and abuse is awful. The potential damage is so much greater with most male on female violence, and almost all people know this.

          Getting scratched by a cat is awful. Getting mauled by an attack dog is far worse.

  7. Kathryn Fenner

    You can redeem Greenbax for valuable items at Piggly Wiggly! I bet that is what Cheapskate Mark means!

    1. Silence

      Cheapskate Mark strikes me as a Wal-Mart shopper – or maybe Costco, since that’s available in Chuck-town. Probably buys non-perishables in bulk, too, the fiend.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          They have both in frigging Augusta!!!

          Augusta, Georgia just ain’t no place to be….

          1. Steven Davis II

            Augusta is the city time forgot, when I moved there I thought I stepped back into the 1970’s. Go out at night and guys were wearing silk shirts, the only thing missing was the polyester jumpsuits and platform shoes. Success in Augusta is a paid off double-wide and tow truck.

      1. Steven Davis II

        I shop at Walmart, because I buy where I get the best deal. If Walmart has a product for $10 and Ace Hardware has it for $18 for the exact same product, I’m buying from Walmart. And I hate Walmart, but blowing money is something I hate even more.

  8. Kathryn Fenner

    Also, Doug, if reports are true, neighbors did see and hear things, and follow-through was poor until Ramsey acted.

      1. Doug Ross

        I just have a problem with devaluing the word “hero”. He did a good deed. It wasn’t heroic in any way.

        1. Bart

          I agree Doug, the word “hero” has been watered down to the point that any good deed is instantly described as being “heroic”.

  9. Juan Caruso

    “I don’t think Mark Sanford is evil incarnate. I just don’t think he should be trusted with public office. And I’m very insistent about it because, even after all this time, lots of people still don’t seem to understand that. So I keep trying to explain it. Because it’s important that he not hold office.” – Brad W.

    Now for a partisan (real independence) sanity check, Brad:

    1. What did you say in print about Bill Clinton’s Lewinski affair? Bill lied and lost his license to practice law, as I recall.

    2. What did you ever say about Edward’s Mary Jo thing?

    I read what you said about dear old John Edwards’s affair but, let’s not forget a major difference: unlike Gov. Sanford, Edwards had not enough eligible voters to propel his sorry, sordid political career. He will not be the last loser voters expel.

  10. Kathryn Fenner

    Look the two guys who finally did something to help these women risked their lives. They did not know if the perp was armed and he was certifiably dangerous. Domestic situations go real bad, real fast. Intervenors not infrequently get wounded, or worse.

    They are heroes!

    1. Steven Davis II

      “hero” has been so watered down that it’s used on a daily basis and people don’t even give the label a second thought when they hear it. The guy stated that he knew the people in that house and been over to their property. It’s not like he ran into a burning building. He heard screaming and kicked in a door… not “hero-worthy”.

      1. Steven Davis II

        So 24 hours later my comments still aren’t posted when others have been posted since my post was submitted. Am I on some sort of one-day holding pattern?

  11. Doug Ross

    Ariel Castro wasn’t in the house when Charles Ramsey helped open the door. There was no threat to his life, he didn’t do anything more than open a locked door. That’s it. He didn’t confront an assailant, he didn’t face any HINT of threat to his well being. He opened a door. A good deed.

    If that’s heroic, we’re in “participation trophy” land.

    1. Steve Gordy

      Doug, for a professed libertarian, you certainly seem quick to pass judgment on the behavior of others. Is whether what he did heroic or not a matter of grave concern to you?

      1. Doug Ross

        Once again, the definition of libertarian escapes someone. I’m not JUDGING him. I said he did a good deed. It doesn’t balance out beating a woman multiple times and it wasn’t heroic in any way.
        If he hadn’t been such a “colorful” character, nobody would have called him a hero.

        If you think he’s heroic for opening a door, be my guest. I’ll reserve my right to use the term to describe people who do more than that. The people who rushed in to help after the Boston bombings were several levels higher on the hero scale than Ramsey.

      1. doug ross

        Did he think he was in danger? Simple question. If he didn’t know what was going on inside the house and never faced any threat, what made his actions heroic? He opened a door under no threat to his well being.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          If someone is calling out for help, that is ipso facto grounds for believing danger is near!

          1. Doug Ross

            Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up!

            Help, my cat is up a tree!

            Help, my hands are full and I can’t open the door!

          2. Steven Davis II

            I was a hero last summer, my great-niece was trapped on a picnic table surrounded by sharks and alligators. I heroically walked up and rescued her and got her to safety in the sandbox. Where’s my medal?

  12. Doug Ross

    Then tell me what he did exactly. And tell me when his actions reached heroic proportions.

  13. Kathryn Fenner

    He responded to the woman’s call of distress and helped her open a blocked door. Approaching a home under those circs is inherently dangerous.

    1. Steven Davis II

      He kicked in his neighbor’s door after hearing a woman scream. It wasn’t like he was unfamiliar with the surroundings. Everybody gets a trophy… no keeping score.

  14. Doug Ross

    The home was of a neighbor that Ramsey knew and had eaten meals and listened to music with. He had no clue what was going on inside.

  15. bud

    Kathyrn is right on this. Ramsey did a courageous act and regardless of his past he should be applauded. Doug, you may not be trying to do so but you’re coming across as an elitist on this. Time to let it go.

  16. Doug Ross


    Thank you. You may be the first person in my 52 years who would use the term “elitist” to describe me.

    I’m a realist. I reserve the right to use terms like “hero” when people do something heroic. Good deeds are not heroic. He helped (and it has come into question just how much he helped) to open a door after responding to the cries of a woman from the home of a neighbor he knew. He was never at any risk of harm and never said that he thought he was in any danger. It was less heroic than helping a woman change a flat tire on a busy highway.

    Go ahead and call him a hero. Give him a medal and a trophy. We’re all special people who need constant reaffirmation about our specialness.

    1. Silence

      Doug, you are a precious snowflake, unique and special. Just like everybody else!

  17. bud

    Given how dangerous our roads are changing a tire beside a busy interstate does involve risk. Folks have been killed doing just that. Is it heroic? Depends on your definition but it is an act that does involve a small amount of bravery. If Mr. Ramsey had done something like that I’m sure the damsel in distress would deem the act heroic.

    1. susanincola

      Had to comment, as I don’t get to say this very often– Doug, I agree with you. He just helped the neighbor get the door open. A little risk, in the sense that getting involved in anybody’s business is in some sense a risk — but it certainly doesn’t rise to hero status for me.
      I tend to think that if I would do the same thing if I was there and think nothing of it, it’s not heroic.

  18. bud

    Is this guy a hero. From the 1996 NY Times:

    Actor Mark Harmon rescued two teenage boys Wednesday from a burning car that had crashed near his Brentwood home, a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman said.

    “Mr. Harmon broke out the car windows and pulled the boys to safety,” said Brian Humphrey, a Fire Department spokesman.

    “The youths owe their lives to the action of Mr. Harmon,” he said.

    One youth suffered severe burns over 30% of his body and was taken to UCLA Medical Center, Humphrey said.

    The other youth suffered minor injuries and was taken to St. John’s Hospital and Health Center.

    The names of the youths, both 16, were not released.

    About 7:15 p.m., the car in which the boys were riding missed a turn, crashed into a tree, flipped over and burst into flames in the 500 block of Bristol Avenue.

    Harmon, who lives next door to where the car crashed, smashed the windows with a sledgehammer and rescued the boys.

    Harmon, 44, a former UCLA quarterback, has starred in television shows such as “St. Elsewhere” and “Charlie Grace.”

    He also has been featured in a number of movies, including a TV movie in which he portrayed serial killer Ted Bundy.

  19. bud

    Ok, I’ve got it now. A rich, successful guy runs into harms way to rescue people trapped in a dangerous situation he’s a hero. A poor guy wiht a checkered past runs into harms way to rescue people trapped in a dangerous situation he’s just a member of the 47% moocher class who never deserves any credit for anything he does. Got it.

    1. Steven Davis II

      “A rich, successful guy runs into harms way to rescue people trapped in a dangerous situation he’s a hero.”

      Not necessarily.

      “A poor guy wiht a checkered past runs into harms way to rescue people trapped in a dangerous situation he’s just a member of the 47% moocher class who never deserves any credit for anything he does.”

      Not necessarily.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Now, Bud — that’s not fair to Doug.

      It might help here to define “hero.”

      The sense in which I used it here wasn’t “role model” or anything like that. It wasn’t a matter of someone being an admirable person whom we should pattern our lives after — which is what some mean by hero.

      I’m talking about a situation in which, when the chips were down, a person reacted in a courageous way in the service of something beyond his own self-interest.

      I don’t doubt that many heroes — including the ones we give medals to in wartime — can be total jerks five minutes before their acts of heroism, and again five minutes after. Some may be complete jerks every day of their lives except for that one moment of grace under fire.

      In fact — and this is a bit of a digression — there was something interesting in that book I often cite, On Killing by Dave Grossman. If you’ll recall, the book was largely about the fact that MOST soldiers are extremely reluctant to kill, and when they DO kill, they tend to pay for it with psychological trauma the rest of their lives.

      But there’s a small number — maybe 2 to 4 percent of the male population — who don’t have nightmares after killing. If it was in the line of duty, well they did their duty, and that’s it. You would find the percentage of such men would be far higher in the Special Forces. Guys like the man who killed bin Laden, for whom such night missions to kill terrorists in their homes, up close and personal, was already a routine before that night in Abbottabad.

      That number more or less corresponds to the number of men in the population who are psychopaths. And yet, according to Grossman, these men who kill in combat without remorse are no more likely to commit violent crimes later in life than other men — if I remember correctly. If anything, it’s the guys who are traumatized by killing who have PTSD and have trouble adjusting to civilian life.

      Back to the topic, it occurs to me that traits that make someone more likely to be a hero — impulsiveness, for instance — can be traits that could make one dysfunctional in other areas of life…

    3. Doug Ross

      Uh no, bud. The difference in the two situations was the level of effort combined with the level of risk of personal harm.

      Compare: Seeing people trapped in a burning car, going to get a sledgehammer, using that sledgehammer in the face of flames/potential of the car blowing up, rescuing the people inside


      Hearing a woman yell for help in a neighbor’s house, helping (maybe) to open a door. No known threat of any kind.

      Big difference. It’s all there in black and white (and not the black and white racism you are searching for).

  20. Steven Davis II

    SO BRAD!!!

    Should I just stop posting comments entirely? Apparently all are still waiting for your approval even though others who aren’t regulars here are having their comments posted. Am I just wasting my time by responding?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It didn’t take that long that time.

      Sorry about over the weekend; I didn’t touch the blog over the weekend, which is unusual.

  21. Kathryn Fenner

    Given the number of people in my experience who just walk/drive by all kinds of things, while sighing that someone ought to do something, while I get into all kinds of unpleasantness because I don’t……

  22. Brad Warthen Post author

    I’m afraid my default mode is to watch, and see what will happen. I think it’s habit born of being a journalist, which orients me toward being an observer rather than a participant.

    I like to think that when the chips are down, I will act.

    A few years ago in Memphis, during a pool party for one of my nephews, I jumped into the pool fully clothed to save a little girl before anyone else realized what was happening. It wasn’t heroic or anything, I was taking no risk (although I did ruin the shoes I was wearing). I just cite it to myself to prove I CAN have the right reflexes under the right circumstances. Because ordinarily I would doubt that.

    It was weird. The pool was surrounded by adults — parents of the kids invited to the party — but nobody (including the child’s mother) noticed that she had wandered out over her head, was struggling, and went under. I just happened to be looking in the right direction as she started flailing and went down.

    The child was fine, once I pulled her out.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It’s funny the things you can be proud of yourself for.

      For instance, I was very proud that in the kickboxing sparring match in which I got four broken ribs (12 years ago), I didn’t stop after the injury.

      The pain was tremendous, and it took my breath away for a moment, but when the guy refereeing asked if I wanted to stop, I just shook my head. It was partly because I’d seen too many Rocky movies, I guess — but also because one of my daughters was there watching, and I didn’t want her to see her Dad wimp out.

      That was in the first round. In the third round, I forgot again to protect my ribs, and wham, he got me again in the same spot. That time, I dropped to one knee; I couldn’t help it. But when the referee offered again to stop it, I shook my head and struggled back up, and finished the 3-round bout.

      Nothing heroic about it at all. No one was helped; no cause was served. I was just proud that I stayed in there.

      But you know what? Nobody, but nobody, else was positively impressed. My wife, and others, pretty much think I was being an idiot.

      I digress…

      1. bud

        Count me in your wife’s corner. If this was for charity or something maybe. But this just sounds like foolish pride. You could have been killed. Or at the very least been injured to the point of missing work, and income. Why risk the family income for something like this? Why wasn’t this spectacle stopped by the ref?

        Reminds me of a story from my days working at my dads store where we sold beer. Two guys were somewhat inebriated and full of bravado. At some point one of the guys claimed he could karate chop an old wooden flagpole, about an inch in diameter, and break it in two. So the pole was placed between two stools and properly secured for the attempt. Whack! Something broke alright but it wasn’t the flagpole. The other dude was now full of himself and tried to make the attempt to prove his manhood, or something. Whack! Again a nice clean break, but not the flagpole. The next day both the drunken fools came into the store with nice new casts and about a week of lost wages.

        Moral of the story: False Bravado gets you nowhere.

    2. Steven Davis II

      I did something similar at a public pool when I was about 14… watched this little kid walking fully clothed around the edge and the next thing I knew I looked down and saw his face about 6″ under water looking at me with his arms and legs kicking. Scared the crap out of me, I jerked him out of the water and he ran off screaming. Was I a hero, nope… just someone who was observant and in the right spot at the right time. I was never in any physical danger.

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