“This summer, American history lies on the examining table. Each Founding Father, famous activist, and each new death in a newspaper receives scrutiny: hero or villain? Narratives shape our fundamental concept of our nation, our government, and ourselves, and, in this moment, many people try to understand if their perception of these things has been honest or biased in some way over the course of their formative years.

“A villain is a person who intentionally hurts one or more individuals or a community to a great degree. This violence and intentionality in evil link a villain’s reputation with mortal sin in such a way that, while we always pray for and hope in God’s mercy, the public view of this person is one of condemnation.

“A hero is a person who stepped out from the crowd and helped an individual or society in a remarkable way at a crucial moment. Their essential action usually required courage and selflessness.

“But what happens if our heroes, upon closer examination, should not be emulated in all aspects of their lives? Is our public acclaim of them misleading or even harmful?

“Two insights from a Catholic worldview illuminate this discussion. …”

Read more at The Catholic News Herald.

P.S. In related news, Flannery O’Connor has stories that should stop us in our tracks and challenge us to examine our attitudes towards race, regional bias, economic differences, and religious extremes of all sorts. This snarky, honest writer may not be a saint, but we cannot deny that she has become an iconic figure within Southern Gothic and Modern Catholic Restoration literature. Her racist remarks in personal letters and use of racial slurs in her fiction paint a picture of a woman who was flawed and knew it, disturbed by the upheaval of social change and yet didn’t avoid the topic, and who used her fiction to perhaps draw the lines of understanding that she fought to accept in her personal life. Being conflicted and working through that distance between our ideals and our baser emotions and habits doesn’t immediately make one a villain or else we are all villains.

Here’s a recent inflammatory article for context by Paul Elie. And here’s a scathing response by Amy Alznauer to see a bit of the other side.