Praise for the Angry Hero

By Gina Simmons, Ph.D.

Covered from head to toe in modest garments, in the hot Sudanese sun, Lubna Hussein found herself arrested under “indecency” laws. Wearing loose trousers that resembled a long skirt, Lubna, a Press Officer for the United Nations, found herself facing 40 lashes for wearing “indecent clothing.” She sent out 500 invitations to journalists to witness and report on her trial. Defiant through her entire trial, she demanded to know where in the Quran was a definition of indecent clothing. When the government reduced her sentence to a $200 fine, she refused to pay it. Fighting for the more that 43,000 women arbitrarily arrested under the guise of ill-defined indecency laws, she went to prison demanding a definition of “indecency.” Faced with a public relations disaster, the corrupt regime practically had to force her out of prison to stop the tidal wave of global criticism. “We will scream,” she said. “I will scream in solidarity with oppressed women everywhere.”
Lubna’s story follows the hero script. Others. Action. Risk. She focused on helping others. Took action. Assumed risk. In a country that supports the rape and mutilation of women, she fought valiantly for the simple right to wear pants without fear of arrest. Anger, channeled into intelligent energy, with a clear vision of a better future for others, turned Lubna into a true hero.

Last month we lost a great American hero. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, The Congressional Gold Medal, The Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science. He’s saved one billion lives; more lives than any other human being who has ever lived. Yet most Americans don’t even know his name. We could tell you who took the microphone away from Taylor Swift at a recent awards show, but not the name of this amazing hero.

Norman Borlaug died last month after more than five decades of work in the field of agriculture. He saved lives by discovering how to produce high yield crops that could produce more food with less land. He studied crop techniques that turned around the American dust bowl, brought high yield farming techniques to Mexico, India, Pakistan, China and South America, and saved the lives of one BILLION people. Angry at western environmental activists who tried to block African agricultural development he said, “If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years….they’d…be outraged.” Some uninformed lobbyists didn’t understand that high yield agricultural techniques protected the environment by discouraging the destruction of virgin land, a large contributor to climate change. Millions in Africa have died as a result of political resistance to these farming techniques. “You can’t build a peaceful world on hungry stomachs and human misery,” he said.

One angry hero can change the world. Virtues like courage, wisdom, selflessness, and tolerance, encourage us to become better people. Executive coach Noah Blumenthal builds on the heroic imagination idea in his book, Be The Hero. Psychologist Dr. Phillip Zimbardo sees heroic action as an antidote to evil. Even small children can behave heroically, with courage and vision, on behalf of others. If they can do it, so can we. Norman Borlaug’s high school wrestling coach said it simply: “Don’t be afraid. Do your best. Don’t give up.”