Everyday Heroism — ‘Are You Afraid of Clichés?’

Political News


A healthcare worker walks in protective gear outside Wyckoff Heights Medical Center during the outbreak of the coronavirus in New York City, April 2, 2020. (Brendan McDermid / Reuters)

I have written a piece called “Pandemic City: One man’s experience in New York.” (Guess whose it is?) Here is a little paragraph:

Of those who were working, many did not have the luxury of home confinement. They were “out there,” performing “essential services,” keeping the world afloat. Doctors and nurses, yes, but also grocery workers, policemen, et al. I felt surging gratitude for them.

I wanted to relate something additional here on the Corner. Earlier this year, I had a long talk with Enrique Krauze, the Mexican historian. We got on the subject of movies, and in particular Roma, the Mexican movie of 2018. (The title refers to a neighborhood in Mexico City, not to the capital of Italy.) Let me excerpt the piece I wrote:

The film is, in part, about women abandoned by their men. This is a common theme in Mexico, says Krauze — and not just in the movies but in life. Yet women persevere, he says, trying to make a life for themselves and, especially, their children. He is deeply impressed by what they do.

I say, “There’s a lot of quiet, everyday heroism, isn’t there? Pardon the cliché.” Krauze then rebukes me, memorably. “Are you afraid of clichés, Jay? You shouldn’t be. And I will not be afraid of clichés.”

Then, with emotion, he tells me about some of the people he has encountered in Mexico, in his years of traveling the country: ordinary people, poor people, trying to keep their dignity, and often succeeding.

There is quiet, everyday heroism, all around — something to notice, and appreciate (and take as an example).

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