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Cathy Young

Bravery, not masculinity, defines a hero

The recent tragedy in Aurora, Colo., has given us examples of selfless bravery along with the senseless horror of mass murder. It’s also revived an old question that is always with us: Should heroism be valued as a special quality of manhood?

Among all of that day’s acts of courage, three in particular have stood out: the deaths of three young men — Jon Blunk, Alex Teves, and Matt McQuinn — who reportedly sacrificed themselves shielding their girlfriends during the shooting spree. These are moving and inspiring stories, especially when masculinity has been so often portrayed, at least in some quarters, as a source of violence and oppression rather than virtue. They also resonate with the public by tapping into familiar archetypes of the knight in shining armor, or even more ancient images of protective males from our evolutionary past — images whose very familiarity can be a comfort in troubled times.

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