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Please Stop Weaponizing Heroic Tales To Shame Others

I’ll admit that I’m way more sensitive now than ever before. My raw nerves keep gnawing at anything that could serve as triggers during a time when just two minutes of a CNN segment can require an immediate spiritual cleanse.

2020 barely completed a month before the stunning loss of a sports icon and his beloved 13-year-old daughter in a ghastly helicopter crash set the tone of what would turn out to be the most historically catastrophic year in recent memory.

The horrific arrival of Covid-19 and the disastrous response by Trump and his cabinet of fools have escalated an already dense climate of hostility, and acute fear. Couple that with the graphicness of police brutality raging across the country with the scorn of how systemic injustice won’t be defeated, without the dismantling of institutions that swear allegiance to white supremacy.

It’s a whole lot going on at once.

And when we add the personal struggles of navigating a distorted landscape of chaos and confusion to the task of trying to survive this season of societal upheaval, that flares up mental instability, it’s not difficult to conceive of why any little thing seems like a monstrous attack.

This is probably why staying engaged on platforms that were designed to drive us up the wall is a risky habit that’s hard to break, thanks to the nagging masochist in all of us.

Things get even more daunting when celebrities unexpectedly pass away, and suddenly Instagram is populated with clusters of new pages that are dedicated to the mission of making sure that the dead, who lived famously, continue to thrive through designed algorithms.

The news of Chadwick Boseman’s untimely death from cancer, while he was experiencing an explosive trajectory in an industry that doesn’t readily anoint Black talents with swift confidence, was exactly how his co-star Lupita Nyong’o in the global phenom, Black Panther, aptly described it in her touching tribute — “a punch in the gut.”

Boseman opted to battle his illness in private to undoubtedly avoid the inevitable fate of being the subject of narratives, that would be permanently associated with his superhuman ability to weather the unimaginable while honoring his obligations on film sets around the world.

And now that the 43-year-old actor, who has sealed his legacy as one of the most respected of his generation and beyond has stoically transitioned, there are a galaxy of memes, video clips and of course blurbs of wisdom that are being utilized to celebrate the memory of a superstar who left too soon.

I will admit to binge-watching countless interviews, like most who have become fascinated by the creative genius who memorably embodied notable characters with effortless grace and soulfulness.

It takes a unique skill set to have the audacity to bring the likes of Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall back to life, with the blessing of surviving family members and the due diligence that’s eerily reminiscent of the pure essence of these towering giants, during the prime of their existence.

Of course it’s hard to resist the task of digging up the library of footage that capture the living, breathing performer, patiently providing concise answers to a barrage of questions, while depositing the charisma and beauty that makes his earthly exit a challenging concept to define.

Chadwick Boseman did what he had to do with the time he was gifted, and some may classify him as the stealth over-achiever, who somehow knew his life would be short, and so the determination to maximize his god-given talents was the only route worth taking.

I’m sure he would agree with those summations, but how about the stuff that filters into my Instagram and Twitter feeds that weaponize his unfortunate bout with cancer as the menacing tool to shame procrastinators, who always need a reality check to confirm their status as unwavering under-achievers.

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I sadly never had the blessing of meeting the Black Panther, but based on the impressive clips of him, basking in the authenticity of humility and gratitude for the amazing ride he never took for granted, it’s hard to imagine that he would endorse using his personalized approach to his debilitating illness as a motivational speech.

Yes, there’s no way to resist the temptation to romanticize the dramatics of a Black leading man’s shocking demise after a devastating diagnosis, that was quietly confirmed, during the time when he was hard at work as a vital contributor to a catalog of gems that will stand the test of time.

The fact that Boseman chose to selflessly muster the energy to show up and brilliantly represent for the culture, while also undergoing extensive treatment, that included surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy is indeed the stuff that not even caped warriors can boast about.

And while we whole-heartedly applaud the heroism that’s not easily transferable, we also must refrain from the “holier than thou” mantra that translates the assumed temperament of someone we didn’t know, into the life manual for those who are evidently lacking the inherent sense of urgency.

The lessons we learn from the dearly departed, who” took their time but didn’t waste any of it,” can range from the certified “Mamba Mentality” that Kobe swore by with amazing results that serve as the blueprint for success from blood, sweat and tears, to the exquisite interpretation of what it truly means to live your #bestlife as the inspiring creative force for a cultural renaissance.

Indeed, there are chosen messengers who were born to be great, and that ordainment is usually assigned to the ones who can rise to the occasion with dignity and the uncanny mental and physical capacity to withstand obstacles that threaten to thwart individual pursuits.

We can’t all fall into the category specifically reserved for legends, who came and conquered, leaving behind cemented proof of their mythical reverence.

And that’s okay.

Whenever I think of Chadwick Boseman, it’s going to be more about how he lived to the fullest with the joy of that hearty laugh, and the graciousness to accommodate the rewards for his stellar participation in the projects that demanded his presence because he was excellent at doing what he loved.

It won’t be an excuse to berate myself for not getting out of the funk of the day or week or even month because of how a real life superhero didn’t rely on the symptoms of his terminal illness, to avoid exceeding expectations for highly-anticipated offerings with a hefty price tag.

Boseman’s accomplishments are a testament to his spiritual prowess and while he deserves to be recognized for what he achieved in so short a time, and with the cumbersomeness of his sickness, the heroic tale of functioning under extreme circumstances shouldn’t be the lesson for the ages.

It’s really about doing the very best we can with what we’ve got, and if we stumble we can rest a bit before getting back up and doing it all over again.

Heroes rarely see themselves that way, and for good reason.

In this era of showing off, documenting wins and hiding losses, it’s understandable to cling to humans with super powers, but while you indulge, please give regular folks with modest resumes a respectful break!

Written by

Juggling Wordsmith. I have a lot to say!

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