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Napoleon: a visionary hero or an over-ambitious villain?

If what it means to be a hero is to have unwavering dedication to a cause and an unrelenting will to make it happen, then Napoleon is a great example of a hero. Napoleon’s ever-famous quote and also his motto was “Nothing is impossible”, and it was obvious that he followed this ideal.

Napoleon had a rough and modest start. He was born on Corsica, property of France at the chaotic time of the French Revolution. He was a gifted and a revolutionary leader, quickly rising through the ranks to become a commander of the French army. On top of his talents, he also had a vision: a vision of a united, powerful France, an empire that would span the breadth and width of Europe, not the crumbling and corrupt monarchy of old. His outspoken character and personal drive made him extremely popular with the people and the soldiers he commanded.

After many successful campaigns, Napoleon became a powerful military and political leader in France. With the support he gained, he was able to seize the throne and became the Emperor of France. His many victories over France’s arch-enemies vastly expanded French territory, transforming it from a nation to a mighty empire. Most famous of those was the crossing of the Alpes. At that time, the idea of moving a large army across the murderous mountain was thought all but impossible. However, Napoleon insisted on crossing the mountains, despite the warnings of his advisors. His bold tactics and resolute will allowed the French army to successfully cross the mountains and caught the enemies in complete surprise, resulting in a sounding victory. Such was a testament to his motto: “Nothing is impossible”

Ironically, Napoleon’s greatest asset also proved to be his ultimate downfall. His hunger for conquest, his dream of greatness for France led him into an over-ambition to dominate all of Europe and also Russia. The invasion of Russia, greatly advised against by his lieutenants, was a disaster. Much of the fault was also due to Napoleon’s uncompromising nature to never yield. During his absence and defeat, his enemies seized power in France and succeeded in dethroning him.

Yet Napoleon’s glory wasn’t meant to be over yet. Subsequent political and militaristic upheavals soon allowed Napoleon to regain his popularity and power. Returning to the throne, Napoleon led his army to the final defeat at the battle of Waterloo. Here, an alliance of British and Prussian forces ultimately defeated his army. With his defeat, Napoleon was exiled to a remote island. He died still hungering for his dream to be fulfilled.

From the example of Napoleon, we can see how a strong and dominant will can lead a person to greatness and heroism. Yet that same drive also led him to ambition and ultimate defeat. Such is the fine line between a hero and a villain.

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Dayton Webber – the young limbless warrior

Heroes with physical disability are always great inspirations to me. A limbless man who goes around the world to speak about hope and the meaning of life, Nick Vucijic has been unquestionably my favorite hero for years. However, over the course of 4 months, his position has been challenged several times as I learned from various readings and friends about similar heroes who positively and significantly contribute to the society despite their physical disability. There is Pete Gray, a professional baseball player who batted with one hand. There is Patrick Henry Huges, a blind and disabled man who graduated from college and became a piano player, trumpet player and vocalist. There is Terry Fox, the man with one leg who ran across Canada to raise money for cancer research. There is Anthony Robles, a college student who just won this year’s NCAA wrestling championship with the absence of one leg.

Recently, I’ve learned about another young hero who overcomes huge physical disability to do amazing things. That is Dayton Webber. In 2001, at the age of 11 months, Dayton Webber had his limbs amputated at his knees and above his elbows to save him from a life-threatening bacterial infection. However, having his legs and arms cut did not prevent Dayton from taking part in sports. Yet more amazingly, he does not only play the sports, he competes in these sports.

Wrestling is perhaps Dayton’s favorite sport among the ones he plays. He has been wrestling competitively for almost 4 years in Virginia and Maryland, and now he is currently wrestling for the Rampage Westling Team in Waldorf, Maryland. His first coach said when his parents first brought Dayton to the Wrestling Center, he could not imagine what Dayton would be able to do without his legs and feet in a wrestling game. But he quickly realized that nothing was impossible for Dayton. Dayton is a strong kid with incredible determination and willingness to learn. During practices, he participates in all the drills. When his peers run laps, Dayton hustles around on his stumps. Dayton was well-prepared to compete.

The kids who compete against him would always have doubts about Dayton’s ability when they first see him. But Dayton would immediately prove himself a worthy competitor. Because of his physical limitations, Dayton can’t execute certain wrestling moves, but his opponents also can’t use certain basic tactics, such as going for his ankles.

Dayton also plays competitive football when he was 8 and 9 years old. He played on a youth football team, which had an first team for the better player and a second team, and Dayton played for the A team, which consisted of better players. He said being lower to the ground than other players can be an advantage. As the plays developed, he could look between offensive linemen and see in which direction the quarterback or running back was headed with the football. Moreover, Dayton was given the nickname “the vacuum” because he was so good at recovering fumbles.

Besides wrestling and playing football, Dayton also plays ice-hockey, skateboards and learns to do handstand on his arm stumps. His courage, determination, willingness to learn and positive outlook on life are indeed qualities that make him a hero. Dayton is only 11 now, and he still has a long future ahead. If he continues to display these qualities and live the life that he is living, he will accomplish much more and surely become the hero in the hearts of many people.

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Pol Pot

Among the political villains of the 20th century, Pol Pot is one of the few who can match Hitler.

Pol Pot was born in Cambodia in 1928. He was educated at a private Catholic institution in Phnom Penh, and then enrolled at a technical school. He then received a scholarship to go to study radio and electrical technology in Paris. However, in Paris, Pol Pot spent less and less time studying as he became more interested in participating in the activities of the Communist Party there.

Returning to Cambodia in 1953, Pol Pot gradually climbed political ladder in the Worker’s Party of Cambodia, which later became the Communist Party of Cambodia. Pol Pot continuously organized demonstrations against the incumbent government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Conflicts between his party and that of Sihanouk worsened as two parties struggle to gain power in Cambodia, but it eventually ended with Pol Pot becoming the premier of the new Democratic Cambodia. Although its name is Democratic, the regime in Cambodia was better known as Khmer Rouge and power was highly centralized in the hands of Pol Pot.

It was during these years that Pol Pot showed the extreme of his evil nature. The Khmer Rouge, of which he was the leader, had the main goal of getting rid of Buddhists, intellectuals, minority groups, the disabled people, those who are influenced by Western ideas. Pol Pot began to kill many of his political rivals, including  the cabinet ministers and other top party leaders. Influenced by the ideals of Mao Ze Dong and his idea of Cultural Revolution in China, Pol Pot began similar radical reforms in Cambodia. He began by moving the whole population in urban areas to rural areas, killing the aforementioned groups, especially intellectuals and those who looked like intellectuals (wearing glasses). Others were to work arduously in concentration camps. Many were left without food and water for many days and starved to death. Many people died from illness and lack of access to medical care. Torture was widespread. Many people were killed for no reason…

The horrible campaigns and massacres that both Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge allies committed in order to remake Cambodia into a Marxist agrarian utopia resulted in the death of 1.7 million people. Although this number is small compared to the 6 million Jews killed by Hitler or 30 million Chinese people died in the Cultural Revolution, 1.7 million people in Cambodia accounts of 25% of its population.

Political villains are often viewed as the worst type of villains. They usually have the power and are educated, and so they are responsible for improving the lives of the people.  However, instead of doing that, they choose to commit horrendous crimes to their own people and nation. No villains deserve to be condemned as much as the political villains, and among these, there certainly is Pol Pot.

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Hercules: A superhero or a super normal hero?

Hercules is a half-God, half-human character in the Greek mythology. He is the son of Zeus, the supreme ruler of Mount Olympus, and Alcmena, an ordinary mortal woman. Once, when Hercules was still an infant, Zeus brought him to the sleeping Hera, who was Zeus’ spouse as well as one of the gods of Olympus; Zeus let Hercules suckle milk from her breasts. Hera’s divine milk gained Hercules extraordinary strength, courage and fighting skills.

These attributes of him were displayed in many, if not all, of Hercules’ legendary feats. When Hera discovered the secret affair between Zeus and Alcmena, and that Hercules was their son, Hera sent two serpents to kill him. But, in his cradle, the infant Hercules easily strangled the serpents.

Hercules only grew to be stronger. As an adult, he was famous for undertaking many challenging and dangerous tasks, most prominent of which were the 12 labors. They include the killing of the Nemean lion, a feat he achieved with his bare hands; the killing of the Hydra, a nine-headed dragon sacred to Hera; the capture of the Arcadian stag; the killing of the Erymanthian boar; the cleansing of the Augean stables, which contained 3,000 oxen; the killing of the Stymphalian birds, vicious creations of the war god Ares; the capture of the bull which Poseidon had sent to King Minos of Crete; the capture of the flesh-eating horses of Thrace; the seizure of the girdle of the Queen of the Amazons, the nation of female warriors; the capture of the oxen of Geryon, a Spanish king with three heads, six hands, and three bodies joined together at the waist; fetching the golden apples of the Hesperides, female guardians of the fruit that Gaia gave to Hera at her marriage with Zeus; and, finally, bringing the three-headed dog Cerberus from the under-world. *

However, most people who have not read the Greek methodology probably would not know about the darker side of his life. Despite Hercules’ resounding feats and achievements, his life was filled with misery. His wife and children were killed, and worse yet, killed by his own hands in a fit of madness, which was inflicted upon him by Hera. In another occasion, his inability to control his power caused him to accidentally kill his music teacher, who had angered him by teaching him something he did not like.

The ancient, mythological Hercules surprisingly resembles many of our contemporary fictional superheroes like Spiderman, Superman and Batman. These characters are similar in that they are not only given extraordinary capabilities but also weaknesses and challenges in their personal life that are not easy to overcome. Making mistakes, suffering and struggling are what all of them have to go though. And they are what most of us – ordinary people – have to go through as well. Perhaps, that is why we can relate to these heroes in a way or another. And perhaps, our desire to see people who are more successful than us struggling and suffering is the reason why such heroes are created in the first place.

*Oxford Dictionary of World Mythology

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