When we're young it's easy to tell the heroes from the villains. If we are governed by our faith, we're taught that living by the Ten Commandments will assure us a place in Heaven, while going against them will lead us to Hell. It only follows then that Heaven is populated by heroes, while Hell is filled by those who certainly must be the villains. If only it could remain so clear-cut, but it doesn't and as we move through life, that line begins to blur in some people's minds.
Having lived through a war, I have to wonder who judged villain from hero. Did the sniper sitting alone on some rooftop, taking aim on those queuing for water, see himself as a hero? What of those who forced sons and husbands to leave their homes only to end their lives at the edge of some ditch? Did they go to sleep at day's end thinking themselves heroes to their cause? What of those who roamed the halls of the Vukovar hospital, killing patients and doctors alike? What kind of hero did that make them in the eyes of those who stood beside them?
What then of the men who tore Chance's mother from her arms, only to repeatedly rape her within earshot of the young girl? Surely to she and I they were clearly villains, but how did they see themselves? How could either of us miss their bravado as they drug the battered and bloodied woman from the tent and reunited her with her daughter. How could we ignore the way they laughed and seemed to congratulate each other for what they had just done. When they one by one shot those kneeling alongside me I know they didn't see themselves as villains, but did that make them any less one? Whose obligation is it to judge them?
In the end maybe it is our own conscience that has to be the final determining factor in who is called a hero and who is determined a villain. How can it be anyone else, when it is we, the survivors who are the ones who must live with the results of it?
If only we could do back to the heroes and villains of our childhoods...