FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Courage vs. Cowardice

My friend emailed, said the entire issue (meaning the big-picture problem) is human courage. And then he asked, “Does it exist?”

Sounds simple. Yet it isn’t. Because there are decisions that people make that are considered cowardly by some and heroic by others.

Each of us can think of unequivocal examples of bravery—the firefighter entering a building engulfed in flames, risking his life to save another.

Perhaps we personally know someone who’s acted heroically. My brother Mark, father of my nephew Chase who was killed in Iraq in 2005, was at the beach, saw a man caught in an undertow, ran for the water, dove in, and pulled the swimmer to shore.

And it was Mark who said words so intensely brave I used them at a peace rally in D.C. The night before I was scheduled to speak, Mark called to tell me someone had approached and told him that Chase died protecting his country. Mark said, “No, Chase did not die protecting his country. The suicide bomber that killed Chase died protecting HIS country.” The next day, I stood before the crowd and relayed this, only this. That was my message, brief yet powerful.

Cindy Sheehan took her tragedy to Texas, confronting George Bush with these words, “For what noble cause did my son Casey die?” Bush cowered behind the window treatments at his ranch, refusing to answer the question, refusing to acknowledge a mother’s pain. With this action, Sheehan inspired a peace movement that evaporated with the election of Barack Obama, the president perceived as a man of peace, the commander-in-chief who many believed would end war. Instead, he widened it, expanded drone warfare, created a kill list, exercising his mighty righteousness, playing god, and reinforcing what we’ve been
indoctrinated to believe—that troop deaths are the ultimate sacrifice in service to country. “He/she died protecting the freedoms we cherish.” The utter bullshit so many Americans consume with a punch ladle.

It becomes complicated when we disagree, when one person’s model of bravery is another’s illustration of cowardice. The examples above, my brother’s words and Cindy Sheehan’s challenge to Bush, are representative of the potential for conflicting perspectives.

Another: my friend who posed the question about whether or not courage exists. He was one among just three officers who refused deployment to Viet Nam. He protested the war in front of the Lyndon Johnson White House. In uniform. When he refused orders, he was court-martialed. And he was convinced he’d spend the rest of his life in prison. Eventually, charges were dropped. The military didn’t want a precedent setting case—an officer’s winning a refusal to obey an order to deploy. Obviously, antiwar activists praised this. But his act of courage was his family’s shame.

We are immersed in the mythology of distorted values. This especially is obvious around Memorial Day when we are smack dab baptized in soldier-ism sacrifice for country. If only war and war deaths were understood not as sacrifice for country but as deaths in service to the uber-wealthy class and a system corrupt to the core.

As long as our population remains incurious and apathetic to the suffering of those who inhabit the countries we craft into wastelands, we exist in a spiral of mercilessness, bereft of humanity. As long as our population remains comfortably stupid, we are doomed to endless war.

More articles by:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
July 17, 2019
Manuel García, Jr.
Ye Cannot Swerve Me: Moby-Dick and Climate Change
Charles Pierson
Sofi’s Choice
Gary Leupp
Epstein, Jane Doe, and Trump
Rebecca Gordon
I Had an Abortion and Now I’m Not Ashamed
Peter Bolton
In the US and Brazil, Two Trends Underline the Creeping Fascism of Both Governments
Michael Kidder
“Go Back Where You Came From:” an Episode From Canada
Steve Early - Rand Wilson
How Big Strike 30 Years Ago Aided Fight for Single Payer
John W. Whitehead
Sexual Predators in the Power Elite
Michael Welton
Teach the Children Well: the Unrealized Vision In Teaching and Learning in the Residential Schools
Khury Petersen-Smith
Iran’s Not the Aggressor, the US Is
Russell Mokhiber
Kip Sullivan and Dr. Matthew Hahn on How Value Based Programs Are Undermining Medicare and Single Payer
George Ochenski
A Fearless and Free Press is Essential to Our Democracy
Lawrence Wittner
Billionaires and American Politics
Dean Baker
Cheap Shots at the Trump Economy
July 16, 2019
Conn Hallinan
The World Needs a Water Treaty
Kenneth Surin
Britain Grovels: the Betrayal of the British Ambassador
Christopher Ketcham
This Land Was Your Land
Gary Leupp
What Right Has Britain to Seize an Iranian Tanker Off Spain?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Democratic Virtues in Electing a President
Thomas Knapp
Free Speech Just isn’t That Complicated
Binoy Kampmark
The Resigning Ambassador
Howard Lisnoff
Everybody Must Get Stoned
Nicky Reid
Nukes For Peace?
Matt Johnson
The United States of Overreaction
Cesar Chelala
Children’s Trafficking and Exploitation is a Persistent, Dreary Phenomenon
Martin Billheimer
Sylvan Shock Theater
July 15, 2019
David Altheide
The Fear Party
Roger Harris
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Bachelet’s Gift to the US: Justifying Regime Change in Venezuela
John Feffer
Pyongyang on the Potomac
Vincent Kelley
Jeffrey Epstein and the Collapse of Europe
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Hissy-Fit Over Darroch Will Blow a Chill Wind Across Britain’s Embassies in the Middle East
Binoy Kampmark
Juggling with the Authoritarians: Donald Trump’s Diplomatic Fake Book
Dean Baker
The June Jobs Report and the State of the Economy
Michael Hudson – Bonnie Faulkner
De-Dollarizing the American Financial Empire
Kathy Kelly
Remnants of War
B. Nimri Aziz
The Power of Our Human Voice: From Marconi to Woods Hole
Elliot Sperber
Christianity Demands a Corpse 
Weekend Edition
July 12, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Skull of Death: Mass Media, Inauthentic Opposition, and Eco-Existential Reality in a Pre-Fascist Age of Appeasement
T.J. Coles
“Strategic Extremism”: How Republicans and Establishment Democrats Use Identity Politics to Divide and Rule
Rob Urie
Toward an Eco-Socialist Revolution
Gregory Elich
How Real is the Trump Administration’s New Flexibility with North Korea?
Jason Hirthler
The Journalists Do The Shouting
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pâté Politics in the Time of Trump and Pelosi
Andrew Levine
The Electoral Circus as the End of Its Initial Phase Looms
David Swanson
Earth Over the Brink
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail