FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail