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
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
Graham Peebles
A Global Battle of Values and Ideals
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail