FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Cowards

The president was quick to label the latest mass shooters cowards. This seems like an oddly careless, even Orwellian, use of the word, because it implies that there is a courageous way, as opposed to a cowardly one, to act out hatred. The late cultural critic Susan Sontag rightfully got herself into hot water when she argued that the 9-11 hijackers were not cowards because they were willing to die for a cause. But killing innocent people randomly in churches, mosques, and malls or by smashing airplanes into buildings seems pretty far outside the uncertain territory between cowardice and courage that most of us occupy.

If we’re honest with ourselves, very few people have gotten through life without moments of cowardice. Even fewer know for certain how they might react in the future when extreme courage is called for. It is easy to pretend that we would rise to the occasion, but sometimes we just don’t. I was sitting in the low bleachers to the left of home plate at a Red Sox game when a foul ball came flying in the direction of myself and partner. Much as my fantasy might have been that I would gallantly interpose myself between her and the ball, I ducked.

As did the president in the aftermath of El Paso and Dayton. He was offered a ripe opportunity to stop kissing the butt of the self-important NRA and lead on the sensible gun safety reforms that more than 80 percent of the electorate favor. Given this perfect opportunity for a profile in courage, he punted. We got not just retreaded bromides but nauseating hypocrisy. Wasn’t the president who addressed the nation in his patently insincere teleprompter mode the same demagogue who laughed when someone in the audience at one of his rallies shouted that immigrants should be shot?

Courage can be as instinctive as cowardice, as in the case of the inhumanly heroic Kendric Castillo, who died rushing directly at the mass murderer in the Highlands Ranch school shooting. But raw courage for most of us means being as brave as we can in spite of fear, hesitation, and ambivalence. As the painter Georgia O’Keeffe said, “Sure I’m afraid. I’m afraid all the time. I just never let it stop me.”

Our public spaces have become fearful theaters of war. Supposed leaders prefer to divide the body politic to remain in power and carry on as if prosperity equaled peace. Meanwhile we tolerate the utter shame of spooked kids having to rehearse mass shooter drills in their classrooms.

The president has to know that there are too many assault rifles that are too accessible to too many angry people, and that he himself has stoked that anger—grounds by itself for impeachment and trial. As the columnist Nick Kristof has repeatedly argued, we could make huge inroads into mass shootings if we banned such weapons, adopted universal background checks, and licensed all guns as we license the privilege of owning and driving cars. So far, Mr. McConnell and his Senate colleagues remain in servile lock-step with our boorishly maladroit leader. Their inaction drips with too many layers of innocent blood. Cowards.

More articles by:

Winslow Myers is author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide.” He serves on the Advisory Board of the War Preventive Initiative.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
January 21, 2020
Sheldon Richman
Warmonger Cotton Accuses Antiwar Think Tank of Anti-Semitism
John Feffer
Trump Makes Space Great Again
Patrick Cockburn
The US and Iran’s Perpetual Almost-War is Unsustainable – and Will End Badly
James C. Nelson
Another Date That Will Live in Infamy: 10 Years After Citizens United
Robert Fisk
Iran Will be Changed Forever by Admitting Its Great Mistake, Unlike the West Which Ignores Its Own Misdeeds
Dean Baker
Did Shareholders’ Benefit by Paying Boeing’s Fired CEO $62 Million?
Susan Roberts
The Demise of the Labour Party and the Future For UK Socialism
Binoy Kampmark
Janus-Faced on Climate Change: Microsoft’s Carbon Vision
David Levin
The Teamster Revolt Against the Hoffa Era
Victor Grossman
Defender and Spearheads
Russell Mokhiber
BS Public Editor and the Disease of Contempt
Tiffany Muller
Get the Money Out of Politics: 10 Years After Citizens United
Laura Flanders
Iowa is Not the Twitterverse
Graham Peebles
Education: Expanding Purpose
Elliot Sperber
Handball in Brooklyn 
January 20, 2020
Paul Street
Trump Showed Us Who He Was Before He Became President
Eric Mann
Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Ipek S. Burnett
MLK and the Ghost of an Untrue Dream
Mark Harris
Better Living Through Glyphosate? Spray Now, Ask Questions Later
Katie Fite
Owyhee Initiative Wilderness and Public Lands Deal Critique: Ten Years After
Thomas Knapp
A Loophole for the Lawless: “Qualified Immunity” Must Go
REZA FIYOUZAT
Best Enemies Forever: The Iran-U.S. Kabuki Show
Jeff Mackler
Worldwide Furor Sparked by U.S. Assassination of Iran’s General Suleimani
William deBuys
The Humanitarian and Environmental Disaster of Trump’s Border Wall
Binoy Kampmark
A Matter of Quality: Air Pollution, Tennis and Sporting Officialdom
James Haught
GOP Albatross
Jill Richardson
Why Do We Have School Lunch Debt at All?
Robert Koehler
Nuclear Hubris
Patrick T. Hiller
Instead of Real-Time Commentary, Eight Common-Sense Reason for Not Going to War with Iran
Charles Andrews
A Note on Carlos Ghosn and Global Capitalism
Jeffrey St. Clair
Some Trees: Los Angeles
Weekend Edition
January 17, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: No Woman, No Cry
Kathleen Wallace
Hijacking the Struggles of Others, Elizabeth Warren Style
Robert Hunziker
The Rumbling Methane Enigma
Frank Joyce
Will the Constitution Fail Again?
Andrew Levine
Biden Daze
Pete Dolack
Claims that the ‘NAFTA 2’ Agreement is Better are a Macabre Joke
Vijay Prashad
Not an Inch: Indian Students Stand Against the Far Right
Ramzy Baroud
Sealed Off and Forgotten: What You Should Know about Israel’s ‘Firing Zones’ in the West Bank
Norman Solomon
Not Bernie, Us. Not Warren, Us. Their Clash Underscores the Need for Grassroots Wisdom
Ted Rall
America’s Long History of Meddling in Russia
David Rosen
The Irregulators vs. FCC: the Trial Begins
Jennifer Matsui
The Krown
Joseph Natoli
Resolutions and Obstacles/2020
Sarah Anderson
War Profiteering is Real
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail