You can’t teach courage, an old friend once told me. And I believe that’s true. I also think authentic bravery in aid of underdogs is among the greatest of virtues. Which, of course, was seen in many members of the Greatest Generation, who gave so much in World War II and Korea; and younger contingents in Vietnam, then Iraq and Afghanistan.
Years ago I thought up an existential act of “courage” verging on a suicidal joke, whereby one goes to Brooklyn or Queens and suddenly screams out: “I hate the mob!” Today it would simply be considered ludicrous.
Back to real and necessary courage. In places like today’s beleaguered Hong Kong, any demonstration even remotely critical of the Communist Chinese giant that darkens the skies of this vibrant metropolis also seems suicidal. But in a way that’s entirely admirable. (Ditto for protests in the dire police state of Cuba.)
As yet, not as much pluck is required here, but certainly some. Take, for instance, the full-court press by Democrats on such key swing-voters as senators Manchin and Sinema. Do the latter have to show guts in trying to elude the herd and empirically do what they consider right? So it seems.
As do forthright types on the Republican side, like Sen. Paul, who’s already paid in a number of ways. And of course President Trump, who for four years must have felt like Saint Sebastian facing a constant hail of arrows. Others like Ted Cruz or Governor DeSantis have also shown moxie in the face of repetitive, character-demeaning criticism.
I salute them, as I do moderate Democrats who refuse to swallow each and every spending item on a giant “wish list” reflecting what’s become Progressive dogma, along with national electoral diktats, dangerous encouragement of illegals, and so forth.
This leftist dogma has also been vitiating once laudable institutions like the ACLU, which increasingly defends free speech of one sort only. In that regard one could also mention a number of kowtowing educational and even corporate establishments, where we could use more examples of heterodox bravery, too.
As we could — returning to politics — in types with important pulpits like Vice President Harris, who long dodged an up-close look at the catastrophic southern border, instead proffering silly snickers and asides, then went to Guatemala and announced in a sophomoric way that people simply shouldn’t come to the U.S. (Like me back in high school days, telling a tough guy not to smoke cigarettes. No wonder he banged my head against the wall!)
Of course we need more courage from President Biden himself, once advertised as a centrist and bridge-builder. But more or less a tool, it turns out, of his far left.
This president is without doubt a true politician, versus a Trump, who’d already had to go head to head with tough people and institutions in the difficult world of business, or a Ben Carson, one of Trump's appointees, who has done things medically that almost no one else on earth could do.
Of course some get their courage foisted upon them, as in dire places like Guadalcanal during World War II. We’re probably seeing some of that with Senator Manchin representing coal-heavy, down-to-earth West Virginia, and Senator Sinema, pressed by an Arizona that’s been reeling from a tsunami of incomers within a matter of months.
But whatever the motivation, it remains welcome to see true bravery, often synonymous these days with independence of mind, in the face of that herd mentality signaled above. Should I therefore be fair to such as Mitt Romney?
In that senator’s case, his “courage” also seemed to involve a competitive, envious, even visceral dislike of the former president, so much his opposite in style and demeanor. And speaking of getting one’s courage or independence foisted upon one, how about Senator Collins of Maine? A more admirable Republican, I’d say, than Romney, one who’s been somewhat able to take each political issue on its own merits, but let’s face it, representing a state with many dyed-in-the-wool progressives, if not quite a Rhode Island.
However you want to slice and dice all this, three cheers it says here for authentic political bravery. We do need much more of it in this country, and right now!
B.B. Singer has taught at several area colleges including Niagara University.