Listing courage among the other virtues implies that it is separate from them. This assumes that it is possible to have charity, kindness, honesty, loyalty, faith, hope, or any other virtue you can name, and yet lack courage. I don’t think so. Courage is not a separate virtue. Courage is the indispensable quality without which all other virtues are merely good intentions:
People are like pearls. No matter how smooth and delicate a pearl may be, it has a grain of sand at its center. If it weren’t for the grain of sand, there would be no pearl. No matter how smooth and sophisticated a person may be, if he doesn’t have some toughness at his core, he won’t be able to stand up to difficulties or dangers.
This may be the reason that in the past, trustworthy people were said to have “sand” or “grit.” Courage is the hard grain of sand at our core, without which we merely present a pleasant appearance − but aren’t really worth much.
In defining something, we can learn a lot by stating what it isn’t:
Courage isn’t going along with the crowd.
Hollywood “personalities” seem to think it takes courage to speak out against conservatives. But the vast majority of film and TV stars feel the same way, or so it appears. On the contrary, courage would be shown by media stars who spoke up for conservative values.
Hollywood never tires of complaining about the blacklist of the 1950s, when suspected communists were denied work. But somehow the blacklist of today, when merely a suspicion of being Republican is cause for ostracism, just doesn’t deserve notice.
Courage isn’t allowing others to do your thinking for you.
The mainstream media parrot one another shamelessly. What do you learn from CBS that you would not learn from ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, or National Public Radio? What opinions do you read in the New York Times that you would not see in the Los Angeles Times and most of the papers in between? It takes no intellectual curiosity, much less courage, to repeat what you see and hear.
You must listen to talk radio and visit conservative websites to learn what the mainstream media ignore. But it may take courage to mention this to friends or co-workers. They may call you a “Nazi” or other offensive terms. You may lose friends. That is the result of a one-party press. Liberals can go all week without hearing a conservative idea, so if by chance they do hear one, they become upset, even angry. But they feel no need to respond with logical arguments. Instead, they call the conservative nasty names.
Courage isn’t hiding the truth with political correctness.
Major Nidal Hasan murdered 14 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood while shouting “Allahu akbar!” Most sources say he murdered 13, but one of them was pregnant. He had been in frequent communication with radical imam Al-Awlaki. The motive was painfully obvious, but Chris Matthews claimed that “We may never know if religion was a factor,” while Geraldo Rivera speculated that a “toothache” might have set him off. No, Geraldo, the decay wasn’t in his teeth − it went much deeper.
It’s bad enough when liberal pundits can’t recognize the truth. But when our government can’t recognize the truth, it’s even worse. The Fort Hood attack has now been classified as “workplace violence,” as if it were perpetrated by a file clerk who was disgruntled over not getting a raise. “Workplace violence” is the worst kind of lie − a half-truth that conveys a totally false impression. It was “workplace violence” in the same sense that Jeffrey Dahmer had an “eating disorder.” No, it was an act of war committed by an extremist Muslim on orders from overseas.
Fortunately, Al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen. But unfortunately, the refusal to accept reality is harder to eliminate.
Courage isn’t taking out your psychological problems on others.
Some time ago, a woman called the Dennis Prager radio show. Her husband is a soldier overseas. Some of her neighbors criticized him for participating in a “war for oil,” even going so far as to say − in front of their young child − that if he were killed or wounded, he would “get what he deserved.”
Some people in the “peace movement” are sincere if fuzzy headed. But others are so angry and hateful that calling them pacifists is absurd.
Those who say cruel words to a wife and child may claim they are acting out of love for humanity, but they are really acting out of bitterness and lack of empathy. Those who burn the American flag and refer to our leaders as terrorists may claim to hate war, but they really hate America and what it stands for.
It doesn’t show courage to vent your anger on those who don’t deserve it and won’t retaliate − it shows cowardice and lack of self-control. The courageous vent their anger on those who do deserve it and can retaliate − terrorists, for example.
Courage isn’t claiming to love freedom and the Constitution, but doing nothing to defend them.
Freedom isn’t just a concept − it’s the ability of real people to live as they choose, so long as they don’t harm others. The Constitution isn’t merely an abstraction − it’s a guarantee of the rights of actual, living people.
What, precisely, did freedom mean to the almost 3000 human beings who died on 9/11? The freedom to choose between being incinerated and jumping out of 110-story buildings, then taking 10 seconds to hit the pavement at 120 miles per hour? What rights did the approximately 200 jumpers have?
What rights does the Constitution guarantee to those who will die in new attacks, unless we kill or disarm those who are planning the attacks? The right to die slowly of radiation sickness after a dirty nuclear bomb is detonated in Manhattan? The right to watch their families die of smallpox when it is released in malls? The right to die, choking, vomiting, and convulsing, when nerve gas is released in the subway or at a bowl game?
It is worse than meaningless to claim to love freedom, but then block efforts to protect citizens from attack by fanatics who have no respect for human life. It is worse than irrelevant to pretend to respect the Constitution, but then obstruct efforts to defeat those who want to destroy the Constitution and all it stands for.
We have heard much about shortages of clean air and water. We need air and water. But we need courage, too. Perhaps we should spend more time and effort to remedy that shortage.
Instead, we teach schoolchildren to have unearned self-esteem. And we warn them, “I don’t care who started it − you’re both going to the principal’s office.” This is intended to teach nonviolence, but it actually teaches tolerance of bullies. And we assign textbooks written by people who believe that America is has done more bad than good in the world. Are those really the lessons we want our young people to learn?
The courage of our troops and our first responders is demonstrated daily. But can the courage of a minority make up for the wimpiness of the majority? Can the selfless dedication of a minority make up for the self-absorption of the majority? Can the few who risk their lives to defend freedom make up for the many who value freedom so little that they vote for slick politicians who promise them more “free” benefits − meanwhile making the government constantly larger and more intrusive? I don’t think so.
We hear “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sports events, but do we really hear it? Do we understand the unbreakable link between the land of the free and the home of the brave? If we want to live in the first, we must be the second.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.