A D-Day Lesson on What Is (And Isn’t) Courageous
Our lives are not meaningless. What we do, in times both busy and idle, is not pointless. However, the lives we are able to lead have not been earned by us.
Other people have paid with their lives so that others might live with a lot less evil in the world. And, like it or not, there are men and women today still making such a sacrifice so that we can catch the latest Netflix hit, attend a baseball game, teach English on the other side of the world, and criticize those in power.
We’ve Lost Perspective
There is a lot of bullshit going around today about how Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner is so brave, so heroic.
What takes more courage: Completely changing your gender and appearance, or jumping out of a plane over Nazi-occupied territory, with flak bursting all around you? What is more heroic? Doing a Vanity Fair photo shoot that celebrates you becoming something other than what you were born as, or throwing yourself on a grenade to save your fellow soldiers?
The soldiers who parachuted into France, and landed at the Normandy beaches, on June 6, 1944…they were not born heroes, and they were not always naturally courageous. But, unlike Mr./Ms. Jenner, they were born a certain way, and a great many — too many — died that way. They became brave through training, and dedication to their brothers in arms. The physical alterations they often experienced? Not something they wanted.
They became heroes not because someone told them to, or arbitrarily declared them as such, but because they felt a call of duty few gamers could ever bring themselves to answer.
I May Be “Wrong,” But I’m Not Wrong
You don’t have to like what I’m saying here right now, but even so, you should acknowledge that we have some fucked up notions of what constitutes honor, bravery, and heroism. This is not to say that having a strong sense of your own personal courage in your life is wrong. Far from it. It does take a certain brand of courage to escape an unhealthy relationship, quit a job that makes you miserable, or come out to your friends and family.
There are many kinds of courage. What’s wrong is treating all forms of “courage” equally. Too many liberals will acknowledge the “bravery” of a former Olympian cum “fake reality” TV star who completely changed who and what they are. Too few will acknowledge the bravery and heroism of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and, yes, even police officers (firefighters usually get a pass, but not always).
Too many today will cheer on those who stomp on a flag symbolizing a nation that, despite its growing pains, mistakes, and flaws, is truly great. They’ll characterize every protest as an act of courage, but only so long as the person doing the protesting agrees with their position. They think it’s brave to share a hashtag, or post an article, or go gluten-free (even if they don’t have celiac disease). They all have their heads up their asses.
It’s Past Time to Regain Some of the Perspective We’ve Lost
Thousands of Americans died in France on a single day in June, 1944, so that millions of people might one day live. They stormed the beaches of Normandy, and landed behind enemy lines, not for the glory of it, but due to the necessity of it. The least we could do to honor their memory, their sacrifice, their bravery, is have some perspective about courage.
Yes, we can acknowledge there are many kinds of it…but, at the same time, we must recognize that not all forms are worthy of celebration.