At various times in history, courageous acts by men devoted to our country inspired others to step up to the plate. True accounts of eight heroic acts by American patriots was written by John F. Kennedy in 1955. Becoming an instant classic, his book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and continues to be relevant when acknowledging the most noble of human virtues. Kennedy was inspired to write about senatorial courage after reading Herbert Agar’s book, “The Price of Union” which told about the courage of an earlier senator from Massachusetts, John Quincy Adams. He tells of eight United States Senators who defied the opinions of their party and constituents to follow their own conscience. It did not come without a cost. They suffered severe criticism and lost popularity due to their actions. But, according to Aristotle’s ethics, moral virtue is not passive, but manifests itself in action which counts as virtuous. For Aristotle, this was the only practical road to effective action. When one maintains a stable equilibrium of the soul, actions will be chosen knowingly and intrinsically. This is what constitutes character. John F. Kennedy recognized the virtue of courage and from his book, the “Profile in Courage Award” was born. Since 1990, courageous elected officials and public servants have been recipients of the award: John McCain, Gerald Ford, John Lewis, Edward Kennedy, Gabrielle Giffords, and George H.W. Bush, to name a few. In May, former President Barack Obama received the award honoring his accomplishments during his two terms in office even while he faced intense political opposition. Caroline Kennedy acknowledged that with “exceptional dignity and courage, President Obama provided young people of all backgrounds with an example they can emulate.”
Standing up for ethical principles takes courage, but what happens when courage gets lost? Lost in the dark shadow which fell over the hearts of Republicans like Mitch McConnell the day that President Obama took office. With a thirst to destroy everything that Obama accomplished, they were willing to cause destructive chaos for millions of Americans with their “skinny repeal” strategy. Their actions have been void of courage. Over seven years of repeals and they haven’t yet learned that drafting a Healthcare Plan for every American is not Rocket Science! McConnell made a strategic blunder by refusing to remove his dense veil of secrecy and open the door for bipartisan legislation. Most Republican Senators buckled under the pressure of persuasion. The path of least resistance doesn’t require courage. Shame on their willingness to leave millions of Americans without healthcare. Shame on their unwillingness to tolerate resistance groups sparking arrests even among peaceful sit-ins by disability rights groups and others demonstrating courage.
It takes courage to do what’s right. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and Angus King, I-Maine knew that. Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., found courage to put his country ahead of party and pull the trigger that collapsed the effort to destroy the healthcare that millions of Americans have come to rely on. One could speculate that Senator McCain had been given time to ponder what his voting strategy should be while spending time in a hospital bed fighting his own battle with brain cancer. He not only showed Americans his moral strength but also his courage. Senator Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii had also polished up her courage to remind Republicans that they should show their constituents the same compassion they had shown her. As reported by USA TODAY, the Senator is fighting her own battle against stage 4 kidney cancer. I believe that every senator would benefit if required to endure an overnight stay in a hospital bed. They need a taste of reality.
It takes no courage to throw stones. Donald Trump demonstrates it time after time. It did not take courage to stand before thousands of Boy Scouts and stress to them: “If you are loyal to me, stand with me, you, too, will be feared and revered, powerful and successful. Be like me, boys! You, too, will succeed.” In psychiatry, this would be identified as projective identification. To young developing minds, this can be quite compelling. These young scouts did not understand that their President’s rambling speech was an example of Aristotle’s philosophy that “the proud person is an extreme in respect of the greatness of his claims, but deficient in respect of their truthfulness.” Just as Trump often reveals the child in him, these young scouts would tend to be more influenced by emotion rather than logic or reasoning. Trump’s behavior lacks the virtue of courage. It isn’t required to help the powerful nor the wealthy. Courage doesn’t lie nor is courage a bully. Courage is not incompetent or corrupt. Jerry Taylor, president of the Niskanen Center says, “Right now the American political system is increasingly looking like a dystopia third-world banana republic, and the Republican Party is complicit in allowing this to happen.” I see no courage in that!
And, that’s my opinion. . . .
Sharen Jergenson of Heber Springs contributes “And that’s my opinion…” each month for The Sun Times