Profiles in Courage

Let’s Acknowledge Political and Physical Courage When We See It


Who Rises to the Challenge?

Fate, history if you will, has a way of calling on people at inconvenient times. One day, you are just minding your own business, the next you are thinking about risking everything. Funny how that happens. It is endlessly fascinating to watch how this plays out, as it does, every day, all around the world, in large and small venues. For me, the quote from Dr. King at the start of this blog post says it all.

What separates those who rise from those who fall short is most often the failure to ask the final question in the quote. People tend to minimize what is at stake and what role they might play in settling the big questions. Today I would like to call out two groups who I think did ask the final question and rose to the occasion.

Texas Legislature Democrats

Watching these people do everything humanly possible to save voter’s rights in their state has been inspiring to say the least. When they ran out of other options, they left – twice – to shut down the travesty about to be passed. This last time, their decision to come to Washington was brilliant. Depending on who you are, they have inspired or embarrassed others who should be so motivated as these people.

Make no mistake about it, this is a big deal. They expect to be gone for as long as a month. Some brought their families with them. The thug who calls himself governor in Austin, and his sidekicks the Lt Governor and State Attorney General threaten real retribution, including arrest when these people return. In the end, that seems unlikely, but not impossible. And Republicans will spare no effort to defeat these patriots in upcoming elections.

These folks risk much and invest personally in what they are doing.  They carry a message.

What is going on in Texas is going on everywhere. We are doing all we can to stop it, but we can only do so much. US Congress, National Democrats – we have bought you time and shined a light on what is happening. Will you step up as we have?

My admiration runs deep for them. Let’s hope national leaders match their sense of duty and courage. We lose irretrievably if not. This is for all the marbles, folks.

The People of Cuba

Watching the people in the streets of Cuba is equally inspiring, and here the risks are profound. We spent a bit of time in Cuba a few years ago, just before Trump made such trips almost impossible. We saw a system of near total suppression and control, down to the individual neighborhood block level.

Starting any sort of protest or political alternative is very high risk. People can face economic hardship, political isolation, prison, and more, simply for saying there must be a better way to run their country. Just because they are out of Castro family members at the moment (Raul notwithstanding, in the wings) does not change the system or the risks. And yet, they are in the streets. That is courage.

The right wing of Cuban American politics and among US politicians try to claim these dissidents as their own. The truth is these would-be supporters have insisted on failed policies that did nothing for Cubans for 50 years and gave Castro an excuse for his failed state.

I was pleased to see President Biden and the Secretary of State speak out early and clearly in sympathy with the Cuban people. One hopes that this administration can find our way back to dialogue and more openness while still finding ways to support the right of the Cuban people to live free.

Anyone Else?

Certainly. In times of bad news, it is easy to overlook people performing acts of individual and collective heroism every day. Look around. You see it in Myanmar, in remote parts of China, in Hong Kong, in Russia, throughout Eastern Europe. We see it in Venezuela, in Nicaragua.

These are people quietly deciding they are ready to stand and risk it all, for the sake of others, in hopes of saving their countries, cultures, or societies.

May we be worthy of the example they set. So little is asked of most of us, after all. If we someday meet such brave and dedicated people, what will we be able to say we did to help?

               Bill Clontz

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