More Moral Courage Please

Thank god for the internet and social media (and I say this with 0 sarcasm) because otherwise I would most definitely miss stuff. The world is big and it moves fast and unless other people read things and link to them it often zooms past me in the time it takes for me to fold a load of laundry.

Anyways – my lovely (and wicked smart) friend, Ann linked to this article on Monday and just the title, “Whither Moral Courage?” immediately stirred up all of the feelings I have been chewing on about the Boston bombing (which I haven’t talked about here for various reasons… one of them being I wasn’t there, and as much as Boston is in my top 5 favorite cities of all time, I live very very far away) and the current political climate, and maybe the world in general.

I was going to write a post listing just a bunch of rhetorical (and not so rhetorical) questions I had about the whole bombing situation and the drama that unfolded afterwards, but… again, I wasn’t there. My world is sunshine and baby poop, not bombings and city lockdowns, and police running through my backyard.

But then I read this:

It’s harder for us to see politicians, with the exception of Nelson Mandela and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as courageous these days. Perhaps we have seen too much, grown too cynical about the inevitable compromises of power. There are no Gandhis, no Lincolns anymore. One man’s hero (Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro) is another’s villain.

And this:

Two years ago in Pakistan, the former governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, defended a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, wrongly sentenced to death under the country’s draconian blasphemy law; for this he was murdered by one of his own security guards. The guard, Mumtaz Qadri, was widely praised and showered with rose petals when he appeared in court. The dead Mr. Taseer was widely criticized, and public opinion turned against him. His courage was obliterated by religious passions. The murderer was called a hero.

And now I just want to say a few things about all the news lately.

I’ve never really thought that cynicism was a negative thing until I read this article. I’ve always thought being cynical was being clever and not letting the puppet masters pull the wool over your eyes (more metaphors! more more more!). But now I think that maybe it does more harm than good sometimes… or maybe it doesn’t allow the good things, even if they aren’t perfect good things to just… be. Everything is picked and picked and picked apart until it is ugly. Because ugly makes better news than pretty I guess? And because real ugly, the things that are not good (not even a little), try to pretend to be pretty so much of the time maybe no one can tell the difference anymore.

I think the way the manhunt for the bombers was televised and reported on was ugly. There was a fervor and a taste for blood that I had never really experienced on the news before. I really felt like the reporters wanted their to be a big bloody shoot out. I felt like they really wanted their to be a much more dangerous scene than their already was. It seemed like Bonnie and Clyde when their dead bodies in the shot up car were dragged through the streets at the end of the movie. I spent that day wanting no one else to die. Not the kid in the boat who blew the limbs off of people, not the people in the hospitals trying to live and mourning the loss of their limbs. But if all I did was watch TV that day, it felt like I was the only person who didn’t want more carnage. And where is the moral courage in that?

Where are the politicians who care more about making the country better than they do about re-election? Ok, there is my rhetorical question.

And lastly… no legislation can be passed to reduce the constant gun related deaths in this country… and also no legislation can be passed that give people who love each other the right to marry, regardless of matching anatomy. This is wrong. It’s all wrong.

Check out the article in the NYTimes by Salman Rushdie. It’s really good. Let me know what you think.

6 thoughts on “More Moral Courage Please”

  1. Thanks for sharing the Rushdie piece. It is thought-provoking, as are your thoughts on cynicism. I wonder, though, if it takes time and distance to see a person with moral courage as such, rather than as a heretic, a criminal, or as simply wrong. I mean, Lincoln was not universally loved when he was alive. And the Soviet poets and writers and artists who protested communism were treated as criminals in their country, even if some recognized their bravery. Revolutionaries have always been distrusted by those who aren’t part of the revolution. I don’t doubt that some of the contemporaries Rushdie identifies as morally corageous will be recognized in time. I think the difference between then and now is that time and distance are harder to come by. We hear about courageous acts of rebellion across the globe in an instant, and we hear the response of the party in power describing the act as misguided or dangerous at the exact same time and it’s easier to accept that the powerful party is right, without the time and distance necessary to evaluate the positive effects of the morally corageous act. Also, cynicism. I think people have always been cynical, but it is certainly worse now, and you are absolutely right that it prevents us from recognizing and applauding people who do good in unconventional, revolutionary ways.

    1. You are totally spot on with time. It brings clarity to the bigger issues at hand and smooths out wrinkles here and there. I am impatient, though. I want my heroes now. :/

  2. Cynicism sucks. I seriously cannot stand it. I have lots to say about the rest of this post… but mainly I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes…

    “All I ask is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism, for the record, it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” Yeah – that’s right Conan O’Brien! Preach! 🙂

  3. I should probably think on this more before responding, but the baby’s sleeping now, so “Let’s Get Ready to Raaaaammmmmble!!!!”….

    He ended his piece with “every little bit helps,” and I guess I’m just not as convinced of that as Rushdie seems to be, which feels incredibly depressing. Maybe it’s my little Facebook/mostly Midwestern circle, but I feel like pointing out the ridiculousness of it taking 2-4 weeks for me to get a library card so they can confirm my address, whereas I could buy a gun with no wait or name/address given; or of my having to provide my driver’s license & get a photo ID badge created so that my kids can see their Parents as Teachers teacher, while my jackball senator says he just can’t support background checks for buying a gun at a gun show, because a registry might be created, would *at best* fall on deaf ears. I don’t believe at all that my pointing those things out to non-like minded people would create a conversation. I think the social/political climate we’re living in isn’t one where discussion has room to occur. I mean sweet Pete: I was told to “fuck a goat” on Reddit because I wasn’t 100% in agreement with an article that was posted! I sign the petitions, and write and Tweet my senators, and vote in Every Single Election, and recycle and so forth, but it feels like progress is just not happening; that the deck is just too stacked. Maybe I’m just worn out because this kid refuses to sleep through the night like a reasonable human, but gah!!!! I’d like a little more of Rushdie’s optimism, that’s for sure.

  4. “Where are the politicians who care more about making the country better than they do about re-election? ”

    This reminds me of a bit on the Daily Show last week:
    John Oliver went to Australia and interviewed some of the politicians who helped passed gun control there. Their responses — especially contrasted to the American politicians — were VERY interesting.

    I DO have hope about marriage equality, though. Last November, three states approved gay marriage by the popular vote — which is amazing and awesome. And more and more states are making the move and legalizing it through legislation. I think the tide has turned on that one, and it’s only a matter of time!

  5. “THIS new idea — that writers, scholars and artists who stand against orthodoxy or bigotry are to blame for upsetting people — is spreading fast, even to countries like India that once prided themselves on their freedoms.”

    It’s sad that it happens, but it’s been going on forever in all sorts of forms. Groups with oppressive views demand equal treatment, and if you don’t agree with them *you* are somehow the one rocking the boat. This same idea is behind slut-shaming and so much of the vitriol spewed at women lately.

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