News-Record & Sentinel, 12/2019

When we open the door to our deck, squirrels leap for the red oak.  It’s a basic instinct, isn’t it, self-preservation?  But occasionally a squirrel will perch on the railing, watching us, measuring our intent.  I’ve wondered if squirrels get special status for “bravery in the face of humans.”   

Courage comes in degrees, from zero to amazing.  The full spectrum is on display in our time.

The great acts of courage come to mind first:  the guy who tackled the terrorist on London Bridge, the bystander pulling somebody from a burning car.  The word “courage” comes from the French word for “heart,” and indeed people who do these great acts do so out of care for others.

But courage is most often from the mind.  We almost always have time to think, to consider alternatives.  

For example, people sign up to be marines, firefighters or electric line repairmen having considered that danger is built into the job. 

At the other extreme, one job doesn’t require courage at all:  politicians. 

Some are courageous, of course, but so many are ambitious people who spend their professional lives getting around problems, watching every word, being faithful to their party caucus.  Courage wouldn’t make the Top 10 prerequisites for their job.    

And right now, we watch cringing Republicans in Congress — men and women who know that President Trump is corrupt, constantly working in secret for his own benefit.  They know he’s a present danger to our democracy and to the stability of the world.    

They know.  But they will acquit him in the Senate.  And not one of those Republican senators will look back on his vote with pride.  Courage could overcome their fear if they chose it.     

In sharp contrast, there are the three county commissioners in Transylvania County who quit the Republican Party to become Unaffiliated.  One of them said this: “I also respectfully disagree with the paths that GOP leadership and their enablers have taken, and I don’t wish my name to be connected with them. One day my future grandchildren will read of these times in their history books, and I want them to know their grandfather opposed this and was not complicit through silence.”  (Google the whole story: “ three commissioners leave gop.”)  

Reelection as Unaffiliated isn’t easy, and they’ll be scorned.  May their courage be broadly contagious.