Tuesday, June 2, 2015

(S)he who conquers that fear

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
- Nelson Mandela

So Caitlyn Jenner will be honored at this year's ESPY awards with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. This has people upset. For those who don't know, Jenner is the former Bruce Jenner, an Olympic athlete who, at the age of 65, is a transgender woman who appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair with the headline "Call Me Caitlyn." Predictably, some were ok with this while others were not.

But then, for some reason, people who have never cared, or even knew about, the ESPY awards were outraged (because the Internet runs on outrage and if we stop being outraged, the internet will stop) and saying what Caitlyn Jenner did wasn't courageous or isn't deserving. My Facebook feed was full of pictures of soldiers who lost limbs with captions saying they were courageous while saying explicitly or implicitly that Jenner was not.

This is not to say that people who go off to war and fight are not courageous and are not heroes (though I haven't heard anyone say Lynndie England is a hero in quite a while). The overwhelming majority of soldiers are courageous. Just as the overwhelming majority of firefighters are courageous for running in to burning structures or, for those of us afraid of heights, for climbing up ladders to rescue cats out of trees, which I assume is still done because my knowledge of firefighters comes from 1950s television.

But to limit courage or heroism to only those types of actions is either being willfully ignorant or it's pushing an agenda.

There are people who would tell playing a game of baseball is not courageous, but when you're the first black player in Major League Baseball and you're getting death threats for daring play the game, you're both courageous and a hero. Riding a bus doesn't seem courageous, but when you're Rosa Parks and you refuse to give up your seat to a White man, it's an example of courageous living.

The middle school boy who stands up to the kids picking on the unpopular student is courageous and likely a hero, at least to the unpopular student. But there are those who post on social media who would say that student is not courageous because he didn't go off to war. There's the four-year old who is scared to death of learning to swim but takes the first steps into the pool to overcome her fears. That kid is courageous, but there are those who want you believe that child has not displayed courage because it doesn't fit their narrow definition of the word.

So again, there are people who will try to limit your understanding of what courage is. I urge you to not listen to these people on this issue. They may be very friendly, very smart, very caring people. But in this instance, they are simply wrong. Simply because they choose to ignore other meanings of the word does not make it so, any more than people who tell you racism doesn't exist doesn't make it so. Courage comes in many sizes, shapes and colors.We all have our own fears and we all have the capacity to be courageous in our own way when we take the step to confront and conquer that fear. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

1 comment:

Mickey Martin said...

I am very proud of you, Luke. What an insightful and well written blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.