A Nation of Cowards
My bone to pick today is how the ‘Greatest Nation on Earth’ has become a bunch of gutless cowards. This image doesn’t sit well with the beer swinging, truck driving, macho man view that we have of the American Tough Guy. We fancy ourselves as a Rambo, Dirty Harry, ultimate fighting champions that can take on the entire world yet inside we have been taught to fear our own shadows.
The odds of being a victim of a terrorist attack is less likely than being eaten by a shark, yet we act out our days as if it is an imminent possibility. When our security at airports is frisking shriveled and barely able to walk senior citizens, it is hard to say that we are being brave. Perhaps the security people are thinking that these people have less to live for and a shorter life expectancy so they are more likely to blow themselves up than a young person who has their whole life ahead of them.
But there hasn’t been one case of a little ol’ lady busting down a cockpit door and hijacking an airplane, so what are the odds that it is going to happen? We have been led to believe that our tweezers, corkscrews and nail clippers are capable of being dangerous weapons. We all have learned to ‘toe the line’ and that is not an act of bravery. A brave person challenges the ‘status woe’ and doesn’t act like a sheep.
We fear our food, we fear bacteria, we fear getting laid off, we fear growing old, we fear nudity, we fear the authorities, we fear death, we fear hell, we fear criminals, we fear the strange. We fear for our lives on the highway and thusly justify driving enormous vehicles ‘just in case’ we get into an accident. We are so hooked on fear that we can’t get enough of it for ourselves so we will fear for our children’s safety and our parent’s health too. Fear has us act in two ways. We either cower, thus the word coward, or we act with bravado. To be brave is to be daring, fearless and bold. Bravado is a false bravery rooted in bluster and boasting. We as a nation have cowered to our governments demands on us and acted with bravado towards the rest of the world. When we went to invade Iraq there were a lot of people pounding their chests and acting with ‘bravado’ yet now, several years later, we have no more stomach for an endless war half a world away.
According to our national anthem we are ‘the home of the brave’ but when was the last time you did something that was courageous? Soldiers put themselves into harms way by dodging bullets and roadside bombs but when was the last time you put yourself in harms way besides dodging your boss or a stranded roadside motorist? Soldiers do without comfortable bedding. Can you do without a disposable cup and bring your own? Soldiers bunk with each other. Can you carpool so we can reduce our need on foreign oil that those soldiers are fighting for? Soldiers carry 50 to 60 pounds on their backs. Can you carry the responsibility of a citizen and write to your congressman? Soldiers are sweltering in 110 degree heat while wearing full body armor. Can you sweat a little by turning up your thermostat in the summer and reduce your demand for energy. Soldiers have a tour of duty that is a year or more in a country that is not their own. Can you turn off the television for an hour a week and donate your time the community you live in. Apathy is a good excuse for cowardice. Don’t shrug it off, take it on. Take on the challenges that face all of us by doing your part. A thousand tiny actions by a million people will have a far greater effect that the heroic efforts of a few.
Do you have the courage to ask the person who just threw their cigarette butt on the ground to pick it up? Do you have the courage to face off with another adult when you see they are mistreating their child? Do you have the fortitude and bravery to enroll others once you have been enrolled to save what is left of our planet? It takes no courage to remain in the stands and cheer those who are on the playing court. It takes real guts to get off your ass, to move out of your comfort zone and do something that will make a difference. Just as one person will not solve the problem of litter, neither will one person win the day. Start by asking yourself the hard questions like, “Can I do with a little less while doing a little more?”
What moves a populace to take action is self preservation but what American’s are mostly interested in doing is preserving their life style. Want to show the rest of the world what we are really made of? We can start with a rationing our precious resources instead of gobbling them up like pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner. If American’s cut down on their driving, eating, and spending we will send the message that we are still a determined, motivated, energized people and will once again demonstrate that, “the land of free is really the home of the brave.”
©Michael Marlin 2007