Profiles in Courage
When I think about the United States of America, the one word that continually comes up is – courage. The founders of the United States were very courageous people. They were all wealthy men of standing who could have easily cut deals with their oppressor, King George of England, and maintained their well-to-do lifestyles at the expense of the freedoms and the rights of the common everyday citizen. But instead, they chose to put it all on the line, not just their standing, not just their wealth, but also their very lives.
By signing the Declaration of Independence, the 56 men risked being convicted of high treason against the King of England. If the revolution had failed, they all would have been hung, their bodies cut into quarters, so their remains would be scattered abroad so they would have no final resting place. All of their earthly goods would be confiscated by the state. And their family and their heirs could own no property in perpetuity. Five signers of the Declaration were captured by the British, tortured and hung. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned to the ground. Two lost their sons in the war, another had two sons captured by the British. Nine fought and died in the war. That is what they risked, that is what they gave up for the freedom and rights that we take for granted.
It is hard not to think about the courage when I think about Abraham Lincoln and the abolitionists. Lincoln could have easily turned a blind eye to the slavery in the south and not risked his Presidency or the survival of the Union. But instead, he courageously stood up to the evil of slavery, and risked everything that he had worked for up to that point. Ultimately, he gave his life in pursuit of that end. Some people argue that Lincoln only went to war to preserve the Union, but he could have easily preserved the Union without war if he was willing to allow slavery to exist in the Southern states and allow the Missouri compromise to continue. But he was unwilling to do that because he had the courage to do what was right.
It’s hard not to think about the courage of the hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers who laid down their lives fighting in the war that freed the slaves. These soldiers didn’t need to fight in that war. Slavery was no longer in the Northern states. Why did they need to risk their lives for something out of their jurisdiction? That evil was not on their hands anymore, but they fought anyway. They willingly fought and died to free the slaves and preserve the Union.
I think about the courage it took for the United States to stand up against Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan. 600,000 American soldiers gave their lives to liberate Europe and Asia from tyranny and totalitarianism. Over a hundred thousand young men stormed the beaches of Normandy, with one of the highest projected casualty rates of any battle in US history. They knew it, but they went in anyway because they knew the cause right, the cause was just, that is the epitome of courage. We could have continually appeased Hitler the way Neville Chamberlain did, and allowed him to gain more and more control over Europe and the world, but we didn’t. We knew we had to take a stand.
I think about the courage it took the leaders of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus; the courage of the four North Carolina A&T students, Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil, conducting a sit-in at the Greensboro Woolworth’s lunch counter; the courage of Martin Luther King Jr. leading the march on Selma and on Washington, risking and eventually laying down his life for the cause of racial justice. Pure courage. He saw something was not right, something was not just, and he set out to do something about it regardless of the potential dire consequences.
And today, I think about how little courage is really on display these days in America. Very few people are willing to stand up for their rights. Comedians sanitizing their acts because they don’t want to offend anybody even though the job of a comedian is to offend. Famous people apologizing and groveling to the woke mob on social media who happens to disagree with something they said. Most people standing around silent as censorship takes over the internet and social media – the number one means of communication in the world. Too many people simply going along to get along, afraid to take a stand for what is right, afraid to assert their claim to their rights enumerated in the Constitution, nodding along like bobble heads as the vile woke agenda is taking over our media, our classrooms, our culture, too afraid to take a stand for what they believe.
We have fake courage around every corner these days. People speaking out and virtue signaling when there are no real-world consequences for doing so. Hollywood actors at the Oscars lecturing Americans about social justice as they turn a blind eye to the human atrocities that are occurring in China and allow China to censor their movies without objection. LeBron James and the NBA kneeling during our National Anthem when they don’t risk losing a dime for doing so, and at the same time, defending China’s treatment of the people of Hong Kong because they are too afraid to lose millions of Chinese dollars that prop up the NBA. Apple CEO, Tim Cook standing up for privacy and civil liberties in 2020 when he refused to unlock the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone for the FBI, but then this week, at the behest of the Chinese regime, taking down the AirDrop feature on iPhones in China that the protesters were using to communicate as they protested the anti-freedom policies of the Chinese government. All three of these examples, are profiles in cowardice.
So, it is strange that the most courageous people over the last ten year, are some of the people we would least expect. Donald Trump was a multi-billionaire. He could have continually played the game and remain a multi-billionaire, rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, getting everything that his heart desired. He could have chosen the easy way. Instead, he chose the courageous path. He had seen from the inside how corrupt America had become, and he set out to fix it. He knew exactly how the wealthy use their money to influence American politics for their own gain and not for the betterment of the country because he played that game for a long time. He got rich off of playing that game.
But Trump decided to try to fix the problem. And what happened? The powerful forces within America have all rain down upon him because he is a threat to their monopoly on power. It has been a 6-year unending onslaught, where the wealthy and powerful from both parties and all sides have come after him to destroy him. A lesser person, a less courageous person would have quit by now. But he fights on. Trump has lost billions of dollars in the process, his public persona is in tatters, but he battles on. He is not fighting for himself. He is fighting for us, for the people who can’t fight this fight for themselves. He could have cut bait years ago, and receded into his wealth and money. But he puts himself out their everyday for us, the people, courageously.
I think about Elon Musk, the richest man in the world. He could have simply continued on doing what he was doing, and further enriched himself the way Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg do, continually play the corrupt game for their own benefit at the expense of America and the American people. But he chose a different path. He saw that there was something inherently wrong with the way social media was censoring American voices at the behest of the wealthy and powerful politicians in Washington. He knew that not only was that censorship antithetical to the United States of America, but in the end, it would be an existential threat to America. So, he decided to risk it all. He decided to be courageous. So, he bought Twitter, and has gone after the censors. His two companies, Tesla and SpaceX, rely heavily on government contracts and subsidies. He is going after the very people who have helped him build his companies and his vast wealth. He could easily have gone along with the scam, with the corruption and further enriched himself beyond belief like most people would have done, but he chose a different path, a courageous path.
Musk didn’t buy Twitter to enrich himself. He didn’t buy Twitter to appease his ego. He didn’t buy Twitter to make himself more powerful. He bought Twitter to give every American a voice in our Country’s town square. But there are certain voices that the wealthy and the powerful do not want to be heard, they’ve been censored for the last six years. The amazing thing is that the opinions of the people that he is finally allowing to speak freely, he mostly disagrees with. But he doesn’t care. That was not the point of him buying Twitter. He’s smart enough to see how very dangerous the censorship that has been going on in social media is. He cares more about our country than he cares about himself. He cares more about a voice is being heard then his singular point of you winning out.
This mindset pervades his approach on everything he does. In a 2018 interview with Lesley Stahl, Musk said, “The whole point of Tesla is to accelerate the advent of electric vehicles… I'm not sure if you know it, but we open sourced our patents, so anyone who wants to use our patents can use 'em for free… If somebody comes and makes a better electric car than Tesla and it's so much better than ours that we can't sell our cars, and we go bankrupt, I still think that's a good thing for the world.” Unlike most of the politicians and powerbrokers in Washington, Musk puts the good of the world and the good of the country ahead of himself.
Where is the courage in the world today? It has been displayed all throughout China the past few weeks, as tens of millions of Chinese citizens have taken to the streets to protest the unending lockdowns and the insane zero-Covid policies of Xi Jinping’s regime. These protesters have no chance to win. The Chinese citizens had been disarmed a long time ago. The Chinese military is far too powerful. The protesters will be crushed, many will be slaughtered, they know it, but they stand up and fight anyway. They know their only chance of victory is for so many of them to die in the fight that the people holding the guns refused to shoot them anymore. That is courage. That is the storming of the beaches of Normandy. Their courage exposes our cowardice. They are risking their very lives for the rights that we are too afraid to assert because we may get some backlash from some bots on Twitter. It is embarrassing. It almost makes us unworthy of the fundamental rights guaranteed in our Constitution that hundreds of thousands of men and woman fought and died defending for us.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.