Saturday, January 25, 2020

Faces Of Courage

     In mathematics, we speak of the preconditions for some implication as being necessary, or sufficient, or both. If a precondition is necessary, it’s merely one without which the conclusion sought cannot be reached. If a precondition is sufficient, then it implies the conclusion sought without requiring any other support.

     Courage is a necessary precondition for heroism.

     Many people fail to understand courage. It’s not the same as fearlessness. In fact, it comes close to being its opposite. The courageous man acts despite his fears. The greater and more pressing are the fears, the greater is the courage required to stand fast despite them.

     Allow me a longish citation from an old novel: Robert B. Parker’s Pastime:

     “When did scotch become the drink of celebration?” Susan leaned her chin on her folded hands and rested her gaze on me. The experience was, as it always was, tangible. The weight of her serious intelligence in counterpoint to her playful spoiled princess was culminative.
     “Sometimes it's champagne,” I said. “Sometimes it's scotch....
     “I was seventeen,” I said, “the first time I had anything but beer. We were bird hunting in Maine, my father and I, and a pointer, Pearl the first. We were looking for pheasant in an old apple orchard that hadn't been farmed in maybe fifty years. You had to go through bad cover to reach it, brambles, and small alder that was clumped together and tangled. My father was maybe thirty yards off to the right, and the dog was ahead, ranging, the way they do, and coming back with her tongue out and her tail erect, and looking at me, and then swinging back out in another arc....
     “All of a sudden I heard her bark-half hysterical bark, half growl-and she came loping back, stopping every few yards and turning and making her barking snarling sound that had some fear in it, and then she reached me and leaned in hard on my leg and stood like they do, with her front legs stiff and her tail down and her ears sort of flattened back, and growled. And the hair was stiff along her spine. And I remember thinking, ‘Jesus, this must be the pheasant that ate Chicago.’ We had just come out of the cover and into the orchard and I looked and there was a bear.”
     “A grizzly?” Susan said. Her eyes were fixed on me and they seemed bottomless and captivated, like a kid listening to ghost stories.
     “No, they don't have grizzly bears in Maine. It was a black bear, he'd been feeding on the fallen apples that some of the trees were still producing. They must have been close to rotten, and they must have been fermenting in his stomach, because he was drunk.”
     “Yeah, bears do that sometimes. Usually it happens close to a town, because that's where there are apple orchards, and the forest ranger types dart them and haul them off to some other place in the woods to sober up. But no one had tranquilized this one. He was loose, upright, drunk, and swaying a little. I don't know how big he was. Maybe a hundred and fifty pounds or so. Maybe more. They can get bigger. Standing on his hind legs he looked a lot bigger than I was.”
     “What did you do?”
     “Well, the dog was going crazy now, growling and making a kind of high whining noise, and the bear was reared up and grunting. They sound more like pigs than anything else. I had a shotgun full of birdshot, sevens, I think, and it might have annoyed the bear. It sure as hell wouldn't have stopped him. But I didn't have anything else and I was pretty sure if I ran it would chase me, and they can run about forty miles an hour, so it was going to catch me. So I just stood there with the shotgun leveled. It was a pump. I had one round in the chamber and three more in the magazine, and I prayed that if he charged and if I got him in the face it would make him turn. The dog was in a frenzy, dashing out a few feet and barking and snarling and then running back to lean against my leg. The bear reared up, swaying, and I can still remember how rank the bear smelled and the way everything moved so slowly. And then my father was beside me. He didn't make any noise coming. Afterwards he said he heard the dog and knew it was something, probably a bear, from the way the dog sounded. He had a shotgun too, but he also was carrying a big old .45 hogleg, a six-shooter he'd had ever since he was a kid in Laramie. And he stood beside the dog, next to me, and took that shooter's stance that I always can remember him using, and cocked the .45 and we waited. The bear dropped to all fours, and snorted and grunted and dipped its head and turned around and left. I can see us like a painting on a calendar, my father with the .45 and the dog between us, snarling, and yipping, and me with the shotgun that, if he'd charged, the bear would have picked his teeth with....
     “The dog was no good for birds the rest of the day, and neither were we, I suppose. We went back to the lodge we were staying at and put Pearl in our room, and fed her, and then my father and I went down to the bar and my father ordered two double scotch whiskies. The bartender looked at me and looked at my father and didn't say anything and brought the whiskey. He put both of them in front of my father and my father pushed one of them over in front of me. “
     ‘Ran into a bear in the woods today,’ my father said without much inflection. He still had the Western sound in his voice. ‘Kid stood his ground.’
     “The bartender was a lean, dark guy, with a big nose. He looked at me and nodded and moved on down the bar, and my father and I drank the scotch.”

     A better description of courage in the face of a physical threat would be hard to find.

     In America in our time, many “classical” fears – fear of starvation; fear of assault and murder; fear of a wild animal attack – are far less intense than those suffered by people of other places and times. We have other things to fear. Some of them are trivial and contemptible; others are so fearsome as to defy adequate condemnation.

     In America in our time, there are predators roaming about eager to destroy your life should you dare to disagree with them. They have a range of tools with which to do it. Some of those tools are very nearly impossible to nullify.

     Have a memory from a year ago, at the 2019 March for Life in Washington, D.C.:

     The young man with the somewhat nervous smile had just had a drum thrust into his face by one of the nation’s foremost frauds. He merely stood his ground. Perhaps he didn’t know what else to do. Perhaps he wanted to push the old “Indian” away; I surely would have wanted to do so. But perhaps he knew that it would be impolitic, and decided merely to wait out the nuisance.

     The consequences could have ruined his life. Quite a lot of people, including the pastors of his parish and the authorities over the school he attended, leaped to condemn him for merely standing his ground. They were encouraged to do so by news media that produced deceptively edited video clips of the confrontation to suggest that Nick Sandmann had deliberately obstructed Nathan Phillips to show scorn for him.

     Nick Sandmann continued to stand his ground. He secured legal assistance. He filed suits against those who had defamed him. He pressed his case in court, and in the court of public opinion. He saw to it that unedited video clips of what Nathan Phillips had done, amply buttressed by eyewitness testimony, were provided to the media.

     And he won.

     Many persons, once they’ve freed themselves of a tangle of defamation, would have chosen never again to risk public attention. But Nick Sandmann feels that some causes are too important for him to withhold his presence and support. And yesterday, he participated in the 2020 Washington, D.C. March for Life:

     A better real-life demonstration of courage in the face of incredible viciousness and condemnation – some of it from conservative commentators and other putative supporters – would be hard to find.

     It isn’t necessary to say much more about this. Simply remember that those who claim a right to slaughter the unborn – they call it “a woman’s right to choose” – are willing to destroy the reputation of anyone who stands in their way. If you’ve ever been active in this cause, you may have been touched by their malice; it’s a good possibility.

     We who respect life and seek to protect the lives of the helpless are of another persuasion. We don’t strive to defame or destroy anyone, regardless of his opinion on the subject. But we need icons to represent us; faceless masses are far less persuasive, and far too easy to disparage as “mindless religious fanatics.”

     President Trump’s appearance at yesterday’s March for Life was a signal event: the first time a president has done so. Many regard that as a pivot point for the pro-life movement. But President Trump is, at least for now, a politician, and politicians often do things strictly for political advantage.

     Nick Sandmann has no such agenda. He’s not running for anything.

     Regard well the face of courage in a cause far too many are eager to defame.


Brass said...

It's good to see that the highest paid person at CNN made it out to the March.

HoundOfDoom said...

Good on you Mr Sandmann. Whether you won or 'lost' in court. It's obvious to the world that you were righteous in the face of what is the increasing evil of the left.

milton f said...

The courage of that young man, Nick Sandmann, fills me with hope. Take a moment to imagine the effect of millions of Real Americans acting with such self discipline as he has displayed.

Linda Fox said...

The kid's got stones. We need to keep an eye on him - he has potential.

Andy Texan said...

Courage is one of the greatest attributes and so rare to find. The courage of President Trump is the reason we love him.

Wraith said...

I'm certain that this is absolutely and utterly coincidental.

Like for realz.