Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Some thoughts on Courage


Supposing that I should have the courage
Supposing that I should have the courage 
To let a red sword of virtue 
Plunge into my heart, 
Letting to the weeds of the ground 
My sinful blood, 
What can you offer me? 
A gardened castle? 
A flowery kingdom? 

What? A hope? 
Then hence with your red sword of virtue.
-Stephen Crane

I have been thinking a lot about courage this week.

How odd that the 25th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square Massacre should occur on the same week as the 70th anniversary of D Day.  We do love to mark historical events, don't we?

I think of this young man, unknown, perhaps long dead, who dared believe that his State would not turn on him, would listen to its people, would try and understand that things must change.  Standing alone, representing millions.



I think of these young men, sick with fear and sea, fighting on behalf of others as well.  Citizen soldiers who heard the clarion call of 'doing the right thing" for their fellow human.



Forty-five years separates these men, but they are equals.

I have often thought of June 6th, 1944.  Would I have had the courage to do what these men did?

And at 26 I was a student still and Barry and I were riveted to our chairs, watching TV endlessly, hoping against hope that the government would not crack down on the students, or at the very least, the military would not agree to kill its own people.  

I remember when that young man went forward.  We gasped and waited and feared for the worse. Even more - we felt hope and inspiration.


But I tell you this with my whole heart: I see that man in front of that row of tanks that is ready to squash him like a bug, I see those men jumping off the bag of that transport, staring ahead into the chaos and tragedy that they see ahead, and I am proud.

Despite our often best efforts to prove otherwise, we are not dumb beasts.

Despite our protected worlds, we see acts of heroism and kindness and continue to be moved.

And I am reminded again of the awesome gift of living in a democracy.  Especially in an election year where I live, which provides an opportunity every four years to stand up and have your voice counted.  But more and more, I see the need to occupy that space of reason and discourse on a regular basis.  Democracy does not work without the everyman and everywoman chipping in their two cents as well.  

It is hard to speak up.  It is hard to act on the courage of our convictions.  It can feel uncomfortable and even in a free society, we fear reprisals of one sort or another.  But stand up we must.

And there is no blog post that cannot benefit from ending with one of our greatest heroes:




So today is a blessing, a benediction for better days ahead.  We can be bowed, but we can keep trying.  We can be courageous, in our ways, in our own lives, too.

xoxo wendy






31 comments:

  1. Wendy, this too has been on my mind. I am currently working on a project that thinks through democracy, authoritarianism and media. I have been reading some accounts of survivors that have kept me up at night. And my parents survived many a military government/revolution, and have many many stories to tell. I am lucky we live in a democracy. I am also lucky I was able to choose to move to a better place. I am grateful for having had the courage to make a decision for my future, but I also feel that rather than escaping, I abandoned my place of birth where I could have made a difference. Not that I didn't try, but I guess the need for survival comes first, doesn't it? It's been quite an internal struggle for the last 10 years!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AB- look at it another way - perhaps you had to leave because you are supposed to make a difference in another, different way. I think there is no right path and I think we all make decisions every day, that when taken together, move us further along the path!

      Delete
    2. Thank you so much for saying that. I tend to be of the "glass half empty" variety and sometimes cannot see the upside of things. I guess you are right, I found a path here very different than the one I had back home. I was a filmmaker there, working nights trying to make pennies to buy film stock, and here I found academia, which I think is going to help me make a much larger difference than I could have as an independent filmmaker in a developing country. Thank you for pushing along the epiphany. Now, should I lay on your couch and talk about my childhood? :)

      Delete
    3. Ha! Only if I can lay on the other end and tell you about mine!

      Delete
    4. Anthro blogger, now I’m really intrigued which country you’re from!
      I’ll join you both on Wendy’s couch and listen and learn!

      Delete
  2. Very timely and thoughtful post, Wendy. I've been thinking a lot about Tiananmen Square this week. I've also been thinking about the situation in West Papua, Syria and Thailand.
    Courage is an amazing thing. I hope I'd show courage if I needed to.

    On a totally different topic, can I just say how much I hate the word verification thing? I find it so hard to read the words it makes it a real chore to publish comments. Would you consider removing it, Wendy? or are you getting too much spam?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ruth, i was getting a Ton of spam. however, tiffany rose shared a suggestion with me that i hope works, so have taken the word verification off.

      thanks for the kind words!

      Delete
  3. There is no way on earth I can even understand how brave that guy was. In fact it almost seems rather more appropriate that we still don't know his identity. He was just a citizen and doesn't even have his own talk show now... But very well said and put in the end Wendy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks Naomi - i like not knowing his identity as well!

      Delete
  4. Beautiful post Wendy. For an unknown reason, I am more sensitive to the D Day events rather than the Tiananmen one... But after all those years, all the "research", all the reading, I still do not get how those people could act with so strong bravery. It is just beyond me and I cannot understand how some people don't acknowledge this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well Steph, it is closer to home, so I could certainly understand why!

      Delete
  5. Wonderful post, Wendy. I've also wondered about that man who stood before the tanks. I admire and worry about the courageous ones who stand up for what is right.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Beautiful post Wendy. I am fortunate enough to have a veteran from Normandy Beach in my town. He is 90 years young- 50 sit ups a day! and a true hero. I got shivers reading about Tianeman Square, because, I, too was watching. I just hope all of these memories are enough to make us smart enought to not repeat the past. I, also, worry about the Ukraine, Syria, Nigeria ,and all of the other civil war spots around the world. Heartbreaking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. wow - I hope everyone is hearing what he says... I agree - those other hot spots worry me as well!

      Delete
  7. As some one once said, "We are the only species that will race into a burning building to save strangers." We are wonderfully made.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, though I am quite sure Indy would try!

      Delete
  8. On yesterday's news I heard that one man remains in prison following from the Tienanman Square Massacre. His offence was throwing a basket at a tank and he alone remains in prison because he refuses to recant. His courage is humbling.
    A great post, Wendy.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I saw an interview with a Normandy survivor/hero; he said, of course, he was afraid of dying, every minute. But, he still jumped out of the plane. Amazing and humbling.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I hadn't heard that. wow. that puts it all into perspective...

    ReplyDelete
  11. I just saw something on the news in what I think is your town in Canada?! Are you all ok? Please let us know!! xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Naomi - thanks for asking. It is about an hour and a half away, but we know people in the neighbourhood and we have close family there. As well, the police community in New Brunswick is small. This is a hard day for Barry. We have had 3 RCMP officers killed, 2 wounded and this madman is still on the loose. has been very hard. our whole province is only 700,000 people - everyone knows everyone and is scared and sad.

      Delete
    2. Oh Wendy, how awful! I really hope he is caught soon...
      Sending you lots of virtual love and support.

      Delete
    3. thanks Ruth - so ironic that we would have 3 first responders killed on a day I was writing about courage....

      Delete
    4. That thought came across my mind as well...I hope he is found so that this ordeal ends.

      Delete
    5. Thought of you right away Wendy - it is so awful what is going on there right now. We have ties to the RCMP too (many family members are RCMP members or work at the RCMP), this brings back memories of what happened in Alberta years ago. Very timely post as well. Hope your family members and friends are safe!!

      Delete
  12. Wendy,
    So Sorry to hear about the gunman in Moncton. Tragic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks. They finally caught him overnight, but now the identities of the slain police officers are starting to be released and it is heartbreaking.

      Delete
  13. Oh Wendy-- What is the matter with all these young men? In Canada now too. Do give Barry our best in this time, so dreadful. I now hear tonight in Seattle,too. I hope they apprehend him tonight so no one need worry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lane. He did indeed give himself up, but it will be many years till the grieving is done...I pray for them all and even for the gunman

      Delete

Kindness is a virtue...