SOME THOUGHTS ON BRAVERY
“Find the Cost of Freedom”
We put a lot of stock in bravery here in the great U.S. of A. We lauded the firefighters and other first responders for meeting almost certain death head on during the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in their efforts to save lives. We similarly supported healthcare workers, and others on the front lines, as the COVID pandemic raged during the past three years. On Memorial Day we again will give thanks those women and men who either voluntarily or by means of conscription donned this Nation’s uniforms and put themselves in harm’s way for our protection. These and so many other similar efforts since the inception of our Country are glorified in the last words of our national anthem, “land of the free, home of the brave”. However, I am reminded of the terrible costs made by so many brave souls every time I listen to the sobering song penned by Stephen Stills in 1970, “Find the Cost of Freedom”. In that song he writes, “Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground. Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down”.
In the wake of this week’s bloodshed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, I have been thinking about what bravery means, and actions taken by people, or collections of people, that wittingly or unwittingly constitute bravery, or the lack thereof. Bravery is defined as “courageous behavior or character” or “the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear or difficulty”. Clearly, those who voluntarily assume the roles in our society of soldier, front line healthcare workers, firefighters, police officers, etc., may over the course of their careers be confronted with opportunities to exhibit bravery by their actions. However, what of those who have had to exhibit bravery in recent years, but should NEVER have been put in a position do so?
As the unchecked carnage in our Nation’s shopping centers, movie theaters, houses of worship and, most particularly, schools continues unabated, unfortunately patrons of stores, movie goers, school age kids, parishioners, etc., have had to exhibit bravery at the most God awful moments that was not by choice of profession, but, instead, was as the result of the total lack of bravery by “We the People” and our elected officials.
Let us consider for a moment the teaching staff and non-teaching staff in our schools. As someone who has sat on a Board of Education for 15 years, I have repeatedly seen firsthand the dedication and commitment of these people to the kids of this Nation. Virtually every day the vast majority of these people, who answered a special calling, devote their minds, energy, time and lives to the preparation and education of each successive generation of young people. Now, once again, in the minutes and hours following the horrific taking of life in Uvalde, came the insane call for the arming of school staff. If that should come to pass, those considering a position in education will have to add to the list of the job description the willingness to undergo military style weapons training and to lay down one’s while teaching the ABC’s to kindergarteners. Pardon my language but are those suggesting this arming of staff totally fucking insane. Is it not enough that the school shootings in this Country have become so common and prevalent that the possibility of shootings and death has simply become normalized and part of the current educational experience. If you me, go sit with students and school staff and ask how they feel in this day and age. Ask them about the residual trauma caused by the active shooter drills, and the accompanying trauma of not knowing whether these drills will actually save the lives of students and staff.
What I have realized in the wake of Uvalde is that “We the People”, and our elected officials are exhibiting a complete and utter lack of courage and bravery. As we continue to bury the costs of this tainted and tarnished freedom in the ground, we have completely and utterly failed to undertake any “courageous behavior or character”, and there is no “quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear or difficulty”. Sadly, while school children and school staff exhibit uncommon bravery every day by simply walking into their schools with the knowledge that no one is doing anything, and that there is no cavalry coming over the hill, those that could help are just too chickenshit to stand up to the N.R.A. and begin the national dialogue that we desperately need.
Post-Uvalde surveys show that 84% of Americans support background checks for all firearms sales, while 70% back “red flag” laws that would allow authorities to confiscate guns from people found to be a threat to public safety, and 72% support raising the minimum age for the purchasing of guns from 18 to 21.
The Manager of the San Francisco Giants, Gaber Kapler, has publicly stated that he will no longer be on the field for pregame national anthems “until I feel better about the direction of this country” (shades of another Bay Area athlete who simply took a knee during the anthem). Mr. Kapler further stated, “We elect our politicians to represent our interests. Immediately following this shooting, we were told we needed locked doors and armed teachers. We were given thoughts and prayers. We were told it could have been worse, and we just need love. But we weren’t given bravery, and we aren’t free. . . . We aren’t free when politicians decide that the lobbyist and gun industries are more important than our children’s freedom to go to school without needing bulletproof backpacks and active shooter drills.”
In this Country we have always prided ourselves on our resiliency and courage in the face of darkness (see, for example, December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001). Well, we need some bravery and courage right now. We need to save our children and school staff, and everyone else who has been in the path of the flying bullets. We have the numbers. We just need the will. We need to tell our elected officials that either they show some balls, or we are going to send you home. They need to hear our voices. We need to flood their offices with phone messages, letters, emails, etc. THE TIME IS NOW PEOPLE!!! One World/One Love. Peace.