I’m late with this blog, and I have no excuses. I do, however, have a reason. I had an idea for this post. I had a fair amount of material to include, but it just wasn’t coming together. I really couldn’t feel it, if you know what I mean. That is until the middle of the week.
You see, I have been following the political situation, and maybe that is part of what was getting me down. Mitt Romney and Joe Manchin have exhibited what is commonly called moral courage. Both stood against the majority and voted Trump guilty.
In his speech before the vote, Romney said he had taken an oath before God (as had all the senators) to be a fair and impartial judge of the evidence against Trump. Already the backlash has started. Some news sources have called him “flip-flop” Romney based on his vote and stands he has taken in the past. Trump excoriated him at what was supposed to be a prayer breakfast on Thursday saying, “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.” (various sources). Many pundits expect further consequences from Trump.
Although Joe Manchin voted with his party in a unanimous guilty vote, he is the only Democrat senator/representative from a red state. West Virginia, which historically, had been a heavily Democratic state, began to turn more towards the Republican party around the turn of this century. Manchin tends to lean towards being conservative, and some have said that Trump expected a not-guilty vote from him.
These two senators exhibited moral courage in voting for impeachment against expected backlash. Others—representatives and witnesses—are already having consequences for their actions, which Trump sees as personal attacks on him.
My New Hero
In recent months, I have become more aware of the concept of moral courage. It started with the discovery of my new hero, Irshad Manji. She was a guest last March 22 on Real time With Bill Maher. Irshad Manji is an educator, writer, activist, Muslim reformer, and several other things. I was blown away by her message and the energetic presentation. I immediately bought her book Don’t Label Me. Here is the link to the short interview that so impressed me. [Sorry, I tried every way to give a direct link, but many outlets won’t allow this. What you have to do instead is click Media in the box below. That will take you to Irshad’s website. Once there, click the box that says Real Time With Bill Maher the entire program should come up. The interview begins about 6:35.]
The interview inspired me to start thinking about moral courage and people who had exhibited this admiral quality. That’s when I started the original article that didn’t quite work. Now it is a topic of discussion on most news programs and newspaper articles. [Even if you are not a fan of Bill Maher, please watch the interview part of the show.
The people I originally wrote about are:
Socrates (c. 470 BCE-399 BCE) Accused of corrupting the young people of Athens was condemned to death. He could have chosen exile or allowed friends to break him out of prison, but he drank the hemlock ordered by his jury, who had found him guilty. (The Biography.com website)
Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) Etty, part of an intellectual Jewish family in The Netherlands, earned a degree in Dutch Law. Her diaries record the worsening conditions of the Jewish people in The Netherlands. Instead of leaving the country, she chose to stay with her people. She died in Auschwitz in 1943.
Rosa Parks (1913-2005) became, in effect, “the mother of the civil rights movement.” You could say she took a stand by refusing to give up her seat in the “colored” section of a bus to a white person.
Nelson Mandela (1918-2019) spent 27 years in South African prisons for his protests against apartheid, an extreme form of segregation. Released by President F. W. de Klerk, he worked with de Klerk to end apartheid and encourage reconciliation between the two races. Mandela served as president of South Africa.
Jane Fonda (b. 1937) has been an activist most of her life. Most recently, Fonda was arrested on five occasions for protesting in DC with other climate change activists. Her intention is to use her celebrity status to bring attention to the world climate crises.
None of these people had to take the chances they did. They stood for the position they considered right. They had the moral courage to take a stand, to attempt to make a difference.
When I think of the people I have discussed in this post and the many others who risked death, loss of reputation, and other consequences, I wonder, who finds the strength to defend what they think is right, either in action or conversation?