Our Sponsors:

Read more »

Our Members

Many thanks to John Fleener and Nadine Oliver some of our many supporters.

ALL MEMBERS »

Courage? Embrace your inner scaredy-cat

Don't be put off by those bigger, braver, souls out there.

Editor's Note: This essay is part of an occasional series on courage that will run in advance of Crosscut's first annual "Courage Awards" ceremony on October 31st.

In the original "Wizard of Oz," L. Frank Baum's novel, the Cowardly Lion is convinced he is full of fear and therefore has no courage. Even so, he performs acts of tremendous bravery: jumping across huge gaping holes in the yellow brick road, his friends on his back, or fighting off monsters with tiger heads and bear bodies.

Of course, what we realize in watching the Cowardly Lion is that he has great courage. Courage is, in fact, acting in the face of fear. In the words of Nelson Mandela: “The brave man is not he who is not afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Over the past 12 years of working in the field of immigrant and human rights, I have watched people take enormous risks in order to tell their stories and be part of a collective movement for change. I have also seen courage manifest around me in countless ways as we live our lives, often protected from some of the worst calamities.

I think of Celeste, whose undocumented husband climbed out of the window of their house to avoid being picked up for detention, leaving her and their one-year-old son (both U.S. citizens) to fight for him and for their family as he was on the run for years. I think of women who are victims of violence and come forward to show their bruised bodies and souls, in spite of tremendous fear of reprisal. I think of undocumented DREAMers who dare to dream publicly in spite of their status.

I think of Brian Murphy, a policeman who was shot 19 times as he tried to protect people at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and then instructed first responders to help other victims first. I think of men and women who “come out” to their friends and families to announce who they really are. I think of natural disasters — Katrina, Sandy and El Reno — when neighbors helped neighbors and strangers helped strangers, not only in the immediate time of the disaster, but in the aftermath as everyone had to bury children and rebuild lives. 

There are many more stories of courage and bravery, but most important is the question lying underneath them all: What allows us to access our courage? I believe that every human being is born with both fear and courage. Fear is more easily accessible, though — a visceral emotion that too often comes unbidden, uninvited, even unnoticed. Fear seems so much a part of us. 

Courage is just as much a part of us, but it takes more effort, more intentionality. We must either call upon it to come forward or create the space for it to emerge — unbidden but necessary so that we can act in integrity with our basic human goodness. It is often the response to a choice put before us. In the wake of 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft tried to dampen our courage to speak out and do right. “You’re either with us or you are with the terrorists,” he proclaimed. And yet, thousands of Arabs, Muslims and Sikhs came forward and spoke out at tremendous personal cost. They were driven by fear for themselves and their communities, but also by a genuine sense of injustice and moral outrage.

And, as is often the case, single acts of courage inspired others. Courage is a quality that, when tended to, increases — not only for the person who is courageous, but for those around them. Courageous acts are like snowballs rolling down a hill, gathering steam, first one, then a hundred, then a thousand acts of courage, coming together like a symphony orchestra.

Great leaders like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Rosie Parks, Sojourner Truth and Mahatma Gandhi demonstrated courage guided by intuitive moral choices that had enormous societal impact. We need inspiration and leadership like that to remind ourselves of what we are capable of and to remember that courage is not just something for someone bigger and braver and stronger than us.


Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!

Comments:

Posted Thu, Jun 27, 6:56 a.m. Inappropriate

How about the courage to follow the law?

Cameron

Posted Thu, Jun 27, 10:40 a.m. Inappropriate

Certainly, there have been times when it was an act of courage to follow the law -- I think there are plenty of examples of that in our history, especially when it comes to defending human rights. But as we talk here today, while Nelson Mandella is in hospital again and the international news feeds discuss his legacy, you and I both know that there have been plenty of times when the most courageous thing you could do was say "no."

sandik

Posted Fri, Jun 28, 4:22 p.m. Inappropriate

Nelson Mandela did not work to gain South African Citizenship for illegal aliens. Nelson Mandela is a great man. It is disgusting you would conflate Nelson Mandela with illegal aliens. You are simply shameful.

jhande

Posted Thu, Jun 27, 3:51 p.m. Inappropriate

Ok, I say "NO" to more illegal immigration and the amnesty for those who have already broken the law. Where is my award?

There was an amnesty in 1986, it didn't work, there was no "courage" to enforce the penalty and deportation provisions. A blind eye and an open door to further illegal immigration. What is the rational for doing it all over again and expecting a different result? Will those who would be inclined to come to America and stay as an illegal, going to heed the new law any more than they did the old law? Why?

Cameron

Posted Thu, Jun 27, 5:41 p.m. Inappropriate

There are certainly occasions when the exercise of reactionary political views takes courage. Not by bloggers, but certainly by Sheriff Arpaio and even by vigilantes.

If you really want to complain about the lack of courage "to enforce the penalty and deportation provisions," look no further than the (generally conservative) ag and other business interests who benefit from the relatively inexpensive labor that flow from a policy of ignoring the law. And the American public who benefit from the lower prices that result. And the political economy that is increasingly inequitable, creating economic pressure on that public, thus constantly ratcheting up the pressure for lower prices. Etc.

louploup

Posted Thu, Jun 27, 7:33 p.m. Inappropriate

We live in a State dominated by the Democrat party. If the Democrats are so weak that they do the bidding of what you claim is a conservative AG industry, then they as guilty of pandering as any orchard owner. If it is strickly an economic equation, then I am certain that there are hundreds of thousands of AG workers in China, India or some other countries of the world that would love to work as seasonal labor and return home when their contracts expire. They would probably be willing to do it for far less than the current illegal population that is demanding amnesty as well.

Cameron

Posted Thu, Jun 27, 10:41 p.m. Inappropriate

What are you talking about? By far the largest ag industry employers of immigrants are in California, Texas, Arizona, and they are not liberals, whatever party label they use. The Democrats who "dominate" Washington State (could have fooled me with what's going on in Olympia) are not in control of U.S. immigration policy or enforcement.

And what do the possible willingness of workers in China and India to work for less than Latinos have to do with anything in this thread? You're promoting a race to the bottom? Let's see how low we can drive the wages? You sound like a corporate psychopath, seeking out the cheapest labor possible and to hell with humane values.

louploup

Posted Fri, Jun 28, 1:32 a.m. Inappropriate

The CBO Cost Estimate on S.744, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, reported to the Senate on 28 May 2013, and updated 06 Jun 2013 states the Act would lower the average wage, and increase unemployment, until at least 2025. This immigration bill is the race to the bottom.

The CBO Cost Estimate states the average wage for Citizens would go down, and the average wage for illegal aliens would go up with the Act. S.744 harms Citizens in order to benefit foreign nationals. The CBO states the reduced wages and increased unemployment could linger for "most of two decades". That means 2033. The Act harms Citizens.

The CBO Cost Estimate on page 23, under the heading "Future Unauthorized Residents" states the Act would reduce illegal immigration by at the most twenty five percent. The Act does not stop illegal immigration. Also of note; the Corker Amendment to the Act allows the Executive Branch to waive the border security provisions. It is doubtful the Act would lead to much reduction in illegal immigration.

So, decreased wages for Citizens, increased unemployment for Citizens, and increased poverty for Citizens, for "most of two decades" are some of the impacts of S.744.

None of the wealthy Senators, who wrote this Act, or voted for this Act would suffer any of the negative impacts of the Act. None of the wealthy backers of the wealthy Senators would suffer any of the negative impacts of the Act. There is nothing courageous about the Senate action on the Act. It is not courageous to create negative impacts on Citizens, while ensuring none of the negative impacts effect themselves.

Cowardice would be Citizens not resisting S.744. It is a race to the bottom Act, which benefits only business/corporate interests, wealthy investors, politicians, and foreign nationals. There is no courage involved in S.744.

jhande

Posted Fri, Jun 28, 6:08 a.m. Inappropriate

I am afraid it is the Democrats in Washington State pushing immigration reform that are leading race to the bottom.

Louploup raised the "conservative" moniker here "look no further than the (generally conservative) ag and other business interests who benefit from the relatively inexpensive labor that flow from a policy of ignoring the law." So by allowing illegal labor as a "policy" to continue to grow in Washington State, the Democrats, who have held the Governors mansion and at least one chamber of the Legislature for almost thirty years, are essentially promoting illegal immigration. Sanctuary is further evidence.

What does mentioning seasonal labor from China or India have to do with the argument? Those that suggest that we cannot "afford" to not have "cheap labor" in our AG areas as an excuse to continue to allow illegal aliens, are merely making a straw-man arguement. If we want to carve out exceptions and allow seasonal foreign national AG labor at rock bottom wages, and then make sure they return to their homelands, we certainly could. But for some reason, certain political parties find it better to allow those with access to the US through a contiguous border to stay here indefinitely, exploit the social safety net and other resources in an uncontrolled fashion and eventually demand amnesty.

Cameron

Posted Fri, Jun 28, 9:10 a.m. Inappropriate

Pramila Jayapal. What a surprise!

Crosscut's "courage" awards = political agenda propaganda.

Next year maybe you should hand out to your allies Moral Superiority awards. All the kiddies will want to emulate!

BTW... http://www.fairus.org/publications/the-fiscal-burden-of-illegal-aliens-on-washingtonians

BlueLight

Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

Join Crosscut now!
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow Us »