04 January 2011


COURAGE. NYTimes science writer Natalie Angier summarizes recent research into the behavioral manifestations and the social contexts of a trait which Plato considered to be one of the four cardinal virtues (along with wisdom, justice and moderation) -- courage. But where Plato and others considered courage to be "a martial art, most readily displayed on the battlefield -- the iconic brave soldier running into the line of fire to retrieve an injured comrade," more recent thought holds that courage is taking action in spite of fear (as opposed to being fearless, which implies either stupidity or being in a situation without perceived threat). "By that expansive definition, courage becomes democratized and demilitarized, the property of any wallflower who manages to give the convention speech, or the math phobe who takes on calculus."

It is a truism in our times that the word "hero" has become a cliche, applied most fervently to those who die in war or during a crisis, whether or not a particular death was an act of will or a random event. I prefer the Wikipedia perception of heroes as being "characters who, in the face of danger or adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will to self-sacrifice for some greater good to all humanity." There are many unsung heroes among us. The single parent who raises a child, goes to work every day, perhaps even takes university classes in order to better the lives of his/her family. The older person who continues to hold down a job in our bleak economy, when he/she had looked forward to spending these golden years in relaxed retirement. The teacher who brings creativity, dedication and humor to a career burdened by low pay, a counterproductive tenure system, and lack of support from parents or school administrators. The brave soul who speaks out against social injustice -- racism, homophobia, unjust war, the destruction of wilderness and wildlife.

So while we justifiably celebrate the sacrifices of soldiers, firemen, and others who are being paid to do their jobs, let us now forget the sacrifices of so many others who are not.

G.O.P. RERUN. Bob Herbert offers a timely reminder regarding the Republican gains in the 2010 elections -- "The party that brought us the worst economy since the Great Depression, that led us into Iraq and the worst foreign policy disaster in American history, that would like to take a hammer to Social Security and a chisel to Medicare, is back in control of the House of Representatives with the expressed mission to undermine all things Obama .... Maybe the voters missed the entertainment value of the hard-hearted, compulsively destructive G.O.P. headliners. Maybe they viewed them the way audiences saw the larger-than-life villains in old-time melodramas. It must be something like that because it's awfully hard to miss the actual policies of a gang that almost wrecked the country .... The fundamental mission of the G.O.P. is to shovel ever more money to those who are already rich. That's why you got all that disgraceful phony rhetoric from Republicans about attacking budget deficits and embracing austerity while at the same time they were fighting like mad to pile up the better part of a trillion dollars in new debt by extending the Bush tax cuts .... We'll see and hear a lot of populist foolishness from the Republicans as 2011 and 2012 unfold, but their underlying motivation is always the same. They are about making the rich richer."

In a nation where the richest 1 percent controls more wealth than the poorest 90 percent of the population, I can only say "ya think?"

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