If you have courage, then you're willing to face that really stinky mess in the garage and clean it up.
You have faith you can clean it up, because you've cleaned up other really stinky messes, or seen other people do it. In other words, you have faith because you have experience of succeeding in the past.
Now Americans don't have much faith that we can throw out a bunch of murdering, psychotic tyrants (excuse my French). Why? Because we don't have experience succeeding against such people.
Sure, the Founding Fathers threw out the British; but that was WAY back in the day, hundreds of years before we were born. French revolution? Ancient history, and different country. WWII? Still generations back for many of us, and that was different. The WWII generation was fighting "the good war", and never knew that our own government probably let Pearl Harbor be attacked in order to justify the U.S. entry into WWII to help out the British. So we have no experience of having really stood up to tyrants.
Fat and Happy
Moreover, we Americans have led a very pampered life for the past couple of decades. Sure, there has been inequality and exploitation, and some have had it a lot worse than others. But, other than stopping extreme forms of racism (Ku Klux Klan, etc.), we haven't had to defend our borders or our liberties.
Basically, we complain if our tv goes on the fritz, or our team loses the game, or we can't afford that new, nicer whatzit, or if our boss is mean. We think those are big, Earth-shattering, history-changing events. But they are quite small in the grand scheme of things
And even those of us who think of ourselves as brave heroes usually only act like that when we know it is within the bounds of safety, within the limits of what we can handle. "Tough guys" tend to turn into meek mice whenever they are really threatened.
So we're basically lazy and timid, but we don't know or admit it. We like to pretend we are like the Founding Fathers or John Wayne (at least the cowboys had to rough it a little).
But we have no experience of successfully standing up to tyrants, so we have no faith that it can be done, and while the evidence is right before our noses that our current leaders are tyrants, we're so terrified that we have our knickers in a bunch.
What Would They Do?
Even if you haven't experienced success in standing up to tyrants, remember that the Founding Fathers did just that. They were just men, not gods. Sure, they were too persistent and stubborn to give up, but that's because they CARED about something: freedom.
They may have lived hundreds of years before our time, but that doesn't matter -- we can still learn from their experience as if it were happening now. Time is an illusion, since human nature is the same now as it was then. Just as many people of faith ask "what would Jesus do?", we can also ask "what would the founding fathers do?" If they could do it, we can do it.
There is a real misunderstanding of what it means to be courageous. In America, courage is often thought of as a testosterone-driven toughness. There's nothing the matter with testosterone. Masculinity is a great thing. But many American men secretly fear that they don't have sufficient testosterone to really be brave when the chips are down. As I said above, even those of us who think of ourselves as brave men usually only act like that when we know it is within the bounds of safety, within the limits of what we can handle.
We might jump in a bar room brawl to protect our buddy, but that's because we know we're only going to get knocked around a little bit -- nothing but bruises that will go away in a little while. The stakes just aren't that high.
But most American men secretly doubt whether they are macho enough to pull it off under fire. They may watch alot of action movies, and talk tough, and stand up when its not really dangerous (or when they clearly outgun the other guy), but they are secretly terrified that they don't have quite enough backbone to pull it off against the big boys, such as tyrants.
I would argue that this view fundamentally misunderstands the nature of courage, and ensures that we will never have true courage when it counts.
By way of analogy, the word "discipline" comes from "disciple". If you are a true "disciple" of an idea of a plan or a strategy or a religion, then you will stick to it and "have discipline" to reach your goal. It is not just a matter of willpower; it is also devotion to something bigger than ourselves.
Similarly, the word "courage" comes from the French "with heart". Why does it have this root meaning? Because it takes heart to act bravely. That's how my childhood Karate teacher used the word: when I was practicing with courage, power and focus, he would say "you have alot of heart today" (indeed, many old-school warriors use the phrase "fighting with heart" in that way).
If courage is acting "with heart", we've lost heart. And without heart, we cannot face the truth of 9/11, or lying to start wars, or vote fraud, or fascism, or torture, or dictatorship.
So how do we regain our heart? Well, let's start with what gets our hearts beating.
Remember that the mother bear is one of the fiercest animals of all. Just get between a mother bear and her cub and you'll see what I mean. It is her love of her cub which gives her the heart to face any enemy when her cub is threatened. It is not her level of testosterone, but rather her love for her cub which makes her so fierce.
Just as discipline is more than just willpower, courage stems from something bigger than just cajones. In fact, the strongest courage comes from the love of something we care about, since our heart will sustain us even when the chips are really down and we are really up against a tyrant. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said: "Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. "
In addition, we're no longer living in the old west. Individualism is very important in numerous ways, but we can only win against the tyrants as a team, as a community, as a nation. And only by opening our hearts to what matters will we be able to work together, to fight for all of our kids, and all of our freedom. Only then will we be able to put the tyrants back in the box.
Do we care about our kids, our significant others, our parents, our friends? Do we care about the freedom to choose what we want, instead of having our "great leader" choose for us?
If not, what DO we care about? Because if that is where your heart is, that is what will give you courage.
Even if you are driven by greed, then -- unless you directly make your living from the defense or oil industries (the two sectors profiting wildy under the current administration) -- you have motive to restore democracy to our country.
I care too much about my kids and my freedom to be afraid. I care enough about them that it gets my heart beating, connects me to something bigger than myself, and that gives me courage, even when the chips are down.
Courage is an innate human quality. It is within each of us, waiting to reveal itself when we open our hearts. When we act with heart, by definition, we are courageous.
Those who would trade safety for freedom deserve neither.
– Thomas Jefferson
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
- Hellen Keller
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.
- Ambrose Redmoon
Courage is an everyday thing. When we look reality squarely in the eye and refuse to back away from our awareness, we are living courage.
To have courage for whatever comes in life - everything lies in that.
- Mother Teresa
It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
- Robert F . Kennedy
It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.
- Seneca, Native American
Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.
Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.
- John Wayne
Courage is doing what your afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared.
- Eddie Rickenbacker
Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.
- George Patton
One man with courage makes a majority.
- Andrew Jackson
Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you'll regret the things you didn't do more than the ones you did.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.
— Eleanor Roosevelt
Within each of us is a hidden store of energy. Energy we can release to compete in the marathon of life Within each of us is a hidden store of courage. Courage to give us the strength to face any challenge Within each of us is a hidden store of determination. Determination to keep us in the race when all seems lost.
- Roger Dawson
We must never despair; our situation has been compromising before; and it changed for the better; so I trust it will again. If difficulties arise; we must put forth new exertion and proportion our efforts to the exigencies of the times.
- George Washington
We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.
Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
- Margaret Mead