Of Heroes and Cowards

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heroescowardsSanford (Sandy) Cook, Staff Writer

True heroes, like perfect diamonds, are rare. I, for one, get tired of non-participants continually referring to every soldier as a “hero”. It cheapens the term, and embarrasses the soldiers – they know better. True heroes make life so rewarding for many of us without our even having to turn a hand.

They do it for us – every day. They set an example for us which most of us cannot hope to equal, but we can marvel at the capability of the truly heroic human soul.

Why, then, are there so many cowards? How do we happen to raise up so many who will never risk their personal comfort, position, or hope for power?

     

True heroes, like perfect diamonds, are rare. I, for one, get tired of non-participants continually referring to every soldier as a “hero”. It cheapens the term, and embarrasses the soldiers – they know better.

That is not to say that we don’t need more heroes. We always do, but we need them in many more endeavors other than war.

The obvious places are in the ranks of first responders, where there are normally at least as many true heroes as there are in military uniform. There are also heroes in the giving professions such as those doctors and nurses who give of their time and energy and knowledge in many organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the International Red Cross, often in places of great danger, and without any real hope of reward.

Some less obvious homes for heroes are in the silent background of legislation and litigation when true heroes take on the mighty for the good of the ignored and the dismissed, which usually means for the good of us all.

Heroes such as these – true heroes – are what makes life so rewarding for many of us without our even having to turn a hand. They do it for us – every day. They set an example for us which most of us cannot hope to equal, but we can marvel at the capability of the truly heroic human soul.

Why, then, are there so many cowards? How do we happen to raise up so many who will never risk their personal comfort, position, or hope for power? Why do we make them the heads of corporations, banks, and other institutions. Why do we lionize them for their selfishness and their “successes” as they often rob us blind, while we ignore those who truly strive for us every day?

Why do we allow them to present themselves as heroes?

Why do we elect so damn many of them to public office?

The party out of power can never get anything done because they are afraid to lose – cowards quit; heroes lose and lose again but keep on fighting.

The party in power can never get anything done because the other party blocks their self-labeled “heroic” efforts.

The real reasons for both conditions and both parties are usually [pick as many as apply to your legislator] a) their contributors won’t like the results; b) they are afraid that their constituents won’t re-elect them; c) they are committed to some ideology that pre-selects their vote; d) they just want to laze around in the backwaters of power, get the perks, and not be disturbed; e) they’d rather do nothing than expose their incompetence; f) they really don’t care about now – it’s the revolving-door job they are going to get next that must be protected.

Our current crop have become a class of cowards, with a very few notable exceptions on both sides. More than that, they have become almost a separate ruling class. Every time one of them starts a declaration with “The American people want/need/demand/…” I cringe. What do they know about all of us? All they know is that we are a source of votes and of tax money that funds their perks, and pays for the pork they feed to their districts to ensure the next round of contributions and their guaranteed reelection.

It’s not just politicians. Why do we hire so many cowards as public servants?

As a prime example, the Department of Veterans Affairs has just let two senior executives go who failed over nine years to implement a computerized scheduling system for veterans’ appointments, while spending $167M. Incompetence, yes, but cowardice also. If they couldn’t do the job with the resources they had or the contract they were stuck with, they should have stood up and said so. Instead they wallowed in their cowardice and incompetence, hoping never to be discovered (at least until retirement).

What’s the effect of all of this on the people we care about; serving military, veterans and their families?

The politicians and the bureaucrats know that if we had universal health care, as most other developed nations do, we could eliminate the DVA’s backlog for normal medical services almost overnight. If we had universal health care we would make our industries and our industrial communities more competitive for both the goods we sell and the jobs we all, including veterans, seek. But in the face of the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry’s deep well of contributions, these cowards are unable to see a solution. They cannot cough up enough courage to take on that wealthy bunch of contributors.

The politicians and the bureaucrats know that there is only so much money to fund the Armed Forces, although that number is obscenely large in the face of the amount spent in the rest of the world. Because there are nonetheless limitations on what is available, they know that the money for defense must be spent wisely, and on those items that address the real threat to those who are in action or who may be called upon to fight. Yet they are unable to muster the courage to face the hard choices, preferring to continue expensive programs because of their immediate effect on their reelection possibilities (think F-22), rather than choosing the hard road that would lead to the programs and systems that the troops really need.

Our legislative cowards claim that it is only because of the jobs that they continue to support what, in the case of the F-22s, may be the largest and most expensive fleet of hangar queens ever built. But the same money could provide jobs in many more places – teachers, construction workers, planners, engineers, transportation workers. It’s not jobs – its cowardice – an unwillingness to make the hard choices. See what’s happening as we speak.

The politicians and the bureaucrats know that when they send someone into battle, or merely enlist that person for the possibility of future battle, they make a commitment to that woman or man that is far different from the normal employment contract. That difference costs money – perhaps for a lifetime – but they do not have the courage to calculate the full cost of an individual’s service, and especially the full and true cost of wars in their decisions. Instead they hide from that responsibility and muddle along, stripping our national treasure in what they hope is small enough increments that no one notices. They consistently underfund veterans services and the personal and family services for the serving military. They hide when the subject of inadequate funding and unconscionable delays come up, all the time trumpeting their “support of the troops”. (Can’t we find another expression? That one is slimed with hypocrisy.)

So let’s limit the set of those we call heroes to those who have the courage to do their jobs without thought of personal gain, who serve all of us probably far better than we deserve, who face real personal or professional danger and conquer it, and who do not even demand of us that we recognize their heroism, only demanding that we honor their service.

And let’s call out the cowards for who they are. Let’s get right with the heroes of the past and the hopes of the future by pegging these cowards publicly, demanding that they step up to their job, which is to serve us and not them.

Remind them that there are 24 million veterans out here and we vote, as do our families.

Tell them to fight for what is right, not what is convenient and comfortable, and if they lose, step up and fight again! If they are not willing, tell them that we veterans will find someone who is.

"Any coward can fight a battle when he’s sure of winning, but give me the man who has pluck to fight when he’s sure of losing. That’s my way, sir; and there are many victories worse than a defeat."

George Eliot novelist., 1819-1880

 

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