Rawlins: And what are you? So full of hate you want to go out and fight everybody! Because you’ve been whipped and chased by hounds. Well that might not be living, but it sure as hell ain’t dying. And dying’s been what these white boys have been doing for going on three years now! Dying by the thousands! Dying for *you*, fool! I know, ’cause I dug the graves. And all this time I keep askin’ myself, when, O Lord, when it’s gonna be our time? Gonna come a time when we all gonna hafta ante up. Ante up and kick in like men. LIKE MEN!
Glory–a fictionalization of the Union Army’s all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment, lead by a white officer, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw–is one of my favorite movies for a lot of reasons, but, in particular, the last three sentences of the above monologue by Rawlins (played by Morgan Freeman) have stayed with me.
A group of black Ferguson residents armed with high-powered rifles stood outside a white-owned business in the city during recent riots, protecting it from rioters that looted and burned other businesses.
After a grand jury returned no indictment against Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teen Michael Brown, protesters took to the streets and the demonstrations quickly turned into rioting. Several buildings were set ablaze, but a group of heavily armed black men stood outside a Conoco gas station.
One of the residents, a 6-foot-8 man named Derrick Johnson, held an AR-15 assault [sic] rifle as he stood in a pickup truck near that store’s entrance. Three other black Ferguson residents joined Johnson in front of the store, each of them armed with pistols.
Like men. Not like black men, or like white men–or like puling infants in the bodies of men–but men.
Sure, they liked the owner–who had given them employment over the years, but so what? (Side note: lately I’ve been saying to all who won’t cover their ears that free persons create their own jobs.) One good turn is often reciprocated by a stab in the back. It has happened to me more than once.
But that’s not what happened in this case.
Do either of these sets of men owe anything to the other for doing right? I say no. Any other attitude smacks of patronage.
Doing what’s right is often its own reward and, sometimes, there is only one Observer. And the ripples are seemingly invisible. But they exist.
Sir Percy Blakley: You think I like sitting there in the shadow of the knife while one head falls after another. People I know and love that innocent people, kindly people, herded like sheep and butchered like cattle by men who make high sounding principles an excuse for the most bestial cruelty?
The Scarlet Pimpernel 1934
Sheldon:Well done, Leonard. The true hero doesn’t seek adulation, he fights for right and justice simply because it’s his nature.
The Big Bang Theory: The Financial Permeability 2009
A great example of how to see the real difference in culture over four generations is to compare the heroes of one age vs another.
In the 1934 movie the Scarlet Pimpernel the title character, played by Leslie Howard, is joined by a group of 20 followers all posing as “fashionable puppies” young upper class twits who in reality are risking life and limb to save the life of those who are being slaughtered by the French Revolution for not believing the right things at the right time.
When one of his followers notes that they could, with little effort be 1000 rather than 20, Sir Percy scoffs saying:
Mere force is useless against people who are neither cowards nor fools, so we must match courage with courage and cunning with still greater cunning if we are to do anything at all. We’re all willing to give our lives but we must do more than that. We must mask our identities, suffer the humiliation of being taken for fops, fools nitwits, cowards.
For that hero it’s not all about them, it’s about those they wish to save and are willing not only to risk their lives, but also willing to suffer humiliation for the cause of good and right.
The same young boys who saw movies like this or read books like that and dreamed of risking all, ten years later were willing to give their lives to fight the Nazi’s (Howard himself would be shot down over the Bay of Biscay) and the men who came home didn’t boast or brag about it. Remember the famous Band of Brothers spent over five decades under the nations radar satisfied with the knowledge that they had done right, and their duty before Tom Hanks’mini series made their names and faces internationally known.
Contrast that with the idiots of Ferguson and beyond.
They imagine themselves brave heroes defending the honor of black america in general the Brown family in particular yet what to they do?
“Half of this protest I feel like is baiting cops … sort of about proving who you are against the police,” said Wilder Bunke, 21, of Hollywood, who was critical of actions by some in the crowd. “The modern-day “… the police” isn’t shooting a cop, it’s posting a picture of yourself posing with a cop car on Facebook or Twitter.”
Do you see the contrast? In the 30’s the hero pretends to be a coward in public while putting themselves in danger behind the scene. Today they pretend to put themselves in danger in public. All those videos of college kids lying down in malls and professional protesters disrupting shoppers, all those tweets declaring death threats to Officer Wilson are all about faking the courage of those who came before for all the world to see.
And yet, even that “courage” is an illusion as they taunt police in the sure and certain knowledge they will not shoot and are in fact trained not to. (Although I suspect the professional protest organizers, the Lisa Fithians of the world dearly hope one of their dupes would get themselves shot and create a martyr to the cause).
Alas the problem with living in a bubble, even a bubble that holds the fascination of the mainstream media, unlike Cuba’s Women in White , is that while your niche might see such action as world-changing, the general public sees something else, as Jazz Shaw put it:
The very first thing which came to my mind was to place myself in the position of a commuter who might not be all that familiar with the events in Ferguson hearing about the movement on the news later one. Oh.. so those were the guys who kept me sitting on I-90 for five freaking hours when I was supposed to be picking up cranberry sauce for my mother-in-law? Oh, I definitely will want to get on board with their legislation.
People understand it takes no actual courage to make trouble for average folks and people who can’t fight back that’s why those who practice the form of cowardice take so much time to pretend otherwise. I’ll give the last word to C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape
Cowardice, alone of all the vices, is purely painful – horrible to anticipate, horrible to feel, horrible to remember;
Unless the number below changes before year’s end I will finish 2014 in deficit.
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