“Let’s Roll!” will no doubt go down in history as a modern monument to resistance against evil. It was an act of courage.
Throughout man’s history, his finest moments, and the proof of his spark of divinity, are those that push back the gloom of oppression. To be prepared to risk everything, often with no hope of personal survival for the benefit of a principle of goal, for personal honor, or to spare others unknown, is the mark of a true hero.
The greatest value of heroic deeds is the incalculable inspiration they give to others. The counterattack of the passengers on Flight 93 had its effect—incidents of attempted hijacking or “air rage” have since been put down by quick-acting passengers, and it seems unlikely that ever again will a planeload of passengers meekly submit to a terrorist takeover.
But fatal self-sacrifice is not all there is of courage. The civil disobedience of a Rosa Parks or the self-imposed non-violence of a Martin Luther King takes a different kind of fortitude. It involves a willingness to be battered and torn by an unjust system, solely to let that system graphically demonstrate to the world the extent of its injustice, on the slim hope that a universal conscience will demand change. It is the courage to rest your fate on the faith of the basic goodness of mankind, when you have utterly no reason to do so.
Standing fast on one’s convictions, in the face of enormous social or political pressure takes a great deal of courage. Bastiat noted that, “When law and morality contradicts each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.” And that these two evils are or equal consequence and it would be difficult for a person to choose between them.
Socrates was more fearful of personal wrongdoing than of death itself, and considered that going into the afterlife with a soul full of injustice to be the last and worst of all evils. And like Christ, who would come four centuries later, he was convicted and put to death by an inflamed rabble, because he could do no other then tell an unpopular truth. He let evil run its course, content that he had not been dishonorable, impious or dishonest.
Courage does not consist in never feeling fear, but rather in the ability to overcome it. Take comfort in the knowledge that at the core of worldly existence is a battle between good and evil, and that evil can do nothing other than eventually consume and extinguish itself.
Let us take pride in being Americans. Let us draw strength and character from the knowledge of whence we come, and have the courage to strive to be more than we suspect we can be. Life is full of tests, and this in one of them. Let’s pass it.
Written by Michael Brennan (RIP)