The Anatomy of Courage

I wasn’t going to say anything. I really wasn’t. But then this photo blew up my newsfeed this morning, and my blood started boiling.

You’ve probably seen it yourself.


Attached to the photo is this: “As I see post after post about Bruce Jenner’s transition to a woman, and I hear words like, bravery, heroism, and courage, just thought I’d remind all of us what real American courage, heroism, and bravery looks like!”

From a rhetorical standpoint, this picture, along with the commentary, works really well to shame us into following right along.  So many aspects of the photograph speak to values that most Americans have hardwired into their systems by the time they hit elementary school.  One soldier carrying his wounded (we assume) comrade at arms, who although injured (again, we assume) continues to fight.  These are things we as Americans are raised to respect – leave no man behind; he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother; never give up, never surrender.  Even the words used here are words that we are taught are the highest order of what it means to be American: courage, heroism, and bravery.

But….there is also rhetorical fallacy at it finest here.  This post implies that if you aren’t carrying your wounded friend off a battlefield with no regard for your own safety or continuing to fire at the enemy even while wounded, you are not worthy of being labelled courageous, heroic, or brave.

Yes, this picture shows courage, bravery, and heroism. I won’t argue with you on that.  I have a healthy respect for the men and women in the armed forces.

But you know what also shows courage, bravery, and heroism? The men and women with spouses in the armed forces.  Every woman who has ever given birth to a child, raised a child, or given up a child for adoption because she knew that was best. Every teacher who goes to work on a daily basis knowing that he is fighting nearly insurmountable odds to help those kids get an education. Every police officer and firefighter who goes to work never knowing if that day could be their last.

Sometimes it’s easy to see courage and bravery.

But sometimes for someone, bravery is just getting out of bed in the morning.

Sometimes bravery isn’t popular. (This is especially true is you aren’t white, Christian, and heterosexual.)

Sometimes bravery is just saying that it’s ok to be me.

If you don’t think what Caitlyn Jenner did (and does everyday) took guts, then you should fall down on your knees every night and thank God for making your life so perfect that you know nothing of the true grit it takes so many of us imperfect people just to make it through the day sometimes.