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The Meaning of Courage

April 6, 2014

Just a couple of quick thoughts, in contrast to my usual blatherous outpourings.

I’m speechless in admiration of the nine million Afghans who went to the polls in defiance of the Taliban. Yes, the Afghan reality is different from mine, and perhaps it’s less of a big deal to go out to vote when bullets and bombs are an ever-present threat in your normal daily life. Nonetheless the Afghans yesterday showed collective courage beyond my understanding. Let’s hope that the leaders they risked everything to elect are worthy of them.

As for individual courage, I saw The Railway Man last night. It’s the story of Eric Lomax who, alongside thousands of other British and Australian prisoners of war, suffered appalling cruelty at the hands of the Japanese on the Burma railroad in World War II. Again, his courage was in a different universe to mine. Would I have forgiven the person who tortured me? I’m not sure.

Interesting also that the harrowing centrepiece of the torture sequence was the two weeks Lomax was most reluctant to talk about, in which he was waterboarded in an attempt to find out why he built a radio. This of course was one of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” employed by the CIA in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It didn’t work on Lomax, and as the US Congress appears to be discovering, it probably didn’t work for the CIA either.

It’s easy for those of us who have never been at the wrong end of a rifle or a torturer’s tools to pass blithely on to the next news story or action movie. It does us no harm to stop and reflect now and again about acts of courage that few of us need to summon up in our lives, yet are commonplace in the lives of others less fortunate.

From → Politics, Social, UK, USA

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