Who's the Coward?


One of my favorite pieces of shopworn pro-war rhetoric is the use of the word "coward." When an advocate of the use of military violence toward Afghanistan can't manage to muster logical, factually-supported arguments to back up their point of view, they retreat to name calling. Don't listen to those anti-war people...they're just cowards! Oooooh, bad word, "coward." This is supposed to shut the anti-war people up.

My favorite nugget of "coward lit" comes from John Moir, who just ended his term as Chair of the North Carolina Federation of Young Republicans. Although he is of age to enlist and go fight the war himself, he has conveniently stayed at home to pursue a financially-rewarding career as a political consultant. Here's what he has to say about people opposed to war:


"Call them whatever you like - anti war activists, pacifists, etc. The only label that describes them is that of coward. In my opinion the actions of these activists border on treason. Personally I would like to see them sent to the front lines of battle in Afghanistan. Then ask them how effective their "Stop the Violence" signs really are."

Now wait just a dog-gone minute! I've got to ask: who's the coward here? Just think about it for a minute. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a coward as "one who shows ignoble fear in the face of danger or pain." To figure out who the cowards are, then, you've got to ask a couple of further questions: Who's in danger? Who's trying to stay safe? Who indicates a willingness to suffer pain? Who is unwilling to suffer?

With these criteria in mind, I ask you to open your mind for a minute and consider the following:

Who's the Coward?
The citizen who is willing to calmly accept a slightly higher risk of death as the price of morally consistent living in a world where a few people act in crazy ways OR The Senator who gravely intones that "things will never be the same again," calls for the legalization of torture, and authorizes the spending of tens of billions of dollars of tax dollars -- all in reaction to the unfortunate death of one thousandth of one percent of the United States population (fewer people than the number who die from gall bladder attacks every year)?

Who's the Coward?
The pacifist who sticks to her principles even in the face of violent disaster OR The fundamentalist Christian who abandons the teachings of Jesus when they become inconvenient?

Who's the Coward?
The newspaper editor who correctly refers to Bush's "I was a target of terrorists" claim as untrue OR The newspaper owner who sacks the editor because pointing this out is "inappropriate"?

Who's the Coward?
The West Virginia high school student who wears a shirt with the following phrase to school: "When I saw the dead and dying Afghani children on TV, I felt a newly recovered sense of national security. God Bless America." OR The principal who suspends her for it, the fellow students who push her into lockers for it, and the grown men and women in her hometown who threaten to kill her for it?

Who's the Coward?
The lone member of Congress to cast a vote against authorizing military action, saying "There must be some of us who say, let's step back for a moment and think through the implications of our actions." OR The radio show host who calls that member of Congress a "treasonous whore"?

Who's the Coward?
The lawyer for the ACLU who volunteers to defend the civil rights of those accused of terrorism OR The Attorney General who argues that the Constitution does not apply to everyone in America?

Who's the Coward?
The person who voices sincere misgivings about the wisdom of a bombing campaign when everyone around them expresses the opposite opinion OR The person who quietly lives with misgivings about the war but stays quiet, sticks a "united we stand" button on their shirt, and sings a chorus of "God Bless America?"

Who's the coward? You figure it out.


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