My SAT Essay

Posted by Melvin Bray on August 25th, 2006 filed in Useful Perhaps

In response to 9-11, America has been plunged into a perpetual, so-called “War on Terror”–a fight against fear. Our Commander-in-Chief’s stated goal is to subdue, even eradicate, terrorism by devastating its capacity to harm the American people. As the number of casualties, both American and Iraqi, mount, Pres. Bush has sought to rally support for his aggrssion by remaining the public that “staying the course” takes “courage and commitment” to “democraic ideals.” But I wonder. What does he mean by his se of the word “courage?” Is courage the attempt to eradicate fear or to subdue those who would seek to strike fear in our hearts? Is courage even, as modern wisdom might suggest, resistance to fear or mastery thereof? I’m inclined to believe that courage is not so aggresive. Courage is the resolve to face any circumstance–including one’s fears–in the most just, merciful and humble way one can, even if to do so is to cause one’s self pain.

This is why, though our President may believe and would ask us to believe otherwise, courage is not inherent in the act of making war. Courage abides in the waging of peace. Though peace may at the most desperate of tims require the show/use of force, it takes no pleasure or pride in pain afflicted, only in the harm preempted (and I a not referring to how our current Administration has chosen to misuse this term). The courage inherent in peace–thusly suspect in war–lies in peace’s refusal to exploit advantage for another’s loss. Peace is quintessentially other’s inerested. Even in times when force is the only recourse left to thwart an enemy’s malicious action (not intent), peace never uses more force than absolutely necesary to neutralize (in physics terms, not modern military jargon). Once advantage is gained peace relinquishes th exercise of power because to do otherwise tends toward the unjust, unmerciful and arrogant. The courage of peace lives in the hope of a day when passivism can be a sustainable reality.

Those currently in political power in the US may use the language of courage and may truly even possess it, but their policy of aggression in response to terror neither exercises nor requires it. It simply requires a dogged determination to get back at or go after those we feel have or may one day wrong us. Such behavior could be very easily and accurately labeled “cowardice”–a label we quickly assign when we are on the receiving end or are teaching our children why not to fight. And in as much as courage and cowardice are antonyms, language used to describe them and behaviors attributed to thm would have to be mutually exclusice–at least for the most part. Wouldn’t they?

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