The appearance of courage

Campaign 2008

Here is something to watch for as the presidential campaign goes into full swing: courageous speeches.

You know the kind I mean, where the fella bangs on the podium and proclaims emphatically --- and he doesn't care who knows it! --- that he stands for justice! And freedom too! Or for civilization. Or for the planet.

There is an art to this. You choose a conviction that used to be unpopular, maybe thirty years ago, but that savvy politicos know is in the ascendancy and will soon be mainstream (eg. Abortion or gay rights). Embracing this cause in your platform gives you all the appearance of being a person of courage, with none of the risk.

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Alexandr Solzhenitsy talked about it thirty years ago: "…the decline of courage…is ironically emphasized by occasional outburst of boldness and inflexibility….when dealing with…doomed currents which clearly cannot offer any resistance."

C.S.Lewis illustrated it in the fictional confession of a repentant former practitioner of the art:

Let us be frank. Our opinions were not honestly come by. We simply found ourselves in contact with a certain current of ideas and plunged into it because it seemed modern and successful. At College, you know, we just started automatically writing the kind of essay that got good marks and saying the things that won applause. (The Great Divorce)
Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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