The Anatomy of Courage

Author: Gary Hart

“It takes courage not to be discouraged.”  That was Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving Nazi war crimes prosecutor who, at the age of 27, prosecuted two dozen death camp supervisors and who, now age 97, was interviewed on 60 Minutes.  He was responding to questions as to how and why his experience had not left him bitter.

But it is also a message for those of us watching a lifetime of effort–to move our nation forward, to improve the lives of those left behind, to leave a healthier environment for our children, to control weapons of mass destruction, and many other standards of progress–being swept away.

There are many reasons to be discouraged.  Energy policy is being turned over to the energy industry.  Environmental programs are being dismantled by climate change deniers and anti-science zealots.  Public education is being privatized.  Affordable health insurance now finances tax cuts for the wealthy.  Federal judges are selected for ideological purity.

Most discouraging of all is the commercialization of the presidency.  The extended first family blatantly sells White House (or Mar-a-Lago) access to powerful interests around the world.  Heads of state are entertained at a private resort, not the White House.  The president’s family promotes its hotels, casinos, and beauty products in foreign capitals.  Foreign leaders are learning to trade access to their markets in exchange for the U.S. supporting their policy objectives.

It is too bad William Faulkner is not still living.  His trilogy The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion chronicled the rise of the Snopes family in Southern politics.  Corrupt and self-serving to the core.  He would now have to add The White House.  Looking back, it now seems almost inevitable that corruption on a monumental scale would eventually make it to the top.

A few of us disagree with the pundits who have settled on the last election as a class conflict.  Certainly some Trump voters were angry at various elites, liberal and otherwise.  But what about the Wall Street elites now running our economy and the corporate elites dismantling worker safety and environmental regulations and helping themselves to public lands.  And the conservative dark money elites dismantling anything having Obama’s name on it.  You will search in vain for any step taken so far or for the next three years that directly and immediately helps low income white people who are, instead, being taken to the cleaners by the Trump elites.

Since few young people today would call themselves idealists, it is left to aging idealists from the 1960s to keep that flickering and archaic torch alive.  But Mr. Ferencz is right.  It does take courage.  Not battle field courage.  But the courage that comes from believing in an American ideal that is far better than what we see today.  The courage that believes we are not witnessing a modern day version of the fall of the Roman Empire.  The courage that insists when this grim un-American detour is over we will return to our ideal as a nation of principles, political morality, and Constitutional standards.

In the meantime, it takes courage.  Courage to persevere.  Courage to see farther down the road.  Courage to believe a large majority of Americans, including many who voted for this Administration and are now experiencing shock at what they got, will return to our traditional beliefs, the faith of our fathers.  The courage to know that we will not only endure, we will prevail.

10 Responses to “The Anatomy of Courage”

  1. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    Senator Hart

    I watched television with my wife , who is originally from the USA,as Trump crowed about the dismantling of peoples health care and the nauseating , oafish smirk on the monkey like figure at the back of the beyond , of the organ grinder Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan ! What a cringemaking spectacle!

    There is a lot wrong with the British National Health Service, one of the things is its reliance only on government for its financial settlements, means governments of certain persuasions not funding it properly, leads to a poor service. But it is there for people, which is more than can be said for the double act outside the Capitol building !

    There is a lot wrong in my country at present. Brexit has become a government and now election obsession. But Prime Minister May is a national treasure , and I certainly do not think that really, but compared to Trump ?!

    Your words of common sense and uncommon wisdom, are actually those of a man very young for his age.The heart and mind are where the youthfulness is. I say that hopefully as one thirty plus years younger than you !

    I feel very strongly for the memory of a president lost before I was born, himself , born one hundred years ago this month.

    President Kennedy was many things not as we might have wanted.

    But he was so many more that inspire today yet !

    You follow in his footsteps with the same idealism, but lead in yur own way as a man of age and experience.

    We are glad of it.

  2. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    I never fail to be impressed by Mr. Chernin’s comments. His above comment outshines many of his past ones. I find it depressing that someone who is not an American citizen can see events and personalities in our government and nation that go unnoticed by a majority of the citizens of this country. I am indebted to him for his willingness to share his insight and wisdom with us and hope that more of us will learn from this. Thank you Mr. Cherin and thank you Senator Hart for sharing your commentaries and his comments.

  3. Tom Flaherty Says:

    We only fail when we give up.

    Stand strong, I’m so happy you used the word un-American.

    They are the few with great power. We shall inherit this countries vision.

    Pay attention, teach well, and stand united. There is no losing for the greatest political creation of all time.

  4. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    The comment from Stephen D. Pillow, means so very much more than he could know. I have for years struggled with the tribalism of party politics and increasingly found the online possibilities for my interst in and egagement with issues fulfilling , if lonely .

    When kindred spirits find each other it makes for a real sense of connection. I have admired and liked Senator Hart since I was a youth and he nearly the president ! Connecting with hin in this way is a pleasure and an honour.

    I have discovered new firm , steadfast ,friends thus, the pleasurable and honourable, both mine and theirs, a regular delight herein.

    Mr. Pillow, at times I have really sruggled. I nvolved in the creative industries and a theatre company I ran as actor, writer , director, with my American born and bred wife, in London, she was injured in a car accident some years ago and recovery has been slow , but gradually we have moved forward.

    My work situation changed therefore, I utilised my drama background to enthuse others, lecturing and motivating , especially unemployded people and with confidence building.

    Work has been thin on the ground in the economic downturn and I have turned to writing and the creative field more , again.

    As I develop projects, some of which I seek funding for , which , as I say , in these times is itself, slow, but which I believe in and am getting enthusiasm for, it is a real joy to discover such positive and warm friends across the Atlantic , in the country I love , other than mine , warts and all !

  5. Paul Borg Says:

    Dear Senator Hart,

    I would like to share the following quote with those who come to this meeting place.

    “The less we understand of what our fathers and forefathers sought, the less we understand ourselves, and thus we help with all our might to rob the individual of his roots and his guiding instincts, so that he becomes a particle in the mass, ruled only by what Nietzsche called the spirit of gravity.”
    ― C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

    A counter to this spirit of gravity is beautifully expressed in the music of Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring Suite. It is an opportunity and delight to feel the Human Spirit expressed in a uniquely American way and may possibly flesh out a little, a deeper understanding that America is also about expressing, without artifice, the Joy of Life Itself .

  6. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    Paul Borg, adds something special . It is beautiful to see a contributor alluding to culture , and on a political site.

    Very appropriate, adding Copland, can I suggest we all listen to his fanfare for the common man, to remind ourselves when politics and culture seemed to both be moving in the right, or in fact centre left direction !

    This year is the 100 the anniversary of the birth of JFK, next year , the same , of Leonard Bernstein. Some people are looking in the wrong places for inspiration to make America great again!

  7. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    P.S,

    Do listen to Adlai Stevenson’s recording of Copland’s Lincoln portrait , in which the great Democrat was narrator!

  8. Eric Jacobson Says:

    Senator: The sweeping away of the “lifetime[s] of effort” of many non-conservative Americans since the 1930s to (in sum) create a better world, began in earnest under President Reagan. In my view the tragedy of the present moment is President Trump’s feckless decision to place himself in near total alignment with the atavistic Reagan-wrought reactionary Republican Party establishment after running and winning a Republican primary presidential campaign and then general election campaign against both them and their pale imitators, the execrable neoliberal Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton. Donald wasted the country’s time with his crude con-artistry. And Hillary STILL won’t go away, as the vast majority of Americans want her and her husband to do.

    The president and his Republican party are discredited emperors with no clothes, but (judging from your 2 most recent blog essays) it is good to see that at least one formerly prominent Democrat now realizes that it was the status quo immediately ante Trump that caused many Americans to take a chance (one that many now regret) on a so-called “blue collar billionaire” businessman who implied he MIGHT be shrewd at hiring, recruit a philosophically diverse spectrum of Administration personnel and do so with an eye towards forming a government of national unity. Instead of course, Trump delegated recruitment for Cabinet level appointments to Mike Pence and the two predictably turned to the “usual suspects” in the purblind conservative wing of the Republican Party and thereby formed the present government of national disunity instead. It is the greatest “bait and switch” stunt in world history and (like Trump’s hero PT Barnum did) has made suckers of the American people.

    What most pleased me in your blog essay just previous to this one was your honest acknowledgment that the Democratic Party “lost its identity” (ie. sold its soul and betrayed its core mission) in the 1980s under the Clintons and other centrists. In my own restatement: These political hustlers and opportunists started the Democratic Party on the road to perdition, where it remains today.

    Indeed, those who oppose the president by praising the tenures of presidents Obama or Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter risk sounding like Voltaire’s Dr. Pangloss character in his story Candide, which served as “the book” for the early 1970s musical of the same name scored by Leonard Bernstein. Even as a teen seeing the musical on a family trip to New York City I recognized that Voltaire was mocking the Pangloss character for his fatuous present-worshiping optimism in the face of the myriad social ills and misfortunes the characters encountered.

    We did NOT until recently “live in the best of all possible worlds” as the Dr. Pangloss character foolishly opined like a broken record. We lived (albeit with a less uncouth figurehead) in the same super-stratified, super-corrupt Not-Great society and world that we do today, one created by current and recent generations of super-greedy and soulless wealthy elites. To describe pre-Trump America otherwise gives new meaning to the phrase: “turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse.”

    We have now come essentially full circle from Reagan’s assent, and are very nearly back where we started in 1981. Albeit we are today simultaneously in “another country” due to the awful combination of a worsening class (and race) schism and the increasing obliviousness of Democratic elites to this reality (see Ted Rall’s brilliant op-ed here: https://t.co/is95eHAO4R ), technology changes, ruinous “race to the bottom” globalization and migration and (evermore exotic) social liberalism and political correctness uber alles. Not to mention environmental deterioration, endless war, terrorism and nuclear weapons proliferation. The situation is so far gone that to redeem themselves the Democrats would have to purge virtually their entire pool of incumbent centrist neoliberal pols and all the personnel who have ever worked for them.

    Senator: The last 3 paragraphs of your current essay are interesting. In Shakespeare’s words in Henry V, you are “call[ing] spirits from the vasty deep” (not knowing whether they will come) by appealing to the currently totally marginalized idealistic members of the age cohort that comprised your original strongest supporters in the 1980s to re-mobilize before the grim reaper shuffles both you and all older, middle and younger baby-boomers off this mortal coil, as he is already doing to increasing numbers of the oldest boomers. For example my oldest cousin on my father’s side of the family, Rainer Trappe, a Vietnam veteran, died last November 19th at the age of 70. See: https://www.facebook.com/eric.jacobson.562/posts/1151128081603063 . There is nothing like losing a family member one admires (even more than the famous celebrity losses) to place into sharp relief how limited our lifespans are and the imperatives of each of us who adhere to basic morality to do our best to advance the cause of civilization (AKA the common good) not just our private legacy.

    JFK said while campaigning in 1960: “Our goal is to influence history instead of merely observing it.” Just so. I quoted that passage in my excoriation of the Reagan administration’s “joy-riding” on the back of my brochure publicizing my 1986 Democratic primary campaign for Congress against incumbent centrist Democratic Rep. Anthony Beilenson in 1986. See here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ilXuTzT1mlQ2ZYVzN5ekhuQ3M/view?usp=sharing .

    I do not share Benjamin Ferencz’s faith in today’s standing international criminal court tribunals (which are not successors to the Nuremberg trials, which were highly merited and brilliantly executed “victor’s justice”) but what is great about Ben is that he is still trying to “influence history instead of merely observing it” at age 97, which I suppose one might say is “the new 87”.

    The short of it is, if Ben still has the energy so must we all. And Senator that includes yourself: In one of your books on reform you mentioned your strong physical constitution and stamina. Thirty years ago you calamitously absented yourself from the American political scene in the wake of your “flame war” with mainstream media detractors and character assassins. The ONE good thing Donald Trump has done is to finish and WIN the flame war the media started with you and neutered these arrogant elite miscreants, who are still at it, poisoning the well of American discourse with outlandish fake news “narratives” of their own creation, one after the other, while losing readership as fast they are losing touch with realities Americans are experiencing on the ground.

    I have no idea whether enough baby boomers (most of whom long ago “bought in” in Garry Trudeau’s phrase, if the didn’t sell-out entirely) have enough vestigial idealism to make a possibly late-in-life presidential candidate viable or whether the rest of America is ready for an octogenarian president, but I do know (and feel free to “mark my words”) that the Democrats are DOOMED in the 2020 presidential race absent the emergence of a charismatic leader, one who pledges to exclude entirely from his Administration anyone who has ever served previous apostate neoliberal Democratic administrations and further pledges to REALLY “drain the swamp” of corruption plaguing America, both the private and public sectors at all levels. See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/12/why-trump-could-win-in-2020/ .

    In sum, Senator: start working out with weights and doing push-ups ala Ferencz on 60 Minutes, as well as other exercise for cardio health, and start laying the groundwork for a 2020 Democratic presidential nomination race. I say to the Democrats (and full disclosure, I’m no longer one) as they begin to contemplate who in their ranks can possibly defeat President Trump: To tweak an old saw: You can’t beat nothing with nothing.

  9. Dr Daniel A Doyle Says:

    Gary,
    Read your article:LEGALIZED CORRUPTION: A THREAT TO AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

    Yes, that is legalized corruption is the root of the problem. But how do we change it? There are activist groups springing up all over America (such as Represent.us), but we seem to lack a clear plan and we lack real leadership. Love to hear you blog on this topic.

    Dr. Dan

  10. Gary Hart Says:

    In response to Dr. Doyle, I highly recommend an organization called Issue One and a spin off from that called the ReFormers, the latter being now close to 150 former Members of Congress, both Parties, both Houses. The abiding concern is with the overall amount of money in politics, mostly continuous campaigning, and the access it gives to special interests to promote their specific interests at the expense of the national interest and common good. Historically, there usually is a reform movement in America only after a corruption scandal, such as Watergate where illicit money was being moved around to burglars to protect the White House. Sadly, most Americans just shrug their shoulders and roll their eyes (“all those politicians are crooked”) in between. It shouldn’t take a scandal to clean our political system and keep it clean.

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