The Corner

Bravery Survives the State

The news reports out of Aurora on the sacrifices of some who died saving girlfriends or those who helped plain strangers, reminded me of Steyn’s great piece lamenting the absence of valor, dignity, and common sense during the Costa Concordia sinking in January of this year. Back then, I wondered if the cowardice of the crew could in any way be explained by Europe’s cultural dialogue, or if the European educational system was anything like ours, where tutorials in citizenship, self-sacrifice, or social manners have long been overthrown in favor of a homogenized feel-goodism unanchored to any traditional virtues. Decades of being taught that we’re all victims (well, most of us) may make everyone that much more determined not to become an actual victim when the time comes.

But as Aurora showed, I don’t think we should give up hope just yet. Bravery (and chivalry) isn’t entirely extinguished, whether it was three young men shielding their girlfriends from bullets or the indelible images of hundreds of the NYPD and NYFD running into the burning Twin Towers on 9/11. In both cases, who could have blamed any of them for trying to save themselves or coming up with some excuse to shirk their duty? How about the thousands of Americans signing up to fight the enemy after 9/11, which they clearly didn’t have to do when the president was telling Americans to get back to their shopping and travel?

Bravery shines through in moments large and small: Last December, half a dozen passersby jumped into an icy river in Utah to save three children trapped in an overturned, submerged car. In Japan, after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, thousands of Japanese patiently helped rescue their neighbors and maintained social order for weeks in freezing, devastated, isolated villages. And don’t forget the Fukushima 50 — who chose to stay inside the radioactive power plant in a vain attempt to control the meltdown.

If anything, the spirit of sacrifice seems to still be there –a primordial part of our species. But, it is battered daily by the technocrats, nanny-staters, and utopianists, who assure us that the individual didn’t build anything, that we’re all dependent on the state for our individual grace. Is it too much to think that such thoughts, pounded into our collective heads year after year, may slowly lead us to believe we’re all so unique and special that we have no responsibility to the rest of society? Or, just as damningly, that the individual shouldn’t act on his own without the state’s guidance or permission? 

No matter what the state preaches, the thin line between civilization and anarchy is still there. Luckily there are many still willing to defy chaos on their own, unprompted, without thinking of themselves — because they know in their hearts that chaos wins if they don’t.

Most Popular


Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his editor, I’m going to have to keep this short. I’ve spent most of every day this week in a studio recording the audiobook version of my dead-tree/pixel ... Read More

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More

Billy Graham: Neither Prophet nor Theologian

Asked in 1972 if he believed in miracles, Billy Graham answered: Yes, Jesus performed some and there are many "miracles around us today, including television and airplanes." Graham was no theologian. Neither was he a prophet. Jesus said "a prophet hath no honor in his own country." Prophets take adversarial ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More