Today is the 71st anniversary of the D-Day landings, the invasion of occupied France that helped turn the tide of WWII. Those were brave, courageous men who risked their lives to stop Germany, and help liberate Europe from the Nazis. Today is a good day to remember the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make for the cause of freedom, and to consider how brave they truly are.
Allen West posted to his blog today, about D-Day, and limited his definitions of bravery, courageous and heroic to only those who’ve served. He said:
Real courage isn’t that which pop culture or a presidential tweet acclaims, it has a lasting effect. It’s not just part of a voracious news cycle but it stands the test of time and its memory is passed on from generations to generations.
His post was aimed at people who are hailing Caitlyn Jenner as a hero for transgender people, and hinting that she’s done nothing to deserve such recognition. His statement, “real courage has a lasting effect,” does apply here. What Jenner has done will have a lasting effect for transgender people, and for our culture. Her actions may help move our culture away from dangerous rhetoric aimed at transgender people.
Our culture favors conformity, not individualism, and if who you are doesn’t fit the mold, you’re a freak of some type. How is standing up for who you are, in the face of a culture that thinks you’re a freak not brave? There’s a reason so many transgender people are in the closet, and why so many suffer from depression and anxiety, and are often suicidal.
But that wasn’t all West had to say. He went on with:
Our challenge as a nation is to stop allowing the whims of progressive socialists to redefine what courage is — just as a deserter can be touted as having served with honor and distinction. How many of the liberal media outlets will stop and pay homage to true American courage this day? How many tweets will go out? How many World War II veterans will all of a sudden have a million social media followers?
Our challenge as a nation is to ask this question: When did bravery and courage become limited only to those who serve in the military? Why is it that, whenever someone outside of that sphere is hailed as brave, and even heroic, people start posting images of wounded soldiers, and decrying the idea that anybody else can be a hero for any other reason?
The reason Caitlyn Jenner is being hailed as a hero is because it does take bravery to do what she did. Our culture is hostile to transgender people, especially our very vocal religious right. One need only look at all the arguments and fights online about Caitlyn Jenner, with people calling her a freak, and worse, to see just how hostile we still are.
There’s a petition to strip her of her Olympic gold medal, because if she’s truly a woman, then she competed against the wrong people and should not be a gold medalist. There’s a push to prevent her from winning the ESPY’s Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, because other people are far more “deserving.” These complaints are based on the same thing on which West bases his: That courage and bravery can only apply to people serving in the military.
30 years ago, Jenner might have been killed for coming out the way she has. Many transgender people still face ridicule, being disowned and disavowed by their own families, slim job prospects, and even violence, simply for being who they are.
Our fighting men and women are brave. They are courageous. It takes an awful lot for them to do what they do for the rest of us. There’s no denying that. The question is not about whether they deserve the labels of brave, courageous, and heroic. The question is why we only seem to accept one type of bravery and courage here. Calling someone who isn’t in the military a hero, and a brave and courageous person, doesn’t take anything away from the heroes who’ve fought and sacrificed for us. Heroes come in all forms. There are many types of bravery and courage out there, and it’s time that we acknowledge that basic truth.