Art Callaham: Courage is standing up for what you believe

June 03, 2012|By ART CALLAHAM

Once again, I’m writing about courage. I have seen many examples of personal courage, as I’m sure you have. In some examples we may not agree; I say courageous, you say stupid.

Courage is sometimes situational. Indiana Jones ran from snakes but faced death courageously at the hands of villains. I know a firefighter who is scared to death of spiders, yet finds no problem with running into burning buildings to save lives. 

Courage usually has to do with bodily harm or death. Evel Knievel performed “death defying” acts to display his courage. Laying a human life on the line for the entertainment of an audience has been described as courageous from the beginning of time. 

I’ll never forget the prize fight between Randall “Tex” Cobb and Larry Holmes in 1982. Some will remember that fight as the night Howard Cosell quit as a commentator at boxing matches. In fact, a battered and bloody Cobb quipped at the end of the fight that in losing he had given a great gift to his sport — Cosell’s retirement. More to the point, this fight might well have been the greatest mismatch of all time. Cobb did not win a single round on the card of two of the judges and had just one winning round on the scorecard of the third judge.

For 15 rounds, a total of 45 minutes on the fight clock, Cobb was pummeled by Holmes’ fists. Cobb was defenseless to Holmes’ attacks. In the 12th round, a Cosell associate commented that Holmes would have to stop hitting Cobb because Holmes’ hands were hurting so badly. Nonetheless, Cobb’s courage in taking that beating has been glorified in fight circles for more than 30 years.

I could write for days about acts of courage. Some would agree the acts were courageous, while others would see the same act as stupidity. Why would anyone jump the Grand Canyon? Why didn’t Cobb just stay seated in his corner at the end of the third round or the sixth round, when it was apparent that he couldn’t win the fight? On the other hand, should anyone stand by and not try to save another human being from a fiery death? Therein lies the conundrum of courage.

The line between courage and stupidity is surely thin. Is it courageous or stupid to stand up for what is “right” in your mind while in another’s mind that same “right” is considered “wrong?” Outside of bodily harm or life-and-death dilemmas, and given a well-thought-out approach, I would suggest that it is always courageous to stand for what in your mind is the “right” action. The outcome of that action might appear to be misguided to some, or the result might become unsatisfactory; however, it is, in my opinion, courageous to stand up for what you believe.

We have had several issues that have required some courageous actions on the part of our elected leaders. The votes (3 to 2 in favor by the Washington County Commissioners and five in favor and none opposed by the Hagerstown City Council) on a financing model for a new multiuse events center come to mind. The score is eight in favor of one model and two opposed to the same model. Both those who favor and those who oppose have shown courage in casting their votes.

The outcome is months away from being judged — misguided or brilliant. However, our elected representatives deserve thanks for their courage; whether in favor or opposed. And now, to ensure success, during the months leading up to finally judging outcomes, all the elected representatives should get behind the project.

Too often in our community, the minority has been vocal in sniping at the majority’s vote during the implementation of an approved project. Those who closely follow voting always remember the ones who voted in favor and those who voted against. Yet, in a republic (where the majority of elected representatives rule), what is more important is the outcome or the result, not the vote.

The majority has spoken on the new multiuse events center in downtown Hagerstown and courage has been displayed during the voting process. Now is the time for everyone to work courageously to make the outcome a success. 

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees. He is married to Washington County Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham.

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