Skip to main content

The Bravery of Those Who Died to Defend Us Highlights Our Cowardice


Memorial Day commemorates those who died in military service to our country. These people died not for a chunk of land, for the natural resources available on that chunk of land, nor for any such simple material possession. They died for an idea, a way of life, as well as for each other. We used to be the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave. Now we're the land of the lockdown and the home of the trepidatious. 

The bravery of heroes past has been replaced by dirty looks for those who dare to go outside without a mask - even in their own cars – where mask wearing, at best, can only be justified as a sign of solidarity. But solidarity for what? Certainly not freedom. That solidarity happens when people stand shoulder to shoulder against the jackboots who would take someone to jail for what now appears to be the shocking desire to earn a living to feed a family.

What follows are three stories of heroism, and four contrasting acts of cowardice. May the deeds of the past awaken in us a spirit of true courage, or at least help us to remember where our spines are located. 

During the American Revolution, everyone who fought was risking not only death in war, but worse, being branded a traitor to Britain, which would end in hanging, drawing, and quartering. These heroes fought for basic freedoms. They believed in freedom of movement, freedom to protest, freedom to worship, and the duty of the people, after every peaceable measure was extinguished, to throw off the yoke of tyranny. They would be appalled at the draconian measures implemented by one-man fiat in states and cities to prevent a disease that may prove less deadly than the flu, when all is said and done. They would also be embarrassed at the timid responses of many willing victims, who want nothing more than for government to stroke their hair and tell them everything will be okay. 

During WWI, Sergeant Alvin York was part of a patrol charged with capturing a German machine gun nest. After losing several of his comrades, including the commanding officer, and being pinned down by German fire, then-Corporal York took command, single handedly capturing the machine gun, as well as dozens of soldiers. A hero who acted both bravely and decisively under extreme pressure when seconds counted, I doubt Sgt. York would look favorably on government officials who jumped the gun so significantly - overreaching, trampling liberties, and then coming up with the excuse that they didnt have time to make the best decisions. 

In Sergeant York’s case, seconds mattered. With Covid we had days and even weeks of warning, and we still scrambled like decapitated chickens when the disease finally reached our shores. We still made the wrong choices, acting out of fear rather than a presumption of liberty, treating everyone as if we are all equally at risk and neglecting taking the right precautions to protect the truly vulnerable. Italy recently reported that over 99 percent of the Covid dead in that country had pre-existing conditions. This vulnerability was known early on.

It takes incredible bravery to go into long odds with an uncertain outcome, doing your job in spite of the danger. The early landing parties on D-Day’s Omaha beach during WWII exemplify this kind of courage. But it takes another kind altogether to accept certain doom, especially to volunteer for it. The airmen of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo fall into this latter category. There was no uncertainty as they took off - they flew land-based bombers off an aircraft carrier, a purpose for which the planes were never intended, knowing full well that the best case scenario would be running out of fuel behind enemy lines, on a volunteer mission. If they could see the shortsightedness with which we have condemned more people to death as a direct result of the virus, and even more from the expected poverty bomb, they would surely dismiss us as frightened children hiding under the blankets from ghosts. 

One last note: in all fairness, not every tyrannical act undertaken during Covid can be attributed to cowardice. There are also those who have found that a dash of fear sweetens the flavor of their power. We should not be surprised if they are trying to maintain it by whatever means they can. They bring a different shame to heroes past. 

Mike Davis is a Research Fellow at 1889 Institute. He can be reached at mdavis@1889institute.org. 

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of 1889 Institute.

Popular posts from this blog

Present Reforms to Keep the Ghost of State Questions Past from Creating Future Headaches

Oklahoma, like many western states, allows its citizens to directly participate in the democratic process through citizen initiatives and referendums. In a referendum, the legislature directs a question to the people — usually to modify the state constitution, since the legislature can change statutes itself. An initiative requires no legislative involvement, but is initiated by the people via signature gathering, and can be used to modify statute or amend the constitution. Collectively, the initiatives and referendums that make it onto the ballot are known as State Questions.   Recently, there have been calls to make it more difficult to amend the constitution. At least two proposals are being discussed. One would diversify the signature requirement by demanding that a proportional amount of signatures come from each region of the state. The other would require a sixty percent majority to adopt a constitutional amendment rather than the fifty percent plus one currently in place. Both

Oklahoma Mayors Acted Unlawfully With COVID-19 Orders

In response to COVID-19, the mayors of Oklahoma’s three largest cities subjected their citizens to draconian shelter in place orders, restricting their freedom, damaging them financially, and undermining their constitutional rights. The mayoral decrees were more restrictive than those of the Governor, and in significant ways contradicted his policy. To this day, city-mandated social distancing rules remain in place in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Norman that are not required by the state’s reopening plan. The mayors claim that where their rules are more restrictive than the state’s, the city rules apply. Was any of this unilateral mayoral activity legally valid? For the reasons examined in my paper published today, An Argument Oklahoma’s Mayors Acted Unlawfully During COVID-19 , the short answer is no. (A summary of the paper can be found here .) A close examination of relevant city ordinances and state laws governing the mayors’ COVID-19 decrees forces the conclusion tha

If Data Is Supposed to Be Our Guide, the Great Coronavirus Shutdown of 2020 Should End

According to the most widely cited model projecting the course of the coronavirus outbreak, today is supposed to be Oklahoma’s peak in daily deaths. Now is a good time to go back to the beginning of the Great Coronavirus Shutdown of 2020, review the goal of our policy, and assess our current status. If our policy should be “data-driven,” as we are constantly told, then let’s actually look at the data and determine our next policy steps accordingly. Spoiler alert: according to the terms set out by those advocating for the shutdown policy, the policy’s continuance is no longer justified. The stated goal of the shutdown policy was to “flatten the curve” so as to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with COVID patients. The fear was that the virus would spread so fast that at its peak, the number of cases would exceed the overall capacity of the healthcare system. If that peak could be stretched out over a longer period of time, lives would be saved. This concept was il

When It Comes to the Cox Center, “What if I Get to Meet a Movie Star?” Isn’t Good Enough

In a recent   post , 1889 Institute expounded on the fiduciary duty of elected officials “to act in the best interest of the people of the state as a whole,” a “high duty, executed as a public trust … wherein one puts the people’s interest above one’s own.” This fiduciary duty must not stop with elected officials. Once an elected body or an elected official – the legislature, a city council, the governor, or a mayor – has taken final action, the faithful implementation of each enacted law, policy, or program falls to an army of bureaucrats. Thus, a fiduciary duty to execute laws and policies with diligence and integrity, tantamount to that of elected officials, must extend to government employees. Recently, I had a few moments to sit down and watch a show with my children. Unsurprisingly, my son picked a series entitled “The Stinky and Dirty Show.” I was naturally skeptical that the show would yield any real value. However, as I watched, I found myself pleasantly surprised. Each episod