We're talking about cowardice today and it makes me think of two people - Hector and Dr. Bones McCoy.
We claim to despise cowardice and to exalt bravery but in real life, I think we value balance a little bit more.
Hector, in the Iliad, is a much debated figure. He seems on occasion to lose his nerve. He also on occasion seems to do something brave mainly because he could not live down the dishonor of not being brave. I've always liked Hector.
Achilles is pretty clearly a jerk. He's unflinchingly courageous but maybe that's because he knows almost nothing can happen to him. Hector is more like us. We'd like to be bold all the time but we're human. Sometimes, our courage comes from social pressure rather than inner reserve. We fear being labeled as cowardly more than we aspire to be courageous yet, cowardice rarely shows itself clearly. Instead, it hides behind bravado, procrastination, humility, pride and even courage.
As for Dr. McCoy, you'll have to listen to the show. Today, we confront cowardice.
- Chris Walsh is acting director of the Arts and Sciences Writing Program at Boston University and the author of “Cowardice: A Brief History”
- Gordon Marino is a professor of Philosophy at St. Olaf University and the editor of “The Quotable Kierkegaard”
- Lesley Gordon is a professor of History at the University of Akron. She’s edited and authored several books, and her most recent book, “A Broken Regiment: The 16th Connecticut’s Civil War”
- "Cowardice: A Brief History" Lyrics by Chris Walsh and music by Chandler Travis
- “Coward of the County” by Kenny Rogers