Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

The False Courage of Attacking False Courage

 by Bennett Gordon

Tags: Spirituality, courage, false courage, virtues, In Character,

Courage issue of In CharacterLike the cowardly lion, Joe Queenan doesn’t understand courage.

Each issue of the journal In Character, published by the John Templeton Foundation, explores a different virtue, from thrift to modesty to compassion. The latest issue is about courage, and Queenan takes this opportunity to explore the phenomenon of what he calls “false courage.”

False courage, according to Queenan, often involves “taking popular positions and then acting as if they are actually unpopular” and “attacking groups that are in no position to defend themselves.” The objects of Queenans ire include Michael Moore, who attacked the helpless Charlton Heston in the film Bowling for Columbine, and House Republicans, who spoke out against the stimulus bill.

The irony is that Queenan’s article is a perfect example of the false courage he detests. Michael Moore and House Republicans are very popular targets of attack, and neither one of them would likely fight back in this case.

The examples of real courage that Queenan provides are equally absurd. They include:

Sporting a Bush-Cheney decal on the bumper of your car when you live in Baghdad.
Wearing a Confederate flag headband on Saturday night in a Detroit nightclub.

These examples aren’t courageous. They’re just stupid.