November 5th, 2009 21:33 EST
There Are More Heroes Among Us Than We Think
It`s a shame to leave it up to ideologues to define courage. What if courage is to live without ideology, to refuse to take cover in a prefabricated belief system, to go naked in the world, shorn of the company and comfort of fellow ideologues?
What if the rawest kind of courage is to insist that if one human being is an outsider we are all outsiders? What if courage is to say insiders threaten the whole of humanity because of their implicit insistence that someone doesn`t belong?
The courage of men and women under fire who band together to defend us is not diminished if we say that theirs is not the only kind of courage or necessarily always the best kind. Courage, to me at least, is also living in cardboard boxes on freezing streets, confronting age, failure, injustice, loss, disease and death.
But we prefer as a society to celebrate the courage for which we can beat drums and make speeches, and that diminishes us. War is often the toxic waste of ideology, of faiths that insist everyone else is wrong. The jihadis produced by the madrasahs aren`t the only jihadis in the world. Here in America ideologues are waging jihad every day, and sooner or later this hardening of the intellectual and emotional arteries leads to violence. The inevitable outcome of hate radio and television is violence. Where is the courage to confront this dilemma? The second we close our ears to dissent from our views we embark on the road to violence. Sometimes it`s a short road, as in Nazi Germany; sometimes it`s a long and twisty road with many an insincere and smiling face along the route.
Courage isn`t just flag waving, veterans` halls, patriotism and its political uses. Courage is often standing alone, refusing to be assuaged or affirmed by platitudes, cheap tantrums and the allure of belonging to the choir. Courage is often lonely, bitter and unrewarded.
I would say more of this or at least indulge the illusion that I have something to say if I had touched the philosopher`s stone, but I`m a cobbler of poems, a kind of bumbler at math, trying to find a few algorithms that will shed light on the paradoxes, anomalies and ironies I daily encounter.
In my personal looniness they often seem chimera. My courage, if indeed I have any, is not in my willingness to die for country or ideals "been there, done that "it`s in my conviction that I must not surrender to the temptation to belong to a set of ideas merely so that I can be on the inside looking out. Sometimes it`s like pressing your nose against the window of the candy shop, fingering your hard-earned chore money, and then walking away because you know the candy isn`t good for you.
The ranting talk show hosts and preachers and politicians who know what`s good for everybody aren`t good for us. I think courage is walking away from them.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
The pioneering Online Originals (U.K.), the only online publisher to receive a Booker nomination, published his novella, Alice Miller`s Room, in 1999. Recent fiction appeared in Prima Materia (Woodstock, NY), vols. I and IV, and Breakfast All Day (London, U.K.).In his younger days his poetry was published in literary journals including Solstice (England) and Beyond Baroque and Phantasm (California). Recent poems appear in Arabesques Literary and Cultural Review (www.arabesquespress.org), Perpetua Mobile (Baltimore), and Attic (Baltimore). He is the English language editor of Arabesques Literary and Cultural Journal (www.arabesquespress.org).
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.