Do we live in a world led by Heroes or cowards?
There’s an old proverb — “Despair Makes Cowards Courageous” — that has grand resonance in today’s social and political climate.
Clifford — in King Henry VI Part 3 — suggests:

So cowards fight when they can fly no further;
So doves do peck the falcon’s piercing talons;
So desperate thieves, all hopeless of their lives,
Breathe out invectives ‘gainst the officers.

One television commentator recently claimed President Bush was a
“maverick” because he has the vision to go against the polls and
mainstream wants. Bush believes what he is doing is right and true and
he will not be moved from his faith that the war he started in Iraq is
divine and just.

Is that the definition of a maverick or of someone caught in a pit of
despair of their own creation?
Comedian Bill Maher
was fired from his ABC television show — “Politically Incorrect” — on
9/18/01 for claiming the terrorists who struck the World Trade Center
were not cowards:

Dinesh D’Souza: Bill, there’s another piece of political
correctness I want to mention. And, although I think Bush has been
doing a great job, one of the themes we hear constantly is that the
people who did this are cowards.
Bill Mahr: Not true.
Dinesh D’Souza: Not true. Look at what they did. First of all, you have
a whole bunch of guys who are willing to give their life. None of ’em
backed out.

All of them slammed themselves into pieces of concrete.
Bill Mahr: Exactly.
Dinesh: These are warriors. And we have to realize that the principles
of our way of life are in conflict with people in the world. And so —
I mean, I’m all for understanding the sociological causes of this, but
we should not blame the victim. Americans shouldn’t blame themselves
because other people want to bomb them.

Bill Mahr: But also, we should — we have been the cowards lobbing
cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the
airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s
not cowardly.

Is Bill Maher right?
Does it take courage to kill yourself for a cause instead of asking
others to place their bodies directly in the line of fire for you?

Are cowards defined in the universal — or does the meaning of a coward
depend on your political and social angle of yaw and the arc of the
bombs you are flinging or fleeing from?


  1. David,
    I think that the term ‘Hero’ is grossly overused.
    A person who takes a bullet for the President is not a Hero. A person who gets killed in a war is not a Hero. These people are doing their jobs; these people are not heroes, they are good employees.
    Similarly, I don’t know that I would necessarily agree with Bill Maher; to me, the reasons behind a person’s actions would define them as cowardly or courageous. Is a suicide bomber killing himself because he so deeply and unwaveringly believes in the cause, or is he killing himself because he is afraid to oppose those who do deeply and unwaveringly believe in the cause?

  2. You make many interesting points, Emily!
    I think Bill’s point is that if you believe in something so much — right or wrong — that you will give your life to that cause you are not a coward. A coward does not offer up death. A bad person might be willing to die — but that bad intention is not the act of a coward.
    Further, Bill claims it is easy to walk around like a tough guy lobbing bombs on innocent people while calling yourself a hero and offering nothing in the exchange. Hiding behind the bombs and the bodies of others is a cowardly act.

  3. Hi David,
    This is an interesting subject.
    A study of the Kamikazi pilots is relevant.

    The author explains how the leaders of the army and navy were desperate to win the war, so they instituted this program, without the approval of the Emperor.
    There were a few warriors who bought into the idea and distinguished themselves “honorably,” but many were inexperienced young pilots that were unwilling to make themselves a “human bullet.”
    They were severely dealt with if they returned from a mission unharmed– they were expected to die. The author says some canopies were bolted so they could not jump. Some of the pilots who could not find their targets crashed their planes into the sea, rather than return to face punishment.
    Who knows what went through their mind before they hit the deck– die for country? die for honor? die because I know I’m going to die anyway and this will at least bring me honor?
    A fascinating study.

  4. Hi David,
    My link disappeared due to my inept referencing.
    Maybe this is it.

  5. Hi Donna!
    Ah! Great connection! I still wager even if your canopy is bolted shut and you crash and die — knowing your mission was ending in death no matter what — makes you something other than a coward.
    The people who strap bombs to their bodies in public squares are evil and unkind — but are they cowards when they push the trigger?

  6. Donna —
    There’s no link to be found.
    If you find the link — go to and enter it there if it is too long to fit in the comment window on one line. Then you can post the TinyURL instead.

  7. Hi David,
    Second link above works. Thanks for your patience!

  8. Fab! Donna!
    If you just paste a raw URL into a comment will translate here into proper format for clicking. You don’t have to do anything special to it here like you do in an article — unless it is really long and ugly and then TinyURL is the way to go.
    The first link doesn’t work — TinyURL does! Yay!

  9. Hi David,
    Thanks, David. I didn’t try to paste it raw, so it did mess up.
    The TinyURL is a great tidbit of knowledge. 😀
    The paper on why the Japanese created the kamikaze and the subsequent psyche they “created” is very fascinating.

  10. We love TinyURL! 😀
    Yes, the paper is astounding. I love the psychology involved in the whole effort of dedication to home and country.

  11. Hi David,
    In the Conclusion, the author argues that the “Kamikaze represented the failure of Japanese military leadership. This leadership was ready to willingly offer every man, woman, and child in a senseless suicidal gesture.”
    Can we not learn from history? Why do military leaders, when faced with certain defeat, continue with blinders on into a war that cannot possibly end in victory?
    Of course, I am referencing the current situation in Iraq.

  12. Hi Donna —
    I don’t think wars are about winning — I don’t think there’s any such thing. Wars are about the imposition of foreign will into the heart of a foreign power by any means necessary.

  13. In some ways, Donna, the Kamikaze action must’ve been a bit of relief in that it was such an obvious sign of desperation and the last-ditch attempt to down out fighting in flames.

  14. Donna —
    I remember seeing film shot live of ships shooting down the Kamikaze fighters. It’s pretty terrifying stuff to watch.

  15. Hi David,
    Did you know today was the anniversary of D-Day? I suspect you did!
    Very timely article!

  16. Now a days the meaning of these two words “hero” and “coward” are changed, those who kill themselves as a suicide bomber are neither hero nor coward –
    According to me, they are passionately brainwashed pawns of a game, possibly contaminated by heavy martyrdom – I guess.

  17. Hi David,
    You’re incorrigible. 😀
    Fate that lead me to a D-Day discussion? Or your subliminal suggestion?
    I swear I did not read the news am or realize until now it was D-Day!

  18. “Atheism” is a strong belief, if you try making people atheist – that will also be considered as brainwashing.
    Giving the events of afterlife a singular meaning is tough – because everyone interprets things in their own way – we can only take care that no one interprets it in such a way that would cause any harm.

  19. Katha —
    Well if you’re atheistic you know when you die it’s over. No reward. Just finished. Is that brainwashing or facing reality?

  20. Hi David,
    I am not a fatalist! I will not be a minion– to use one of your words–to the Wheel.
    This includes game shows. 😀

  21. Donna —
    Are you willing to be a sycophant instead of a minion? 😉
    Keep your eyes on my swinging pocket watch…
    You’re getting sleepy…
    Very, very, sleepy…

  22. “I know” it’s over David, that’s “my reality”.
    Who knows if it’s really real? Who can tell I won’t discover something else after my death? If I do – I will take care of that then.
    But my point is – as long as I don’t die – why bother?

  23. Hi David,
    Yes I will be a psychopath. Sleepy, very sleepy. Ohhh, you said sycophant?
    In my hypotized state, I cannot discern.

  24. Hi Katha —
    I guess we have to bother because others bother us.
    Would you be willing to have your heart stopped for two minutes — be declared dead — and then be brought back to life? Would that give us the truth to spread about what’s waiting for us in the darkness?

  25. Yes, I will take the chance.
    I haven’t met anyone like that in my life – that’s why my reality is when I die – it’s over.
    Firsthand experience counts.

  26. Katha —
    Now we have to find someone willing to kill you and bring you back to life.
    You’re getting sleepy… very, very sleepy… 😉

  27. Hi David,
    And psychopath I will remain, my publisher-hypnotist! 😀

  28. Hi David,
    Now wait just a minute….minion… I don’t remember agreeing to anything.
    Where’s my lawyer? Chris– where are you?

  29. Hi David,
    Okay, I’m starting to recover and FEEL A DEFINITE BETRAYAL by my attorney.
    Chris, you let me down. Don’t tell me you were out chasing ambulances or something. Oh no, I know you wouldn’t do that.
    Chris– just don’t bill me for services rendered.
    Bill-a-bull hours are not something I want to deal with.
    Chris, I luv ya, bro. I know you are in touch with the American Idol dream!

  30. Hi David,
    I missed this post — I was in Chicago all day until I got home not too long ago and saw my post was up!
    It’s interesting to note that Dinesh D’Souza was saying basically the same thing that Maher was saying, but didn’t get the same backlash that Maher did.
    In some ways, it was a message that we needed to hear, but weren’t willing at the time because it would have let us understand the nature of what we were about to get into over in the Middle East.

  31. I’m glad you found the article, Chris!
    You’re right that Bill was the one punished for speaking the truth of the day.
    It was a message we needed to hear but were too set on revenge to understand.

  32. i didn’t read through all the comments so i don’t know for sure if i’m saying anything new here.
    but from what i see – and i daresay personal experience – if you define a ‘hero’ as somebody who is called one by others then that person needs to have done something a and b the c of d for others. like somebody above said, take a bullet for the president/country/cause. what about somebody who dies knowing that he/she lived a heroic life (campbell time)? like the Bicentennial Man.
    the best that person can hope for then, is for his/her story to be told to people in a place/time when his choices, decisions and life won’t be seen through the prejudiced eyes of contemporaries and vested interests.

  33. Hi Donna,
    Speaking of chasing ambulances, there was an car accident right outside of the Daley Center courthouses that was caught on tape because it happened during a live television news report.
    I missed it because I was inside at the time, but I’m sure there was a lawyer or two in the area since it happened in an area surrounded by the civil courts, the State of Illinois building, and Chicago’s City Hall.

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