- “Kill me first, before you can kill my patients.” [Hawa Abdi]
Bravery: the act of facing down fear.
Hawa Abdi's story could be filed under service, heroism, courage, perseverance and many other headings. She is a physician who has braved challenges from a male-dominated Somali culture to provide medical care to displaced adults and children who need it desperately. Her foundation is dedicated to ensuring that health care will be available in the Somali and throughout East Africa.
In the 1870s, Sioux warriors would confront and challenge United States soldiers at close range to draw their fire and distract attention from the rest of the tribe. At Little Big Horn in 1876, Chief Crazy Horse's charge into Custer's forces led the way for the tribe to defeat its nemesis. "Let us kill them all off today, that they may not trouble us anymore," Crazy Horse is said to have exhorted his men as he ordered their charge into Custer's forces. Crazy Horse died in captivity approximately at the age of thirty-six. He was reputed to be a modest but fearless man. Deplore the violence of his time and place as we might, his people were under attack from forces that had invaded their lands. His acts of self-sacrifice under difficult circumstances have been chronicled in these excellent books:
- Thomas Powers, The Killing of Crazy Horse (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010).
- Stephen E. Ambrose, Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors (Doubleday, 1975).
- Mari Sandoz, Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas (Bison Books, 2008).
- Robert A. Clark, ed., The Killing of Chief Crazy Horse: Three Eyewitness Views (Bison Books, 1988).
- Richard G. Hardorff, The Death of Crazy Horse: A Tragic Episode in Lakota History (Bison Books, 2001).
- Joseph M. Marshall III, The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History (Viking Adult, 2004).
- Russell Freedman, The Life and Death of Crazy Horse (Holiday House, 1996).
Other narratives about bravery:
- Tim Jeal, Explorers of the Nile:The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure (Yale University Press, 2011). “It takes one kind of bravery to endure extreme discomfort and risk life for earthly, scientific or celestial glory, but quite another to do so for honor alone.”
- Witold Pilecki, The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery (Aquila Polanica, 2012): journals of Witold Pilecki, the only person who volunteered to go to Auschwitz as a prisoner.
- Lindsey Hilsum, In Extremis: The Life and Death of War Correspondent Marie Colvin (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2018): “Hilsum draws an empathetic portrait of a woman whose courage often crossed into recklessness, both in combat zones and outside them.”
- Zahra Hankir, ed., Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World (Penguin Books, 2019): “The best piece of advice I’ve ever heard about being a journalist is from the investigative reporter Amy Goodman, who has worked in Nigeria and East Timor, among other places. Goodman said this: ‘Go to where the silence is and say something.’”
- Phil Keith and Tom Craven, All Blood Runs Red: The Legendary Life of Eugene Bullard – Boxer, Pilot, Soldier, Spy (Hanover Square Press, 2019): “Wounded so severely that he was deemed unable to return to the trenches, he transferred to a French aviation unit. He soon was the first black American fighter pilot.”
- Arianna Newman, When Time Stopped: A Memoir of My Father’s War and What Remains (Scribner, 2020): “Yes, her account of one Jewish-Czech family’s race to outwit the Nazis makes for thrilling reading. But just as important is her lucid investigation of the nature of memory, identity and remembrance.”
It was in the sewers of Paris that Jean Valjean found himself. Still another resemblance between Paris and the sea. As in the ocean, the diver may disappear there. The transition was an unheard-of one. In the very heart of the city, Jean Valjean had escaped from the city, and, in the twinkling of an eye, in the time required to lift the cover and to replace it, he had passed from broad daylight to complete obscurity, from midday to midnight, from tumult to silence, from the whirlwind of thunders to the stagnation of the tomb, and, by a vicissitude far more tremendous even than that of the Rue Polonceau, from the most extreme peril to the most absolute obscurity. An abrupt fall into a cavern; a disappearance into the secret trap-door of Paris; to quit that street where death was on every side, for that sort of sepulchre where there was life, was a strange instant. He remained for several seconds as though bewildered; listening, stupefied. The waste-trap of safety had suddenly yawned beneath him. Celestial goodness had, in a manner, captured him by treachery. Adorable ambuscades of providence! Only, the wounded man did not stir, and Jean Valjean did not know whether that which he was carrying in that grave was a living being or a dead corpse. [Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862), Volume V – Jean Valjean; Book Third – Mud But the Soul, Chapter I, The Sewer and Its Surprises.]
- Win Blevins, Stone Song: A Novel of the Life of Crazy Horse (Forge, 1995).
- John Brandon, Ivory Shoals: A Novel (McSweeney’s Publishing, 2021): “A Trek Across Florida, Braving Deadly Swamps and Bounty Hunters”.
- Paul Klee, Fire in the Evening (1929)
- John Everett Millais, The Rescue (1855)
- Giotto, Fortitude (1302-05)
Film and Stage
- Bravehert, about living courageously and then facing death bravely
- The Spiral Staircase, a thriller with a young woman’s bravery as a motif
- Captain Blood: the film version of Rafael “Sabatini’s gentleman corsair”
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Wagner: Siegfried: in this, the third opera from Wagner’s Ring cycle, the theme is that Siegfried’s sword canbe made whole only by one who knows no fear. Of course, that is Siegfried (performances conducted by Janowski, Boulez and Solti). Unfortunately, the title character does not demonstrate many other worthy qualities. The story is a window into Wagner’s idea of heroism, and his politics. (Here is a link to Fritz Lang’s memorable “Nibelungen Saga”.)
- Roy Harris, Symphony No. 6, “Gettysburg” (1944)
- Piston, Symphony No. 6 (1955)
- Bax, Piano Sonata No. 2 in G major (1919)
- Elcock, Choses renversées par le temps ou la destruction (Things Overturned in Time or Destruction), a “dark symphonic triptych where fragile beauty is constantly at threat from the forces of ignorance”: I. Colonnes brisées; II. Moulins de Dieu; III. Dernier homme debout.
Music: songs and other short pieces
- Nawang Khechog, Tianenmen Square (for Chinese Warriors)