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  • Donald V. Watkins

Gone Are the Days of Courage

Updated: Aug 4, 2018

By Donald V. Watkins ©Copyrighted and Published on July 22, 2018


Courage used to be one of the hallmarks of effective leadership. The men and women who built America into the greatest nation on the planet were courageous enough to look beyond personal gain and reputation preservation when leading this nation. Today’s public officials are mostly "cheerleaders" for political demagogues who have divided us into hardcore political tribes.


In the last few decades, that courage seems to have been replaced by cowardice, tribalism, and media posturing. The cowardice can be found in leadership positions all around us. It penetrates the psyche of leaders from every race, gender, party affiliation, or geography. It seems as though our so-called "leaders", whether in government, educational institutions, churches, political bodies, or corporate America, are first concerned about themselves. They only think of us when elections are looming and, even then, they only give us lip service. Today’s leaders are restricted by the need to be liked and revered whereas leaders of the past were willing to take personal risks to be effective. But, gone are those days.


Gone are the days of courage that we saw in 1976 when Governor George Wallace and Attorney General Bill Baxley forced a reluctant Alabama Pardon and Paroles Board to issue a full and unconditional pardon for Clarence Norris, the last known surviving Scottsboro Boy. In 1931, Norris and eight other Scottsboro Boys were falsely accused of raping two white women on a freight train traveling through Paint Rock, Alabama. The evidence showed that the Scottsboro Boys were completely innocent of this crime. The U.S. Supreme Court saved the Boys from the death penalty on three occasions. Today, many pardons are handed out to cronies who symbolize the political values of the pardoner(s), whether these cronies are innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted, or not.


Gone are the days of courage that we saw in 1993, when a governor like Jim Folsom, Jr., removed the Confederate flag from atop the Alabama state capitol because it was offensive to black Americans. Today, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey does not care if her state's blatantly impudent symbols of the old Confederacy offend black Americans. She is far more concerned with placating the hard-right members of the Alabama Republican Party than she is with promoting racial unity within her state.


Gone are the days of courage that we saw in 1976, when a courageous district attorney like Jimmy Evans conducted a proper grand jury investigation of the police shooting of an unarmed black male in Montgomery, Alabama and charged the officers involved with felony crimes. Today, district attorneys across America use grand juries as political cover to mask their cowardice as prosecutors in these high-profile cases. They are far too concerned about what will happen to their political careers if they do the right thing and criminally charge police officers who wrongfully kill unarmed citizens.


Gone are the days of courage that we saw in the 1970s, 80s and 90s when white and black ministers would join hands across America to combat society’s blatant neglect of our poor and defenseless fellow Americans. Today, too many of our ministers, both black and white, seem content in their efforts to build “tabernacles to the sky”, as service-minded churches are increasingly displaced on the religious landscape by personality-based ministries that merely seek to glorify their often immoral and compromised pastors.


Gone are the days of courage that we saw in the 1990s when corporate leaders would spearhead positive quality-of-life changes for the good of the larger community. Today, corporate leaders seduce, capture, and castrate our elected and appointed officials, effectively rendering them eunuchs and/or political pack mules that serve the narrow and selfish corporate interests. Wall Street, for example, now regulates our U.S. Congress, which is supposed to be regulating Wall Street. Even the Justice Department is openly subservient to Wall Street. If you are a low-level bank teller who embezzled a thousand dollars from a local bank, federal prosecutors will nail you to the wall. If you are a CEO of one of the Wall Street mega banks that caused $13 trillion in American wealth to be lost during the Great Recession of 2008, federal prosecutors have already declared you as “too big to prosecute”. They recently gave Wells Fargo a prosecutorial pass even though the bank admitted to fraudulently creating two millions bank accounts for the sole purpose of surreptitiously generating banking fees from unsuspecting customers.

Gone are the days of courage when President Ronald Reagan (a) confronted Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev about tearing down the Berlin Wall and (b) held the Soviet Union accountable for undermining the spread of democracy around the world. Today, President Donald Trump worships Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is a former KGB officer and cold-blooded murderer, like he is a "god". Meanwhile, Trump is determined to build his own "Wall" on the Mexican border.


Today, our national government leaders in Washington routinely lie to Americans about everything. They have also abandoned and humiliated America’s traditional allies for no good reason. Additionally, they have gleefully sold us out on nearly every quality of life issue that matters because they can do so without fear of political repercussions.


Today, many leaders claim to be “pro-life”. Yet, they eagerly cut funding for vital programs that benefit the health and safety of poor infants, children, and adults. In many cases, they treat children of color and poor kids worse than they treat their own dogs and cats.


Today, our leaders openly salute military veterans and wave American flags in their presence. Yet, they deny these heroes adequate healthcare for their emotional and physical war wounds and decent housing opportunities when they return home from the battlefields abroad. This should NEVER happen to a military veteran.


Everywhere we look, courage has been replaced with cowardice and selfishness. Gone are the great leaders of yesterday. Today’s leaders are mostly small-minded partisans who have giant-size egos. They eagerly serve the narrow special interests of big-money groups while neglecting the rest of us. They represent the “me first” generation whose “damn the rest of you” attitude that has effectively replaced the dedicated public and corporate service that lifted mankind.


This is the new class of American leadership. Gone are the days of courage.


PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump sucking up to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2018 Helsinki Summit.


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© 2020 by Donald V. Watkins, P.C.