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A poster from the movie

Yesterday evening I was watching The Blind Side, yet again. A fine movie, some lovely acting by Sandra Bullock and Lily Collins adding the extra beauty with her next-to-mute presence. But its the story of Michael Oher (played by Quinton Aaron) that moves me. More so its Michael’s essay on Honor and Courage that has an effect which forces one to contemplate. Muse about what courage and honor is.

Lord Alfred Tennyson

He writes the essay taking inspiration from Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem The Charge of the Light Brigade.

Here’s the original essay.

Start quote: “Courage is a hard thing to figure. You can have courage based on a dumb idea or a mistake, but you are not supposed to question adults or your coach or your teacher. Because they make the rules. Maybe they know the best or maybe they don’t. It all depends on who you are and where they come from. Didn’t at least the six hundred guys think of giving up before joining with the other side. I mean The Valley Of Death! That’s pretty salty stuff. That’s why courage is tricky, should you always do what others tell you to do. Sometimes you might not even know why you do something. I mean any fool can have courage. But honor, that’s the real reason you do something or you don’t. It’s who you are and maybe who you want to be. If you die trying for something important then you have both honor and courage and that’s pretty good. I think that’s what the writer was saying, that you should hope for courage and try for honor and maybe even pray that the people telling you what to do have some too.”

End quote.

The Tennyson poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade is based on a real battle that occurred during the Crimean War. In reality and in the poem over 600 cavalry attacked a heavily fortified Russian military base and suffered its consequences resulting in a large number of deaths.

Courage is what enables one to face danger without showing any fear towards it. The soldiers in the poem showed courage in attacking a force that they could not defeat on paper. But is it enough? Yes, courage is needed but it is not enough in achieving the next to impossible task.

Honor is great respect, integrity, honesty towards anything or something you believe in. Those soldiers in the poem were traveling towards the “Valley of Death”, their orders were faulty, but not even one of them dared to rise against it. It was their belief, the honor and respect for their leaders that kept them marching towards their deathbed.

It takes courage to fight against adversities. But courage without honor is a battle lost even before it began. It takes courage to see the wrong and raise your voice against it. Searching for the truth requires even greater courage.

A cartoon show, Courage — the cowardly Dog comes to my mind. A paradox. Named ‘Courage’ but he acted scared, afraid of even the mundane of things. His courage came to the fore only when his owner Muriel was in trouble. He honored her and that gave him courage. If you have honor you will have courage but it does not work the other way around.

But courage loses its value in situations where being right always is more important than acknowledging oneself and finding the truth. Even though Tennyson wrote the poem ages ago, it is still very much about present times. It is applicable even today. We do not question those in charge and in power. The leaders are courageous in standing up to lead us. What if they work for their own benefits, is it courageous then? It is not. It is arrogance sugared with self-righteousness.

Honor courage. Honor those around you, those in authority but stand up for your rights. Speak against the wrong. Don’t blindly follow those whom you look up to. Be a man for yourself.

The Charge of the Light Brigade by Tennyson:

Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said: Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew

Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them

Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,

Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell

Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while

All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre stroke

Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not

Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them

Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,

Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!

All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,

Noble six hundred.