Regardless of what he’s stood for or how he’s voted in the past, Mitt Romney’s decision in the impeachment vote last week took courage.
All of us will face moments in our lives when the world asks us who we are and we must respond. For Mitt Romney, the question was asked in the form of a decision between voting with his party, or voting, in his words, to uphold his “promise before God to apply impartial justice.”
The question of who we are takes other forms in different contexts, and is asked at different volumes and in different tones. It is asked loudly and painfully in the form of tragedy and loss. It is asked cynically and scornfully in the form of disappointments and setbacks. It is asked quietly but surely in the dialogue and interactions we have with others.
No matter the form of the question, however, our decision — conscious or subconscious — is always between only two possible responses: Courage and cowardice. In the impeachment vote last week, Romney chose courage.
I wonder if I have courage. Perhaps you wonder this about yourself, too. In Cormac McCarthy’s brilliantly written novel “All the Pretty Horses,” a character recounts a moment in her life when, following a tragic accident, she must decide how to go on in her life. She says: “What I was seeking to discover was a thing I’d always known. That all courage was a form of constancy. That it was always himself that the coward abandoned first. After this all other betrayals came easily.”
Courage is not a choice we make instantly in a single moment. Courage is a “form of constancy” — whether constancy of identity, beliefs or values — that enables us to endure and triumph over any and every circumstance.
Love is the basis of that constancy, and I don’t say this just because it’s Valentine’s Day today.
Love is the basis of the constancy vital for courage because love — whether received or given — provides a clarity of vision that is a form of constancy: A clarity of vision to how you see the world (there is great terror and destruction, yes, but if there is love then there must also be beauty; there must also be restoration), and a clarity of vision to how you see yourself (valuable; capable of, conditioned, even, for love and for courage).
In the movie “La La Land,” aspiring actress Mia and jazz pianist Sebastien are struggling to believe in the possibility of realizing their dreams when they meet each other. Through their relationship and love for one another, they provide each other with the clarity to see that possibility once again and the courage to continue pursuing their dreams.
In “Jane Eyre,” one of my favorite love stories, after discovering a dark secret of Mr. Rochester’s past near the middle of the novel, Jane refuses to stay with Rochester, the man she loves, in a moment of great courage on the basis of maintaining constancy in her principles. That constancy is an act of love: In her refusal to stay with Rochester, Jane challenges him — gives him an opportunity — to actually be the good he ardently desires to be yet had given up hope in being. In love, Jane has the clarity to see Rochester not just for what he was but what he can be and in fact wants to be; in love, Jane leaves Rochester knowing that he can only truly become who he desires to be independent of her.
In his speech at the impeachment, Mitt Romney expressed his desire to be constant in his love for his country and God as the bases for his decision, saying, “[My] promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and political biases aside … I love our country. I believe that our Constitution was inspired by Providence … my vote is an act of conviction.”
It is often said that love is blind. Yet as the basis for courage, love is not blind: It is only in love when we can see with constancy what is valuable, even when that value is obscured by circumstance. Love is a kind of wisdom that makes you look up at a black night sky and smile at the recollection of stars — it is that wisdom which gives us courage.
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Sharon Spaulding is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.