Two classic books, The Art of War and The Art of Peace emphasize the importance of courage.
“Bravery in the battle is valor and valor to save another is Divine. The valor to save another is Divine. It is a sentiment worthy of reflection.
Friday, January 27th 2012 Brittany Norwood was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the horrific killing of co worker Jayna Murray. Employees of the apple store next to where the killings took place reported they heard squealing, grunting, thumping, hitting, dragging and yelps from the the Lululemon Athletica Boutique on the night of March 11, 2011. Jana Svrzo testified that she heard two voices, one saying, “Oh God please help me,” and the other saying, “talk to me, please don’t do this whats going on?” Svrzo called the manager and others to listen and they were seen with a surveillance camera standing close to the wall while listening. No one went next door to see what may be happening, and no calls were made to the police or 911. Jayna Murray died from over 322 wounds with 107 identifiable defense wounds.
The response to their decision not to act has been one of outrage, (which is to be expected in a moral society), yet this kind of thing has happened before and happens frequently, often in subtler ways. In recent years there has been much discussion about a nation wide increase of bullying. We now have numerous anti bullying programs and bullying experts across the country in addition to a plethora of websites like reportbullying.com. Their mission is to encourage bystanders to stand up and defend victims of bullying. Not an easy end because it seems that some would rather make a video of an offense rather than rally in defense of a victim.
The virtue of courage or fortitude has existed in classical writings for centuries as the ability to confront fear, pain, danger and uncertainty. It is a characteristic that crosses all religious barriers. In both Catholicism and Anglicanism courage is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirt and a cardinal virtue. The Holy Qur’an teaches that courage is standing firm when all bends to the winds of change. In Buddhism courage is valued as the quality that helps the Buddhist achieve anything in life and is required before taking any action. It is always possible that when we exercise courage it can threaten our ability to thrive. But, we know from philosophers and theologians that our greatest Good is to work toward virtue even if it requires the ultimate sacrifice of giving our life. However, in reviewing the details of the Murray case we can surmise that the Apple employees did not face any imminent danger. Instead, their failing was not merely a lack of moral courage it was the plague of indifference. Soren Kirkegaard wrote, ” at the bottom of enmity between strangers lies indifference” here is threat to our society that is as grave as the black death that spread over Europe in the 14th century. Apathy is deadly, but not always in an obvious way.
The employees at the Apple store declined any comment about their inaction and when were asked if hearing the word “help” would have made a difference Jana Svrzo said, I don’t know.” Is it possible to teach people to stand up for one another? Courage requires action, and so does love. Do we teach love or do we love and in so doing increase love? The same equation can be applied to courage. Surely the lectures given to grade school children about bullying may have some impact, but at best they nag our conscience. Far better is to see someone come forth and defend the defenseless.
What happened to Jayna Murray is inexcusable, and terrifying. If we picture a world where apathy is the common response then we cannot even save ourselves.