When I think of that word, I say it in my mind in the voice of the Cowardly Lion in one of my favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz. He didn’t have it, but he knew he wanted it. But why? It takes courage to lead and become who we’re meant to be; it takes both conviction and principle. More than that, it takes spiritual mooring and firmly held belief. Courage is an ideal or set of principles of which a leader seeks to embody or remain loyal. 

It’s sad to say, and yet surprising to many who are newly paying attention, that we have a deficit of courage in Alabama. Despite our state motto, “We Dare Defend our Rights,” our leaders are being led rather than leading with courage. They have raised public employee salaries instead of lowering taxes. They have promoted gambling and encouraged vice rather than enforcing the law. They have raised taxes rather than representing their constituents by returning the fruits of their labor. They have capitulated to the lobbyists rather than listening to the people. They have rested slothfully on the platform they claim to represent rather than honoring it.

If you acknowledge evil, your spirit is compelled to fight it. As a part of the human condition, people tend to deny that things are as bad as they clearly are. We comfort ourselves in our stupor; we put our heads in the proverbial sand. That is the human condition and that is exactly what has happened in Alabama politics. Courage is a value, the fruit of sincere conviction. Conversely, cowardice is ignoring evil or knowingly allowing it to fester unnoticed and unmentioned for personal benefit.

You should be shocked and horrified at the ability of your state and local government to rule over every single aspect of your life. You should be frustrated that many people and businesses were deemed “unessential,” dismissed from daily life and told their lives didn’t matter. You should be horrified that basic necessities were denied to the very old and the very young because it was easy since they didn’t have an effective lobby or a collective voice. You should be exasperated that both needless governmental intervention and fear-mongering were routine by our state-funded medical institutions. You should be furious that the doctors that helped thousands of citizens survive the pandemic with outpatient care were targeted and vilified. You should lament that masking requirements, lockdowns, and lonely deaths occurred under the watch of the current governor and legislature. You should be angry that elected officials, including the current Alabama governor and US president, blamed the unvaccinated for the plight and deaths of both individuals and the country collectively. 

There is no regaining the lost goodbyes or the forsaken celebrations. There is no substitute for the developmental milestones that were skipped or the relationships that will never be restored. It has been said that one death is a tragedy but a hundred million deaths are just a statistic. The same could be said for the hardships brought about by the tyrannical reaction to COVID on all levels of leadership. I said “tyranny” on purpose - not to be melodramatic, but to properly frame the issue.

Tyranny is real and it lives right here in Alabama. It’s not a worldwide or a federal problem. It’s not Fauci or Biden; it’s far too comfortable in Sweet Home Alabama. We have a “Republican” governor who forcibly shuttered small businesses and churches under the guise of safety with no political repercussions. We have a “Republican supermajority” who ignored the needs of the people and hasn’t even attempted to protect us from the probability of the entire thing happening again. There has been no reining in of Emergency Powers, no material attempt at righting the unconstitutional appointment or overreaching powers of the State Health Officer, and no protection of the average Alabama citizen from the next habitual overreaction. In fact, most of our elected officials want to pretend it never happened at all. It is an election year, after all.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This is historically true, and it is true in Alabama. We’ve become comfortable in our acceptance of obscene levels of governmental control and corruption. We’ve become complacent that we live in Alabama and want to pretend that we have it better than others because we live in a red state.

When we examine the evidence rather than relying on our emotions, we see the naked truth. The truth is that we are ruled by those who seek to control us rather than represent us. It’s time to confront the truth with courage in Alabama, and it will take more than a tin medal pinned to our chests from the man behind the curtain to right the wrongs. It will take the people demanding fortitude, humility and bravery from our leaders.

The time is now.

Stephanie Holden Smith is an experienced policy analyst, political commentator, and public speaker. Smith has worked and volunteered in Governmental Affairs in Alabama since 1997, including lobbying for a Fortune 500 company and serving as Deputy Director of Finance for the State of Alabama. She is currently the principal of Thatcher Coalition LLC. To contact Stephanie, please go to http://thatchercoalition.comThe views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information