“We all like to believe that we are brave, that given a choice we would put ourselves at risk in order to do the right thing. Looking back at history, we believe that we would not have been slave owners, we would have opposed the Nazis, we would have hidden Jews in the basement, we would have supported school integration,” writes Dartmouth’s Charles Wheelan in a U.S. News & World Report opinion piece on the subject of accepting Syrian refugees into the United States.
However, what we’d like to believe is not an accurate reflection of reality, writes Wheelan, a senior lecturer and policy fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy.
“The reality is that most of us would have done then what we do now: Whatever is easiest and in our own self-interest. And then, perhaps the most insidious part, we find rationalizations for doing little or nothing. We don’t oppose low-income housing or school integration; we are just worried about housing values and class sizes. Or something like that. Those of us who are relatively privileged find ways to put on blinders when it comes the world's most serious problems,” he writes.
But there are always some courageous people, he says, who are willing to do what it takes to make life better for others.
“The point is that there is a personal cost, whether it a risk of harm, or some social discomfort or paying a literal price. By this metric, courage is about making the choice to put your own self-interest at stake, and perhaps even that of your family, for the sake of something bigger.”
Read the full opinion piece, published 11/23/15 by U.S. News & World Report.