The world is a beautiful place, and worth fighting for.

Charles Goddeeris
Babawole Akin Aina

– Ernest Hemingway

As I write, there are two tragedies competing for my attention. The first has been the attacks of Sept. 11 that rocked both this country and the world.

The second is the bomb explosions in my home city of Lagos, Nigeria.

The first attack I remember because of its enormity and horror, the other because it happened in my city; the place where I grew up and have memories.

On both occasions, the courage of those who made an effort to help others, sometimes paying the ultimate price, is something to look up to.

Ever since I could remember, I have always admired strength, not in the physical, offensive lineman sense but strength defined in a much more profound manner. This is the kind of strength that one shows when he or she does what must be done, despite the great fear that is felt inside.

It is a sad fact of life that most people are cowards and will only look out for their own self-interest, and some people do not even have the guts to do that. As a result it is always heartening to see that there are those who buck the trend and stand firm, to the death even, for that which they believe.

The best thing about this is the fact that bravery does not wear a single face; there have been many who have shown strength and resilience in the face of fear, danger and death.

Some of them come more readily to mind than others, such as the police officers, fire fighters and rescuers in both of the disasters I referred to.

Others include the men and women of the cloth who have resisted tyranny in Latin America. Students who fought and are still fighting oppression in South Africa and China. Doctors and rescue workers who brave the perils of war to deliver aid and care to those in need. Journalists who cross into dangerous terrain, putting themselves at risk for the story.

All of these people confront the very real presence of death, fear and danger as they attempt to uphold what they believe.

It is their convictions that put the steel in their backs and their eyes when others buckle.

They do this everyday, all over the world be it New York, El Salvador, Afghanistan – and they are of every race, color and creed.

They are the brave, the strong, and the courageous. Between the twin notions of political correctness and pseudo-intellectual snobbery, courage and the ability to battle for your beliefs have become a forgotten virtue.

I hope that changes.

In the meantime, I wish to say to all those who have stood their ground at great cost, at great pain, all the time not entirely sure if their strength would last, feeling the fear every logical human should, then doing something most people cannot – defeating that fear, the world remembers.

The world remembers, sometimes with vast eulogies and extravagant ceremonies, sometimes with song, poetry and writing, sometimes with vast monuments and great statues.

At other times, in periods of great prosperity and peace, it seems like we forget.

Most do, some do not. We still remember those who have been strong and proud till the very end and we thank you for it.

Babawole Akin Aina can be reached at babawole@umich.edu.

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