Two feminist heroes are in the news in the same week. Kaci Hickox, the nurse who went bike riding rather than comply with a self-quarantine after volunteering with Doctors without Borders in Sierra Leone, and Brittany Maynard, the woman with brain cancer who set and now has pushed back the date she will end her life.
I’m not sure I agree with either of them. It doesn’t matter.
The essence of heroism, in my book, is moral courage. And that’s what I see here.
I’m impressed that Brittany Maynard doesn’t feel compelled to go through with her original November 1st date with suicide so as to not disappoint the millions following her story and appreciate that she is making the calculation of the timing of her suicide transparent. It’s not random nor given over to theatrics. She’s balancing the odds of having more joy, as she puts it, versus falling into a black hole where she will be unable to control what happens next. In the meantime, she is letting millions of people who fear that decision into her thought process. Exposing herself, her family and her situation in the interests of enlightenment. It’s hard to fathom that kind of mental toughness.
Kaci Hickox was filmed riding her bike down a country road in Maine, pedaling a fuck you to the authorities trailing her in squad cars. It’s clear she’s not going to self-quarantine. They’re going to have to arrest her. Get this: she is forcing the authorities to arrest a nurse who volunteered with Doctors without Borders to care for people with Ebola. It’s like putting Mother Theresa in cuffs and loading her into the paddy wagon. The photos of Kaci Hickox riding her bike were all like, ‘come and get me, motherfuckers, I’m not doing anything wrong’ and I am awed by that. Just plain awed.
And remember I said I’m not sure I agree with either of them. Ms. Maynard or Ms. Hickox. I don’t know what I’d do. I haven’t been in either of their situations and imagination doesn’t count in these cases.
When we tell young girls that they are brave and are leaders, we should probably use these two women as examples. The lesson wouldn’t necessarily be about what they’ve decided to do. The example is their moral courage.
“You have to have the courage of your convictions,” my mother would tell me, although the topic never involved scheduling my own suicide or deciding to ignore an official request to quarantine myself. This was about whether to wear the green skirt or the blue one. Little stuff, courage that had protection built in, not courage on a sharp razor blade. That’s what these two women have – courage on a very sharp razor blade.
Oh, there have been times when I’ve required a fair amount of backbone, times when I’ve been the odd man out, so to speak, held out for the unpopular view, or took a fall for someone who couldn’t afford to take one. I don’t consider myself a weakling but I feel like a 4th grader compared to these two women.
Anyway, I’m glad to be alive to see this. And to know that Amelia Earhart’s plane wreckage was finally found. She’s all I had to go on coming up. She was a lot but I’m glad to see these new chicks on the scene.
Super guts. An inspiration.