June 14, 2023
Editorial Opinion – reproduced with permission
As part of its mission of advocating for a quality education for everyone and encouraging participation in our democracy, Wyoming Rising, a 501(c)4 organization, cosponsored a discussion between Rodger McDaniel and Pete and Al Simpson at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center on April 25. McDaniel has recently released a book entitled “Profiles in Courage: Standing Against the Wyoming Wind.” Rodger was a representative in the Wyoming legislature. He is now the pastor of Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne. His book is a series of stories about Wyoming citizens who have shown the courage to “stand against the wind” and defend those in less powerful positions. They faced threats and intimidation because of their actions. For example, Jeran Artery fought for LGBTQ rights in the legislature. The Black 14, a group of Black student football players at the University of Wyoming, were kicked off the team in 1969 for asking permission to wear armbands to a game with BYU to protest the policies of the Mormon Church. Lynn Dickey fought for accessibility for all physically challenged people in Wyoming. The native people of the Wind River reservation, after losing their land and destruction of their culture, continue their fight for treaty rights.
Do we have their courage today? The January 6 mob who attacked the Capitol have stated they were bravely trying to overturn a “stolen” election. They carried “Don’t Tread on Me,” American and some Confederate flags as symbols of their cause. Subsequent facts and prosecutions have shown their “bravery” was misplaced. All data shows the election was legitimate and Donald Trump and his allies lied.
So, are courageous acts in the eye of the beholder.? The key question is, courage towards what end? Many Nazi soldiers probably showed courage but to what end? Establishing a vicious dictatorship? The values worth courageous acts must be clear and defensible. In our democracy, it is the Constitution that describes our nation’s values. These include a fully participatory democracy exercised through elected representatives; freedom of speech; freedom of the press and assembly; right of all citizens to vote; equal protection under the law. Other values in our nation come from most of the world’s religions. Treat people and other creatures with kindness and compassion the way you would like other people to treat you.
Is wearing “freedom” T-shirts and waving the American flag while advocating for the restriction of freedom for those of us who are a different gender, skin color or lifestyle showing courage or bending to the prevailing Wyoming wind? Wouldn’t a truly courageous person, especially in a more powerful position, step up and defend the constitutional and human rights afforded to everyone, including our fellow LGBTQ, women, people of color and different ethnicities, and physically and mentally challenged people? At this difficult time in our nation’s life, we have plenty of performative patriotism and courage just for show and to gain approval of those in power. We challenge you to show real courage like the people in Mr. McDaniel’s book. For example, the Black 14 and the Mormon Church now do joint efforts like fundraise for the food bank. All the people in this book put their lives and careers on the line to stand up for ideas and people whose freedom and rights were being jeopardized by the more powerful. Do we have the courage to “form a more perfect union” for everyone including those who don’t fit the Wyoming mold? Be brave! Don’t just wear the right T-shirt or wave the flag — defend and support someone who doesn’t look like or live like you. Isn’t that the American and Wyoming way?
Wyoming Rising is an all-volunteer organization based in Park County that advocates for equality, education and a more peaceful society.