Row Away in the Confusion and Save Himself

"The Master himself was turning to his great gilded boat, hoping to row away in the confusion and save himself."

“The Master himself was turning to his great gilded boat, hoping to row away in the confusion and save himself.”

Cowardice is probably the single most damaging quality a leader of any kind can have.  We look to our leaders for support and guidance in time of hardship, it’s horribly disappointing when they fail in this task.  For many, cowardice is seen as one of the worst personality traits imaginable.  Having your cowardice publicly displayed can be personally very damaging, not to mention morally degrading.  As we see with the Master it can prove to be a turning point in a person’s stability.

In 2012 a cruise ship in Italy went aground and sunk.  There was death and injuries, however, the person everyone read about was Captain Francesco Schettino.  Through his cowardice, people died.  He was well aware of what he was doing and even had to be told to go back to his boat.  He had a duty to his crew and his passengers and he failed them miserably.  The government saw this as a derelict of duty however the worst harm came from the public, who by and large viewed him as a shining example of cowardice.  One of the codes of conduct among ship captains is they go down with their ship.  They are the last one off that ship, no matter what.  The one report we get consistently from the history of the Titanic, in contrast, is the bravery of the captain.  He knew what he was to do and he accepted his fate.  His actions were at times indecisive but no one can blame him for that.

However, there is one story of cowardice from the Titanic that cannot be ignored.  J. Bruce Ismay was a passenger on the Titanic, a survivor.  He was no ordinary passenger, he’s the survivor that is immortalized as the coward of that tragedy.  He was vilified by British and American press.  They accused him of saving himself, while women and children were left to die in the icy waters.  This was nothing to what his own wife claimed.  She divorced him shortly after the sinking, stating that he abandoned her and their children on the night of the Titanic’s sinking.  He will forever be dubbed a coward and his ancestors still feel the sting of his shame.

The word coward leaves an ugly taste on the tongue.  We’ve been hardwired to stand in awesome wonder of feats of bravery and to abhor cowardice.  The Master makes you think of the politicians today.  If Smaug was to light up D.C. tomorrow, would there be a single Bard among those elected?

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