Friday, February 25, 2011

Taking risks, suffering consequences

Nearly two weeks have passed since CBS "60 Minutes" correspondent Lara Logan was sexually and physically assaulted in Tahrir Square, Cairo, by a group of Egyptian Muslim males who thought she was a Jew. Similarly, nearly two weeks have passed since Angella Johnson was sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square, though not as severely as Logan, thankfully. More than three weeks have passed since CNN’s Anderson Cooper and his crew were assaulted and ABC’s Brian Hartman was carjacked and threatened with beheading. Reports indicate approximately 140 journalists have been injured or killed in Egypt in the past month. And just this past week, four Americans, including a Christian missionary couple sailing around the world distributing Bibles, were captured and killed by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

In each of these cases, the associated risks were well-known and accepted by the would-be victims. The acceptance of the potential consequences, even in naïveté, does not mean the victims deserved to be assaulted or killed. This argument, made by some in recent weeks, is particularly insidious for it implies that risk-takers should be punished for daring to take risks. It carries undertones of cowardice and timidity, of condemnation for those who dare to accomplish great things, of malice toward those who courageously accept the enormous potential sum on the risk calculator.

I condemn that line of thinking because risk-taking is the substance of life. Rewards are often the greatest where the risks are highest. Unfortunately, those risks sometimes materialize and the consequences are very costly, even to the taking of human lives.

Men (and women) who risk little accomplish little. We need more men and women who are willing to risk greatly to accomplish incredible things and less men and women who would sneer at those who stumble in the fight. Men and women that risk great loss to report news from the four corners of the globe, or bring the Gospel to the four corners of the globe, deserve our respect. I do not count them among the timid and weak souls; they are the bold, the living and the free. They deserve sympathy as much as any other man when the risks they accept as part of a job, or simply as a matter of living, materialize and cause them great harm.

The victims in each of these cases are bearing the consequences of their decisions. As much as we may wish to do so, it is now impossible to absolve them of the consequences they accepted and subsequently received. There is little point in reminding them of the fact they accepted the risk. They well know; they're living through it. And far be it from me to condemn them post facto for taking great risks. All we should say is that it is too bad the risks materialized, and then do our very best to sympathize with those who live to tell of their ordeal and grieve with those whose loved ones paid the ultimate price for freedom.

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