I remember after the September 11th attacks six years ago all of the talking heads were tossing around the word "cowards" to describe the terrorists. I was first confused, and then a little annoyed. Yes, what they did was clearly malicious and ignorant, but were they cowards? The idea that they would sacrifice themselves for their cause struck me not as cowardly, but brave. Surely what they had accomplished was not easy.
After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto yesterday, politicians are once again referring to an act of suicide as "cowardly." George Bush himself said so. But this time I'm beginning to understand what they mean.
Acts of suicide terrorism are cowardly because they allow the suicide bomber to opt out of the situation without having to do any actual work. They feel as if they have done something worthy for their cause. They can now retire to their afterlife (presumably a good one) in peace.
I am willing to acknowledge that the conditions in which many of these young men grow up must be horrible. I do not know the life details of the man who blew himself up yesterday, but I can imagine that he probably lived in fear of hunger and lacked proper medical care. When he was offered a way out of it all, a way that may have brought honor and money to his family, I can see why he might have been tempted.
But when he accepted that role as a suicide bomber, he did not care about how it would affect his community. He would never see the community again after his death. He was doing it for himself.
Bravery is taking action that will start a positive change in your community, regardless of how it might affect you. That is why bravery has often become associated with self-sacrifice. It is about putting others ahead of yourself.
Cowardice is making the easiest choice for yourself, regardless of how it might affect your community. Suicide bombing is a cowardly act. Today it is more clear than ever that the world needs more brave men, and fewer cowards.