I vowed not to watch the Congressional hearings about January 6th. I had watched the original insurrection and fallout for a full week and believed that I had heard enough.
But I relented.
I am glad I did.
One of last week’s hearings focused on the VP, Mike Pence, and the repercussions he was faced for doing his job. Listening to this harrowing tale, I was surprised how real the danger was. And I saw something that I did not expect.
I remembered the fear on the faces of the Capitol police as they put their lives on the line to protect Congress and our Constitution. I saw fear on the faces of Congressmen and Congresswomen as they hid in the chamber and were ushered to safety.
I also remembered courage. The brave Capitol police protected our leaders with their lives. I saw videos of hand-to-hand combat. I saw the courage of a policeman who risked his life to lure the thugs away. (I still am not able to call these insurrectionists humans, I continue to pray for empathy and compassion, but as of yet, I cannot.)
I also realized that courage is not always about facing a life or death situation.
Tyler Schultz and Erika Chung were alarmed by what they saw at Theranos (a startup company that was trying to build medical testing devices). The executives of Theranos lied to investors and were willing to conduct inaccurate blood tests on patients. Chung and Schultz quit their jobs on moral grounds. It could have ended there. But they were concerned about patient safety. At great personal cost, they took another step. Chung notified the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). As required by law, CMS investigated Theranos and shut it down for 2 years deeming there was significant risk to patients. Schultz risked his career and his relationship with his famous grandfather, George Schultz, by whistleblowing to a Wall Street Journal reporter. The story in the Wall Street Journal was the beginning of the end for this fraudulent company. No longer able to con investors or get revenues from inaccurate medical tests, the company dissolved. Before its dissolution, Chung and Schultz spent almost a year sued, harassed, and spied on by private detectives, and yet remained resolute in their desire to expose the danger. They no doubt saved lives.
But all they really did was quit a job and notify others about the inner workings of the company. That’s all, they made a phone call or wrote an email.
In Mike Pence’s case, he was simply doing his job.
I carry no water for Pence. I have contempt for people who decide that their religion and piety must be forced upon everyone. Their religious beliefs compel them to abrogate women’s rights and the rights of anyone who deviates from their moral view.
Yet, Pence is courageous. Despite the extraordinary bullying that Pence endured and the threat to his safety, Pence did his job. His advisors were convinced that his life was in danger and remain fearful that without Congressional safeguards this could happen again if Trump runs for office.
Mike Pence showed courage in performing the simple ceremonial role of certifying the election. And that was all he did, in the face of withering persecution, he did his job.
Courage comes in many forms. It can be the courage that soldiers display on the battlefield or the Capitol police in protecting our Constitution.
Courage can be making an extra phone call, as Chung and Schultz did.
And sometimes courage is just as simple as doing your job.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.