Integrity and Courage in Culture

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines courage as mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. If we apply these ideas to how Gilgamesh found courage and integrity through his friendship with Enkidu, or in the entire story of The Iliad, we can see growth happen. And growth occurs even today, hundreds of years after Gilgamesh and the Iliad were written. Colin Kaepernick in his Nike ad showed his interpretation of courage and integrity, and I believe there will always be examples to pull from of what these two words mean.

One could argue that Gilgamesh showed courage by building these fantastic temples, surrounding his city by giant walls, or just making his city as beautiful as he apparently was. But this was not courage. Gilgamesh was cruel, and I believe cruelty comes from being a coward. The gods agreed, at least to an extent, because that is when we see Enkidu come into play, who really shows Gilgamesh what it means to be courageous. Enkidu, who was a wild man, proved to Gilgamesh that friendship can show great bravery, integrity, and courage.

Gilgamesh had been raping women, taking what he wanted from who he wanted, and in general, kind of being a bad guy. But through Enkidus friendship, integrity had new meaning to Gilgamesh, as he started to care for another being. Enkidu challenged Gilgamesh to change his ways and start a new adventure.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu fight in the face of adversity when battling Humbaba, and Gilgamesh fights in the face of normalcy when he shoots down the love of Ishtar. The gods are then not too happy with the two, and try to enforce discipline on them, which is kind of like persisting in the face of adversity. They were two friends going on an adventure, and when they were courageous enough to defy the gods, they stood up to the backlash.

Finally, when the gods do discipline the two friends in a way that hurts, Enkidu dies. Gilgamesh had to be courageous in this moment, too. He had to deal with the loss of a true friend, and showed his integrity by honoring Enkidu in now wearing animal skins, just like Enkidu would.

On the other hand, the Iliad shows us a true spectacle of a lack of courage and integrity. Agamemnon and Achilles show a lack of integrity when they claimed two women as their own, even when one of the girls father tries to take his own daughter back into safe hands. The father then does the only thing he can – pray. He then causes a plague on the Greek army, punishing their lack of integrity.

Because of this plague, Agamemnon realizes he has to give this stolen girl back, and then shows even less integrity by demanding Achilles stolen girl. Then to top it all off, Achilles refuses to fight in battle because he is insulted Agamemnon wants to steal his girl. Everyone has no sense of what is right or what is courageous.
This lack of integrity and courage results in the death of Patroclus, the only truly courageous person there. Patroclus chooses to fight in Achilles place, even if it gets him killed, which seems imminent. He does indeed die. But this spiked a sense of courage in Achilles, who vows to fight in honor of Patroclus. He kills every enemy he sees, and even fights a god. Eventually, a sense of courage and integrity shines through and Achilles kills the man, Hector, who killed his friend.

But there is a newer sense of integrity and courage than hundreds of years ago in the Iliad or Gilgamesh – there is Colin Kaepernicks Nike ad. It starts with a skater falling, then a child with no legs wrestling, then a black boy running, and even a girl playing football against all the boys. The message here is that you can do anything, even in the face of adversity. There is an argument to be made that if you took Colin Kaepernick out of the ad, it would not be controversial. There is nothing controversial about following your dreams. There is something courageous though about the line spoken by Kaepernick Stand for something, even if it means sacrificing everything.

Colin Kaepernick was incredibly courageous to put himself into the spotlight once more. He was forced into the option to leave the National Football League (NFL) as a free agent to never be drafted into a team again, but he did not stop there. He wanted the message to be clear – he stood for something. He stood for the black lives matter movement. And the kids shown in the beginning of the ad stand for something – their own dreams.

Colin Kaepernick is undrafted in the NFL as a free agent because of kneeling during the national anthem, even though he was such an incredible quarterback, he led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. The amount of dedication and hard work it took get to the NFL, let alone lead a team to the Super Bowl, is insane. However, due to conservative ideals, this was all thrown away and Kaepernick was blacklisted. Kaepernick showed and continues to show incredible courage and integrity for never sacrificing what he believed in for others, which was the black lives matter movement.

The other side of this coin are those who are offended by Colin Kaepernick and question his motives. Conservative media sees Kaepernick as a threat to patriotism. He did not stand for the national anthem, so therefore he disrespected the flag of the United States, and the United States itself. How could someone kneel during the most important song this country has to offer? There is no doubt that those who were upset with his actions saw this as a violation of dignity of the United States. It felt like a personal attack. And it felt like an attack to all those that served the country.

Integrity was shown, though. Integrity, defined once again as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. Kaepernick did was he believed was right, or morally just. He was courageous, if we define courage as standing in the face of adversity with good moral intentions. This ad was simply a representation of the moral uprightness that Kaepernick was already displaying in his everyday life.

Again, Merriam Webster Dictionary defines courage as mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. As we applied these ideas to how Gilgamesh found courage and integrity through his friendship with Enkidu, or in the entire story of The Iliad, we saw growth happen. And we saw how growth occurs even today, hundreds of years after Gilgamesh and the Iliad were written. Colin Kaepernick in his Nike ad showed his interpretation of courage and integrity, and I believe there will always be examples of integrity and courage in culture.

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