On the morning of April 19, 1775, a company of Massachusetts militia formed ranks on Lexington Common. They had received word in the night that regulars would be coming through that morning on their way to confiscate weapons in the town of Concord, a few miles away. As the redcoats appeared at the edge of town, the militia commander, Captain John Parker, is supposed to have given the following order to his soldiers:
Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.
The quote is probably apocryphal, but what happened afterward is not: someone fired a shot, and some time later, the regulars moved on to Concord, leaving eight militia dead on the Common.
The skirmish we call the Battle of Lexington was a lopsided, disorganized, confusing fight. I doubt anyone involved really wanted it to come to a fight; the result was so predictable that no militiaman in his right mind could have hoped for anything like a victory.
But they chose to stand anyway. They considered their options and decided standing against the regulars that day was important–more important, if it came to it, than their own lives. So they stood on the common and announced for the generations, I stand here. If you want to go farther than this, you go through me.
Living with courage means finding a place like that in your own life. Something for which you will stand, even if overwhelming force stands against you. Something you find important enough that you are willing to tell the world I stand here.
It might be your family’s safety. That’s a line most of us will guard.
It might be your right, or someone else’s right, to do something: your right to determine what happens with your own body, or your right to use the bathroom in a way that won’t get you beat up, or your right to carry a gun where you think you might need it. It might be your right to vote, or to serve in the military. It might be a right others oppose.
It might be an issue of justice: you might stand for equal treatment for Muslims, or Christians, or atheists; you might stand for better treatment for the homeless, or immigrants, or inmates in prison. You might stand for giving people around the world the same opportunities we enjoy here in the west. You might stand for freedom for those trapped in slavery, or for those trapped under a brutal regime like the Islamic State.
You might stand for education, or health care, or tax reform, or teaching people how to save their money and live within their means.
You might stand for any of a thousand possibilities. And if you stand for something, it’s a good bet someone else will stand against you. That’s not a reason to stop–it’s the reason you chose to stand in the first place.
I stand for love, for people’s right to love whom they choose without fear.
It’s time to ask yourself: what do you stand for?