|Bruce Jenner in the 1976 Olympics and Caitlyn Jenner on the July 2015 cover of Vanity Fair.|
“As I see post after post about Bruce Jenner’s transition to a woman, and I hear words like, bravery, heroism and courage, just thought I’d remind all of us what real American courage, heroism and bravery looks like!” --Terry Coffey, June, 2015
Insert grainy black & white photo of a wounded major being hauled through the mud to safety while defiantly firing a pistol at his attackers, and--BOOM!--an Internet meme is born.
Like millions, I saw the original post as it flew around . Were you one of the 800,000 who not only saw it but shared it? Did I see it because you shared it? For any of you who somehow missed this message and image that touched such a nerve, here is is again:
As an career Army officer, now retired, I place a high value on personal courage. The image Mr. Coffey attached to his comment and the courage it represented was one that resonated with me. I saw lots of my Army friends "liking" this image and commenting on social media. For some reason, I held back and did not share my opinion one way or the other. More on that later.
I can relate to the example of courage in the photo. Honestly, the example of Bruce transitioning to Caitlyn is harder for me to relate to on a personal level, but who am I to question or judge another's struggle? Truly, I am not sure which battle would require more courage.
Whether Mr. Coffey's comment was intended as a mockery of Jenner or merely a rebuttal to all the attention being paid to Jenner's public transition is unclear. However, supporters and detractors of rights for trans-gendered people soon took up sides. Mr. Coffey was praised by some, and slammed as a "trans hater" by others.
Who is Terry Coffey?
As it happens, Mr. Coffey's commentary about "real" courage was ironic in a way that he couldn't have imagined. In an interview following the popularity of his post, Coffey admitted he had conducted a quick image search online, and simply chose an image that fit his words. Again, I think lots of people like me might have selected the same image as a depiction of true courage. After Coffey's post went viral, he decided to identify the photographer so he could give him or her proper attribution. Imagine Coffey's shock when he realized that the photographer was actually a cross-dresser who had been savagely beaten by a gang of five hate-filled and bigoted thugs.
“In an ironic twist, I have discovered that the photo is part of a documentary created by a man who was beaten nearly to death outside of a bar in 2000,” Coffey posted.
The photographer, Mark Hogancamp, spent nine days in a coma and suffered severe brain damage and other injuries, Coffey learned.
Hogancamp coped with his pain afterward by set in World War II – where he created the image that went viral years later – but Coffey was gobsmacked by something else he learned.
“Why was [Hogancamp] nearly beaten to death by 5 strangers?” Coffey asked. “Because he was a cross-dresser.”
“I could have chosen any one of hundreds of photos depicting bravery, but I chose this one,” Coffey said. “Do I think it was an accident? No, I don’t. What happened to this man was cruel, wrong, and unforgivable,” Coffey said. “Hate helps nothing, love wounds no one, God heals all, and irony makes you think.”
As a person who grew up worshiping Bruce Jenner the athlete and then served 28 years in the Army, how did I get to the point where Terry Coffee's public excoriation leads me to an interest in a documentary about Mark Hogencamp's struggle to recover from senseless brutality?
I am what pioneering psychologist Carl Jung would call an ENTP (Extroverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving). As an ENTP, my preferences are to:
- interact with others as a means of generating ideas and soliciting feedback in an environment that fosters interaction and synergy (Extrovert, E);
- use my intuition and deductive reasoning rather than facts and inductive reasoning to fill in the gaps in my knowledge (Intuitive, N);
- to think as opposed to feel my way through the world (Thinking, T); and
- to look for ways to improve processes and products rather than to judge them against a standard (Perceiving, P).
- Ethnic Diversity
- Selfless Service
- Personal Courage
|This realistic depiction of personal courage was created and photographed by a talented human.|
“Hate helps nothing, love wounds no one, God heals all, and irony makes you think.”--Terry Coffey