Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day: Being Worthy Americans--UPDATED

Do you remember life before 9/11?

I do. We really didn't know how good we had it. We had the luxury of complaining about trivial things. The trouble we endured was mostly personal. Public sorrow was reserved for death by heroism like the Space Shuttle blowing up.

The post-9/11 world simmers with unresolved anxiety and grief. As long as our troops are in harms way in huge numbers, much of the community goes about their business uneasily. I think that's part of the reason the Left wants the war over. It's hard to whistle Good Times Are Here Again (even with a booming economy) when vast numbers of the populace worries about their sons, brothers, and friends. It's unseemly. Many want that discomfort over. The consequences be damned. Everyone just wants a good night's sleep.

The post-9/11 world removed the shroud. Behind this curtain was a monster that everyone hoped didn't really exist. Since then, America generally, and President Bush, specifically, has endured no end of derision because we wouldn't wait for the next attack. Too afraid to see the monster, or too tied to the monster's success themselves, world leaders scape-goated. What else could one do, if one was determined to ignore reality?

And worse things have happened in the post-9/11 world. Multiple hurricanes have slammed the gulf-coast. Mud slides, tornados, floods, wild fires, tsunamis, and just plain weird weather has disturbed the natural order of things. Or maybe, these acts of nature are the natural order of things. Maybe, we've just been lucky. Or blessed.

What these natural disasters have revealed most places, is a tremendous can-do spirit and relentless drive to make things right again. And again. And again. But it also revealed a very dysfunctional community in New Orleans, one that still is not adequately on the road to recovery. This tumult is another source of national anxiety. The leadership vacuum means no one can get on top of it. The individuals there were/are so reliant, so compliant, so passive. The unspoken question: Is this what we're becoming?

I'm reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-Reliance:

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without pre-established harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.
With all the talk about the government doing more, and the talk that if we weren't in Iraq, all the bad that America has endured these last few years would be magic-ed away, makes me wonder about the soul of America. I don't like seeing foreigners marching in my country demanding what another country should do for them. It's un-American to be so needy.

We're the country of boot-straps and individualism.

The one place I see the American character alive and well is the one place half our country seems to most scorn: the military. The best, matter-of-fact, intelligent discussions I've had about human nature have been with soldiers. Perhaps the stark right and wrong contrasts mixed in with the murkiness of war gives them added wisdom. Not perhaps, it does. Soldiers get fidelity. Their lives depend on it. Most marriages depend on fidelity yet fidelity certainly isn't a notion embraced in American marriages. Soldiers get sacrifice. Yet in many quarters, sacrifice is laughed at as an archaic notion--replaced by a narcissistic, licentious self-actualization. When a commenter on my blog wrote that any parent who chose to have a Down's Syndrome baby was selfish, more than a few readers marvelled. Has our society turned everything good inside out? The military, made up of fallible people, at least hold to these ideals. In this post-modern America, the idea of ideals seem quaint.

So, today I honor and remember those who fight and die for freedom. Today is a day to remember those who live and die by ideals once embraced by our whole country. These men and women are the spine of our society. They protect the soft innards. They cradle the future. Without the military, we are not much and won't last long.

I'm worried that the rest of us have become fat and flabby. We owe it to our fighters to reclaim our moral fitness. We need to remember who we are and where we have come from. We need to stop waiting for the government to save us and look within. We need to take a good look at ourselves and be better. We need to do what Emerson recommends:
And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.
Do we even have the moral fortitude to embrace the idea of "advancing on Chaos and the Dark"? Can we say those words? America has work to do. We have work to do to be worthy of those who choose the profession that daily advances on Chaos and the Dark.

God bless those who choose this fight.

UPDATE: Peter Collier: "We're the land of the free for one reason only: We're also the home of the brave."

Memorial Day from the front by Michael Yon.

Fred Thompson asks, "How can you remember something you've never learned?"

Ace calls Memorial Day: "A day upon which we observe the sacrifice of only those soldiers whose deaths can be used as political ammunition against Republicans."

"If you're reading this blog, ... you can thank a veteran, either one who gave his life in service to his country, or one who gave his youth and health."

Confessions of a Chickenhawk.

A picture worth a thousand words.

Speaking of words, do you know the words to Taps? A soldier asks Americans to remember this way.

Remembering a soldier and forgetting the movement he inadvertently inspired.


Dr. Sanity writes more about the moral war:
Hence they are blind and unable to recognize those who--like themselves--are capable of incredible atrocities on a scale beyond imagining, simply because they do it in the name of some"virtue" or "good". This blindness to their own nature renders them morally paralyzed and incapable of confronting the threat of evil.

C.S. Lewis wrote:
"Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

The cruelty and inhumanity of this or that particular person is manageable--during time of war and during peace. Where a rule of law reigns, perpetrators will be--must be--held to account (see Bill Whittle's excellent essay that discusses in detail the ramifications to society if they are not).

But the dark is rising again, and its allies, who threaten humanity with their fantasies of a "pure race" or a "pure religion" or a "perfect" society, are loose and once more the singularity that is America must provide the light with which to confront the black, oppressive hopelessness it spreads within and without.

This Memorial Day, let us thank God that there are men and women in the world who are not morally paralyzed by the rabid nonsense currently being propagated by the left; and will not remain silent, but are willing to do what needs to be done to shine the light on that darkness.
And for contrast, here's Paul Belian's take on the moral framework in Europe:
Europe is in the middle of a three-way culture war, between the defenders of traditional Judeo-Christian morality, the proponents of secular hedonism and the forces of Islamic Jihadism. In Western Europe, the fight between Christians and secularists is all but over. The secularists have won. Now, the religious vacuum left by the demise of Christianity is being filled by the Muslims. Since one cannot fight something with nothing, the European secularists are no match for Islam.
America cannot afford to replicate the moral vacuum. America is a house divided. I believe we are a country deciding what kind of belief system will define our future.

And here's what happens when leftists prevail.

Democracy is never free. The fight is never over.