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« ’Faith under Fire’: A message to our troops | Main | A Victim’s Greatest Gift »

May 28, 2007

’Here Lies the Nation’

Anthony Esolen writes poignantly at Touchstone's Mere Comments blog:

The virtue of patriotism, which is linked to a sense of belonging to this land, here, and loving it, a virtue that did not begin with the nation-state but could at least survive in it, is fading away. A man calls himself a doctor or a lawyer, a golfer, a husband and father, a collector of postcards, even a Methodist, before he calls himself an American. I have an old Army-Navy hymnal at home, and to look through it is to be astonished by the number and variety and quaint eloquence of its patriotic anthems, most of them now long forgotten. Even our most common patriotic hymns have been reduced, in the lived experience and memories of citizens, to a single verse, usually only dimly understood. Lines such as these from the hymn that used to be called simply America are almost incomprehensible now, not semantically but affectively, and would certainly never be written:
          I love thy rocks and rills,
          Thy woods and templed hills;
          My heart with rapture fills
               Like that above.

     When did it die, this love, this sense that at the deepest springs of my being I am an American? Again, I'm not saying that we should feel this way; I'm only observing that we don't. I don't know when the worm turned, but it has. How many of the people running for the presidency do not really like America? How many of them never have anything good to say about it? How many bear hearts that do not beat warmly when they hear of Teddy and the Rough Riders, or Washington crossing the Delaware to surprise the Hessians at Trenton? How many do not truly love the ways of Americans, even in such harmless things as food and sport, but rather agree when other peoples think them crazy or foolish? For how many has the Constitution sunk below a thing of contempt, to become nothing but a dead letter, along with all other venerable American traditions? I can name at least four or five candidates from both parties, including one of the most prominent candidates, who have never shown the slightest trace of actually liking America, let alone hoping that America is victorious in her struggles with other nations.

These words made me reflect on my own upbringing. A military childhood is not exactly a picnic in the park -- though it's nothing compared to what actual military members and their spouses go through -- and I've sometimes wondered if I would have chosen it had I had the choice. (I definitely would have chosen my parents -- I've just wondered if I would have wanted my dad in a different field.) But I have always been deeply thankful for one thing it gave me: "this sense that at the deepest springs of my being I am an American," and the joy and gratitude that sense brings with it.

Esolen may be unsure whether we should feel this way -- although, with all due respect, he's not terribly convincing with that statement -- but I wish more of us did. It's a sad thing to live in a nation -- in particular a nation with a great and unique heritage -- that's full of people who look down their noses at it, who can't even speak the word American without tacking on an ugly in front of it. Yes, America has faults. Are we to love nothing and no one that has faults? Then we've just eliminated 100 percent of the human race as worthy objects of love.

Have you taught your family about the virtues of America as well as its faults? Today, when we honor those who gave up their own lives for the sake of this nation and its people, would be a great time to start.

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Comments

labrialumn

All of that has been deliberately filed in the memory hole in our schools. Multiculturalism is the de fide dogma which must be believed in to be a teacher (or at least credible enough lip service given to fool the gatekeepers). Patriotism is seen as an evil, and is squelched, along with anything manly especially having to do with wars.

Language has been dumbed down, partly as part of Mann and Dewey's agenda, and partly because of mainstreaming ESL kids, and the requirements and methods placed upon teachers to deal with that situation. Probably only lunar astronomers (including amateurs) know what a rill is, any longer.

The fourth verse of the National Anthem is feared to be sung even by my congregation's men's choir, it is so politically incorrect. And of course, most don't even know what it is.

We live in a world where not only do children not know of Dan'l Boone and his kaintuck rifle, or Jim Bowie and his knife and fights, but even Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are banned.

If any of us want to preserve American culture, we are going to have to do it ourselves, just like immigrants in a foreign country.

jason taylor

Actually the National Anthem isn't that good. It has neither the gratitude of God Bless America, the optimism of America the Beautiful, nor the grim rigor of Battle Hymn. And the event it celebrates is rather anticlimactic: a few thousand British make a small foray then find defenses firming up so they moved on. Happend hundreds of times and the fact that it is the national anthem is the sign that we had a national self-esteem crisis at the time.
But it has a pretty good tune.
My favorite patriotic tune is Hatikvah(Israel)which expresses hope tinged with sorrow, and is patriotic and even martial without sinking to jingoism.
I also like God Save The Queen which shows a touching loyalty and a charming and very English "willing suspension of disbelief" in the obsolescence of feudalism. Then there is To Glory We Steer which praises every Englishman's sacred right and duty to plunder the French.
"Waltzing Maltilda", is a perky and free-wheeling song, and expresses the mythical Australian spirit.

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