Frederic Edwin Church
From the Robert Fagles translation:
Mine is a rugged land but good for raising sons–
and I myself, I know no sweeter sight on earth
than a man’s own native country. (Book 9, lines 30-32)
On Appreciating Life:
[Spirit of Achilles speaking in Hades]
“No winning words about death to me, shining Odysseus!
By god, I’d rather slave on earth for another man–
some dirt-poor tenant farmer who scrapes to keep alive–
than rule down here over all the breathless dead.” (Book 11, lines 555-558)
On Sharing Memories:
We two will keep to the shelter here, eat and drink
and take some joy in each other’s heartbreaking sorrows,
sharing each other’s memories. Over the years, you know,
a man finds solace even in old sorrows, true, a man
who’s weathered many blows and wandered many miles. (Book 15, lines 447-451)
On Eating and Sleeping:
With the roasting done, the meal set out, they ate well
and no one’s hunger lacked a proper share of supper.
When they’d put aside desire for food and drink,
they remembered bed and took the gift of sleep. (Book 16, lines 530-534)
There are multiple versions of the Civil War marching song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The original words to the song include this line:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.
It’s easy to see why this would be inspiring to the Union soldiers singing it to build morale. They were imitating the example of their Lord, who gave His life to free humanity from the bonds of sin and death. This same Lord said, memorably, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The North must have been encouraged by seeing themselves in the role of temporal saviors, risking and often giving their lives to free black Southerners from the bonds of slavery. (The famous “grapes of wrath” from the first verse refers to God’s righteous indignation at the evil of the slaveholders, which was in immediate need of retribution, through the instrument of the Northern army.)
Such an analogy was uplifting and appropriate for the soldiers of the time (and, indeed, for soldiers of any time). However, as much as I like the injunction in the hymn to “die to make men free,” I also like the way those words are modified in the hymn book of my church, the LDS Church. In our hymnal, that line reads:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free.
On May 5, 2010, in California, four high school students were disciplined by their assistant principal. What did they do wrong? They wore American flag apparel on Cinco de Mayo. Some other students were offended and complained, and the young men were told to change their shirts so that racial tensions wouln’t turn violent, the administrator said.
In interviews with reporters about the incident, at least two students at the school said that they were offended by the shirts because they felt it disrespected their Mexican heritage. They said Cinco de Mayo was “their” holiday, and that they wouldn’t wear Mexican flags on the Fourth of July.
Clearly, their language suggests that these students identify themselves as Mexicans first, and as Americans second, if at all. That is wrong. Societies have a right to expect loyalty from those living within their nation’s borders.
Therefore, I’m calling on all of us to display the American flag this year on Cinco de Mayo: Thursday, May 5, 2011.
I’m not saying that these things will happen, but the way our society is going, I think it’s likely that they might happen.
1. Any straight people who get married will be seen as inherently oppressing gays who can’t marry. This came to mind as I heard recently about a growing slew of celebrities who refuse to get married, saying they won’t do it until everybody can do it. The logical end of that train of thought will be stigmatizing anybody who doesn’t get in on this “boycot.” Cohabitation will explode even further as marriage rates drop drastically.
2. The concept of nationality will come to be looked down on as narrow-minded, old fashioned, and akin to racism. Under the guise of embracing all of humanity and “celebrating diversity,” many will decry those who assert that being an American–or any other nationality–has some intrinsic meaning. Valuing your country over other countries will be the new “racism,” as the more “enlightened” among us will disavow their allegiance to any one nation and declare themselves “citizens of the world.”
I know, I know–the seeds of both of these are already well sown into our society. My fear is that they will become far more prevalent, that within a decade they will be the mandatory mantras of the mainstream, the same way that gay marriage, amnesty, and socialism suddenly became orthodox doctrines during the last ten years.
I ended up doing exactly what I planned NOT to do: I waited until the last week of my scheduled time to finish the requirements for this rank. I could have done it earlier, and I had wanted to add the extra time to my next rank, but life got the better of me.
6. Demonstrate how to display, raise, lower, and fold the American flag. Last week I emailed the principal of my kids’ school and asked if we could use the flagpole for this demonstration tonight, adding that I have my own flag to use. He wrote back that it was fine, and this was the first activity in my family’s weekly home evening tonight.
As we drove over, I recounted all the material from the handbook about displaying the flag. When we got there, I showed the kids how to fold and unfold it, then one kid helped me attach it to the line, while the little kids helped me hoist it up and then down again. While it flew at the top for a minute, we decided to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Afterwards, the oldest child folded the flag, as I had shown them all, while I held the other end.
11. Identify local poisonous plants; tell how to treat for exposure to them. I went over the handbook’s section on this, adding my own warning about oleander, which are very popular in Las Vegas. Of course, one kid pointed out that it was unlikely that any of us would ever eat one.
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
Source: BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, November 11, 1755.The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, vol. 6, p. 242 .This quotation, slightly altered, is inscribed on a plaque in the stairwell of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Think intrusive airport security. Think bailouts. Think unconstitutional gun control laws. Think about an awful lot of things.