We had some fine traditions in America, though many have been pushed aside because they get in the way of modern politics.
And when it comes to patriotism on the days when we mourn our war dead, you can feel the media groaning. Patriots and patriarchs aren’t much appreciated these days. They’re now considered just too toxic, too masculine and they’re such a bother.
America once prized merit and competition. Now, though, we prize politics and our cultural institutions strive to make Beta males. There are unintended costs to all of this, including all those young men lost, boys adrift without fathers to guide them, lonely confused boys who rage in the anonymous shadows of social media. Add unfettered access to violent violent video games, unfettered access to internet porn, raised by mothers who resent the fathers who walked away, shaped by anger and the social isolation that comes from closing schools for the past few years.
Throw in the absence of a spiritual life and the absence of a common morality. Add guns. This stew of rage boils over into murder sprees, in rural areas, in urban centers.
We ignore what we feel in our bones to be wrong. We’d rather play our politics instead.
Ultimately the day comes—and it always comes—when some other powerful nation that isn’t obsessed with creating Beta males shows up with its armies. They come to take all that you have and all that you’d ever dreamed of having. They come to take your food, your life, the lives of your children. Your spine. Your hope. Your identity. Everything.
And then you don’t have a country. The landless descend into wandering barbarism. They become as beasts of no nation, because their nation is gone.
Don’t think it can’t happen. It happens. It has happened in many other ages. It happened to Thebes. That nation had destroyed the unstoppable superpower and military might of Sparta, but soon Thebes was itself destroyed, all the way down to the scattered, nameless stones, the people dead or sold off in the slave markets. And who and what they were was forgotten. All that was left were scratches on stones bleaching like bones in the sun.
History tells us these stories again and again, if we’d listen. History warns of what happens to nations that weaken themselves and abandon their own borders, prizing sensitivity and men without chests above virtue.
A culture becoming fragile is awash with tears, but it becomes dry, like pottery. It cracks. And as the ages forget the names, history smirks.
When the people are threatened, with the people desperate and frightened, it is then that soldiers are appreciated, welcomed and needed. The armed forces, forming that thin line between civilization and chaos are honored for a time. Though eventually, if they’re successful in defense, they are inevitably forgotten, again. All soldiers throughout history have understood this dynamic, especially in free, prosperous nations like ours.
Our war dead didn’t risk or lose their lives to be praised and petted with flowery words.
They knew they were led to slaughter by fine words from the double-tongues about great honor and great sacrifice. But they also knew this:
They had a job to do, protecting our liberty and our nation with their bodies and blood.
I suppose they hoped, as Americans, that we would live up to our half of the bargain and not dishonor the freedom they’d given to us, that was bought with their lives.
Traditions are an important means for a people trying to stave off cultural betrayal. This is why traditions are often targeted by agents of change. The old traditions remind us who we are, what we were, reminding us of our ideal selves, of virtue lost to time and what we call progress.
But today is Memorial Day, 2022, when we mourn the fallen of the United States Armed Forces who died for our liberty.
And because it is Memorial Day, not burger and beer day, not sports day, not play video games day, not chips and dip day, there is one tradition I hope we try our best to keep.
It involves us taking time out to think hard and long about a soldier’s poem and the poppies, row on row.
“In Flanders Fields” is that soldier’s poem, written in World War I by Col. John McCrae, a man who’d seen the devastation of war, and hopelessness. Yet with clear eyes and a clean heart he wrote of poppy blossoms as rebirth of hope, those bright orange/red papery thin blossoms, as delicate as dreams, waving in the breeze over the freshly dug graves of the dead.
The scene was Ypres, Belgium at a farm converted to a military hospital, where McCrae was an Army doctor, doctor, dealing with pain and death and disease...