Monday, January 02, 2006

Star Spangled Banner

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Above is the most often sung first verse of our nation's national anthem. It sums up a vitally important principal that I think is being lost these days. Note that while it describes the flag under constant fire on that night in 1814, there is no mention of firing back. The point, clearly, is that the greatest acts of courage and bravery come not it slaying the enemy, however much that may be necessary in war, but in the ability to stand in defiance in the face of danger and threat. Even cowards can kill, but only the brave can stand firm and hold formation in the face of intense fire.

One of the greatest lines from the American Revolution was at the battle of Bunker Hill, "Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes." The order was necessary because of a shortness of ammunition, so the American soldiers there needed to stand in firmly and in formation while the British came within extremely short distance. The soldiers stood there patiently, knowing that at that distance, if the volley did not hit the mark, they would not survive. Yet they stood. In our Civil War, about the most famous of the Confederate Generals, after Lee, got his sobriquet not from killing the enemy, but from standing "like a stonewall" at first Manassas. This is the vital characteristic of bravery and bravery is the essentially characteristic for a free people to survive. Hence the final line of our national anthem.

But is our current political leadership maintaining these values and traditions, or are we straying toward singular concern for personal safety and abandoning any willingness to be brave? I think the American people truly adhere to the value of courage and determination, but that our political current political leadership in the White House and Congress has abandoned these principals.

Furthermore, history makes clear that security is best maintained by exhibiting courage and squarely facing dangers. The singular pursuit of securing one's own personal security may give a short term boost to that personal security (but I also argue that it mostly gives a boost to the sense or feelings of security, not to security itself). In the long run, avoiding danger will only increase our danger and risk.

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