Priorities, USA – on Memorial Day

Never forget.

People have asked in recent months why I haven’t been writing much about foreign affairs, geopolitics, military and strategic analysis, and so forth.

There’s certainly enough going on in the world to keep a foreign and security policy geek busy.  I appreciate the interest from those who’ve asked.

But the short answer – the best answer – is the one I will take the opportunity of our Memorial Day observance to give.

It’s simply this.  With all that’s erupting outside America’s borders, it’s the political conflict inside our borders that is our national security fight.

Nothing is more important to America and her people than founding our future on truth, liberty, and good faith in the operation of government.  Nothing.

If we have those things going for us, we can and will maintain our status as a sovereign nation that protects our people, our beliefs and way of life, and fosters an engine of opportunity and prosperity the like of which has never existed anywhere else in all history.  We will be the world’s best ally, and a leader among the nations able to set standards others want to follow.

If we don’t have those things going for us, it genuinely doesn’t matter, for Americans or ultimately for anyone, what is happening anywhere else.  Americans and the rest of humanity will be consigned to a future of brutal aspiring empires; weakened borders; the false semblance of sovereignty – a semblance being bought and sold at the expense of middle classes and the poor; and cynically cultivated tribalism, with its exotic and dysfunctional suspicions and hatreds.

The 1.4 million service members we remember on Memorial Day – those who died in war, and those missing and never accounted for – did not make their ultimate sacrifice so that we would be constrained to say only certain things on their commemoration day.  For most of my life, speaking about the importance of how we define America was considered too political a topic for Memorial Day.  But the assault on the most basic definition of who we are and what we believe in is too great to pretend any longer that there is higher virtue in ignoring it.

It can’t be papered over.  Starting with the Revolutionary War, Americans did not die fighting for this country so we could paper over falsehood, bad faith, and attacks on liberty, in the name of seemliness.  The best service we can do those Americans now is to not let their sacrifice be in vain.  It’s to remember them because it’s still possible to speak out and say what must be said.

The sound of freedom has always been cacophonous.  But not having it is to dwell in the silence of the grave.  Even our soldiers in war, and our sailors, airmen, Marines, and coast guardsmen, as they longed in distant lands and under relentless fire for peace, did not envision the peace of home as an absence of disagreement, diverse thought, or uncomfortable truth.  They longed for it, rather, as it ought to be:  the peace of tolerance among neighbors who may disagree on much, but who expect fair and equal treatment before the law, and basic good faith in the social contract.

We’ve strayed too far from that standard now to pretend that it doesn’t need recovery, and need it sorely.  We would be breaking faith with those who died for our future, if we did not take that to heart.

The priorities I see can be stated briefly.  First, we have lost the indispensable understanding that there are things human government can properly adjudicate for us, and things it can’t.  Every discussion must start out with this, because we are killing the soul of our nation with the attempt to have government dictate, on every topic, what we believe is right and wrong, and how we shall then live.

If government can punish us for believing “incorrectly” and acting on that belief, it is dictating to us.  It’s a big lie to assert otherwise:  proclaiming that there’s no dictation involved always turns out to be false.  Whether it’s telling a baker he has to decorate a cake based not on his beliefs or even on someone else’s, but on the politicized self-identification of someone walking in the door, or government forcing nuns to sign a form that triggers exactly the government expenditure they believe is a sin, the claim that people aren’t being coerced and dictated to turns out over and over to be a lie.

The remedy is not in more government but less.  Our forefathers and mothers knew that.  They designed a government that was to be limited, constitutional, and federal, so that if some people passionately wanted more government they might achieve their goal with limited effects at a local level, while the expectations of government throughout the Republic would remain on an even keel.

The topics and issues on which we need to navigate to that principle again are almost uncountable.  The reason our public is irreconcilable today is that one segment of it insists on being far more in other people’s business than anyone else can live with.  Government should not, for example, require any person, adult or child, to participate in any discussion or exercise in which he is ordered to perceive himself as either a “racist” or a “victim.”  That is too intrusive, period.  There is no compromise on such a proposition; there is only rejection or agreement – and the people have every right to reject it.

The emergency here is not people having foolish, intrusive ideas, however.  That’s going to happen.  Thought need not be policed, any more than it need be endorsed.

The emergency is weaponizing government to punish the people, using such ideas as premises.

The Framers of our Constitution would be appalled at government being used in this manner.  Their intention was never that the Constitution set social mores in stone, hunting down dissent in order to do so.  Their intention was that the Constitution prevent what the U.S. federal government is doing today:  trying to use a system of punishment to, precisely, set social mores in stone – against the repeatedly expressed will of the people, and in violation of their consciences.

America can’t survive much more of that perverted idea of human government’s function.  It’s no accident that what an obtrusive government wants to set in stone is not unifying but cruelly divisive.  That’s the inevitable outcome of obtrusive government.  It has to stop.

What has to change, however, is not the opinions of 334 million people about specific social issues – or “climate change,” or the human diet, or UFOs, or the income tax,  or the gold standard, or NFL profits or the designated-hitter atrocity.

What has to change is our view of what government is supposed to be doing.  That view, over the last century, has strayed radically from the wiser, more historically grounded view of America’s Founders, until it has become nearly indistinguishable from the Spanish Inquisition.

America is not in bad shape today because freedom is bad for us.  America is in bad shape because so much freedom has been dealt away from us.  Slavery and collective compulsion have never been agents of good character, goodwill, or harmony; only freedom fosters those things.

The other major priority is dealing in demonstrable truth and reality, in the processes of our government, politics, and public discourse.  A good future cannot proceed from endlessly enforced lies.  That proposition is an impossibility, one we are living out in every tangible way today.

The biggest and worst examples are the ones we are living through right now.  The tremendous lie of the “Russia” hoax in 2016 still hovers over us, clinging bitterly to its false, unearned aura of legitimacy even as it unravels more with each passing day.

America can’t possibly move forward on a sure foundation until that lie is acknowledged, and the role of weaponized government in it laid bare.  As much as it is about other things, the unendurable thing it’s about is weaponized government.  Sweeping the weaponization of government under the rug condemns America to an ugly death and the world to darkness.  We will not – we cannot – get healthy again if we refuse to deal with how our federal government can be and is used as a weapon against us.

Another lie with existential import is the lie that there is nothing to be gravely concerned about in the 2020 vote, and that we “know” for sure who won the presidential race.  Those who are impatient about this issue simply haven’t looked into it and don’t know what they’re talking about.  They’ve got nothing except anger, impatience, and mockery; the real story is that the voting irregularities were so great in at least some of the states – and in particular the swing states – that we should most certainly have done forensic investigations immediately (as it is, we have barely done them at all), and to this day cannot say with good-faith certainty who won.

The point here is not even who won, although it’s possible Trump actually did, based on the sheer number of irregularities that went unexamined before the electoral vote, remain unadjudicated, and are potentially irreconcilable at this point.

The point is that this is no way to be governed, and the American people have every right to decide that.  Nothing compels any people to accept government that violates its own laws, lies, destroys records, rejects examination, and refuses to be accountable to them in the most fundamental interaction of government with the people, as a number of our governments have done on the question of the 2020 election.

This use of government to lie and perpetrate hoaxes on us is too important an issue to be shouted down, on Memorial or any other day.  This is what Memorial Day is about:  the honor we accord to Americans who have died so that we don’t have to be ruled by lies and caprice, whether those of an “elite” or those of a mob.

Plenty of people would identify other lethal lies we’ve been living under for a long time.  Those lies revolve mostly around social issues, I think, and the reason I don’t include them here is that settling those issues isn’t the proper province of government anyway, particularly at the national level.  See priority number one.

Government, especially at the state and local levels, may be the nexus for a modus vivendi among the people on such issues, and may have some success if its hand is light and goodwill is prominent in the interchange.

But it’s our expectations about the role of government, and the truth about what it’s doing, that belong properly and inherently to politics and constitutional arrangements.  When we talk about what’s wrong with America as a matter of politics, we need to be talking first and foremost about how government is behaving, not about how the people are behaving, as if two-minute hates over differing opinions are going to solve our problems.

To paraphrase Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians:  we wrestle not against the opinions of our fellow Americans, but against the weapons of government misused in service of them.

That is what our noble dead perished to shield us from.  America’s Founders were an extraordinary generation who literally, and consciously, framed a constitutional, republican alternative to the perennial peril of government misused.  They understood exactly the tyrannical impulses our governments act on today, because it has ever been thus; and they sought to spare us from them.

To the extent we can effect meaningful remedies, taking weapons out of the hands of government should be at the top of the list.  Our incorrigible fellow citizens who want to “redistribute” wealth (instead of acting with compassion toward the needy), or arrange for us to “own nothing and be happy” (instead of respecting our right to decide our own happiness), or condemn us all by degrees according to an “intersectional” matrix (instead of fostering the empowerment of dignity and equality), have little or no power to do so if the government tools for it don’t exist.  They should be welcome to hold and advocate their opinions, but not to exceed the proper powers of civil government.

It is Memorial Day weekend, so let me close with this.  In singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, the choirs of the military observe the tradition of uttering a couple of the famous lines as follows:

As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.

Our God is marching on!

The line is often rendered with a one-word change by singers in civilian venues.  Readers know what the change is.  Many people still prefer that original version as it was written by Julia Ward Howe:  “Let us die to make men free.”

We have reached a time, however, when we need both versions.  Each Memorial Day we mourn and honor our war dead:  the heroes who died to make men free.

But in 2022, none of us, living or dead, can defend what threatens to decay from within:  our very idea of what freedom is.  The dead cannot perform this task, nor can the act of dying.  Only establishing freedom and living it can rescue the freedom America is rightly defined by.

It is time to truly honor our fallen heroes, and encourage ourselves, the living, to the task at hand:

As he died to make men holy, let us live to make men free.

Our God, who has so richly blessed America, is marching on.

A 21-gun salute to the fallen, in Texas, in 2013:

Feature image: Pixabay, author.

5 thoughts on “Priorities, USA – on Memorial Day”

  1. My father’s funeral march was the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as we walked down the hill from All Saints Chapel to the Post Cemetery at West Point. After his first tour in Vietnam and an incident involving the song and a lost comrade, he was always swallowing whole apples when it was played. He requested it in his Will. I can’t listen without swallowing apples myself.

    When did we lose the will? The Will to win? The Will to triumph? The Will to be bold and good? Did it slip away with our half-effort to liberate the Korean peninsula? Did pieces of it fall away as we abandoned the intact family? When we changed sex into recreation instead of its purpose of procreation? Was the will fading when we refused to win in Vietnam when victory was an actual probability? Did we lose our will when we sent our daughters to war to defend us when our sons lounged around and played war and pretend in video games? Did we lose the Will when abandoned sanity to placate the barking mad? When we called mentally ill men women and mentally ill women men? Did we abandon our will to nationhood when we instituted racism indoctrination at every level of education? And did we consign our national will to exceptionalism by seeking easy money, effortless capital exchange, and selling our seed corn to our adversaries on the promise that they would behave themselves?

    You cannot win if you do not want to win. That goes for international relations, and it goes for our domestic chaos that is currently eating us up with Leftist Lies, Violence, Hatred, and Madness.

    I remember good hard-working men who sacrificed everything for their families. I remember tough loving mothers who pushed you out the door to deal with life on your terms, but would be there to salve the wounds of the lessons encountered. They didn’t fight your battles for you. They didn’t seek to cheat if you failed and had to try again. They didn’t look for trophies for unearned accolades. They told you that life was tough and you had to be tougher. They told you that “sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you”. They told you that love wasn’t easy, and often wasn’t all hugs and kisses, sometimes love was a tanned fanny and a trip to your room to think about what you had done. Or a supervised apology for doing something wrong. When did we lose all of that? How did we lose it? How do we get it back?

    I know that the only place that I can think of is that this nation needs to real love, and real merit. And to tell just what that is, it needs to turn its face, and heart back to God Almighty. Julia Ward Howe wrote that magnificent lyric to that soaring hymn and perhaps it is time that we rededicate ourselves to the same proposition noted by the Holy Spirit through the magnificent prose of Abraham Lincoln: (From the Edward Everett Copy of the Manuscript)

    “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

    It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here, have, thus far, so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
    -Abraham Lincoln

    With love and sincere appreciation to all those who gave their lives for this nation.

  2. Great , thoughtful post, for a thoughtful day.

    While I do not know how to teach everyone to tell the truth and be helpful, America does need to teach how our Constitutional government is supposed to work.
    The best news in a long time was from a New York judge willing to fight the activist Idjicy™ of trying to use Judiciary to legislate Education from the bench:

    5:18 PM · May 25, 2022· @NoahPollak
    One year ago @elizashapiro, a NYT education reporter, wrote this breathless 1,400-word story about a “sweeping” and “dramatic” lawsuit from lefty race activists that would rewrite admissions to NYC schools. A Democratic judge tossed it out today in a two-sentence ruling. 1/7

    It is beyond cavil that the Court lacks jurisdiction to grant the relief sought and that the petition improperly seeks, inter alia, this Court to make educational policy by directing respondents take certain actions regarding curriculum content, testing content, employment diversity, employment policies, admission policies, and disciplinary policies, among others. …
    The legislature, not the judiciary, is the proper branch of government to hear petitioners’ prayers.

    And, Russiagate? My read for May 2022, because there is no real news anywhere else:

    War with Russia? From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate. By Stephen F. Cohen. February 1, 2019. In War With Russia?, Stephen F. Cohen—the widely acclaimed historian of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia—gives readers a very different, dissenting narrative of
    this more dangerous new Cold War from its origins in the 1990s, the actual role of Vladimir Putin, and the 2014 Ukrainian crisis to Donald Trump’s election and today’s unprecedented Russiagate allegations. Topics include: Distorting Russia […]

    It’s so sad that Professor Cohen died Sept. 18, 2020.
    Am glad to read his prescient analysis that linked Russiagate to Ukraine policy.

    May it not be too late.

  3. We thought you were enjoying the amenities of an exclusive Slapout retreat. Trump/DeSantis 2024. DeSantis 28/32. Best regards OC.

  4. I’ve been reading you for a long time (since you were on Hot Air) and this might be your best article.

    Thank for writing it.

    All the best, Mark Andrew Edwards

  5. Well said. And I think we are waking up and starting to fight back against the Marxism that has been infecting this country since the rise of the “Progressives.”

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