Today of course is about remembering and honoring those that have served and died for our country. It should be anyway, but I can’t help but feel something missing from all the tributes lighting up my social media feeds; moving platitudes written over photos of coffins draped with flags, spouses laying on graves, soldier dog tags dangling from head stones, oceans of white crosses.
I mean no disrespect, I know the posts are sincere and come from the heart and certainly make sense in today’s digital era. For myself though I’m starting to see a troubling pattern. Where after reading a post that moves me I will click the like button and feel a sense of accomplishment, as if by giving a thumbs up to something honoring our fallen military heroes somehow means that I’ve done just that, when I really haven’t thought much about them at all.
If honoring someone means showing great respect towards them and holding in high esteem, than I would argue our fallen soldiers deserve some pondering of our own lives and whether they reflect the values those men and women died to protect.
It was in this frame of mine that I stumbled upon this thoughtful article by David French called The Patriotism of Deeds that really did cause me to stop and think.
I like what the author has to say here about whether we are living lives worthy of what our servicemen and women died for.
“It’s a sad fact of our modern times that our warring factions spend an enormous amount of time battling over whether the government is upholding its end of the social compact. We spend less time looking inward, pondering how we exercise our blood-bought freedoms. In other words, we debate whether our nation is worthy of our patriotism. We just assume we’re worthy patriots.”
Do we truly understand how free we are in this country to live and do as we please? That individual liberty isn’t just a nice sounding old-fashioned phrase, but central to our system of government, which brings immense opportunity for its people to not just live but to thrive and contribute to greatness? That THIS is what those soldiers fought and died for?
Or would we rather complain about how rigged and rotten the “system” is and lead limited lives spent tearing each other down? Sometimes I’m not so sure. We live in times of unprecedented freedom and opportunity, yet addiction levels are sky high, narcissism runs rampant, school shootings happen weekly, coarseness and rude behavior are the norm and people think nothing of demonizing one another over who that person voted for.
All symptoms of a sickness that I think French captures well here:
“But organizing a nation around liberty brings with it a hidden danger, the danger of indulgence — the danger that a nation that protects the rights of the individual will become individualistic. And that brings us to the second essential truth of the American Founding (and thus, of American patriotism). This one from Adams: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
We should honor those men and women that gave to the ultimate sacrifice to their country by leading exemplary lives. After all, theirs were cut short so we could do so.
To close with French’s words:
“In other words, the patriotic citizen understands that his liberty is governed and ordered by a higher purpose. We live not for ourselves. We are free, but we should view ourselves as free to pursue what is good and true, to live what is good and true.”