My step-father served in WWII. He was in the Navy, an ensign serving aboard a converted cruiser/carrier, the Belleu Wood. The ship was named after a bloody battle in WWI, in which the US Marines and US Army lost 1,811 young lives. Belleu Wood was the first major battle for the US since Appomattox, with almost 10,000 casualties. My step-father saw combat aboard ship and on land, evidenced more by the surgical scar he carried on his chest than by the medals he earned.
Later in his life, my brother managed to replace his lost ribbons and medals, that’s something the National Archives does for veterans, but it helps if you write your congressman or senator. When my step-father died in 2008, we recovered his WWII journal. Mostly boring entries about the weather and basketball games on the hangar deck; he was the morale officer, you see. Although he didn’t talk about the war much, he mentioned that his best friend aboard ship was killed by a Japanese 20mm shell fired from an aircraft attack. They were headed for their battle stations, coming up a ladder onto the deck, when the shell hit his friend in the head. That moment could never be erased from his memory, and his shrapnel wound was a constant reminder.
That’s what war is, normal people, with lives and dreams, mostly young, with their whole lives ahead, put into deadly situations, kill-or-be-killed, because of disputes and conflicts by their elders and even ancestors. They see their friends die, and sometimes they die themselves. On the surface, it would seem pointless. But some things are worth fighting for, and some are worth dying for.
They fought for their country, they fought for their buddies, they died doing the job for which they were trained, sometimes they died doing something extraordinary, and we call that courage or bravery. The soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen who died left us a legacy, and that is to ensure that for whatever reason they died, it was not in vain.
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 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 said those words, and he said it more succinctly than I ever could: a description of the purchase made by our war dead’s price paid.
What is the purchase, and what did they fight for?
When I am at home and robbers try to come in and take my belongings, and harm my family, what am I defending by resisting them? Am I defending wood and brick, a refrigerator, TV and microwave? Should I just get my wife and kids and retreat out a bedroom window? No, I am going to put up a fight, and probably shoot until I am out of ammunition to defend my home and family. My house is more than just a dwelling; it’s our homestead, my family’s place in the world, the center of our activity, a refuge and a hearth. I pay the mortgage for the house, but I will pay with blood for the home.
Our nation is more than its infrastructure, its buildings, roads, bridges, waterways, its natural resources, and its beauty. Our nation is even more than 350-million, give or take, people living within its borders and abroad under its flag. It’s more than a simple patriotic symbol, like a flag or an anthem or a song.
America is home, hearth, and refuge to an idea: under God, with new freedom, that government of the people, by the people, for the people should exist and continue upon the earth.
It’s funny to hear President Obama say to Americans “you didn’t build that,” like the idea to incorporate a city originated at some master planning committee meeting in Washington DC, or the idea to expand this nation coast-to-coast was an order given by a Sovereign to his subjects. This country was built by people, from Thomas Jefferson, who made the Louisiana Purchase and commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore a passage to the Pacific Ocean, to every pioneer, trapper, and tradesman who made the dangerous journey west. Government was there, offering land to those who made the trek, but there was no forced migration. Nobody forced us to buy automobiles and build roads, or build sewer systems, water systems, dams, or supply electricity to the nation.
These things that Obama said we didn’t build, they were built because we, the People, asked for them. We all share in their benefits. Some have paid with taxes, but others have paid with blood.
Never one to waste a scandal, President Obama flew to Afghanistan this weekend to encourage the troops and tell them “I’m here to say that I’m proud of you,” while his VA has continued to treat their wounded buddies with scorn and deceit. Instead of honoring the blood and lives of the war dead in Afghanistan, which purchased freedom for Afghans, he plans to hand the country back to the very group they died to defeat.
American blood has been spilled in countries around the world, purchasing the freedom of hundreds of millions who lived under tyranny. It’s not just our country, our land, that our men and women died for, it’s the ideals of God, freedom, and liberty for all.
Europe is free largely because of our young men’s sacrifices in WWII. We fought to free Iraq from the boot of Saddam Hussein and Afghanistan from the Taliban. The Al Queda flag flies over Fallujah these days. The Taliban is back in full force in Afghanistan. We cannot fail the legacy of our war dead: they must not die in vain.
In our own country, we must fight to preserve the legacy of our war dead. There are some who believe that we have no obligation to that legacy.
Liberal progressives define themselves as the terraformers of American culture, and the government as the agent of change. They believe change itself to be the only constant. In the progressive, modern liberal mind, the price paid by our war dead can never be justified, since the ideals they died for was for their time only, not for ours. That’s rubbish.
Progressives give no thought to the purchase made with those lives. They in fact see those purchases as worthless and irredeemable. They see them like the life of an unborn baby with Down Syndrome, something to be discarded, a burden not worth carrying. Or the lives of the aged, not worth saving if it costs too much, even if they want to spend their own money.
Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. These are the American ideals those soldiers bought. These ideals can’t be redefined simply because some liberals don’t agree with the previous definitions any longer. To do so is to dishonor the legacy of our war dead.
The progressive liberal ideal rejects anything that is comprehensive, exclusive, permanent and intrinsic*. They prefer to stick to basic, inclusive, evolutionary, and advanced. Except when they evaluate anything which which they disagree, then it’s bigoted, oppressive, antiquated and irrelevant. Those are codewords for “we don’t like your ideals and we don’t like you either.”
Most of the dead soldiers we remember and honor today would probably be disliked by the progressives too. The ideals they fought and died for were not relevant enough, inclusive enough, evolutionary or advanced enough to suit those who dismiss the past as a dark and forbidding history, instead of something to be hallowed and preserved.
As we light our barbecue grills and pile on the burgers and dogs, remember the price our soldiers have paid. Also remember what that price has purchased. Don’t tell me that garbage line “I may disagree with what you say, but I’ll defend with my life your right to say it.” That’s not what the soldiers have died for. They died for ideals that transcend the simple right to speak your mind.
Like elections, ideals have consequences. The consequences of communism were tyranny and poverty. The consequences of fascism are despotism and death. The consequences of the American brand of progressivism will be a society where all outcomes are the same, where no inequality will be tolerated, where no innovation or success will be celebrated if it doesn’t advance the progressive cause. Inevitably, this will result in an all-powerful state.
The progressive liberal ideal has only one outcome: that the dead will have died in vain, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people will have perished, if not from the earth, certainly from America.
*Marriage, as a conjugal relationship, defined by Ryan T. Anderson’s book What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense and cited by Supreme Court Justice Alito, is a “comprehensive, exclusive, permanent union that is intrinsically ordered to producing new life.”