Monday, May 29, 2000

Week of 05/29/2000

What They Died For
- by David Matthews 2

This week Americans celebrate Memorial Day, the day when we are to remember the lives of those lost in the service of their country during wartime.

It is said that there can be no greater honor than to die in the service of your country. In America, what greater sacrifice could be made than to give your life to preserve that which America stands for.

But some people are now wondering what those lives were lost for. They look at the state of the nation ask themselves was it really worth it?

They watch as the highest office in the land is fraught with scandals and shame. Of a man who lies to the people who put him in office, who insults their intelligence, and claims that there is too much freedom in America and that there isn’t a problem that can’t be solved with more government.

They watch as a body of legislators break their promises to voluntarily serve a limited number of terms, and give themselves huge pay raises. Of men and women who promise to curb the excesses of campaign financing, but only as long as they themselves can rake in as much campaign cash as possible. Of men and women who criticize society for their moral weaknesses, only to later admit to their own equal failings.

They watch with horror as flag burning and sex on television are accepted in the courts, and feel the bile in the belly when their personal religion can’t be instilled in government.

Some wonder is it worth it? Is it worth fighting and dying for America so people can burn the flag? It is worth fighting and dying for your country so politicians can be corrupt and dishonest?

Well let’s get brutally honest here… Yes. It is. Because what they died for is something far greater than that.

Our men and women of the armed service did not give their lives up for corrupt politicians, or for flag burning, or for sex on television. What they sacrificed their lives for was the freedom that America was founded upon.

Oh sure, it would be nice to say that those lives were lost to sustain some clean and sanitized dream of America. Of Main Streets and polite children playing. Of workers who paused from their hard labors and took a minute and said thanks to those servicemen. Of parades and floats and Miss Wildflower on the back of some convertible waving and smiling. Of the local barber shop and the old fashioned soda fountains. It would be nice to say that THAT was what our servicemen and women died for.

But let’s face it.. that vision is just that, a vision. Something that doesn’t exist. Oh, sure, there are still some places in America where there are Main streets, and parades, and the local barber shop, and Miss Wildflower, but these are inventions of a more modern day; symbols of a more modern dream. These were not the visions of the Civil War, when the Memorial Day was first founded. Certainly these were not the visions of the servicemen who died in the War of 1812. And most certainly these were not the visions of the men who died in order for our founding fathers to create America.

What they fought and died for was for something that transcended the inventions of the day and the symbols of the time. Indeed, they fought for the freedom that helped make those things possible.

When one fights and dies for freedom, they are not sacrificing their lives to keep a corrupt politician in office, or for some radical protester to burn the flag. Politicians come and go. Today’s radical protester could very well be tomorrow’s statist. Even the very flag that is burned is but a piece of cloth, symbolizing something that cannot be burned.

When one fights for freedom, they are fighting for the means of people to control their own lives. If those in power are corrupt, it is up to the people to remove that corruption. One may not like seeing someone burn a flag, or to know that there are channels on cable television that churn their stomachs, but at least there are options as diverse as that. Freedom GIVES us those options. It is up to us to decide which course to take.

Many people have given us that subtle dig about never forgetting the men and women who have sacrificed their lives in the service of America. I would go one step further than that. I would also hope that people never forget what it is that those servicemen and women died for; for the cause is most certainly as important as those who give up their lives for it.

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