Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I got home yesterday afternoon, after having been listening to the television coverage of Mr. Reagan’s funeral procession on the car radio. (Our local FOX station can be picked up down at the far left of the dial.) Aside from the unnecessary chitchat from the local anchors--including their dogged inability to note that in addition to Kennedy and Johnson, Eisenhower also had a state funeral (it’s easy enough to find this stuff out nowadays, you know)--even beside those sour notes, it was still a somber and moving thing to listen to. Once home, I flipped on the television and continued to follow along as we got supper fixed and ready to go to church.

Obviously, the kids had not seen anything like this, and so were peppering us with questions. What’s that? What are they doing? What’s on that wagon? What happened to him? Reba fielded most of the questions because I was so intent on watching, and then they showed this--the riderless horse, boots backwards in the stirrups.

The kids asked why they had that horse, and why those boots were there, and I started to answer, “It’s a tradition in the military for leaders who have died...” but I could not finish--my emotions got the better of me. The trappings of such events--the muffled drums, the slow march, the gun salute--always cause a catch in my throat, but even more so this image. It was not just boots, but his own boots. Not mere symbols, unworn, but the artifacts of a man, and not just a man, but an American, and not just an American, but an American who loved his country with a fierceness and fervor that in unfathomable to some, unconscionable to others.

For in some places in this country, patriotism is an ideal whose only value is in its ability to be denigrated and debased. It is said to be a silly and petty thing, adhered to and promoted only by the weak and the stupid, who have some sort of veil over their minds preventing them from seeing Truth. For these people, the only thing worse than being American, is having the nerve to actually be proud of the fact.

Yet they insist their love is equal. That they are patriots, too. And not just equal, but better.

It puts me in mind of two men. One, long married to a woman he loves and provides for, who works by her side for their mutual benefit. They disagree from time to time, and they know each other’s flaws, but understand that all are flawed. But, they never fail to see virtue in each other, too, and celebrate a life lived richly hand in hand. No one need ask the man what he thinks of her; it is self-evident by his actions.

Another man has a wife--equal to the beauty and character of the first man’s wife in every way--yet this man comes home every day with nothing but spite. You know his type--a certain shiftless, sorriness to him--he has a home and money due to her hard work and providence, yet he never misses an opportunity to slap her around when she gets out of line, never fails to mock her failings to the women he sneaks around with. Yet after every beating, after every indiscretion, he comes and coos to her about how much he really loves her. Should anyone question his motives, he is quick to take offense, quick to trumpet how no one could love her as much as he; and anyway, she’s his, and he can treat her anyway he wants.

Which one really loves his wife? A country is no different. For those who are blind to the promise and hope inherent in America, who take joy in her failings, who debase and demean her contributions to civilization, who mewl and purr at the feet of her enemies--for those, you are not fit to walk the streets with Americans. The shoes on your feet are empty of humanity, the space you occupy hollow of meaning. The backwards boots in the stirrups of the saddle, though seemingly empty, are full. The horse, though riderless, carries a life lived loving America.

And America goes on.

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