I’m not particularly patriotic. I recognize the folly of blindly revering my country while closing my eyes to its faults. I am, however, deeply appreciative of the many whose sacrifices have made it legal for me to publicly declare America even has faults. Such freedom is hard won.
I tear up in parades when aged veterans drive by in their old uniforms, faces lined and eyes fixed from the horrors of battles I can only imagine.
I stand with my hand over my heart when our flag flutters past and picture dying hands reaching to keep it aloft on the battlefield.
And I draw deep inspiration from The 20th of Maine, led by a minister, which, although outnumbered by more than two-to-one, obeyed orders to “hold the line” on a rocky hilltop above a blood stained Pennsylvania field, charging the enemy with bayonets after running out of bullets to win a Union victory.
“Hold the line,” I often repeat to my own children when they are facing a decision to stand up for what is right, honorable, and imperative even when the opposition seems insurmountable. That they survive is not as important as whether they courageously carry out their duty.
Tomorrow is our national election as anyone with a mailbox, television, or newspaper plainly knows. This last week has brought a rash of mailings so thick, I hardly pause to glance at the candidate’s face before tossing it into recycling.
A recent radio broadcast declared that by the time the ballots are counted, our presidential candidates will have spent $5 per vote on each person heading to the polls. It alarms me that there are no true limits on such spending, that the deepest pockets are most likely win–particularly when it comes to referendums like question one in Maine where money has flooded our little state sent by people who can’t legally even vote here.
If they can’t vote in Maine, why should Maine voters be swayed by their cash?
For weeks now, my thirteen-year-old son, Gabriel, has been practicing for an upcoming Veteran’s Day celebration at his school. “Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,” he warbles in his shaky alto while washing the dishes and doing homework and marching up the stairs to complete his required thirty minutes of practice each night.
Yesterday, he asked, “Do you know who wrote that song?”
“I do,” I said. “Francis Scott Key. He was an American stuck on a British ship during the War of 1812.”
“And he was looking to see who was winning,” Gabriel enthusiastically piped in.
“Can you imagine what that felt like?” I asked. “Watching from an enemy ship to see whether your country was going to survive? Imagine how desperately he must’ve been looking for that flag. We should be no less watchful. We should be no less vigilant as we ask, ‘Is our flag still there?'”
Exactly two centuries later, America is once again under bombardment. But who is watching to see whether the morals and values and faith upon which our country was founded will stand? Who will hold the line?
“For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding,” Proverbs 2:6.