10 July 2016


Rev Jim Rigby of Austin Texas is a prolific epigramist, frequently publishing on Face Book up to three or four of his pithy remarks daily.  He has good company: among noted modern epigramists are Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Harry Truman.
I commend him to you.  He is rarely capable of being boring:  you may nod your heads to his sagacity, or your stomachs may twist and turn as he condemns everything you have spent your life defending, but he will rarely bore you. And if you read him closely, you may even find yourself saying “Hmmm.  Well, has a point!”
And that’s OK.  That’s America!  We get to freely disagree as a birthright.  Shoot, the blood of disagreeable misfits flows in our veins.  We come from those who looked at where they were and said “To heck with it.  I’ll go start my own Country where I can say and think anything I want.”
Today, he wrote
“There is a problem when our principles are no bigger than the boundaries of our nation. ‘My country right or wrong’ sounds noble until you consider the fact that, if such patriots had been born in another country, they might be zealously killing Americans by the same unthinking principle.”

To which one needs only answer الله أكبر --while slashing the throat of an American journalist.

The problem is that Rev Rigby has omitted the most important part of Commodore Decatur’s toast.  Decatur said 
“Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.”
Consider John Stuart Mill in this regard:
 “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice, — is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.”
Is America perfect?  Not by a long shot, but I suggest to you that it has been closer than most countries in the past century.  It has lived up to Decatur’s aspiration, “[i]n her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right…” much more often than not.  And she has done so at huge cost of her blood and treasure.  

Those who misquote Decatur, those who are so well-defined in Mills’ fourth sentence, ignore the fact that tens of thousands, millions, are willing to become criminals, to risk horrendous obstacles, to die, just to get into America illegally.  This truth is not a condemnation of our Country.  We must be doing something right.  I suggest it is a condemnation of the rest of the world for failing to make equal sacrifices.  

No comments: