Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Patriotism Games

I was watching the Ken Burns Civil War documentary last night on my iPod. I've seen it before and I like it just fine, but the Civil War just doesn't draw me in like World War II does. What I like most about the Civil War documentary is the fiddle music and the narration -- especially the refined drawl of Shelby Foote -- he lulls me to sleep. And since my mind was reeling from two things: the Colts horrible loss to the Chargers, which I still haven't recovered enough to discuss, and a difficult day of work in which a manager kept interrupting me during my presentation. I needed a lullaby, and the documentary worked. Too well, in fact. I fell asleep with the headphones on. When I woke up, the narrator was reading a letter that a soldier had written to his wife. Here's an excerpt:

If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows - when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children - is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

Do I love my country enough right now to die for it? It depends on the following:

Can we change the direction George W. Bush has been heading us? If not, then no, I don't want to die for my country. I'd rather die for Denmark.

Would I really be fighting for my country? Or at least a serious threat to our freedom or my country's close allies? I like that think that I would have fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, the Cold War, the Gulf War, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. I would have taken a pass on the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War ("Forget the Maine!"), World War I, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq.

Did a manager just keep interrupting me during a presentation the day after the Colts lost in the playoffs? Sure, while it's happening, I'd be happy die for my country. I'd be happy to die for potted meat products.