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31 July 2020
Another Man Died For Me:
In Praise Of America
Many years ago, July 12, 1953, a schoolmate of mine was killed during the Korean War while on combat patrol in enemy territory. He was twenty-one years old.
His name was Private First-Class James Francis Morrison. He was a proud United States Marine – Company G, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Jimmy never became a loving husband nor a proud father; he died too soon. Now, many years after his death, a photo of his smiling face is still daily before me.
The Warrior’s Dignity
Jimmy was a front-line Marine, one of those brave persons who do the dirty, dangerous work which is absolutely essential for the protection of Americans from our enemies, both foreign and domestic. Jimmy went willingly into combat against atheistic Communism and Marxist Socialism, ideologies which have killed millions of people, including Jimmy Morrison.
Jimmy came from a family of limited means. His mother worked each day in a tedious, wearying job. Jimmy lived with his mother and his Irish grandmother in a tiny, low-ceilinged home no larger than a garage. Jimmy’s father was never mentioned.
Jimmy died in a war which, to this day, is un-won; the Korean War is technically still active, a sad and lingering shadow in American history. The Korean War is but one of many chapters in our nation’s constant struggle as a free people to protect and defend the freedom of other human beings, even at the cost of our own children. It is America’s belief in freedom which still defines our nation to this moment and gives extra dignity to persons such a Jimmy Morrison, who lived - and died - protecting us all.
America is not a perfect Eden. We are not a nation of faultless persons who do no wrong. No nation - nor person - is perfect. In fact, our sins and imperfections are part of our being. We are all sinners, even those who deny sin exists. Propensity to sin is of our nature, as is the search for, and the promise of, redemption.
Our good intentions do not erase the imperfections which plague us … and always will. We create racism and conflict, not because we are systemic racists but because we are morally weak humans who have yet to comprehend the potential beauty and goodness to which our humanity is called.
Yes, we often fail in our relationships and ofttimes treat one another badly. Yes, we are capable of dishonesty, incivility, and a variety of harms which o’erflow our thoughtless ego-centrism.
Clearly, then, the results of our deliberate sins and avoidable failings plague our nation. But we do know better and we are capable of wonderous goodness, persistence in virtue and a generous heart in our search for moral clarity and justice under law – the “better angels of our nature.”
From our founding, America (more than any nation in history) has sought remedies for our imperfections and solutions to our conflicts by the rule of law and the principles of our Constitution.
We pursue equal justice under law and redemption of our national character. This is who we strive to be. This is what our country stands for, even today, as we again endure the painful costs of our grand and Godly aspirations.
Our Wake-Up Call
Some amongst us have now come to despise the freedoms, responsibilities and rights for which Jimmy Morrison died.
Some amongst do not respect the reservations of the moral life or the ideals of our Judeo-Christian heritage.
Some amongst us hate our nation, even as they exploit our tolerance to destroy us.
And some amongst us seek the annihilation of our America as we have known it. They disregard the dictates of Right Reason. They betray our good will and disdain the limits of conscience. They sully the moral traditions which are the foundation of our rule of law … traditions which dignify persons like Jimmy Morrison and make them worthy of memory and tribute.
The Dilemma Of Our Moral Vision
Jimmy’s death has always been to me a particularly poignant sacrifice. Jimmy died so young, defending all of us against an enemy whose hateful vision is, to this day, profoundly antithetical to the moral and legal freedoms of America.
Americans are heirs of the Western heritage of equality, law and fair play. The history of our Western moral traditions is lengthy and discerning.
- We embrace patience and mutual camaraderie.
- We seek a level playing field.
- We value the Christian ideal of forgiveness with amendment.
- We struggle to avoid deliberate lies and overt deception and blatant treachery, and we tell ourselves that most people are – or could be – good persons.
- But we can also be naïve and slow to recognize the disturbing fact that inhumane evil exists in our nation.
- And often – perhaps too often – we excuse arrogance and prejudice and their deceptive facades, even in our own lives when we are huffy and defensive rather than humbly receptive, abrasive and demanding rather than grateful and genuinely civil.
Violence is brutally before us today. We cannot avoid the corrosive displays of hostility, arrogance and soul-curdling hatred for America which ascends against us.
We are foolish to deny the duplicity of today’s moral anarchists (and their allies in governance, education and media) who destroy our cities with regularity and impunity.
For survival’s sake, we cannot deny our responsibility to face the moral excesses - the evils of violence and irresponsibility - which threaten our nation … and us.
Our naïveté has been breached. We must look unblinkingly at the moral excesses - the deceptions and treachery and exploitive abuses of law - which some amongst us inflict upon us. It is time that we invoke the arsenal of the Church Militant.
I am moved every day by the memory of Jimmy’s generous death, but I am much troubled that many people know nothing of the ideals for which Jimmy Morrison gave his very existence.
Many people know nothing of the sacrifices made by patriots like Jimmy to protect and preserve our freedoms, our true freedoms, not the counterfeit excesses many Americans now thoughtlessly embrace as they seek the overthrow of the rule of law.
I am stunned that so many of our so-called “leaders” seek to replace our freedoms with the false gods of socialist ideology.
I am stunned that many Americans are utterly ignorant of the evidence that socialism brings cultural decay and moral death.
I am stunned by the blatant irresponsibility (is it hypocrisy or ignorance or flabby backbone?) of so many elected officials who eliminate police protection for the very citizens they are pledged to protect and for the businesses which sustain their cities.
I am again stunned and angered when certain legislators seek to disable our armed forces when overtly hostile nations are uniting against America in so many different ways.
I am more and more concerned for America, as we struggle to preserve all that makes our nation such an extraordinary reality.
Each day, as I study Jimmy’s smiling face, I am moved to wonder how long our nation will be able to remain a place which the world has admired and has, for centuries, sought as a safe refuge?
And I am saddened to admit that my country (of which I am a proud elder citizen) is a vastly different nation than the America for which Jimmy Morrison gave his life at such a young age.
How long, I wonder, will our America remain (despite our weaknesses) the finest model of responsibility and rights and human freedoms and respect for law which mankind has yet devised? How long?
Freedom’s True Meaning
Our nation was founded by people who sought - as we do - the freedom to live as we determine. BUT our Founders realized - as we must - that true freedom means living within boundaries of laws made, first and foremost, by God, then encoded in Justice by the wisest amongst us.
- True freedom does not - does not - mean we are free to do as we wish, even if we mistakenly claim no one is harmed. Even when we are alone, we are never separated from our Creator, nor from His stated expectations for each one of us. In sum, we are not free to do as we please.
- True freedom is always a delicate balance between our responsibilities and, only then, our limited rights.
- True freedom means we are able to fulfill our responsibilities without the coercion or interference of an outside agency.
- True freedom means responsibility, not license. Freedom is not, as some people say, unlimited or wide open.
- That’s why true freedom is a quality of soul, a condition granted to us as creatures of God. It is not merely arbitrary permission from a secular agency, such as the “freedom” to vote or drive or own a home.
Freedom Requires Law
Our human inclination to self-deception and egotism is universal. We need divine remedies and moral boundaries, guidelines and sanctions, as well as civil laws, rules and regulations which apply for the common good of all.
That’s why we have both divine law and human law – to define for us those responsibilities we must accept before we exercise our limited rights.
Without our individual and collective attention to law - both divine and human law - we are adrift as persons and as nations, as our Founders well stated.
Without struggling to be moral persons who honor the natural law of God and the human law of society, we create chaos.
Many Americans today forget - or deny - that we are moral beings who are subject to God’s plan. We are also dependent beings, born to be guided by the moral laws and limits of our created human nature.
So, before all else, we are moral creatures in search of God. Our moral nature gives us 1) our ability to build relationships by which we relate to God and to one another; and, 2) our underlying need to properly revere God, ourselves and our neighbor.
At the very core of our humanity are the moral laws which bind us to our Creator God, and then to one another. When we forget or ignore this First Principle of human existence, trouble and chaos inevitably ensue, as we see around us today.
Finally . . .
The extraordinary Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote and spoke passionately and often about the absolute necessity of a moral society, governed by moral leaders, populated by moral citizens. His words echo the same message of America’s Founding Fathers and their insistence on morality as the basis of life.
Solzhenitsyn also worried about the failure of democracy, particularly the “democracy of small spaces,” i.e., a nation’s regard for morality at the local level where, today, statues are toppled, churches burned, businesses looted, critics silenced and people murdered in our streets.
At the time of his death, Solzhenitsyn was writing about human estrangement from the spiritual patrimony that bequeaths to mankind our faith in God, a faith which, in practice, illuminates and inspires “traditions of home and business life.”
Some cynics will say this “spiritual patrimony” of which Solzhenitsyn speaks is a fiction; that even our prayers are a waste of time, are acts of hypocrisy or are simply a fool’s mutterings.
I would tell such a benighted person that
- prayer is my/our way of turning back to our Creator.
- prayer is my/our way of paying my respects to our Creator and - more to the point
- prayer is my/our way of keeping hold of the precarious, but most precious, gift of all, the gift of my own life … and soul.
Prayer, I would tell the skeptic, is my way to re-focus myself on the fact that my life (and yours and his and all life) is such a marvelous, mysterious and complex reality that only my Faith in my Creator and my gratitude to my Creator can put my life in proper light, even as we are all enfolded each instant in mystery abounding.
I’d also tell the doubter that I believe God listens to our prayers in His mysterious way. I would tell the doubter that I believe God is kind and loving to Jimmy Morrison and to all those patriots - those men and women of immeasurable courage - who give their lives with overwhelming generosity, so that you and I may live in the freedom which brings us ever-closer to our Creator … even as we strive to comprehend the exceptionalism of America’s existence.
And, in my heart of hearts, I know my friend Jimmy understands exactly what I mean … and smiles.