Today is Memorial Day, a day when we remember those who died in the service of our country. These United States of America are 240 years old, which we will celebrate on July 4th. (I remember the bicentennial as if it were yesterday.) Two hundred and forty years is a long time, at least as far as humans are concerned, the average lifespan being 71 years. Two hundred and forty years includes a lot of people, a lot of hopes, and a lot of dreams.
What does it mean to die in service of one’s country? We could bring up all sorts of political ideas as an answer, this side verses that, this ideology above that. We could talk about sleazy deals in dark, smoke-filled rooms. We could talk about naivete and a young person’s desire to serve and protect. We could talk about the arrogance of the “divine right” to rule. But let’s not talk about any of that because too many people are already doing it.
Let’s talk about “country.” What is country? Country is just another word for home. It’s just a very, very big home. Just as each man is “king of the castle” in his own home, his own humble four walls, so the country is home to its citizens and each citizen has a stake in its upkeep and a voice in its direction. Each citizen’s home is within the larger home called country.
“Country” is the physical place where the people live and have their being. It’s the land they stand and work on every day. It’s where they are born, live, and die. It’s where they are buried after death. Country is the land, the rocks, the trees, the animals, etc., that make up our personal world. Country is the only thing that remains when everything else disappears. The land is everlasting; everything else is quite temporary.
To die in service of one’s country is to die upholding the belief that these United States of America are greater than the sum of their parts. It’s to die with the land and the trees and the sun in your heart, in the hope that you are preserving these things for someone else. To die in service of one’s country is to be an active participant to the very end in the formation and love of your home.
We hear the term “globalism” every day, but I don’t pay it much mind. Smashing everything together does not create a kaleidoscope of colors, only a grey and lifeless palette. Cultures are “multi” because they are separate. I am content with countries and borders and cultures and the unique beauty each offers to the other. I am content with the exoticness of foreign lands and the excitement of learning about them, not being them.
Modern technology allows us all to share globally, but we must never forget “home.” We must never forget “country.” Home is the only thing worth having. It’s the only thing that lasts. It’s the only thing worth fighting for. It’s the only thing worth dying for. And I am grateful to those who have preserved it for me.