Monday, July 04, 2005

As I've gotten older I've become more philosophical about Independence Day. I used to be pretty cynical about it - particularly around tenth grade, when I found out that the American colonies had the highest per capita standard of living in the world at the time of the revolution. Nowadays I understand a little better the constitutional violations the revolutionaries were concerned about, but mostly I figure that I know of no nation which has an admirable birth and ours is not bad, as national foundings go. It's a sign of the world's brokenness that a place like America (or any nation present or former; take your pick) can be considered great, but it is my nation and my homeland and I pray even so that God bless us and raise us up in all the ways that count.

I am even, I confess, proud of it on occasion. One of the nice things about being more philosophical about Independence Day is that I can be proud of my homeland in spite of our many faults. In my opinion, every person should have the luxury of being proud of his or her homeland.

I doubt any soldiers read this, but I am connected at various removes to soldiers in active service, and for some reason that is important to me. Once upon a time a soldier was considered great because he was brave, or valorous, or fierce. Not so long ago the greatest among nations was the most warlike, and citizen bodies prided themselves on the valor of their warriors and the energy of their warmaking. Greece and Rome were both, in their time, the most civilized and the most warlike nations in their part of the world.

On Independence Day, it seems fitting to me to pray a blessing on our soldiers. We claim to be a different sort of nation than those that have come before - in this one small area of society, may it be so by God's grace. I am not aware of any army which has spent any amount of time on foreign soil without incurring the wrath of the inhabitants. I am not so much concerned for how our soldiers are viewed today (although I am aware that many hold them in high esteem even today) but with how they will be viewed by the grandchildren of the world. May they have good targets, so the innocent are neither under their fire nor victims of collateral damage. May they aim true and hit only what they shoot at. Nevertheless, may our soldiers be remembered not for their ferocity but for their meekness. May their grandchildren, and the grandchildren of those who know them, remember tales not of their bravery but of their compassion. May those who serve with them hold them in awe not because of their terrible skill but because they raise up those around them and teach them how to fight with honor for their children and their homeland. May their enterprise be considered great not for the energy of its warmaking, but for the energy of its building. However the world judges America or the success of its efforts, I pray that the world's grandchildren remember today's soldiers as the best of our people. Even if the name of America becomes a slur in the mouth of history, may our soldiers so conduct themselves that our grandchildren will be ashamed to speak ill of them. And even if we are remembered as one of the great civilizations, may we be remembered because of our soldiers not as the most warlike people of our time but as the most compassionate.

Happy Independence Day.

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