Friday, October 05, 2007
The Waning of Patriotism
There was a fine opinion piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal by Robert D. Kaplan ("Modern Heroes") decrying the gradual devaluation of nationalism in our country. He says that the events of 9/11 did not fundamentally change our nation, but "merely interrupted an ongoing trend toward the decay of nationalism and the devaluation of heroism" in our country.
It got me thinking that this might similar to the events preceding the fall of Rome.
It also got me thinking about the most prominent remnant of patriotism in our culture, the national anthem. But even that, sadly, has been twisted into a quaint and virtually meaningless ceremony whenever time is taken for it. They still play the national anthem before sporting events, of course, but when the band plays at our high school football games I think sometimes my wife and I are the only people singing. A few other faint voices can sometimes be heard. The crowd would generally prefer some soloist crooning it out with enough embellishments to make it more of a personal performance than an anthem, in which case they could more comfortably reply to the act with delirious cheers. When there's just a band playing, they aren't encouraged to sing, and they probably don't even know all the words.
Those words are lost on the young, no doubt. They likely have never heard the story of Francis Scott Key peering out the window of a ship some eight miles away from a British shelling of Fort McHenry during the war of 1812, and how, each time a bomb went off, it "gave proof, through the night, that our flag was still there," and how, in the morning, when Key saw that the U.S. flag was still flying at the fort, he was inspired to scribble down a few poetic lines, "Oh say, can you see by the dawn's early light . . . ," which he would later finish into a poem.
I think of that when I sing the National Anthem, and I think of how my father instilled this in me, how countless men have fought and died defending the republic for which that flag stands. So who cares if a few people turn their heads in our direction at a football game?
Kaplan says it will take another event on the order of 9/11 or greater to change the direction we are headed. There are still glimmers of hope here and there that patriotism could somehow revive itself among us. Hopefully it won't take a nuclear holocaust, and hopefully the end of us is not in sight as we slouch toward the way of old Rome. We must pray for our nation.