In honor of the anniversary of the nation in which I was born and to which I swear my allegiance, I post the following quotes.
By Mark Twain:
In a republic, who is the country?
Is it the government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the government is merely a temporary servant: it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them.
Who, then is the country? Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it, they have not command, they have only their little share in the command.
In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country: In a republic it is the common voice of the people each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak.
It is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catchphrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man.
To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have your duty by yourself and by your country. Hold up your head. You have nothing to be ashamed of’.”
By Captain America:
“Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right.
This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree besides the river of truth, and tell the whole world–
–No you move.”
By President Andrew Shepherd:
“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’ You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”
These quotes, as much as anything I have ever read, represent the reason why I started this blog. Because meaning can be found within any source, from the traditionally shallow to the epic, if you only are willing to look for it.
What’s interesting to me is that in all three of these, the speaker is contradicting someone saying a version of “Our Country, Right or Wrong!” Here’s the problem, it is not “our country, right or wrong!” It is “Our Country, Right or Wrong! When right, to be kept right, when wrong, to be made right!” Things cannot merely be right because we have done them and things cannot be wrong because we haven’t. It is our responsibility, no matter what our cause, to advocate for it if we really believe in it, and to accept the consequences of that advocacy.
My father used to say that America was represented by the people in the wagon trains headed West. Everyone wanted to get there, but there were always two groups of thought on how: Some thought that everyone who couldn’t make it on their own deserved to be left behind and die, but others thought that the key was to help everyone get there. Sometimes helping meant you pushed a wagon, sometimes helping meant that you lent some water, and sometimes helping meant you walked so someone could ride, but you did it because you believed that once we got to the other side, we’d need what those people knew and what they could do, so that it would be better for everyone.
The best thing about America is that it can change for the better even when we think we’re seeing the decline. What we do wrong can be righted and who we are can be improved. It takes work and it takes time and it takes participation, but we’ve done it a dozen times before and it can be done again.
Happy Fourth of July.
And, since at least one of you wanted these quotes based on the title, I give you:
President Thomas Whitmore:
Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. “Mankind.” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!” We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!
And Captain Steven Hiller, USMC:
Welcome to Earth.
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