Heroes of history

"Heroes of history" Continued...

Issue: "Global shame," June 15, 2002

The scholars say this democratization of conflict is the logical outcome of the global era. But democracy has never been only about access. Western democracy is about sacrifice so that others have access.

And one day the grandsons and granddaughters will gather around their tables near and far and talk about the ambush at Mazar-e-Sharif, about the U.S. Army Ranger teams of Chalk 1 and Chalk 2 who braved snow and death on what will then be called Robert's Ridge to rescue Navy SEALs. They will want to hear over and over about the Nightstalkers who trained to slip behind enemy lines, about men like Philip Svitak who cared most about "being a good Christian, a good friend, and a good family man." To do that he also became a good soldier who died for his country. They will swap stories about reservists whose day jobs found them shipping for UPS until they were shipped to Diego Garcia, about young fathers flying commuter planes along the Gulf Coast until duty called them to another Gulf.

The ones who fought, and the ones who died, will leave their names on a roll call written on a thousand obelisks in a thousand American city squares. And for another generation their commanding officers and fellow soldiers will salute their memory in front of the festooned gatherings at Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day. And before the jets roll overhead and the flags are furled, they will recount how America held fast through another war-by defending and freeing others along the way rather than conquering and colonizing as the old-world powers once did.

And some children then and there will commit their strength to serving their country and their hearts to preserving one nation (or many) under God. Older folks will repent of becoming like Tolkein's hobbits who hoarded their own riches in the Shire: "And there in that pleasant corner of the world they plied their well-ordered business of living, and they heeded less and less the world outside where dark things moved, until they came to think that peace and plenty were the rule in Middle-earth and the right of all sensible folk. They forgot or ignored what little they had ever known of the Guardians, and of the labors of those that made possible the long peace.... They were in fact sheltered, but they had ceased to remember it."


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