February 22, 2013 - February 15, 2013
. Torch songs are only partly lamentation. They
are also an
affirmation of the primacy of love even in the face of defeat and
broken hearts. It's the love itself that is transcendant. It is a proof
of life enduring in the face of personal catastrophe, unafraid to
experience loss and yet live on.
It's okay to flirt with despair, but not to give in to it. When I hear Americans who profess to believe in traditional American values doubting not just our future but our moral right to continue spreading those values throughout the world, I get disgusted. Is it possible America is done? Maybe. But it damn well better not be done because I gave up fighting when the odds were against us. Here's a new term for you to chew on: Pussy Patriots. "Okay, it was great while it lasted, but it's done now because of all the evil leftists and I'll take refuge in the liberal ego cocktail of seeing the bad stuff ahead of time -- which makes me somehow superior to all the losers who are still trying."
Good luck with that. I will not go gentle into that good night. I've been seeing the bad stuff and writing about it a lot longer than almost everybody here. I really don't care if you think you've had it tough. This time of tribulation is not an impending apocalypse so much as a test. Is our love still strong enought to prevail, as our ancestors have done innumerable times, against frightful odds? Is it?
I don't care how old you are. You have to find your own torch song. And
your own torch. Here's mine:
And don't ever tell me -- or imply to me -- that the whole American
experiment has been a waste, exposed as some lie by a quarter
millennium of history. All that tells me is that you, for all your
self-ordained sophistication, count time only from the moment of your birth. Which is pitiful indeed.
My apologies to everyone for whom this lesson was unnecessary. I know there are many.
. We all have some Little Round Tops of our own. I've had a
not life-threatening to be sure, but threatening to my future and my
career. The hard part is recognizing the ones that don't occur on the
field of military battle. Where Joshua
Chamberlain got lucky. He was a
classics professor who somehow became a military commander, and it
might have been easy for him to surrender in the face of impossible
circumstances, but he didn't. His education made it possible for him to
recognize the moment when it came. Shellfire is a big assist at such
This is much on my mind at the moment. My wife -- whose birthday it is today -- has a Little Round Top moment of her own right now. I know how she'll do. Hell, she's already fired the first shots from an encircled position. I gave her flowers for the big day only because I couldn't get her a keg of nails and a blunderbuss. It didn't take her a split second to see the moment when it came. Now we'll have to live with the results of the battle. Which will be my privilege, no matter how it turns out. And it could be very very costly. So. Be. It.
Because even the brave talkers have a way of missing the moment. They're sure they'll take action when the crisis finally comes, but then suddenly it's too late and what could they have done? Frustrated heroes. Because when it's too late it's too late, and all that's left is looking out for the family and not doing anything self-destructively stupid.
The crisis doesn't come with Hollywood movie titles announcing and defining the conflict. It comes suddenly but not always in Technicolor. It's here the moment you know you might have to take sides against a fait accompli, and when the people who are reassuring you that you're not involved or responsible are no longer friends but operatives of some other agenda that has nothing to do with friendship, loyalty, or integrity. That's the instant you should know you're on Little Round Top, most likely alone.
It's an instant most people miss. They don't want to know it. They're afraid. They massage themselves with their principles and promise themselves that if things get nasty, they'll do the right thing. And they mean it. They really really mean it until the opportunity to take action is hopelessly in the past.
How do you keep yourself from being surprised by a Little Round Top that swiftly passes you by? You look for Little Round Tops. As Joshua Chamberlain undoubtedly did. He wanted that moment of decision in his life. And, yes, that moment might kill you or blight your future life, but if you never confront a great decision, you will never know who you really are.
The good news is that military experience doesn't necessarily make you any better at recognizing such moments when they occur in everyday life. The bad news is that if you don't think you've ever had such an experience thus far, you almost certainly missed one or two or more of them. If you've become a defeatist by nature, that's tantamount to proof. You've never seen the moments when you might have made a critical difference. Which makes you a big part of the problem.
Too bad for you. But I freely concede everything is harder for GenXers
and Millennials. You just never quite get
anything until the key moment has passed. But you have learned a lot
about the purely
prudential use of language. Maybe that will pay off somehow.
. When everything is about as bad as it can get, you need
songs. Passion simmering and betrayed. Here are some of the best.
Women are better at it. So be it.
But guys can carry the flame too.
Except that women who aren't even professional singers can break your
And yet Sinatra still rings in with the haunted male voice:
The saddest thing, though, is that Doris Day is now
The party's over. When she goes, what do we have left? Rihanna?
Make no mistake. A love affair is ending. Americans are falling out of love with America. I don't know about you, but I'm carrying a torch.