We have come a long way since Nathan Hale uttered those famous patriotic words, "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." It is impossible to comprehend what it must have been like for him, only moments from death by hanging, courtesy of the British army.
He could have said any number of things such as, "Please don’t kill me. I’ll promise to bow to the king and pay his taxes." He might also have said, "Please don’t kill me. I will speak to the militia and convince them to stop fighting." Instead, this great Patriot looked into the eyes of his executioners and said, "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
What is that burning ember in some people that motivates a willingness to sacrifice self on behalf of something in which they intensely believe? What motivates men, such as the late Pat Tillman, who gave up more than most people only dream of having. He set it all aside, and voluntarily placed himself on the front lines, and sadly, those circumstances resulted in his death. We have learned that he died as a result of "friendly" fire, but that does not diminish him as a heroic figure.
There are people who have chosen to disparage Mr. Tillman’s act of patriotism, and accuse him of grandstanding. This creates a burning disgust in my gut, which is difficult to describe. If one could point to individual examples which cause a schism between the left and the right in political discourse, this one would reside near the top of the list, and it would have an emphatically drawn star next to it.
In the years following the death of Jesus, seven of his disciples were put to death for their unwavering desire to tell the world of the good news. You might say that Jesus, unwilling to turn away from the cup that God had set before him was also martyred. All of them valued their mission, of winning back the souls of humanity, far more than they valued their own lives.
Perhaps Jesus nailed it best in John 15:13... Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. In the larger context, a people united in or for a cause are friends.
The people of the United States of America who have chosen to live here, or who were fortunate enough to have been born within her borders are friends, countrymen, compatriots, joint beneficiaries of that which has been hard won these past two centuries. Those who have chosen not to turn away, but to face adversity head on for the benefit of their friends are Patriots. Those who sacrifice self, in whatever form that sacrifice takes, are Patriots.
For many in society today, the act of saving one’s own life is paramount. Not only does this mean the physical life, but it also means the circumstances that comprise the act of living. For example, consider how an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy will alter the act of living. Compare the words of Jesus, that there is no greater love than that of a man who lays down his own life for his friends, with the act of ripping a yet-to-be-born baby to shreds for the sake of preserving one’s own life circumstances. It is a stunning contrast between selfishness and selflessness.
I hope that people living in America will at some point sit back and take a good look at what they hold sacred. I hope people will take note of the incredible difference in attitudes, between radical acts of self-preservation versus radical acts of Patriotism. It is time for people to become aware of the fact that some "friends" living among us would take offense if the word Patriot were applied to them.
Many have locked arms around their constitutional rights, but they do not understand that responsibilities accompany those rights. They have never heard, nor do they comprehend the idea, that it is better to give than to receive. If society's eyes can be opened, perhaps some of the festering damage can be repaired by future generations. Perhaps one day, everyone can once again long to be called, Patriot.
With that, I wish everyone a Happy and Patriotic Independence Day!
Copyright ©2005, Phil Harris - All Rights Reserved