Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Rough Riders

I had been wanting to watch the movie “Rough Riders” again for awhile, so I broke down and bought the DVD yesterday. For anyone who may not know, it is the story of the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, the regiment raised by Teddy Roosevelt and led by him and Colonel Leonard Wood in the Spanish American War.

Teddy Roosevelt is one of my heroes, and I am enjoying watching the movie (as I have several times in the past). But I had forgotten the beginning, which seems especially relevant to me now. The movie opens with this dedication:

To the American citizen soldier
Who answered the call
Climbed the hill
Paid the price
And never let us down

After the opening credits, it shows Teddy Roosevelt giving a speech at the Naval War College on March 9th, 1898. I don’t know if it is a genuine TR speech or not, but I’ve read enough of his writing to know that it certainly captures the essence of what he believed. It also captures my own feelings very well:

“The time has arrived for this great nation of ours to step out upon the world stage. So let the spotlight fall on us. I am reminded today of the words of George Washington, who said: ‘To be prepared for war is the most effectual means to promote the peace.’ We ask for a great navy, because no national life is worth having if we are not willing to defend it. All the great masterful races have been fighting races, and to lose the fighting virtues is to lose the right to stand at all. There are higher things in life than the soft enjoyment of material comforts, and it is through strife, and the readiness for strife, that a man or a nation must win greatness. So let the world know we are here, and willing to pour out our blood, our treasure, our tears, and that America is ready, and, if need be, desirous of battle.“

The warrior ethos and the martial virtues have not been in fashion in the U.S. for quite some time. They are certainly not “PC”. In my opinion, the feminization and socialistic bias of our public school system have contributed to their decline. If a boy fights back against the playground bully and teaches him a lesson with a bloody nose, he is often castigated for fighting because “violence” is bad, regardless of the context. For many years we got the same kind of message from many people in positions of prestige and authority – violence is bad; when attacked, don’t fight back; “don’t sink to their level”, etc etc.. And many of our so-called national leaders are a complete disgrace when it comes to issues involving the defense of the nation. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if our national culture is weakened beyond redemption. (For more thoughts on this, see “A Nation of Cowards” by Jeffrey R. Snyder, The Public Interest No. 113, 1993). http://www.rkba.org/comment/cowards.html

I don’t think a majority of people ever really bought into this kind of fuzzy thinking, and I’ve heard enough complaints from other dads at scout meetings, etc. to know that what kids learn at home and what they are forced to endure when in a public setting are not necessarily the same thing. I’ve also observed an encouraging trend towards self-reliance and individual self-defense against crime over the past ten years or so as more states have passed concealed carry laws and more citizens have taken a stand against violent crime by arming themselves. And the U.S. public reaction to the 9/11 attacks was unambiguously in favor of going after the perpetrators, regardless of what the “PC” and media elites tried to do to “spin” the events. Nonetheless, we remain locked in a national debate about what is proper and improper to do, while our enemies just laugh at us and try to think of new ways to take advantage of our liberal values and open society to destroy us.

Fortunately the U.S. military is a strong and vibrant subculture, separate and apart from this kind of nonsense. Regardless of what the popular mood of the country happens to be at the moment, and regardless of whether it’s “PC” or not, the professional military establishment preserves the knowledge and promotes the virtues necessary to succeed in battle. Given the necessary material support and the political will to employ them effectively, they will do just that.

So – back to the movie….

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