To the Colors

By Gary DeBoard

A little less than 2 weeks ago more than a third of our country, some 111 million people, watched what has undoubtedly become America’s new past time, football. The Superbowl has quickly evolved into a national holiday that is not actually a national holiday. The pomp and circumstance of the game itself is magnitudes of order bigger than any other sporting event in the world with the exception of the Olympics. But as big as the festivities are, some things very honorably remain the same.
One of my favorite parts about American sports is the one thing they all have in common. No matter the age, sport, or venue, the most unique and indelible thing is done before every game- the singing of the national anthem. Seared into the consciousness of every American sports goer are those most inspiring words, “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Being someone who deeply loves and appreciates the history behind those words, I find that one of the most noble things we Americans still do is stand, remove our hats, and in silence, ponder those words as we gaze upon our flag as Francis Scott Key once did in a very different situation.
It was two years after the War of 1812 had begun. The fighting between the still fledgling patriots of America and the established british army was not going well for the Americans. The capitol city had been taken and itself lay in burned ruins. On Great Britain’s march through Washington they moved to capture the great American city of Baltimore. At a pivotal point during the Battle of Baltimore, the British bombarded Fort McHenry during a rainy night in 1814. Key was prisoner on a British ship after learning of the bombardment plans. He watched from that ship as the night continually erupted in fire and explosion as the British unmercifully pounded the American strong hold. Key was sure that the American flag flying over the fort would be changed out for the British Union Jack by the morning- the sign of American defeat. But as dawn revealed night’s secrets, he was shocked to find the flag still flying, though torn and tattered. He would start his poem aboard the british ship and later finish it in a hotel room. Within months, it would be recognized as the Star Spangled Banner.
One can almost see and hear the vivid sights and sounds that Key wrote down, “…the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air..” The words themselves not only inspire, but serve as a historical record of what actually happened. The dawn revealed that we had held.

Today at a museum in Washington DC you can still gaze on the same flag that gave Key his moment of brilliant inspiration. Amazingly, almost unthinkably, you can still see the tatters, holes, and dirt from a different time. The flag itself unashamedly bares the marks of war. One could stand there for hours, look upon its worn threads and still not grasp the immensity of the sight before them.

But if like me you long for an America who would see that flag with a kind of pride and sense of nobility that actually made a difference, then you, like me were encouraged to see at least for a moment, 70,000 people stand to their feet and 111 million more listen in silence as those words were sung in all their splendor as our flag waved high. Truly, God bless America.


By: Gary DeBoard

A little more than a month ago, for the 73rd time, America quietly remembered Pearl Harbor Day. 73 long years ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood before an emergency joint session of Congress and the nation to proclaim one of the most memorable, awful, and terrifying sentences that has ever been uttered in an official capacity, “Yesterday, December 7th 1941, a day that will live in infamy, The United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked…”

It’s difficult for those of us not alive during the 2nd world war to fully comprehend the context of such a statement. Today, when we talk of wars, we think of them as being over before they start. Though much bravery, heroism, and sacrifice was necessary, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and the like were never seen as a clear and present threat to our own neighborhoods and families. But in 1941, it was a much different equation. The axis of evil had long been bulging with terrifying muscle under the crazed leadership of Hitler, Mussolini, and the Empire of Japan. America, seeking to avoid a conflict that would inextricably change its history for either good or ill, now had no choice but to defend its borders. Think of this, America was not dispatching itself to protect its interest or democracy around the world, America was dispatching itself for its very right to exist.

Japan immediately feared what it had awakened. The Japanese admiral Yamamoto himself said, “A military man can scarcely pride himself on having ‘smitten a sleeping enemy’…since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack.” And a counterattack it was. Not only from distant battlefields, but from American factories, families and the collective spirit of a nation with a most determined pose. America wakened in the most mighty way.

In the commendable line of sacrifices our country has made in the name of true freedom around the  world for us and others, our fighting in WW2 was among the finest examples. And though the sacrifice was great and the hour was sad, it would serve as yet another defining hour in the history of our still relatively fledgling nation.

And yet some reading this might find an overtly romanticized, pro-American author who sees through rose colored glasses and is the very definition of the idiom that says history is written by the victor. To this I would say that you may have a point. War and nation building is a messy business that often operates in the gray, waiting for the far off future to justify its means. Being the leader of the free world means that we live in a country that will always be scrutinized and analyzed (and rightly so) for its decisions, actions, and course for the future. And certainly our actions have not always been commendable (sometimes quite dishonorably the opposite) and our decisions have not always been the right ones. But those very good points aside, the indisputable truth is that the high ideal of America has always been exceptional. Yes, I used the word “exceptional.” I’m not alone in that sentiment, our leaders, both Democrat and Republican would agree. It was Kennedy who said,

“Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us—and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local, must be as a city upon a hill—constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities..”

And of course Reagan spoke all his life about a shining city on a hill, “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”

And then Clinton said, “America remains the indispensable nation…”

After 9/11 Bush 43 said, “America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world and no one will keep that light from shining.” It’s not so much a philosophical idea as it is a distinctly American reality.

So how does Pearl Harbor Day fit into all this? Simply put- when called upon to defend the ideas of freedom and liberty, America stood up and was counted even if it was out of necessity. It reminded itself of the sacredness- and cost of a free land without tyranny or affliction. It was most impressive, if it only lasted for what seemed, all these years later, like seconds. Those seconds must endure in our memory and convictions lest the tree of liberty require refreshment. Another generation has to understand the vitality of America today, that ideal of a shining city on hill, tried and true for the world to consider. It must be worth our thoughts, our efforts and our convictions. For the city always must shine from the inside out.

ISIS and the Innocents

“What we always knew that they didn’t…because of the torture we’d seen committed on the most defenseless people by those with all the power…was that if we did our job we could be the answer to the victims’ prayers and those of the victims parents and children.”

-Quote from, “Single Harness”

Half a world away, the terror organization ISIS dominates parts of Iraq and Syria with an unthinkably cruel grip. Behind our borders we see the awful videos of the coward in black who holds a stained blade to the throats of innocent people. We hear reports of unspeakable atrocities of not just men, but women and children as well. These things come upon our more reformed senses with a shock that is foreign and difficult to place in the reality that exists outside of our flat screen tvs and twitter accounts. But there it is, confronting us at every turn.

While the cruelty of ISIS should not be downplayed, they are hardly the first “cause” that has gone roughly beyond human imagination in their cruelty toward humanity. Every century, every generation has their “ISIS” to contend with. Whether it’s a Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, a Chemical Ali and Iraq, or even a Hitler and the Nazis, every one of these innumerable world-sized acts of evil (shrouded in a “cause”) is simply a justification to kill innocent people. People who could not hope to possibly defend themselves against such evil.

Whether we choose to ignore it or not, the world is often an evil place. Humans have the amazing capacity to love. Yet they also retain the terribly astounding ability to commit great evil. Gone unchecked and without the rule of law (and its consequences), evil makes itself a paradise where it is the ruler. Behind it’s borders, their power and their foolish perspective would grow until the world could not ignore them, even if they tried.

It was in the well known quote that is often attributed to Edmund Burke where he said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It’s difficult for a truer statement to be made. ISIS, for instance, will not simply lay down their knives and apologize to the world. They are an evil that must be eradicated because of what they have done and what they will continue to do. But the more difficult determination is this: who are the good men who will stand and fight the evil? America is once again poised to lead against the triumph of evil.

As a people we must not be tempted to turn our eyes from those who are defenseless. We must always be willing, if necessary, to fight in the open or in the shadows for those who cannot fight for themselves. Because sometimes, we are the answers to their prayers.