Honouring Our Fathers - excerpts
By Paul C. Graham on May 12, 2014 - http://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/blog/honouring-our-fathers/ for complete text
Anyone who is still confused about the meaning of this display (Capitol Confederate Monument, Columbia, South Carolina) is either ignorant, dishonest, or is willing to use falsehoods to further a political or social agenda. For some reason they believe their lives will be improved if the memory of our fathers and their struggle for independence is effaced from the earth. For some reason they have come to believe the worst of us, their neighbours, who harbour no ill will towards them.
It is not our minds that are Confederate, it is our hearts, our blood, and our bones that is Confederate although, sadly, there remain few who are willing to openly say so anymore. I am, however, neither ashamed nor afraid of who and what I am.
In this present tense, ideological world in which we live, it is easy to lose sight of this simple fact: that the men whom we memorialize today are not abstractions, ideas, or political brickbats; they are not flags, monuments, or songs—they are our fathers; quite literally our fathers. They were real men who faced real difficulties; men who reacted to their situation to the best of their ability and did so with honour and dignity. Their actions were motivated by sound principle and a deep and abiding love for their country—a country that was not merely defined by government, territorial integrity, or abstract propositions. Theirs was a real and tangible country; a country of kith and kin, blood and soil, headstones and homesteads—things worth defending, things worth dying for. As their children, we have ample reason to be proud, indeed, to celebrate, commemorate, and memorialize our sires. Not only them, but our Confederate mothers as well who sacrificed just as much, if not more in many cases, than did our fathers. The Biblical injunction is clear: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” (Exodus 20:12)
As early as January of 1864, General Patrick Cleburne, warned what would surely come to pass should the South fail to gain her independence: …the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision…
Edmund Burke, speaking in the 1780’s, wisely observed that Society is an open-ended partnership between generations. The dead and the unborn are as much members of society as the living. To dishonour the dead is to reject the relation on which society is built—a relation of obligation between generations. Those who have lost respect for the dead have ceased to be trustees of their inheritance. Inevitably, therefore, they lose their sense of obligation to future generations. The web of obligation shrinks to the present tense. We are now living in a society, indeed, a world, that views itself in the present tense—with no roots whatsoever—completely separated from historical context. In this condition they run headlong into the future, deaf, dumb, and blind.
By honouring and remembering our fathers, reclaiming their history—our history—we place ourselves in a position to take, just as they did, the long view. Grasping hands through the generations—one reaching back to our fathers and the other reaching forward to our children, we occupy the causal position that they once held. The dead can only teach and advise by their charter, conduct, and the effects of these that linger. Future generations will inherit, for better or for worse, what we leave behind. By memorializing our fathers, we realize that the call that they answered now rings in our ears— for the memory of our fathers, for the inheritance of our children, for the sake of duty itself. Next to our obligation to God, we have no higher duty than to our families—those who have passed, those who are with us now, and those that will follow us.