I will be the first to concede the topic of my essay published Sunday by The Oregoniandoes not directly address the stated goals of this blog to examine the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Era, or American political history. The piece was prompted by my reflections as I consider the importance of my son Matthew, his service as a combat medic in the United States Army, and the sacrifices he and others like him have made during this last decade, the longest period of sustained warfare in our history. However, some of the themes in the Declaration include shared and personal sacrifice, whether it was the loss of liberties experienced by the American colonists in the decade leading to the Revolutionary War or the mutual pledge of support for its promises and principles. Perhaps there is a better link than I first imagined.
There is little doubt that the United States is a rapidly polarizing nation because of the influence of liberal and conservative elites, declining participation in the basic institutions that tie a society together such as marriage and religious observance, and increasing civic ignorance. An excellent essay by Charles Murray in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal does a great job of dissecting the issue. I add to the mix the disconnect between the nation and its military. About one percent of the population serves in the uniform while the rest of us go about our business. Some would say that is the way it should be. I doubt it: Simply uttering “Thank you for your service” or buying soldiers free lunches strikes many in uniform as either an empty gesture or charity. Most simply want their fellow citizens to understand what the military should or should not do, and part of what informs a nation so it can make those kinds of informed decisions is actual military service or close connections with someone in uniform.
George Washington once told the American people, “You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.” I simply seek a nation where more of its citizens understand that common cause so we can judge whether we should use our military or whether our elected officials are using our military wisely and well. Hopefully, my essay will spur increased discussion about those matters. For the sake of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines I ask that you read the Oregonian article and consider its points. My word on the matter is hardly the last word or definitive word on the subject — but the issues I raise are real and concern us all in a world where the United States military is at war, but a nation is not.