“Enjoy the long weekend.”
So said Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States, as Memorial Day 2021 approaches.
As many commentators have pointed out, you wouldn’t know she had Memorial Day in mind because her tweet didn’t mention the name of the party.
For her, it was just another long weekend, another opportunity for the sheep to graze without shepherds for an extra day while waiting to be shorn.
Undoubtedly, she’s kicking herself, or at least the help who suggested she post the tweet – not, of course, because of the omission, but because of the little press feedback that it did. occasioned.
Sheep can be docile, but they are also sensitive and unpredictable.
Chances are no one Harris thinks of Memorial Day with.
Why should they? It is a holiday that commemorates something they despise – many things in fact: the spirit of personal sacrifice and duty, on the one hand, and the country to which these efforts were dedicated, on the other. .
I am confident that this slight disruption in The Narrative will be quickly digested, masked and forgotten by the compliant media machine that surrounds and protects our nomenklatura.
Harris nudged this project a day or two later when, noting the misfortune, she posted a compensatory tweet who mentioned the holidays.
That sniffling sound you hear is the sound of cynics reacting to his second tweet.
Anyway, the din made me think of a family outing to Maryland over Memorial Day weekend several years ago.
With my wife and five-year-old son, I stopped at Baltimore Harbor to see Fort McHenry, the site, in September 1814, of the Battle of Baltimore, the defining episode of the War of 1812.
It was a glorious spring day: the sky was an infinite azure punctuated by a flotilla of majestic white clouds.
Our first stop was a modern outbuilding adjacent to the 18th century fort.
We crammed into a small theater with about thirty eighth graders and their teachers to watch a short film.
Among other things, we learned about the origins of the war, how the British captured and burned Washington, how finally a thousand American soldiers under George Armistead at Fort McHenry managed to defend their stronghold against British naval assault, saving Baltimore. and turning the tide of war.
It was (as the Duke of Wellington said of Waterloo) “a really cool thing – the closest race you’ve ever seen.”
British ships, anchored out of range of Armistead’s guns, pounded the fort with Congreve mortar and rocket fire for twenty-five hours.
Sitting on a truce ship behind the British fleet was a young American lawyer and amateur poet by the name of Francis Scott Key. He watched the battle rage, dotting the night sky with noisy coruscations.
Some time before sunrise, the bombardment suddenly stopped. Key was uncertain of the outcome of the battle until dawn broke and he saw the American flag fluttering boldly over Fort McHenry. (When he took command, Armistead requested an extra-large flag so that “the British would have no problem seeing it from afar.”)
There would be no surrender.
The British abandoned their plans to invade Baltimore. The war would soon be over.
As soon as he saw Old Glory, Francis Scott Key began to scribble what would become “The Star-Spangled Banner” on the back of a letter. He finished it in a Baltimore hotel a day or two later.
The poem was an instant hit and was soon put on “The Anacreontic Song”, an 18th century English drinking tune. It became the official national anthem in 1931.
The movie ended and strains of the song started to come out of the speakers – softly at first, then louder and louder. Everyone in the room rose to their feet.
“O say, does this star-spangled banner still wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave â
The school children stood with respect, each with their right hand over their heart. A floor-length curtain rolled back, flooding the room with light.
There was Fort McHenry. And there, towering above, was the American flag, gently waving in the breeze. With the possible exception of our son, who was busy attacking The Enemy with his F14 toy, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Of course, this calculated play was in part an exercise in sentimentality. Is this a bad thing? Wallace Stevens may have been correct that in general, “sentimentality is a failure of feeling” – a sign of counterfeit emotion rather than the real thing.
Nonetheless, there is a place for some affirmative sentimentality in the moral economy of our society.
Among other things, it provides an emotional cement for our common identity as Americans.
Nowadays, perhaps more than ever, that identity needs glue. As we contemplate the prospects for America and its institutions in the 21st century, it is not just particular cultural and social institutions that deserve close scrutiny.
What we might call the institution of American identity – of who we are as a people – also requires our attention.
It is often said that the terrorist attacks of September 11 precipitated a new resolution across the country.
There is some truth to this.
Certainly, the extraordinary bravery of firefighters and other rescuers in New York and Washington, DC provided an invigorating spectacle – as did Todd âLet’s rollâ Beamer and his fellow travelers on United Airlines Flight 93.
Having learned from their cell phones what had happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, they rushed in and overpowered the terrorists who had hijacked their planes.
As a result, the plane crashed into an isolated farm in Pennsylvania instead of Pennsylvania Avenue. Who knows how many lives their sacrifice has saved?
The widespread sense of condign outrage – horror stirred up by anger and exacerbated by the resolution – reflected a renewed sense of national purpose and identity after 9/11.
Under attack, many Americans suddenly (if temporarily) rediscovered the virtue of patriotism. At the beginning of his remarkable book “Who are we?” The challenges of American national identity, âsaid the late Samuel Huntington of a certain block on Charles Street in Boston.
At one time, American flags flew in front of a United States post office and liquor store.
At one point, the post office stopped displaying the flag, so on September 11, 2001, the flag flew only in front of the liquor store.
In the span of two weeks, seventeen American flags decorated this block on Charles Street, in addition to a huge flag hanging above the nearby street.
“With their country under attack,” notes Huntington, “the people of Charles Street have rediscovered their nation and identified with it.”
Was this rediscovery anything other than a momentary passion? Huntington reports that within months the Charles Street flags started to disappear. By the time the first anniversary took place in September 2002, only four were still flying.
Admittedly, this is four times more than there was there on September 10, 2001, but it is less than a quarter of the number that populated Charles Street at the end of September 2001.
There are similar anecdotes all over the country – a bout of flag waving followed by a relapse into indifference.
Does this mean that the sudden upsurge in patriotism in the weeks following September 11 was, so to speak, only superficial?
Or perhaps is it just a testament to the fact that a permanent sense of urgency is difficult to maintain, especially in the absence of further attacks?
Is our perception of ourselves as Americans powerful only when challenged? âIs it possible,â asks Huntington, âtake an Osama bin Laden. . . to make us understand that we are Americans? If we do not suffer from recurring destructive attacks, will we return to fragmentation and eroded Americanism before September 11? “
We hope the answer is no.
I am writing on Memorial Day 2021, a few months before the twentieth anniversary of September 11.
The behavior of these Fort McHenry schoolchildren – behavior which I am happy to report was quietly encouraged by their teachers – suggests that the answer cannot simply be no.
But I’m afraid for every schoolboy standing at attention for the national anthem, there’s a teacher or lawyer or judge or politician, A Black Lives Matter spokesperson, ACLU employee. or a critical race theorist campaigning against âthe hegemony of the dominant cultureâ. the unbearable intrusion of white, Christian, “Eurocentric” values ââinto the curriculum, the school competition, the green city, etc., etc.
The display of national character and determination after September 11 was extraordinary.
He was not, however, buying immunity from the virus of cultural dissolution put forward by an elite more caught up with the awakened imperatives of Project 1619 – now incorporated into the curricula of some 4,500 schools – than the lessons of 1776.
The sobering truth is that the display of national heroism and determination after 9/11 has had little to no effect on the forces behind the fragmentation and âeroded Americanismâ to which Huntington refers.
These forces are not isolated phenomena; they’re not even limited to America.
Rather, they are part of a global crisis of national identity, coefficients of the sudden collapse of self-confidence in the West – a collapse that manifests itself in everything from rapidly falling birth rates to attack against the whole idea of ââa sovereign nation. State.
It is difficult to avoid thinking that a people who have lost the will to reproduce or rule themselves are people in the process of destruction.
This is one of the many reasons why we should look with suspicion at the Vice President of the United States who tells us to “take advantage of the long weekend” when she should have paid tribute to the men and women whose sacrifice made possible his little bubble of wealthy privileges.
Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is âWho Rules? Sovereignty, nationalism and coming out of freedom in the 21st century. “
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.