This Was Their Finest Hour

The Book of Man

“This Was Their Finest Hour,” by Winston Churchill.

After witnessing the fall of other European countries to the forces of Hitler and Mussolini, Britain feels the threat advancing toward them.

He reminds us that we cannot undo the past. In a moment of crisis, we cannot waste time reflecting and bewailing past mistakes and actions, but must assess our current situation, take stock of the things in our capacity to do, and then do them. It is not a time to break down and cry, but to show what you are made of – to rise to the occasion.

He tells the people that even against the odds, there is no reason for despair or panic; and reminds them of the last war, where for the first four years they were subject to defeat, yet managed to emerge from this with hope.

He shows the battle for Britain as the turning point for the fate of the world. If Britain is victorious, the whole world is victorious. Yet, if Britain is defeated, the whole world will follow her fate. Britain, then, not only has a duty to herself, but to the whole world.

This speaks an awful lot about the role and importance of community, doesn’t it? Especially of global community. And how we are our brother’s keeper. We stand as one, or we fall as one. Our actions do affect those around us. There is such a thing as a higher purpose, a moral imperative, an objective truth. If we persevere in our struggles, if we fight the good fight, if we live with integrity and honor, then regardless the outcome, it will be our finest hour as well.

Do we live this way?

Concord Hymn

The Book of Man

“Concord Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson was written as a tribute to the soldiers of the Revolutionary War.

Not only does it evoke poignant images of the soldiers, but it brings to mind the import of what these men – these common men – did. Perhaps most importantly, they took action. They saw an injustice and they fought to right it. They gave their lives so that their children and their children’s children could know freedom. In the midst of a slumbering world, blind to injustice and tyranny, these men woke us all up and taught us that complacency has no place in the life of men. And that we the beneficiaries of their struggles, have an enduring obligation to honor their memory and keep up the fight in whatever new form it may take in our lives today.

What are those things today against which we must stand? Where is the tyranny and injustice in the world today? In what ways are we ignorant and complacent to wrongdoing and evil, when we should be fighting? When *we* should be fighting — every common man and woman and not some vague and nebulous “they”? What was this country founded upon? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? How can we then take a blind eye when life is being redefined such that the right to life becomes a subjective; where one person can arbitrarily declare that another doesn’t have such a right? Is this not an innate right endowed by our Creator? No? Then what country is this? And are we willing to fight to get that country back? What about liberty? Specifically religious liberty? I believe we are all slumbering. Society in general and our governing officials — be it our executive, legislative or judicial branches — are herding us to a forced, homogenized relativism as regards our religious views. Laws are being enacted which curtail our right to religious liberty, yet no one is paying attention.

Who is going to stand up and fire that shot which will again be heard around the world? Who is going to again remind everyone that there are objective truths, and that those truths are worth losing your life over?

Joshua Marcellino

The Book of Man

The next entry is a profile on Joshua Marcellino, and is here to show us that war, no matter how necessary, is still a horrible event which can have a profound effect on the people experiencing it.

Joshua saw action in Iraq. He tells us of the boredom that accompanies the near-constant threat. You never know who or where or when the enemy will strike. This part of the stress of war is usually understood by outsiders, but the stress of boredom and constant vigilance is rarely understood. Particularly as it affects Marines, who are trained to be do-ers – sitting by idly is not something they do well.

He speaks of lost innocence, and of having to fight against the innate compulsion to protect the innocent. Those on the other side of the battle lines didn’t have the same respect for human life and would use even children as means to deliver bombs. If you tried to save one of these little ones, it could well cost you your life.

He notes that even though the situation is awful, it can still be a place which nurtures faith, as “each day you realized God is in control of every second,” and “when you’re in combat, you see prayer answered.” It’s comforting to know that God has a plan, despite and through the horrors. Without faith, it is easy to despair.

Re-acclimation to civilian life is difficult as people try to understand what you went through. Sometimes, there are just no words to describe it and frustration sets in. How do you explain something which you don’t fully understand yourself? How do you cope with helplessness, when all you’ve ever strived to be in your life has been the opposite of helpless? He describes how previous wars have fostered a sense of brotherhood amongst the soldiers, whereas this war, to an extent, encourages detachment and isolation. You almost have to harden your heart to caring too much, for you never know if tomorrow your coworker, your friend, might die – and you’ll still have to continue the fight without any time to grieve.

The Campaigns of Alexander the Great

The Book of Man

The Campaigns of Alexander the Great – as told by Arrian, the Roman historian.

After a difficult battle, Alexander the Great allowed disabled soldiers to go home, while he and the able-bodied soldiers remained to press on. At their grumbling, he gave a speech meant to shame and encourage them.

He offers them the opportunity to leave, but first they must understand what he has done for them and what they have done for him in return.

Personal suffering. Have they suffered more than he has? “There is no part of my body but my back which has not a scar….” He led them to victory. He married as they did, so that his descendants and theirs are similar in bloodline. Even though they have been able to profit from their wars, it was he and not the individual soldier who paid the soldier’s debts. He has rewarded those who have served well and has honored those who had fallen in battle, even paying monies due to the soldier to his surviving family members.

So what is Alexander saying about how men should behave? I think he is saying a couple of things. First, leaders should be willing to do everything they request of their men. There cannot be an air of superiority among the ranks (although there is quite compelling reasons for hierarchy and differences in authority and role). Second, as regards the soldiers, they should not disgrace themselves to complain about their lot, especially as they have been treated far better than what justice would dictate. Alexander went above and beyond for them, so, to an extent, he expects his men to go above and beyond for him is response.

Donovan Campbell

The Book of Man

I came into the parish library today after work and found a book stuck in the Reference section that didn’t quite look like it belonged there. It was called, “The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood,” by William J. Bennett. It’s a collection of writings meant to instruct today’s man in what it means to be a man, as well as providing some examples – mainly positive ones – to inspire our men and show them how to live out an authentic masculinity.

I think I’ve fallen in love with the concept of the book already. There’s not much that I love and crave more than a man living as a man ought. Males and females are radically different, yet complementary, so the feminine part of me craves true masculinity.

I’m not sure if I will buy this book (probably eventually), but I’m thinking that it might be more enjoyable to savor it. To read one section in it every time I come to church and write about what I learned from it, about what attracted me as a woman, and my hopes and dreams based on it for the men in my life.

Profile: Donovan Campbell

While leading Marines during Operation Iraqi Freedom, he learned that he didn’t gain the respect of his men from great feats or amazing acts of heroism, but consistency in his actions – an internal integrity which spanned from the largest decisions to the routine actions of everyday life. He also showed how both he and his men often had to show restraint, even when that choice could result in their own death. They would make decisions that put them in greater harm, so as not to harm civilians; and they would rush to the aid of others, even if that meant making themselves a target. He also shows how men, especially when fighting together, form bonds and back each other up. Real men are supportive and reliable – you can count on them to be there and to do what is right. The end of the passage is summed up with the Marine Corps motto: Semper Fi. Always faithful. Which is an excellent quality in a man.