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Take Up America's Torch

Take Up America's Torch

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Published by Sally Morem
I begin with the famous World War I poem, "In Flanders' Fields," and address the call to defend our freedom and fight the enemy. I then address pacifism and it fatal contradictions, the need to defend ourselves, the fact that there are so many societies in the world, that conflict is natural between them, that free societies are far less likely to be in conflict, that humans do cooperate with one another, and that freedom is by far the best way to help them cooperate and avoid armed conflict. I then close with the poem "America's Answer," which was the poet's answer to "In Flanders' Fields."
I begin with the famous World War I poem, "In Flanders' Fields," and address the call to defend our freedom and fight the enemy. I then address pacifism and it fatal contradictions, the need to defend ourselves, the fact that there are so many societies in the world, that conflict is natural between them, that free societies are far less likely to be in conflict, that humans do cooperate with one another, and that freedom is by far the best way to help them cooperate and avoid armed conflict. I then close with the poem "America's Answer," which was the poet's answer to "In Flanders' Fields."

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Published by: Sally Morem on Oct 31, 2009
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03/30/2014

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Take up America’s Torch
By Which We Remember December 7 and September 11
By Sally Morem
 In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow  Between the crosses, row on row,That mark our place: And in the skyThe larks still bravely singing fly, Scarce heard amidst the guns below.We are the dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved and now we lie In Flanders’ fields.Take up our quarrel with the foe,To you from failing hands we throw The Torch—be yours to hold it high; If ye break faith with us who dieWe shall not sleep, though poppies grow  In Flanders’ fields.
Canadian Colonel John McCrae left us with this eloquent plea for thedefense of the free West, a very appropriate thing to ponder on theanniversaries of Pearl Harbor and the attacks on New York and Washington,DC. His poem,
 In Flanders’ Fields
, depicted an image of cemeteries filleddead Canadians, Englishmen, Frenchmen and Americans, buried under the battlegrounds of World War Iin Europe. The spirits of these dead ask us inthe poem to continue their brave efforts to defend freedom from thedepredations of tyranny. Perhaps they knew that the ‘war to end all wars’wouldn’t.
 
Americans did what had to be done. After the sudden blows our forcessuffered in Hawaii and those we suffered later in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we regrouped, struggled, and finally triumphed.But, there are those who believe that Flanders’ Field was and is too high a price to pay for freedom. They feel that peace should be our only concern.Pacifists fear the results of war far more than the devastating effectssurrender would have on us. They don’t realize that appeasement to theKaisers, the Hitlers, the Tojos, the Stalins, and the bin Ladens would never  bring peace, but would instead lead to waves of future wars, endless wars of oppressionconducted by power-hungry tyrants, egged on by the weaknessdisplayed by their pacifist enemies.The dictionary defines the pacifist as one who is in opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes and who specifically refuses to bear arms on moral or religious grounds. By so doing, he hopes to bring about a permanent peace.Unfortunately, this could never happen through unilateral disarmament. If a pacific society were somehow established, its internal order would soon break down under the pressure of criminal acts and outside aggression.Pacifism is therefore an unstable strategy for any society to undertake. It, bydefinition, cannot cope with violent domestic or foreign acts. Survivorswould have to cease acting as pacifists in short order. Or there would be nosurvivors left to sweep up the shrapnel and put out the fires.But, how can we preserve freedom and yet avoid future Flanders’ fields?Perhaps we can’t. The military option is simply too attractive to too many people. A show of force really works. People see the guns, the tanks, the battleships, the bombers, and the soldiers…then they do what they are toldto do. They surrender. They give their conquerors anything they demand.In any effort to ease the danger of war, certain facts of life must be attendedto. The first thing we must realize is that this world is filled with billions of  people who organize themselves into millions of groups, instantiating atleast as many differing dreams and goals and ideals. Not all of these groupsco-exist peaceably nor do they all conduct their affairs in an honorablemanner. In such a situation, conflict becomes unavoidable.
 
Any proposal for the demilitarization of the world must come to grips withthe harsh reality of human nature reflected in the operation of humanleadership of groups: There will always be leaders who will lie, cheat,scheme, and murder to get their own way within their group and againstother groups. They will not be dissuaded by sweet talk of human love and brotherhood.Secondly, we must remember that human beings are just as capable of cooperating with one another as they are of fighting. We see this every dayin peace as our armies and police keep the bad guys at bay, permitting us totrade and associate in friendship, without threats or coercion.Ironically enough, war itself illustrates the power of human cooperation.While soldiers fight enemy soldiers on the battlefield, they also obey their superior officers, protect one another, move the wounded to safety, andmove supplies to the front in an orderly fashion. War is organized conflict,with emphasis on the adjective
organized
. We see the human capacity for  both beastliness and heroism magnified on the battlefield. Perhaps this iswhy some of our most powerful stories are war stories.The talent for cooperation is inherently human. Parents love, nurture and protect their children. Business associates work together for their mutual profit. People risk their lives to save others from the perils of fire and storm.Any truly robust human culture dedicated to the preservation of peace mustallow human cooperation to flower naturally; it must not be forced.Cooperation is inherently a voluntary act. A dictatorship enforcingcooperation would be (and is) as counterproductive as a pacifist societyattempting to enforce peace.From these two points we can deduce the following with reasonablecertainty: There can be no peace without freedom. Ever. Freedom is thestuff of peace. Why? Because freedom is the stuff of a truly human life.Cooperation may flourish in many different types of societies and conflictmay be bent to more positive ends through the workings of ancienttraditions, but only in societies where individual rights and responsibilitiesare recognized as inviolable can such societies achieve a high level of trust between large numbers of people, most of whom will never meet oneanother. Freedom, then, has the capacity to engender a level of trust at leasthigh enough to ease ever-present tensions in very populous societies.

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