It is said that if a word does not exist in a particular culture's language, then they cannot formulate the concept that is represented by that word in their minds. With that being said, a brief comment made by Dafydd over at Big Lizards sparked a worrisome thought in my mind:
Does anybody believe [he] would have allowed a choreographer to create a dance routine with a theme of "moral war," the dancers wearing T-shirts stenciled with words like "victory," "courage," and "honor?"Now this started me thinking. These words don't sound foreign to me at all. They have real meanings to me, and they evoke mental images of both personal friends and historical characters for whom I have the utmost respect. But I realized that experiences with these words in my life have been extremely limited in context.
Most of my readers (all three of you) know that I was in the Aggie Corps of Cadets at A&M and a great many of my friends are Marines. Their watchwords are Honor, Courage and Commitment, and as a result I've been hearing those words often over the past few years.
One thing we had to memorize as fish (a fish is a freshman in the Aggie Corps) was then-Governor Richard Coke's advice to the students of the newly opened Texas A&M University in 1876:
"Let your watchword be duty, and know no other talisman of success than labor. Let honor be your guiding star in your dealings with your superiors, with your fellows, with all. Be as true to a trust reposed as the needle to the pole. Stand by the right, even to the sacrifice of life itself, and learn that death is preferable to dishonor."What Dafydd said made me realize that outside of the confines of my Corps of Cadets and military experiences there are certain words that do not get used at all (or get used in wholly inappropriate ways) in our current society. Bravery, valor, duty, honor are things that you just don't hear about. Courage is used more often of athletes than of people who actually knowingly put their lives on the line for the sake of others these days.
These things have fallen out of our lexicon, and it distresses me because they are the building blocks of our morality. Without the words, and the use of these words, our society will have no understanding of the values and characteristics that they represent.
When was the last time you heard the word courage used to describe a man favorably? How often is someone referred to as an honorable man? What is the relative value to the average American of being "funny" versus having integrity or steadfastly adhering to one's duty?
A new fad lately is to put a business' core values up on the wall; even fast food restaurants are doing it. Have you read any? They say things like "Strive to give back to the community" and promise to "embrace diversity" in flowery, flowing language. Contrast that with three simple words that define the core values of the USMC: Honor. Courage. Commitment.
Its frightening. Can you imagine the current governor of any state giving similar advice to students of a school? Honor, Courage, and Commitment are core values of a bygone age -- it is yet another one of the reasons that the left and the military are mutually incompatible, because the language of the left assigns no value to (and has no concept of) self-sacrifice.
If the USMC were founded today, from scratch, what would its new core values be?