Lives, Fortunes, Sacred Honor

 

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

My father spent a year in Korea during the war and, after that, he spent another year in occupied Japan. He lived in a pup tent for nearly his entire two years overseas. The year in Japan, even though he was no longer in combat, he spent traveling the backroads mapping and measuring bridges. So he lived in his pup tent, sleeping most nights beside some country road somewhere.

After spending two years in a pup tent in Asia, he returned to the United States. And he never went camping again.

My dad used to tease my mom when the subject of camping came up.  He would say to us kids, “your mom thinks she’s roughing it if she’s out of Kleenex”. It was good-natured teasing and she understood that he knew a thing or two about really “roughing it”.

Lately I’ve been thinking a bit about the demands of personal deprivation in service to something larger than ourselves.  I think this is something that bears reflection, especially on the heels of Covid, during which many jettisoned principled commitments in favor of self-preservation.  And it was all abandoned for a disease that has >99% survival rate if you’re younger than 70.  We’ve known this about Covid since the spring of 2020.

It’s kind of embarrassing, to be honest. Or, at least, it should be embarrassing. Churches by the droves abandoned baptism and communion, along with any kind of embodied presence, for many months and, in some cases, years. State after state punted on election integrity just so “voters” could avoid the tiniest incremental risk of infection.

Risk aversion seems to have become a bigger pandemic than even Covid itself. You would think that rampant moral contortionism and self-censorship should require an incentive rather more momentous than merely maintaining uninterrupted Twitter access. But, alas.

I’ve been reading the letters exchanged between John and Abigail Adams in the months immediately preceding the signing of the Declaration of Independence. They make me squirm with embarrassment. They lived in the midst of smallpox and cholera, with risks to life and limb that we can’t even dream of.  They were continuously separated and Abigail, in particular, suffered the travails of war without a husband to lean upon.  Her letter to John informing him of the death of her mother, to whom Abigail was very close, can melt a heart of stone.

They knew a thing or two about deprivation in service to something larger than themselves. And John, especially, intended for his own children to understand the place of liberty among the hierarchy of human goods.

“I believe my children will think I might as well have thought and labored, a little, night and day for their benefit. But I will not bear the reproaches of my children. I will tell them that I studied and labored to procure a free constitution of government for them to solace themselves under, and if they do not prefer this to ample fortune, to ease and elegance, they are not my children, and I care not what becomes of them. They shall live upon thin diet, wear mean clothes, and work hard with cheerful hearts and free spirits or they may be the children of the earth, or of no one, for me. “
— John Adams, April 11, 1776

John spent months separated from his family in order to help found a nation. He subjected himself intentionally to smallpox in an effort to gain immunity and ensure his ability to perform the role he needed to play at the continental congress.

John Adams risked smallpox (fatality rate of 30%) to get us the vote. We won’t risk Covid (fatality rate <1%) to ensure that the vote is honest and real.

When the founders pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, they were not mouthing platitudinous highfalutin mumbo jumbo. It was a no-kidding life or death undertaking for them.

And now we’re a nation made up of large numbers of people willing utter pronouns known to be false just to stay in the good graces of the likes of Twitter.

Any deprivation at all is just too large to tolerate. It’s kind of embarrassing.

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  1. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    John spent months separated from his family in order to help found a nation. He subjected himself intentionally to small pox in an effort to gain immunity and ensure his ability to perform the role he needed to play at the continental congress.

    John Adams risked small pox (fatality rate of 30%) to get us the vote. We won’t risk Covid (fatality rate <1%) to ensure that the vote is honest and real.

    I was not aware of that fact about John Adams. What a bunch of softies we have become.

    • #1
  2. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Very well said, as usual, @keithlowery. It’s also a great reminder of how little many of us (myself included) are ready to sacrifice for our own comfort and security. I sometimes wonder just how I would perform were I in some of our Founders’ shoes.

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I read David McCullough’s biography of John Adams. He and Abigail were an amazing couple; the love and respect they shared, the sacrifices they made during John’s long absences, and the strength and resilience of Abigail showed how they were willing to sacrifice much for each other and the nation.

    People today have no clue about that kind of devotion.

    • #3
  4. Steven Galanis Coolidge
    Steven Galanis
    @Steven Galanis

    I’ll set a foot in church for a funeral service, but that’s about it, because some good people are still dying. Once the dearly departed are all gone, however, who will have the heart to light a candle?

     

    • #4
  5. Nathanael Ferguson Contributor
    Nathanael Ferguson
    @NathanaelFerguson

    John Adams risked smallpox (fatality rate of 30%) to get us the vote. We won’t risk Covid (fatality rate <1%) to ensure that the vote is honest and real.

    Wow. What a juxtaposition! (In his hayday, Drudge would have been proud. RIP.)

    • #5
  6. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    I too read David McCullough’s bio of Adams.  His daughter endured a mastectomy without anesthesia.  She survived the operation, but the cancer did kill her.

    We live very comfortable lives, and we’re weak because of it.

    • #6
  7. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    There’s such a thing as being too prosperous.  And we Baby Boomers, who invented the contraceptive pill so women could have sex without consequences; had fewer children in order to have careers; coddled and babied the children we did have, and protected them from life; and neglected to teach them to appreciate the liberty and prosperity we have here in the United States, bear a large part of the responsibility for the situation our country is in today.  We invented the environmental movement, which teaches that humans are a blot on the planet, and that has been quite destructive too.

    These days, the only time “honor” is discussed, it is in the context of Muslim “honor killings” of women, which the radical feminists among us refuse to denounce.

    • #7
  8. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I read David McCullough’s biography of John Adams. He and Abigail were an amazing couple; the love and respect they shared, the sacrifices they made during John’s long absences, and the strength and resilience of Abigail showed how they were willing to sacrifice much for each other and the nation.

    People today have no clue about that kind of devotion.

    @susanquinn

    I know what you mean. I have seen, however, some young military wives who know a thing or two about devotion and sacrifice. They have been poorly used and taken advantage of by the political class. (e.g. How might a young wife, whose husband came home from Afghanistan without his legs, conceive of that war and the people who ran it?) But some of them have shown no less devotion, nor sacrificed less, than Abigail Adams.

    The foreign policy establishment has taken advantage of devoted young Americans who love their country, and it has shown an appalling willingness to quite literally use those people up. Often for nothing more than speculative global foreign policy experiments that have little to do with our national interest.   

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):
    I know what you mean. I have seen, however, some young military wives who know a thing or two about devotion and sacrifice.

    You are absolutely right, Keith. Thank you for reminding me. I honor them.

    • #9
  10. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    The OP is as powerful a rebuke of our laxness about liberty as I have read. We have become the children that Adams described who “do not prefer [a free constitution of government] to ample fortune, to ease and elegance….” He would abjure such a people. 

    • #10
  11. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    It’s good that we’ve conquered most diseases.  A bad cold is about it now days, but kids have to be taught why, who and when and we don’t even do that.  We still had folks protecting us when I was young.    Abroad especially  but I don’t know if embassy folks even get out any more.   I got a lot of  tropical diseases that made the corona virus we all got, seem quite mild.  I was  chased by a young man on a motor cycles whose intention was murder, but we had armed plated van, lots of guards and were at little risk, my kid with me thought it exciting.   That now occurs increasingly here without guards or armed  vans..   We’re letting it all go and on purpose.  

    • #11
  12. Raxxalan Member
    Raxxalan
    @Raxxalan

    I Walton (View Comment):

    It’s good that we’ve conquered most diseases. A bad cold is about it now days, but kids have to be taught why, who and when and we don’t even do that. We still had folks protecting us when I was young. Abroad especially but I don’t know if embassy folks even get out any more. I got a lot of tropical diseases that made the corona virus we all got, seem quite mild. I was chased by a young man on a motor cycles whose intention was murder, but we had armed plated van, lots of guards and were at little risk, my kid with me thought it exciting. That now occurs increasingly here without guards or armed vans.. We’re letting it all go and on purpose.

    Because it wasn’t perfect you see.  Despite the fact that good is really more then us poor sinners have a right to expect.  The left thinks perfect is attainable and they are willing to destroy all that is to build it back into their little utopia.  No one bothered to tell them utopia means nowhere,  cause that is the only place it can exist.

    • #12
  13. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Steven Galanis (View Comment):

    I’ll set a foot in church for a funeral service, but that’s about it, because some good people are still dying. Once the dearly departed are all gone, however, who will have the heart to light a candle?

     

    How does staying out of church help those good people or prevent them from dying?

    • #13
  14. FredGoodhue Coolidge
    FredGoodhue
    @FredGoodhue

    Back when I was in boy scouts, we would go camping most months.  My Father had zero interest in being one of the Fathers who would go out with us.  He said he had camped enough for Uncle Sam in Korea and Vietnam.

    • #14
  15. Headedwest Inactive
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    FredGoodhue (View Comment):

    Back when I was in boy scouts, we would go camping most months. My Father had zero interest in being one of the Fathers who would go out with us. He said he had camped enough for Uncle Sam in Korea and Vietnam.

    I knew several WW2 vets who said they completely satisfied all their interest in sleeping in a tent during the war.

    • #15
  16. Steven Galanis Coolidge
    Steven Galanis
    @Steven Galanis

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Steven Galanis (View Comment):

    I’ll set a foot in church for a funeral service, but that’s about it, because some good people are still dying. Once the dearly departed are all gone, however, who will have the heart to light a candle?

    How does staying out of church help those good people or prevent them from dying?

    It doesn’t, but there simply is no church sacrament that offers the common touch the way that death does.

    • #16
  17. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Steven Galanis (View Comment):

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Steven Galanis (View Comment):

    I’ll set a foot in church for a funeral service, but that’s about it, because some good people are still dying. Once the dearly departed are all gone, however, who will have the heart to light a candle?

    How does staying out of church help those good people or prevent them from dying?

    It doesn’t, but there simply is no church sacrament that offers the common touch the way that death does.

    What does that even mean?!

    • #17
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