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a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Our sacred Honor (repost)

Posted by Thomas Nephew on July 4th, 2007

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.

Our sacred honor. We mutually pledge to each other our sacred honor.

Two hundred and twenty nine years later, “honor” is not a word that’s used much in America any more. It’s hard not to think those final words of the Declaration of Independence are outdated and quaint. The word often isn’t merited, of course, but it’s often not even aspired to.


Some suspect we’re returning to an age of irony — it can seem the only defense against the repeated abuse or expropriation of important words like “freedom” or “democracy,” whether by Presidents or car salesmen, or against acts that make a mockery of the values we supposedly believe in. Irony is useful; it serves the need to laugh, the need to avoid crushing earnestness.

But irony is inadequate to face anything important for long. It’s inadequate to deal with revelations that your country was misled and lied to to goad it into war — and too many of your country’s citizens seem to shrug and call that “bad PR.” It’s inadequate to the knowledge that those liars would stoop to treason to smear their opponents. It doesn’t help you as you learn that your country is guilty of torture, and that too many of your country’s citizens seem not to care about that, either.

I’m trying to move beyond disappointment and irony to a kind of declaration of independence of my own. Were I to draft one, it might include a decent respect for the opinions of all mankind, but not an abject one. It would require me to thoroughly question every statement from my country’s political and opinion leaders, especially ones supporting war or diminished civil and human rights. It would require I never shrug my shoulders and turn away when my country does wrong, even and especially when my countrymen cheer that wrong or make excuses for it.

But this being a personal declaration, it would also use personal terms. It would require that I choose honor over irony, over apathy, and over apprehension.

And it could conclude by pledging that honor to return this country to the ideals it chose so long ago, and that it once defended for so long.

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FIRST POSTED July 4, 2005.

5 Responses to “Our sacred Honor (repost)”

  1. Nell Says:

    Thanks, Thomas. Confusion to George the Third! And to George the Forty-third!!
    Wishing you and your family a happy Fourth.

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Thanks, Nell. We’ve had a great time so far. Pictures at 11!
    Happy July 4th!

  3. eRobin Says:

    Great post! I was shocked to see that it was written in 2005, but recovered quickly. We’ve been on this bad road for quite a while now. It takes unreasonable optimism to believe that we’ll be able to turn the bus around with any sort of speed once BushCo is out of the White House.

  4. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Thank you very much! I heard that final line from the Declaration on NPR today; I always well up when I hear it, and I remembered how I felt in 05 — much less hopeful than I feel now, though with the MCA and the Iraq 2 steps forward, 1.99 steps back, that may be just my unreasonable optimism.
    Anyway, that’s part of why I want to start turning the bus around now with impeachment talk and action and (dream with me) successes. I think one important benefit is that it opens peoples’ minds to the notion that it’s their Constitution to uphold and defend, too, that they don’t need to just take the TV set’s word for it that this is all just news beyond their interests or control.

  5. eRobin Says:

    I’m all about the impeachment movement. I put the Impeach 07 gif up at my site thanks to your inspiring work on the subject. I do think though that the movement is more valuable than an actual impeachment would be.

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