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The price for our liberty

At 3 p.m. Monday, pay your respects: At least observe a moment of silence or listen to ‘Taps.’

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Come Monday, many Americans will simply enjoy a day off from work, perhaps barbecue, go the beach, get drunk or stoned. But some Americans, not many in proportion to 330 million of us, actually will honor the true meaning of Memorial Day. It is the national holiday we commemorate and remember every American who died in service to our country.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, that number now exceeds 1,226,330 — from the Revolutionary War through 2022. The largest number of military losses occurred in the Civil War (498,332) and World War II (405,399). 

Those totals are incomprehensible. The deaths during the Civil War and World War II are the equivalent of wiping out the populations of Manatee and Sarasota counties.

What’s more, think of the effects:  the lost lives and their lost futures and the families — the millions and millions more who had to mourn the deaths of their loved ones. 

For what?

The Revolutionary War was for liberty. World Wars I and II and the Korean and Vietnam wars were to stop the advancement of totalitarian dictators and the destruction and enslavement of democratic societies. Typically, war occurs because megalomaniac rulers and dictators (not leaders) believe they are entitled to more land, more economic resources and more power — and have no compunction about sacrificing the lives of their people toward those ends. Today, think: Putin, Hamas, Iran, etc.

Students from Sarasota Military Academy each year remind attendees at the annual Memorial Day Parade on Main Street in Sarasota of the price of freedom.

On Memorial Day, think of the banner that the students from Sarasota Military Academy carry in Sarasota’s Memorial Day parade: “Freedom is not Free.” And perhaps do what President Bill Clinton inaugurated for every Memorial Day. He declared it also a National Day of Remembrance — to pause at 3 p.m. for a moment of silence or to listen to a rendition of “Taps.”

God bless America. God bless those who died for the cause of freedom.

Rand: The ‘supreme value’ and virtue of our military

Editor’s note: In 1974, “Atlas Shrugged” author and philosopher Ayn Rand spoke to the West Point graduating class. The title of her remarks: “Philosophy: Who needs it.”

Toward the end of her speech, Rand spoke of her admiration for West Point graduates and the U.S. military. Although 40 years old, her remarks — much like her philosophy and two best-sellers, “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” — are still relevant today, particularly so as we commemorate Memorial Day:

Ayn Rand

… In this context I want to say I have always admired the posture of West Point graduates. I mean it.

A posture that projects man in proud disciplined control of his body.

Well, philosophical training gives men the proper intellectual posture. A proud disciplined control of his mind.

In your own profession, in military science, you know the importance of keeping track of the enemy’s weapons, strategy and tactics. And of being prepared to counter them.

The same is true in philosophy.

You have to understand the enemy’s ideas and be prepared to refute them.

You have to know his basic arguments and be able to blast them.

In physical warfare, you would not send your men into a booby trap. You would make every effort to discover its location.

Well, (Immanuel) Kant’s system is the biggest and most intricate booby trap in the history of philosophy.

But it’s so full of holes that once you grasp its gimmick, you can defuse it without any trouble and walk forward over it in perfect safety.

And once it is defused, the lesser Kantians, the lower ranks of his army, the philosophical sergeants, buck privates and mercenaries of today will fall of their own weightlessness by chain reaction.

There is a special reason why you, the future leaders of the United States Army, need to be philosophically armed today.

You are the target of a special attack by the Kantian Hegelian collectivist establishment that dominates our cultural institutions at present.

You are the army of the last semi-free country left on earth. Yet you are accused of being a tool of imperialism.

And imperialism is the name given to the foreign policy of this country, which has never engaged in military conquest and has never profited from the two world wars which it did not initiate but entered and won.

It was, incidentally, a foolishly over-generous policy, a policy which made this country waste her wealth on helping both her allies and her former enemies.

Something called the military industrial complex, which is a myth or worse, is being blamed for all of this country’s troubles.

College hoodlums scream demands that ROTC units be banned from college campuses.

Our defense budget is being attacked, denounced and undercut by people who claim that financial priority should be given to ecological rose gardens and to classes in aesthetic self-expression for the residents of the slums. Some of you may be bewildered by this campaign and may be wondering in good faith what errors you committed to bring it about.

If so, it is urgently important for you to understand the nature of the enemy.

You are attacked not for any errors or flaws, but for your virtues. You are denounced not for any weaknesses but for your strengths and your competence.

You are penalized for being the protectors of the United States.

On a lower level of the same issue, a similar kind of campaign is conducted against the police force.

Those who seek to destroy this country seek to disarm it intellectually and physically.

But it is not a mere political issue. Politics is not the cause but the last consequence of philosophical ideas.

It is not a communist conspiracy, though some communists may be involved as maggots cashing in on a disaster they had no power to originate.

The motive of the destroyers is not love for communism but hatred for America.

Why hatred?

Because America is the living refutation of a Kantian universe.

Today’s mawkish concern with and compassion for the people, the flawed, the suffering, the guilty, is a cover for the profoundly Kantian hatred of the innocent, the strong, the able, the successful, the virtuous, the confident, the happy.

A philosophy out to destroy man’s mind is necessarily a philosophy of hatred for man, for man’s life and for every human value.

Hatred of the good for being the good is the hallmark of the 20th century.

This is the enemy you are facing.

A battle of this kind requires special weapons.

It has to be fought with a full understanding of your cause, a full confidence in yourself and the fullest certainty of the moral rightness of both.

Only philosophy can provide you with these weapons.

The assignment I gave myself for tonight is not to sell you on my philosophy but on philosophy as such.

I have, however, been speaking implicitly of my philosophy in every sentence since none of us and no statement can escape from philosophical premises.

What is my selfish interest in the matter?

I am confident enough to think that if you accept the importance of philosophy and the task of examining it critically, it is my philosophy that you will come to accept.

Formally, I call it objectivism, but informally, I call it a philosophy for living on earth.

You will find an explicit presentation of it in my books, particularly in “Atlas Shrugged.”

In conclusion, allow me to speak in personal terms.

This evening means a great deal to me. I feel deeply honored by the opportunity to address you.

I can say not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and aesthetic roots that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest, and in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world.

There is a kind of quiet radiance associated in my mind with the name West Point because you have preserved the spirit of those original founding principles, and you are their symbol.

There were contradictions and omissions in those principles, and they may be in yours, but I am speaking of the essentials.

There may be individuals in your history who did not live up to your highest standards, as there are in every institution, since no institution and no social system can guarantee the automatic perfection of all its members.

This depends on an individual’s free will.

I am speaking of your standards.

You have preserved three qualities of character, which were typical at the time of America’s birth, but are virtually nonexistent today.

Earnestness, dedication, a sense of honor.

Honor is self-esteem made visible in action.

You have chosen to risk your lives for the defense of this country.

I will not insult you by saying that you are dedicated to selfless service.

It is not a virtue in my morality.

In my morality, the defense of one’s country means that a man is personally unwilling to live as the conquered slave of any enemy, foreign or domestic.

This is an enormous virtue.

Some of you may not be consciously aware of it.

I want to help you to realize it.

The army of a free country has a great responsibility: The right to use force, but not as an instrument of compulsion and brute conquest, as the armies of other countries have done in their histories. Only as an instrument of a free nation’s self-defense, which means the defense of man’s individual rights.

The principle of using force only in retaliation against those who initiate its use is the principle of subordinating might to right.

The highest integrity and sense of honor are required for such a task.

No other army in the world has achieved it.

You have.

West Point has given America a long line of heroes, known and unknown.

You, this year’s graduates, have a glorious tradition to carry on, which I admire profoundly, not because it is a tradition, but because it is glorious.

Since I came from a country guilty of the worst tyranny on earth, I am particularly able to appreciate the meaning, the greatness and the supreme value of that which you are defending.

So in my own name and in the name of many people who think as I do, I want to say to all the men of West Point, past, present and future. … Thank you.



Matt Walsh

Matt Walsh is the CEO and founder of Observer Media Group.

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