[dropcaps] I [/dropcaps] began as your lecturer outlining that the first series of talks would be about the four principles of our Order. I took a detour for the last two months because of the holidays, but this evening I will resume with the fourth principle – Patriotism.
As I prepared this lecture, I realized there are two related topics: first the creation of the Fourth Degree and second the selection of Patriotism as the principle of that degree. The Fourth Degree and the fourth principle were added to our order in 1900. The first Fourth Degree Exemplification took place on Columbus Day 1900 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. I believe the Fourth Degree and the addition of the fourth principle were natural results of the events that preceded the start of the 20th century.
In 1898, the United States became involved in a conflict with a European nation for the first time since the War of 1812. The Maine, a U.S. Navy ship, was anchored in Havana harbor officially to protect American interests as the Cuban people struggled under Spanish rule. Unofficially, the ship was there in support of the Cuban uprising. Unexpectedly, the ship exploded and sank with the loss of several American sailors.
The U.S. press reported there was a suspicion that the explosion was the deliberate act of the Spanish colonial government, and “Remember the Maine!” became the rallying cry of Spanish-American War. Recent theory suggests the explosion might have resulted from an accumulation of methane gas given off by the coal the ship used for fuel and a spark of unknown origin.
However, what’s done is done. Among other results of this very short war, the United States emerged from our isolationism of the 19th century, becoming a world power as the U.S. gained several overseas possessions. The U.S. also annexed Hawaii in a move to protect our new Pacific possessions.
Patriotism can easily be defined as the love one has for his country. We express our Patriotism in several ways, several of which involve our country’s flag. I’ll save the history of our flag for another time. Instead, I mention other signs of Patriotism: The “Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States. The lyrics come from “Defense of Fort McHenry,” a poem written in 1814 by Francis Scott Kay after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” was recognized for official use by the Navy in 1889 and by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. It was made the national anthem by a congressional resolution on March 3, 1931.
The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States is an expression of loyalty to the federal flag and the republic of the United States of America, composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892 and formally adopted by Congress as the pledge in 1942. The Pledge has been modified four times since its composition. I recall that when I was in elementary school, President Eisenhower had the words “under God” added. Most of our “patriotic” songs were written in the first half of the 20th century.
I hope that our patriotism goes deeper than the outward signs, much deeper than waving the flag, repeating the Pledge of Allegiance or standing with your hat or hand over your heart as our national anthem is played. Patriotism is that feeling of pride we will experience when our Olympic athletes mount that award platform a few weeks from now halfway around the world. Those gestures, although significant, are merely the outward sign of what we call Patriotism.
Most of this world’s countries developed along ethnic lines, and their citizens share a common ancestry, language and set of moral values. Our country did not develop as others have. Instead, we are a nation of immigrants. Other nations are referred to as “The Mother Country” or “The Fatherland” while we have a Department of Homeland Security. We refer to ourselves as “something-American.” Although we come from various ancestral homelands, we share a common belief in the words our founding fathers put down in our Declaration of Independence and the system of government that was established in 1787. Our founding fathers did not always agree on the structure our country should take or the course we should pursue in world affairs. They faced great questions of liberty and equality as they worked to draw up the blueprint for our democracy.
We owe them all a great depth of gratitude for, in their wisdom or the lack thereof, they produced the document that has evolved into the governmental structure we have today. The document they formulated in 1787 has undergone only 27 modifications in the last two-and-a-quarter centuries. I could go on, but I won’t. That is best left to those more knowledgeable than myself.
Instead, I would like to reflect for a moment on what I have observed over the last 20 or so years. I would attend my son’s football games and would stand for the playing of the national anthem. I would remove my hat as I had been taught as far back as the first grade, and I would notice that not everyone was doing what I was doing. I would attend a Rangers baseball game and observe the same kind of behavior with the addition of no interruption in cell-phone conversations.
A few years ago, I attended a minority business dinner here in Dallas. Before we were allowed into the banquet room, there was a cocktail hour with a musician playing for entertainment. He had several different saxophones that he was using and played a variety of jazz pieces. After we were allowed into the banquet hall and were sitting down waiting for dinner to be served, he continued to play. He was over halfway through a piece when the room became much quieter; just about everyone realized the piece that he was blasting out on his sax was our national anthem. At the following year’s event, the anthem was introduced and sung by a middle school choir.
Agreed the anthem is not an easy piece to sing, but I have heard it abused more and more as the years have passed. It is not jazz. It is not country. It is not soul. It is our national anthem.
Patriotism for me includes an abundance of respect. Respect for that flag, respect for that song and respect for those who have given so much for this country and the principles that they represent. It is a lack of respect that is eroding our society. We need to respect the opinions of others, their beliefs, customs and traditions. We are not obligated to adopt those opinions, beliefs, etc., but we are obligated to respect their rights to have them.
Our Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal and that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” These are the beliefs upon which our country is based. These are the ideas that have preserved our nation for over 200 years, and these are the ideas upon which American Patriotism rests.