“He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat”
—”The Battle Hymn of the Republic”
Listening, unfortunately, to the Battle Hymn at church this morning, this line from the song caught my attention.
This “never call retreat” lyric really captures something about the U.S. We saw this as a war policy in the war between the states itself. But also in the U.S. concentration camps in the Philippines during the Spanish American War, in the brutal finish to World War I, in the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan even as it tried to surrender in World War II. We struggle to find an example of the U.S. excelling in diplomacy, negotiation, or compromise.
But these are examples of the U.S. state. Is this really an observation that applies to society in the U.S.? We have good reason to doubt it, at least in regards to what this society was. Gary North cites these (among others) as key slogans or principles for understanding what is unique about American society:
- Mind your own business.
- Live and let live.
- Let’s make a deal.
“The trumpet that shall never call retreat” seems like an almost opposite principle: A principle of no compromise (no deals), of getting into other people’s business, of not letting other people live.
It a principle that the peaceful society rejects.
11:07 am on July 1, 2012 Email Stephen W. Carson