Can the power of vague propaganda be combated with specificity? It seems I was not alone in seeing and hearing the Nazi-reminiscent word choices and themes in the “Restoring Honor” event on Saturday.
Patrick from Palingates raised a very good point:
…events like the one which happened today are crossing a line, and more importantly, many Americans don’t seem to notice it – probably because there is a lack of "sensitivity" to certain keywords, methods and images.
This is different in Europe, especially in Germany. It’s starts already with the title of the event: "Restoring honor."
It would be impossible that one of the main political parties in Germany to choose such a title for an event – because "honor" (in German: "Ehre") was one of the keywords of Nazi-ideology.
The word "honor" was used (and abused) by the Nazis for good reason. It’s very vague, can be interpreted in many ways and somehow appeals to patriotic emotions – but it’s quite difficult to establish what exactly it is, how it can be damaged, and how it can be restored.
However, one thing is clear: Nobody wants to be "without honor."
Perhaps the way to combat such propaganda is to make specific that which is vague. Sarah Palin, according to her speech, would have us define honor as birthing soldiers or being a soldier.
Is the only path to honor through the military?
There is no reason that we need to let the Tea Party or even the Republican Party define honor. The dictionary defines honor as “honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions.”
Culturally, there does seem to be an element of sacrifice to the word “honor,” doesn’t there?
When I look to my own life and think of honorable people, I think of my father first. Yes, he was a soldier in the Korean war—two or three purple hearts—but if he’d ever been asked what the most honorable deeds of his life were, I’m fairly certain he would not have put war on his list. I do know that he withdrew from school to take care of his dying mother, sacrificing a dream to be a teacher in order to take care of family.
Perhaps I would define honor as “sacrificing in order to be honest, fair, and maintain integrity—even when it’s dangerous or inconvenient.”
I think of respecting the dignity of every human being, of every race, religion, and sexuality. I think of a social responsibility not just to protect our people through the use of military, but also to protect them from ignorance and crime through education, ill heath through accessible health care, and to honor each individual’s choice of religion—even if it may not be my own.
Even so, that definition is still too vague.
How do we know when we’ve achieved honor? I say it’s when every man and woman in the country has health care. When our five freedoms are consistently upheld. When all are free to marry. When our politics are not based upon racism. When the speeches of our politicians do not encourage hatred. When we don’t allow the greed of capitalism to let health institutions and food companies to cause ill health in our populace. When our international policies do not cause poverty in another country.
There is another definition of honor: “high public esteem.”
To that, I would hope that the United States would be once again known as an international PEACEmaker (and not through war), an example of tolerance and diversity, and an example of human freedoms (including freedom of religion).
How would you define honor? And if we are truly to set about “restoring honor,” what specific things would make you think we’ve restored our honor? What did I forget?