Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Friday, May 13, 2005


I recently found myself struggling to explain the word "honor" to my two children, at which point I realized that the concept really doesn't exist any more in our culture. Diana West makes the same point in a really lovely column about recent obituaries for British WWII veterans, most of which recount their wartime bravery:

But there is more to these tales than derring-do. There is usually a line, maybe two, that offers the modern-day reader an almost shocking glimpse of a mode of behavior based on virtues unconstrained by the strictures of modern-day hipness, smarts and irony. For example, in his account of the final moments of the Neptune, Petty Officer Walton described clinging to the side of a raft in cold, heavy seas thick with oil. "We saw the ship capsize and sink, and gave her a cheer as she went down." Was it a huzzah, maybe? Hip, hip, hooray? In their struggle for survival, these doomed sailors could still muster a salute that would save not their lives, but their gallantry. Only I can see it now: Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show," ripping this beau geste into ironic little bits.
I think honor is a good thing, the antithesis of the self-referential PC, therapeutic model that permeates our culture nowadays. I was very aware when watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy that the movie was based on Tolkein's conceptions about good and evil, and about honor. The heroic band hung together because it was the honorable thing to do. Even the tormented Boromir (played by Sean Bean, one of my favorite actors), did the honorable thing in the end. Why do I mention this movie series? Because, given the trilogy's incredible popularity, I remember asking my friend whether he thought the movie would introduce the ideas of good vs. evil and of honor -- two very non-modern, non-PC ideas -- to a younger generation. He doubted it. I still wonder.