Armistice Day, 11.11.1911, is marked as Veterans Day in the United States. And, as is custom, the half-time show at the Carolian home game that weekend is a tribute to the Armed Services. Usual, good, solid, patriotic affair. Martial music, specific veterans honored, war heroes extolled. It really struck me just how martial a society this really is, and how much a part of life the military is, especially in the South. The battles in far away Afghanistan and Iraq are actually quite close -- a USC alum who lost his life in Afghanistan is honored as 83000 people bow in silence. His widow is present on the field, and is cheered loudly. Anoter alum, now serving in Iraq sends his best wishes to the Gamecocks (more cheers). Yes one is quite aware how close this is, given the number of people I know who are about to be commissioned, and will quite likely end up in Iraq, sooner or later.
I found myself wandering to that oft-quoted line from Horace, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. And recalling Wilfred Owen's WWI poem that ends with that line (we had to memorize it in 8th grade after all). There's warring sentiments for you.
Proper patriotism is, however, a virtue. And one's politics should not blind one to the duty to support our troops.
I find myself quite moved by such displays of patriotism. Maybe it's a sort of naya musulman kind of thing, you know (a Gujarati phrase meaning "new Muslim," or "the zeal of the convert" in its English equivalent). I do love my adoptive homeland [obviously, a little too much. Unlike my compatriots here, who hoot and whistle loudly during the "Rocket's red glare" (as fireworks are fired from one end of the stadium. Would they ever do that during Jana gana mana in India? I think not!), I solemnly sing the National Anthem to the end, and then cheer loudly]. I joined in the singing (rather hoarsely and lustily) of "God Bless America", as four low-flying F-16's thundered overhead, and as red-white and blue balloons rose up in the clear deep blue sky.
Pray for all our veterans, and for our troops.
Here's a picture of the field at half time (courtesy Joe M)