My children, I feel to leave you with a message that is dear to my heart. It is about ones honor. I can only voice this with a voice of the past, before the time you were born and your parents, and maybe your grandparents even, were born. A mans honor – especially a mans, since men transacted most of the business and did most of the governing – was sacred.
To imply that a mans word was no good was a fighting offense. To imply that a mans character was flawed was a fighting offense. I can remember a time when I was about twelve years old I was at my grandfather’s home when two men drove up to his yard fence in a pickup truck. One of the men exited the truck and told my grandfather that his cattle were in his(the man’s) field. My grandfather replied in his Mississippi drawl that he was indeed sorry, and would be happy to pay damages and would get them out immediately. The man was not happy with that and said outright that he believed my grandfather had turned them in on purpose.
With that, my grandfather pulled an ax from a block of wood and vaulted the fence and was headed for the man. The man immediately jumped in his truck and backed away. My grandfather was 68 at that time. He died that next spring May 13, 1953. I so miss him and his influence. His father had fought all the way through the Civil War. To grandfather, honor was foremost, to never be doubted, and to be defended at all costs.
In his generation and the generations before him, a man could affirm a contract with the shake of a hand, and a word of honor.
To break that oath would so devalue you, that it could well ruin your life. We can remember from our history books the duel between our third Vice President of these United States Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Burr killed Hamilton, and was never tried for it. It was accepted. Now I am not saying that should be a standard, far from it. I was only using it as an illustration.
The point I am trying to make is that without a sense of honor, people are liable to do or act in anyway they see fit. I can remember seeing young men going around with their trousers belted below their buttocks because they can. Because they deem it a fashion statement. It doesn’t make any difference that they can barely walk, much less do any manual labor. They emulate the criminal element of society. It is an absence of personal honor.
It used to be that if a person was insulted or if a member of his family was insulted, it was considered acceptable to punch the insulting person in the nose. Now if one is to do that he risks imprisonment, a smudge on his record, that might render him unacceptable for employment, or for a list of other rights he might have. So, as a result, we are forced into a world of litigation in overcrowded courts, with a criminal justice system that is about as fair as the kangaroo courts of older times. So, depending on how great the offense, people will resort to the shadows for retribution. That is and can be far worse than a poke in the nose, and lead to an even worse turn of events for them and the families of both sides.
Now let’s go back to the disciplinary history that I feel has created all this. I went to school with an old man teacher from 4th thru 7th grades. If you were disobedient or unruly, you were brought up before class and had to lay across his lap. He might or might not use the paddle that lay on his desk always for the first offense. But somehow, lying there staring down at the floor with all the other students watching, was a humbling and thought-provoking experience. If it did turn into a spanking, well, I don’t ever remember anyone going back for seconds. And the only scars seemed to on your pride. This teacher, R.I.P., Mr. J.W. England was much beloved teacher by ALL of his students. He boarded with us for two years during the school week. On Friday, when school closed, he walked fourteen miles back to his home. And on Monday morning, he walked fourteen miles back to start the weekly classes. He was in his late 60’s. I learned a lot about honor from him. Teachers now, if they touch a child for an disciplinary purpose, most usually lose their jobs and the right to teach. And because young people know this, they have no respect for the teachers and feel they can behave as they wish. If you have no respect, you have no honor.
I was in a popular store the other day and as I stood in line to pay for my purchases I observed a child of six or seven taking things off the shelf and throwing them in the floor. The mother simply ignored the situation. When she finished her transaction, she simply took the child and left, leaving all the goods on the floor. She obviously had no respect. Without respect, there is no honor.
I would be the last to say that it is a good thing for children to be disciplined in a manner that would harm them. But they do need, and often in their own way, beg for it.
Our behavior as children is a small thing in itself. But as children we grow up and when we grow up with that lack of respect and without a sense of personal honor it effects everyone. It is not just a family thing or a community thing, it becomes a national disrespect and sometimes even broader. And when these unruly children grow up and become leaders or legislators or judges or business leaders or whatever they become, then maybe it turns into the world we are now experiencing. I am an old man, I remember a different kind of society where the “ME” person was looked down on, and the outlaw was not revered. Where the selfish were a subject for shaking of heads and avoidance. President John Kennedy once uttered these famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” We could do well to paraphrase those words into other aspects of our life, maybe using instead of country, try using friends, family, community, neighbors. I know that the people of the world, our country, our community, haven’t changed. Not really. They have just been taught wrong. They have forgotten the basic precepts of humanity. Honor has been forgotten, respect is misused and corrupted.
Yeah, you may say just I’m an old man, rambling on. Well, maybe. But tell me where am I wrong. What makes you think that our present state of affairs are better? Tell me your definition of honor. And don’t think I will accept excuses, ’cause I won’t. I have known honorable men, and I have observed the template that created them. I have seen that other template being used as well, and I have seen some of the examples of its creation as well. I may ask you to explain the differences and quantify their properties. But at the end of my rant I will humble myself, and beg on bended knee, that you give my thoughts consideration. We have had many things on our Mother Earth go extinct – plants, animals, fish, civilizations, cultures. I don’t want our world to follow because we have forgotten what it is to have