What Is This "Honor" Stuff, Anyway?
A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
"Honor is simply the morality of superior men." ... H. L. Mencken.
"National honor is the national property of the highest value." ... James Monroe
Honor was a big thing in my family. Many were the times my father lectured me on family honor, on "reputation," and maintaining a "good name." He often explained to me that when all the extraneous stuff is finally boiled away, all a man really owns is his "good name."
I am sorely afraid we Americans, as a people, have forgotten the importance of honor. In fact, I
sometimes feel we have lost our connection to honor, somehow, and we
don't even understand the concept of principled uprightness of character
and personal integrity.
We southerners seem to no longer have a connection to our oft-touted "Code of Honor." When we refer to the Field of Honor these days folks automatically think of an athletic field rather than a remote area reserved for a contest of honor, a duel, to defend one's honor, or the honor of a maiden fair, or something equally as important.
The Southern Code of Honor was a code of integrity, dignity, and pride, chiefly among men -- but -- it most assuredly applied to our women folk, as well.
The North had its code of honor, as well -- "the
Northern code of honor was very much like that of Victorian England: a
standard predicated on civility, piety, morality, Stoicism, and hard
True to the multiple differences that divided the northern and southern cultures, however, there was a HUGE
difference. The northern code allowed for a man to walk away from a
fight with his honor undented, while just the opposite was true for the
southerner. As we shall see, once challenged, for a southerner to
walk away from a fight, a duel, was for more damaging to him, his
reputation, and that of his family, than showing up for the duel and
getting himself killed. Having a family member killed in a duel was a badge of honor for some southern families.
During the early days of the War for Southern Independence, a moderately sized town just twenty miles, or so, from my hometown was forced to establish what were then known as "Honor Courts," in which disputes between two men -- about to duel to the death -- were tried. Both parties swore to abide by the Court's ruling. The town's crop of young men was dangerously close to being wiped-out by the combination of the war and duels.
To understand the importance of honor amongst the southern gentry, one must understand southern society.
Southern aristocracy was about one notch below European nobility. Some would argue it was certainly the equal of European aristocracy.
was very little cash money circulating within the southern plantation
system. Monetary worth was based on ownership of land, on crops,
cattle, and yes, slaves. Financing such huge operations often relied
upon the barter system.
Contracts were often sealed with a promise (a man's word) and a handshake. THAT was
considered sacred. That promise, a man's word, and that all important
handshake, crossed all societal lines in the south. It was a measure of a
man's honor, his good name, how well he kept his word. Southern culture was, indeed, a culture of honor.
southern gentleman exuded courtesy. Status, courage, family, and the
all important relationship between shame and pride were all integral
parts of the formula for the character of a true southern gentleman.
And there was something else, something we have way too little of today. It was something called "R E S P E C T."
Respect is a form, a way, if you will, of demonstrating one's honor for
someone, some thing, or some entity, idea, or what not. Among
men, respect is earned and not easily -- or carelessly -- given. It has
often been said that to gain respect one must give respect.
Lest you think the southern code of honor is a myth, consider this: "Laboratory
research has demonstrated that men in honor cultures perceive
interpersonal threats more readily than do men in other cultures,
including increases in cortisol and testosterone levels following
insults." SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_honor_%28Southern_United_States%29
A true Southern Gentleman would never insult a woman. He was/is always careful to be chivalrous towards women, in words and deeds. Insulting
a lady in the presence of a Southern Gentleman has been known to bring
violent retribution down on the heads of the offending low-life. Those
who understand the southern culture of honor understand that the kind,
courteous, respectful gentleman can, in the twinkling of an eye, bring
down retributive violence -- with great alacrity -- and -- without notice. He is ALWAYS prepared to resort to violence if, and when, the situation requires it.
Now, gentle reader, all the above is from the perspective of a born and bred, very proud, southern male ... namely -- me.
C. S. Lewis once said: "We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst." (The Abolition of Man) How apropos for twenty-first century America!
I broach the subject of honor to remind us all that there is such a thing as national honor, too.
I have often thought that courage and honor are forever linked to one another. That would apply to national courage and honor as well as to that of individuals.
Aristotle said: "You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind NEXT TO HONOR."
The state motto of the state of North Carolina is: "To be, rather than to seem." I have often wondered if that motto was based upon one of Socrates' pearls of wisdom -- namely -- this one: "The greatest way to live with HONOR in this world is to be what we pretend to be."
pains me to acknowledge that America's national honor has been badly
besmirched in the last few days by the actions -- and inactions -- of
the one man responsible for protecting that honor.
It is our contention, President Obama should offer his resignation and step down from office. In doing so he would preserve SOME of the respect his fellow Americans had for him prior to the Syrian/Russia debacle.
Doug Patton, in an article published at Canada Free Press entitled: "The Most Embarrassing President of My Lifetime" says the following:
"Obama is a symbol of much of today’s generation, which accepts no
responsibility for anything. Therefore, when something goes wrong among
his cockamamie plans, it must be someone else’s fault. Usually, of
course, it would be George Bush’s fault, but even Obama couldn’t bring
himself to tell that one again, not in this case. No, this time it’s the
whole world’s fault. And Congress. And America. It’s American
credibility that will suffer, he told the world, not his. Unbelievable." SOURCE: http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/57727
Mr. Patton is spot-on! Mr. Obama demonstrates ZERO knowledge of honor, personal and/or national honor.
Friedrich Schiller reminded us all that: "That nation is worthless which does not joyfully stake everything on her honor."
America's debasement in the eyes of the world is a stinging insult, a back-handed rebuke to every citizen of America.
Honor demands Mr. Obama step down.
© J. D. Longstreet