Honoring Those Who Have Fallen in Defense of the Good
For obvious reasons, I think we'll jump ahead today and discuss the third of The Four Cardinal Virtues, fortitude. While on the one hand they form a vertical hierarchy (prudence --> justice --> fortitude --> temperance), they can also be seen as organically interlinked in a horizontal manner, so that, for example, prudence presupposes conformity to objective reality, justice its implementation, and fortitude its defense. Thus, for all practical purposes, the more transcendent virtue of prudence cannot survive in this fallen world without the real flesh-and-blood human beings who apprehend it and are willing to defend it.
The vertical hierarchy should make it perfectly clear that there is no fortitude in the absence of justice, and no justice in the absence of prudence. When the postliterate liberal barbarian Bill Maher talked about the "courage" of the 9-11 hijackers, he unwittingly revealed everything that is pathological in our relativistic secular educational establishment, for if courage can be deployed for ends that are intrinsically unjust and imprudent, then it can hardly be a virtue. One's only response to such "courage" could be "so what? Who needs it?"
Speaking of which, I recently saw an unbelievable (but typical) clip of a leftist student confronting David Horowitz at a university lecture, in which she compares Israel's enemies to America's founding fathers. (Here's another clip in which an Islamist student endorses extermination of the Jews; or how about here, in which the Times attacks Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- someone with real fortitude -- for antagonizing the evildoers who wish to murder her!)
But this is typical of the kind of sick brainwashing to which children are subjected in American universities. As Dennis Prager has said, they should not even be called "universities" but "leftist seminaries," where young adults go in order to learn to be leaders and defenders of that particular faith.
Consider the left's perennial confession of moral blindness, "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" -- as if, for starters, the Islamists are fighting for truth and liberty instead of lies and tyranny! As St. Thomas made clear, The praise of fortitude is dependent upon justice. For how could it not be? You couldn't have a "Memorial Day" in the Soviet Union or theocratic Iran unless its purpose were to remember and pay homage to all of the evil and misery they have perpetrated around the world.
Islamists, North Koreans, Chinese, Gazans, Taliban -- they can be rash, or violent, or vainglorious, or thrill seeking, or swaggering, or power mad, or just plain deluded, but they cannot possess the virtue of fortitude (much less prudence) so long as they risk their lives for causes that are transparently unjust, again, unless we live in a flatland world in which transcendent values are reduced to mere behavior. Only in such an impoverished world can the "courage" of the Nazi or Islamist be equated with that of the American soldier.
But ideas have consequences, especially atheistic ideas that reduce conflicts to the mere enactment of violence, irrespective of what the violence is realizing or defending. Only in such a perverse world could a moral retard such as Obama see no distinction between nuclear missiles in the possession of Israel or Iran, and thus argue for a nuclear free zone in the Middle East. Hey, why not a gun-free zone in South Central Los Angeles? There's so much violence there, why not just have the police and the gangs turn in their weapons?
Pieper begins his analysis of fortitude at the very beginning, with human vulnerability. Obviously, if we were invulnerable, with no possibility of injury, there would be no possibility of fortitude. To be brave means facing the possibility of injury, including the ultimate injury which is death. Thus, "all fortitude has reference to death. All fortitude stands in the presence of death. Fortitude is basically readiness to die or, more accurately, readiness to fall, to die, in battle" (Pieper).
But again, not for its own sake. Rather, "the brave man suffers injury... as a means to preserve or acquire a deeper, more essential" good. Thus, in order to achieve the virtue of fortitude, "the brave man must first know what the good is, and he must be brave for the sake of the good." Fortitude always "points to something prior," to such an extent that "fortitude must not trust itself," because "without prudence, without justice, there is no fortitude."
One might say that prudence is the "inner form" of fortitude, that which literally "in-forms" it. Fortitude itself cannot realize the good, but it "protects this realization [of the good] or clears the road for it."
Again, "without the just cause, there is no fortitude." Note how for the true leftist (by which I mean the true believer, not the typical confused or misinformed "liberal" Democrat who doesn't even realize that the values of the left are antithetical to his own), fortitude is nearly impossible, since the doctrine of multiculturalism means that no culture is better -- which is to say, more prudent and just -- than another, and they specifically reject the vertical reality that makes real fortitude possible. Therefore, there is no moral distinction between the American soldier and Michael Moore's Iraqi "freedom fighters." Indeed, for a John Kerry, or Noam Chomsky, or Howard Zinn, or Dick Durbin, we are the terrorists. Which we must be in a left wing world without the transcencent virtues of prudence or justice, more on which later in the week.
Our goal is peace in which the highest aspirations of our people, and people everywhere, are secure: peace with freedom, with justice, and with opportunity for human development.... The surest guarantor of both peace and liberty is our unflinching resolve to defend that which has been purchased for us by our fallen heroes. --Ronald Reagan