Monday, January 05, 2009

Men of Honor

Jayne and I spent one whole day this new year holiday engrossed in the HBO John Adams mini series. I'm certainly more Jeffersonian in my thinking and Jayne more Adamsian but we managed to emerge from its viewing with a shared sense of political purpose. It was a day well spent.

So it's with that backdrop that I today stumbled across a very humorous article by the irascible Fred Reed called The Price of Honor that skewers the concept of honor in particularly as it applies to Iraq war exit strategies. He takes great exception to the phrase 'peace with honor'.

While I tend to agree with his main thesis that we should end our occupation of Iraq as soon as possible, I take great exception with his pillorying of the concept of honor in general.

"Honor means nothing more than prickly infantile vanity dressed up, usually, in desperate class-consciousness. Of all the symptoms of a weak ego, honor is the most embarrassing, and the most harmful. In a right-minded society it would be made a capital offense."

The word honor has broad definition but I'll focus on the this one: The quality of being honorable; where honorable is defined as:
  • honest: not disposed to cheat or defraud; not deceptive or fraudulent; "honest lawyers"; "honest reporting"
  • worthy of being honored; entitled to honor and respect; "an honorable man"; "led an honorable life"; "honorable service to his country"
  • ethical: adhering to ethical and moral principles; "it seems ethical and right"; "followed the only honorable course of action"
  • estimable: deserving of esteem and respect; "all respectable companies give guarantees"; "ruined the family's good name"
What it does not mean but what Fred Reed seems to think it means is Pride. Peace with honor is a completely different thing than peace with pride. It's the conflation of these concepts that is the root of the problem.
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