Over the past few months, Glenn Beck has irked my good friend Dave Perkins by citing a quote from George Washington in the moment where Washington rejected compromise in the founding documents in favor of being “wise and honest,” and creating “a standard to which we can repair.”
According to Dave, Beck has continually represented this as meaning something akin to “fix, improve, rebuild.” Though Beck is passionate in his discussion, his passion doesn’t allay the historical ignorance, as Beck has fundamentally misunderstood Washington’s meaning.
The problem with Beck’s references “a standard to which we can repair” is he is attempting to apply modern language not only to the wrong time period, but also under the wrong circumstances, as Washington’s language was military and not colloquial.
Washington was a general in the age of Napoleon, and Napoleon imitated the Romans, seeing himself as the new Caesar. As such, Napoleon adopted many of Romans’ ideas, including the battle “standard.” In Roman (and in 18th century English) terms, the battle standard was a tall flagpole with a flag or symbol on it that could be seen across the entire battlefield because of its height.
To be a standard-bearer was an honor for a legionary (Roman infantryman), and for any military man in any age, a public honor granted by commanders for conspicuous bravery. It took courage to walk onto a battlefield unarmed and carrying a giant target. Not only could the standard-bearer be seen across the field, but his position also indicated the location of the commander. It goes without saying that the standard-bearer would undoubtedly draw enemy fire.
Roman legionaries would die rather than lose their standard—a golden eagle atop a pole, flag hanging below that indicated their legion number. If you don’t think this was an important role, note that the XIV or 14th legion famously lost their standard in a battle in Germany, which no legionary survived, and the reconstituted 14th took almost a hundred years to recover its reputation among citizens and military alike.
The battle standard is almost universal in military history up through Washington’s time. In medieval European armies composed of smaller groups under barons, dukes and the like, there were often several standards on the field indicating the locations of each of the commanders of the assembled smaller armies.
As for repair, in the 18th century the word “repair” was often used as “return” or “go.” After a nice dinner, the man of the house would say to the other male guests, “let us repair to the drawing room” for male talk and smoking and brandy and such.
And so, on a battlefield, Washington’s famous phrase “a standard to which we can repair” means “a battle flag around which we can regroup”. It carries all the weight of all the history of battlefield courage and honor and sacrifice, and have absolutely nothing to do with fixing or rebuilding.
Liberal logic is the reason America finds itself in the situation we are in today, as America struggles in the state of disrepair due to lowered standards. “Repairing” the Constitution is being discussed with respect to runaway government spending. The Constitution protects us from the government running up a $14T debt, then demanding room to spend even more, but we decided to “repair” things, and this ignore our standards. We have allowed the government more and more powers to add to what it deems within its purview. Shame on us, the people, because we are the standard-bearers.
Obama alludes that he has special powers to go around Congress to raise the debt ceiling, perhaps because we are at war. He claims this as a potential Constitutional issue. Obama is a walking Constitutional issue. But he might even have a point if it were not HE with whom America is at war! Talk about your conflict of interest.
Obama wants to redefine America, and he sees himself as the new (and of course improved) standard-bearer. I’m not sure what symbol rests atop Obama’s flag pole, though I suspect it is likely a brass fist. I do know what the flag flies beneath, however.
The Obama flag contains that iconic Obama ‘O’ with something resembling the American flag lying disrespectfully on the ground, no stars, just stripes. That brilliant light in the middle represents all those 50 stars rolled into one bright light. There is no need for states, when you are part of the new world order. Think of it as the freight train barreling towards America and our Constitution.
Finally, the light blue gradient that would likely represent sky in no way resembles the navy blue of Old Glory. Obama’s light blue is the color of socialism, Democrat blue.
Obama’s flag is the flag of oppression, the standard of hopelessness teamed with the uncertainty of change. That flag is not a flag of victory, but a flag of surrender.
I say that we should all “repair” to the drawing room. Because like the standard-bearers who preceded us, I would rather die than lower our standards. I, like millions of other Americans would like “a standard to which we can repair.”
That’s my and Dave’s rant!