Devoted and Selfless Consecration

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To mark the anniversary of the death of a veteran, the United States Government sends out a framed “certificate” like the one pictured above.

My father was proud of his service, but he was not a hero decorated for valor or a high-ranking officer, his experience of combat was limited (quite more than enough at that, he would say), and, more to the point, the war in which he fought was won by a self-consciously democratic nation: No reason why this later commemorative message should be anything other than “government issue”: That it makes a good first impression and brings back fond memories of Dad is good enough for us, anyway. So what if they happened to spelled our family name wrong, without capitalizing the “L” in MacLeod? “MacLeod” may be the most common of Scottish names, but the USG is the USG. If the Nazis had won, maybe their commemorations would have been perfect, but they didn’t win.

The signature stands out, and Dad in his last years may have been Obama-deranged enough to dislike the certificate on that basis alone. In his earlier years, I believe he would have been more accepting. The ink seems a bit thick, and I will assume until and unless informed otherwise that it was done by “autopen.”

The most interesting thing to me about the document is, however, its sacralized language, not its production values. It recognizes “devoted and selfless consecration to the service of our country.” The negotiation of plural and singular from the United States which “honors” to the “nation” that awards for service to “our country,” before finally returning to the United States, reflects a familiar and very American problematic. In short, it’s not entirely clear who or what is doing the awarding, but each of the various named collective entities seems to represent something slightly different, almost a different identity or sense of identity or mood. The two sentences and signature together amount to a cloud of patriotic signifiers whose combined import is to be intuited rather than processed rationally.

Yet if we do not know exactly who or what is awarding the certificate on behalf of exactly whom or what, or what for that matter the certificate certifies, exactitude may not be available to us: After all we are dealing with something rather mysterious, with a “consecration.” The word and its variants are rarely used or seen other than in relation to Lincoln, but there is one at the center of this document. The undebatable assertion is that the citizen soldier – the conscript – or his service, or his “self” through his “devotion,” belongs or came to belong to the realm of sacred things, to facts of the nation or country that are more than merely political.

The sacred essence of the American state is not a common topic of discussion, but the state or nation or country itself, or we ourselves, on behalf of itself or on behalf of ourselves, deems or deem it the proper topic in relation to the final questions.


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WordPresser: Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001.

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If there's anything mitigating the bad news for the White House here, it is that Comey may have also sent subtle signals that the matters under investigation are not principally about the personal conduct of Trump himself. While this is speculation, I do not believe that if Comey had, say, validated large swaths of the Steele dossier or found significant Trump-Russia financial entanglements of a compromising variety, he would have said even as much as he said today. I also don't think he would have announced the scope of the investigation as about the relationship "between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government" or "coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts"; these words suggest one step of removal from investigating the President himself. If the latter were the case, I suspect Comey wouldn't have used words suggestive of the Flynn-Manafort-Page cabal.

But that's reading a lot into a relatively small number of tea leaves. What is clear is that this was a very bad day for the President. In it, we learned that there is an open-ended Russia investigation with no timetable for completion, one that's going hang over Trump's head for a long time, and one to which the FBI director is entirely committed.

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+ Sure, so why do they have "work Phones" they take home? Even if they don't have fate of the world responsibilities, who they work [. . .]
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