Right or Wrong – It’s Our Country

If you ever wondered why towns and city streets or even counties have been named “Decatur” – W. Thomas Smith Jr. fills us in with his article – “Our Country, Right or Wrong.”

On March 22nd, 1820 …. “Just after nine-o’clock – 186 years ago this morning – two men armed with dueling pistols faced each other on an isolated field in Bladensburg, Maryland. The field, known as the ‘Valley of Chance,’ was located just off the main Baltimore-Washington stage route.”

Smith goes on to tell the story about the two men and quotes from James Tertius de Kay’s book A Rage for Glory. And after describing the history of the two men that had duel on that day and the famous words of Decatur, Smith writes:

Then there are those like Hollywood film star George Clooney and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy who today have their own takes on Decatur’s words. … In a recent interview for the (U.K.) Guardian, Clooney said, ‘My country right or wrong means women don’t vote, black people sit in the back of buses and we’re still in Vietnam. My country right or wrong means we don’t have the New Deal. I mean, what, are you crazy? My country, right or wrong?’”

Smith ends his article:


Decatur, on the other hand, was expressing unwavering devotion to a nation that – in addition to its offering of freedom – had nurtured his life’s calling and that of so many millions of others then and yet-to-become Americans. Perhaps Clooney, Kennedy, and their ilk might reflect on the words of Decatur – not Schurz’s cynically amended version, but Decatur’s pure statement of loyalty, affection, and gratitude that simply cannot be improved upon. Nor dismissed.

Americans sometimes seem to only find what is wrong with America, and this is okay if they have a plan and the fortitude to fix it; but maybe it is time for Americans to believe that “right or wrong” this is their country and hopefully there is more right than wrong.
The problem with Clooney and Senator Kennedy is they forgot where their loyalty lies, and it certainly shouldn’t be with their political party or the “elite” that runs it.
One can be a patriot and disagree with those that run our nation’s government – yet still love their country, our Constitution guarantees that we can peacefully dissent, yet still be loyal to America. Because when it boils down to it, a nation is not made up of a government, it is made up of people and those people are where our loyalty should reside and what we should be patriotic for.
The flag, like other symbols of our nation, represents the people of America, not the government. The government is only there to represent the people when steering our country through dangerous waters, keeping our course straight, and to fix the “wrongs.” Elected officials loyalty does not belong to political parties (of any kind) but to the people and thus with the people, it is the country.
Patrick Henry, on March 23rd, 1775 made a statement of commitment to his country, not King George, not the Continental Congress, but to his country made up of people –

Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! (Speech to the Virginia Convention, 23 March 1775)

Some of us and those we elected have forgotten that important distinction and sometimes remembering a forgotten name like Decatur and the story behind that name are required to joggle our sense of purpose.