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May 9, 2012 / Dale Melchin

Recovering Your American Heritage

The warrior as a model for living is ingrained in many cultures across the world. In Europe it’s embodied in the knight. In Japan, it’s the Samurai, in ancient Aztec Culture it was the Eagle and Jaguar warriors, in ancient Israel it was the Kings Mighty Men, in Ancient Rome it was the Legionnaire. I could go on and on.

Despite cultural differences there are several things they all have in common.

1. They took responsibility for the safety of their country
2. They set their personal affairs aside.
3. They knew what the objective was and they would attempt to accomplish it strategically or tactically or die trying
4. They took responsibility for their own physical and mental fitness
5. They were tough physically and mentally
6. They looked out for the safety of their fellow soldiers
7. They used the resources they had to accomplish their objectives, even if it wasn’t a lot, they made due and would sometimes accomplish asymmetrical objectives.

In America, we are still fairly young. We don’t have a cohesive culture, and we definitely lack the warrior’s mentality among the civilian population. We are a culture of whiners and brats… at least that’s the way it has gotten in the last 52 years. Before that we were a bunch of hardasses, with hearts of gold. But it was a because of a different mentality other than warriors.

It was the mentality of the pioneer. The rugged individual who would take his shot gun and other pioneers and go into the woods and stake a claim, tame the wild, bring the family out there and build a community.

The pioneer fought, lived off the land, and created something from virtually nothing. In fact, we still at some level are a nation of pioneers, but we are going to lose our edge if we don’t rediscover that heritage.

Well, how do we do it? Read American History. Read the stories and adventures of our forefathers and find ways to apply them, and then do it.

Teach the stories to your kids, make them part of the dinner time discussion.

Watch movies about the Revolution.

Find new ways to solve problems.

There are all kinds of ways to recover the warrior/pioneer mentality. If you do, your life will be so much better for it.


What would recovering a warrior/pioneer mentality make possible for you?



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  1. John Day / May 9 2012 6:08 am

    I think that the entire premise of your post is based off of a fantastical notion that doesn’t actually exist in history.

    I’ll just break down one of your examples. The legionnaire.

    1. They took responsibility for the safety of their country

    Not really. There are several examples of entire Roman Legions marching against the city of Rome during one of the many civil wars. (For example, you may know about the Civil War fought between Julius Caesar and Pompey Magnus, or Marc Antony and Augustus, but there are several other Civil Wars fought by the Romans)

    Legionnaires were typically paid and promised both spoils of war, and gifts of land in exchange for service. Due to a miscommunication, a large portion of Julius Caesar’s army thought they would all be promoted to a high social class at the end of the civil war.

    2. They set their personal affairs aside.

    Fighting for a general that you were more loyal to than your country, or fighting in exchange for land or money is basically fighting for a personal affair. Veterans would typically riot if they felt that they had not been sufficiently rewarded. (You can see some of this portrayed in HBO’s Rome.)

    In the 3rd century C.E. desertion was so common that the Romans began to tattoo S.P.Q.R. on the shoulders of their soldiers so that they could more easily identify a deserter.

    3. They knew what the objective was and they would attempt to accomplish it strategically or tactically or die trying

    Really not true. Warfare at that time period usually took place after an ambush, or after two groups of foraging soldiers/scouts/skirmishers stumbled upon each other, revealing the location of their armies. Often the land or location for the battlefield was not really well considered. Armies frequently routed. They frequently withdrew. We have the term “decimate” because it referred to the practice of when a Roman legion routed, the survivors would be lined up, and every 10th man would be killed as a punishment.

    4. They took responsibility for their own physical and mental fitness

    It’s not hard to keep an army fit when they have to walk 15-20 miles a day. I’m not sure what you mean by mental fitness, but most Legionnaires would be considered illiterate. Legions were typically followed by camps of non-military merchants, especially prostitutes.

    5. They were tough physically and mentally

    Compared to what?

    6. They looked out for the safety of their fellow soldiers

    Aside from the fact that legions were decimated, there’s also the method in which the ranks were originally structured. They put the newest, and least experienced soldiers at the front of the line. Then they placed the soldiers with a few years experience that were still in their 20s after them, and then finally the veterans with the most experience held up the back.

    There could be several reasons for this, such as providing for the training of your new soldiers while keeping your most experience in reserve, as well as not needlessly shedding their blood – but if the safety of their fellow soldiers was really the concern, the structure of their lines wouldn’t put all of the soldiers with the least experience at the very front. Their units would be mixed so that the newest could benefit from the experience of a veteran standing next to them.

    But, they weren’t interested in the safety of their fellow soldiers. The lined up by age and experience because the older soldiers had earned the right to be more likely to survive the battle.

    7. They used the resources they had to accomplish their objectives, even if it wasn’t a lot, they made due and would sometimes accomplish asymmetrical objectives.

    It’s not like they were doing difficult things. They were fighting other men with mostly hand to hand weapons. Sure, every once and a while they had to build a ramp.

    So, my point basically is that you’re holding up a false ideal from history that doesn’t correspond with reality as a justification for trying to come up with another set of false ideals that are a little bit more modern to live by.

    The ironic thing is that even the Roman politicians and philosophers would romanticize their own past and talk about how much better it used to be. In the American west there has always been an attitude of “it used to be better back then,” even when the time period they were romanticizing was when people were running around in bands lawless horse men killing other people with impunity.

    The fact of the matter is that they did do some impressive things when they were settling the American continent, but keep in mind that the environmental practices of the pioneers set up the dust bowl. They method they used to acquire the land involved genocide and ethnic cleansing.

    What you’re describing is basically going through a few of our cultural materials, and then choosing some loosely connected ideas to create some kind of fiction for folks to cling to and believe in. In this country we already have a terrible habit of doing this repeatedly within our own culture, western history, and even within our own lives we constantly lie to ourselves about the events of the past to create a happier fiction for us to be a part of.

    So, a more accurate way of assessing this would be: “What lies do you want to tell yourself about America and being an American?”

    (Also, if you think we’re a culture of whiners, in Ancient Rome the Tribune of the Plebs position was developed as a method for one person to veto any act of the Roman Senate. It was developed because when the Plebians didn’t like something the Senate did, they protested, and eventually would quit the city and move out to the hills, leaving the city mostly empty, until the Senate reversed their position. This process took up several days and was pretty wasteful, so eventually they just created a position to get it over with as quickly as possible. People have always complained about their government.)

  2. Dale Melchin / May 10 2012 5:15 am

    John. First of all, it is completely unnecessary to write a novel in comparison to my 600 word post. With that said, I was I talking about the IDEALS of a warrior. The IDEAL warrior strives to all of those things that I had mentioned in my post. In the pre-Imperial (Republican) era the legionnaires were loyal to Rome and fought to defend the country from invaders. Yes, John I created an IDEAL for us to strive for although I didn’t really create it is present in all Ancient Traditions I have found a way to recreate that ideal and prescribe it to Americans.

    This is why I find the Liberal position so vexing, it is inherently negative and seeks to equally distribute misery.

    I recognize the fact that the history of the entire world is messy, not just American history. Should we go hating the English because the repressed us 200 years ago? Or the Germans because of atrocities that took place 50+ years ago? Should we hate the people who lived in the Near East for there Empires? The self-loathing that liberals such as yourself want to introduce everyone to is more unacceptable than trying to create an American Ideal.

    I’m not about creating a “fiction” I’m talking about an ideal to subscribe to. We as a nation have gotten away from being self reliant and have become obsessed with entitlements instead of the rights and responsibilities given to us in the Constitution. If every individual would subscribe to that ideal alone, we’d be better off.

  3. John Day / May 17 2012 3:01 am

    You might be talking about an ideal, but you’re projecting an ideal that does not exist on to a specific part of history. Hence, why it’s an unsubstantiated fantasy. It’s alright though, the British still try to pretend that they destroyed the 9th Legion.

    1.) We still hate Nazis.

    2.) We still do not tolerate the rule of a monarch over us.

    3.) Following the American Revolution, we also fought the War of 1812 against the British attempts to re-subjugate us. We then created and enforced the Monroe Doctrine. During the American Civil War, the British meddled with the Confederates but did not commit direct support due to their repeated failure to lead a successful campaign in the north. During the Civil War, they also made Belize a Crown Colony, violating the Monroe Doctrine, an act of British hostility that was so poorly received that the Crown opted to grant Canada it’s “Dominion” in order to prevent an American invasion of Canada, so it took us more than a century before we were on really good terms with them, and only after they basically gave up on the Western Hemisphere.

    4.) As far as your claim regarding the loyalties of Roman Soldiers in the Roman Republic, you clearly missed that the Civil Wars were a part of the Republic. Aside from that, the Marian Reforms effectively turned the Roman Legionary system in to a full time professional army where they fought for their paychecks and promises of land, again in the Roman Republic. One of the main reasons why this was done was because when you’re a farmer, or when you’re a tradesman, you have to be at home planting in order to survive, or you have to be at home making stuff to survive. Individual Roman Soldiers would frequently leave the military campaign because they had to attend to their fields. Entire Legions would have disbanded to go home for the fall Harvest, regardless of the threat.

    If you really, really, really want to try to argue this point, keep this in mind: The only reason why there ever was a Roman Republic was because a group of people got together and ousted their King. This is not the behavior of an overtly loyal group of people.

    Now, if you want to talk about the loyalty of the Roman Legions, cite a historical source. Bonus points if it was actually written by one the actual Roman historians.

    • Dale Melchin / May 17 2012 11:01 pm

      No, John, you are still missing the point. And I don’t see how 2 and 3 are relevant, so… I’ll let it go for now, I kinda see a connection.

      Look at what they were supposed to do. Yes, as I mentioned history is often messy, but think about what they are supposed to be doing. And yes, I understand the need to create a professional army for practical reasons, but still look at what they are supposed to do. They were expected to be strong, fit, powerful, intelligent men.

      I recognize that in all honesty, people do things for a variety of reasons, some joined the Army because of promises of land, some of them may have joined the Army because they honestly wanted to protect Rome. I don’t impugn their honor because I don’t know the nameless faceless masses of thousands of years ago, and so I choose to think the best of them and the discipline they were expected to uphold.

      I realize how the Roman Republic was created, they ousted Tarquinus Superbus because he was a tyrant, and the Romans were loyal to an ideal called freedom. Tarquinus may have kept his throne had he not been a tyrant. Revolts and revolutions don’t happen in a vacuum, they happen because somebody in the political system, generally the head of state screwed up. Call it the law of the harvest, or Karma, or whatever things happen from cause and effect.

      In closing, ideals are a good thing, they are one of the things that make life great, as opposed to just… bearable.

  4. Anthony / May 18 2012 1:07 am

    Well, after viewing the argumentation above, I am not sure where it is going. The thesis in the main note was that manliness and self-reliance are essential to success and prosperity of individuals and the American republic. The response is an in-depth analysis of one example used to support the thesis. It shows incredible detail for the minutiae of the Roman army from the time of the tyrant-kings through the Imperial Age – that is actually comparing apples with oranges in a way, since a republic operates and perceives itself a lot differently than an empire. The response uses that mismatched analogy in an attempt to destroy the thesis. It also uses the flaws of particular practices – like Indian wars and agriculture – to discredit the accomplishment of nation-building. That itself is a bit mismatched. It’s like saying that advancement of labor rights in America was absolutely wrong because unions were infiltrated by the Mafia and anarchists. Mafia and anarchists stand for wrong things, but safe labor conditions and decent pay are good accomplishments. I see the detractions to the article as not forming any constructive purpose to the discussion or proposing constructive alternatives.

    The conversation reminds me of lines from “Puddleglum” in “The Silver Chair”, something like: Even if there is no sun and no Aslan, a world with a sun and an Aslan are better than a world without them.”

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