I believe in living life with unquestionable integrity. In this country that is filled with debauchery, scandal, and distrust, it is difficult to understand why, but simultaneously, there is no other way that I could have planned my life.
My mother, who was raised in Virginia, may have unconsciously passed on some of those genes that love old Southern honor, and I personally think that it is the only way to live correctly. It may also come from those lessons we all hear as children: “Hold the door open for other people,” “give back to your community,” “love thy neighbor.”
It’s in the literature I read. Quentin Compson, a character from Faulkner’s classic, The Sound and the Fury, will always be a personal hero because of his unhesitating desperation to keep up that façade of honorable integrity in his family and in his own life. Living without that honor is unthinkable to him, and when that honor finally evaporates, he drowns himself far from his Southern home.
It’s in the history I study. Pickett’s Charge, on July 3rd, 1863, was a mile long march over open ground in a relatively unknown Pennsylvania hamlet. One of Pickett’s brigade commanders, Richard Garnett, had his courage questioned a year previous by the revered Stonewall Jackson. And when he found himself ill, unable to walk that distance with his men, he decided to ride his horse to prove his bravery. Doing so under heavy cannon and rifle fire for that distance was like suicide; in the end, he was shot off his horse.
But, most importantly, he kept his honor.
I don’t mean to look suicidal or completely impractical. I love literary characters like Atticus Finch, who is a much more logical hero. He tells the truth the best way he knows how, treats everyone respectfully, and is a demi-god of justice, wisdom, and decency. Anyone who dislikes his character is a character to dislike. I love historical figures like Robert E. Lee, who could not lift his sword against his “country” (his home state of Virginia). I respect his devotion to his family and his beliefs the way I respect my own parents.
As far as I can tell, it’s my responsibility, and I take on the challenge to the death. Should my fidelity be questioned, my motives marred, or my faith tested, I will respond swiftly and unequivocally in accordance to what I know is right.
We look in the news, and every day, people live without honor. They behave poorly, lie, cheat, steal, kill. In this kind of place, if I don’t choose to live with un-impugned honor, whom can I trust to do so?
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