May 05, 2004

Waxing Symbolic, Again

As a young child I read a book that touched me deeply. Man Without a Country told the tale of a man, an American, who was condemned to live his life forever at sea, unable to again stand on American soil.

The longer this man was denied the comforts and freedoms of this country, the more he realized just how much he lost through his exile. I do not recall the crime for which he was convicted, or the reason for this particular punishment, but I remember thinking how horrible it would be to never have a place to call home, to be forever prevented from reaching that place which once had been home.

It probably struck me a little harder than most of the children my age, as I was one of those military brats, uprooted every few years, taken from one end of the country to another, time and again the new kid. There were times when I strongly identified with the man with no country, knowing in my childish, innocent way the painful stirrings of memory.

Perhaps this is why I feel so strongly about our men and women overseas. Yes, a large part of it is as a result of being raised in a home where service was valued and "patriot" was not an insult. But a significant part of it comes from the sense of forever being away from that mythical, beautiful place called Home.

For all of the men and woman overseas who serve and protect not only this country but the downtrodden and weak of inhospitable lands, you're held tightly in the hearts of many of your countrymen. May you never feel like Men and Women Without a Country. Even as nay-sayers and their sycophantic cronies point at isolated wrongs, smearing all of those who serve, remember that little school children pray for your safety every day.

Posted by Mamamontezz at May 5, 2004 11:02 PM


The man you remember from that book renounced his citizenship. It was not taken from him. He disliked America so much, he went to the trouble of informing the US State Department that he no longer wished to be a US citizen. The problem was, like all lefty ass-hats (a little Rachel nostalgia for me), he didn't think the problem through. He could not become a citizen of another country, because he was not a citizen of ANY country, so he had to live out the rest of his life (40+ years?) on a ship. When he was transferred to other ships, they had to do it by launch, as he was not allowed to leave any ship while in port, as he had no passport, or equivalent.

As a child, (I'm early 30's), we also learned about this man. He was used by the teacher as a shining example of someone who stuck by their convictions, even when it was inconvenient. I never bothered to learn more about him, as the teacher probably hoped we wouldn't. His "sacrifice" was a reason that I hated America for so long, even while in the Marine Corps. It was only after I opened my eyes and looked around that I realize that I had been lied to. Thank you for reminding me about this man. I will now use him again as motivation, but this time, as a shining example of what NOT to do.

Posted by: LC The Humble Devildog at May 6, 2004 03:33 AM

I know that sort of feeling too - of not knowing where 'home' is when people ask - because I've moved around so much. I was even born on the move - in Erie - but never lived there.

I find home to be (tritely) wherever the heart is.

Great post, and sounds like a great read. I'm going to buy it.

Posted by: maura at May 6, 2004 06:02 PM

Wow, Devildog, I honestly never looked at it from that angle. I can see, too, how easily it could be misrepresented like that.

Makes me wonder what my 16 year old knows about the story all of a sudden. Hell, for that matter, my 9 year old is reading on a high school level and I'm homeschooling her. I might give it to her too. (I just sometimes worry that while she can read the words and comprehend them, there's still more there she can't quite "get" yet, the nuances that she's just not got the life experience to fully grasp.)

Like Mama (I'm 44, maybe the way it was presented to us is the difference between a generation?) I was always struck by how sad it was that he couldn't go home and that they wouldn't let him "take it back." (As an anecdotal aside, I'm also a former military brat and was definitely raised similarly!)

Anyhow, while inspiring a patriotism and feeling of pride in me, it also always made me feel sad. It seemed like the worst sort of cruelty to me and yet he brought it on himself.

I know for a certainty it was instrumental in my lifelong determination to never say something I wouldn't want to be called on.

Posted by: Kate at May 6, 2004 11:10 PM

In the book, he was pointedly named, "Richard Nolan."

It was based on a true story, the facts of which I also forget.

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