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Biden Dies for Honor

Marc Munroe Dion on

Honor is the lost virtue. Honor, in the minds of our ancestors, was that thing beyond religion, beyond laws, beyond self-preservation, that thing that would make you stand and die rather than retreat.

Honor had some oddly twisted variants. Men banged away at each other with pistols, dueling over their honor. A man "defended a woman's honor" against men who insulted her, particularly men who insulted her morals. The Mafia twisted honor into the idea that you have to be fair when you're splitting up the heroin profits. We still hear of "honor killings" in some cultures.

But honor, at its best, was the idea that you wouldn't back down from your principles or your duty, not even at the cost of your life.

It isn't a completely military virtue, either, though the officer of centuries ago who told out-numbered men to "sell their lives dearly" knew he was telling his soldiers to die for honor. So did the apocryphal ancient mothers who sent their sons to war, saying, "Come back with your shield or on it."

Not that Americans expect much honor from our military these days. We expect them to "kick butt," which is the virtue of our own diminished age. It is the virtue of pro wrestling's rigged "steel cage death match."

Age doesn't play well in the steel cage. Our culture allows only Clint Eastwood to get old, and fictional pugilist Rocky, whose imaginary career lasted until his cut man was being reimbursed by Medicare.

And so, Joe Biden is now a joke about adult diapers because he is not a fictional character (and Donald Trump is) and he's gotten old.

Seen in the vanishing light of honor, Biden stood under an artillery barrage of lies during the first debate. He faltered, he flagged, he mumbled and, sin of all sins, he had a hoarse voice.

He did not leave. He wants more. He will force himself forward when he can, and he will stand and take it when he can't.

 

The indignities of age, the hesitation in the tongue, the brutal tiredness, the brief confusions. These things will not keep him from standing under fire and not backing down.

Trump, of course, does not have to remember any sentence longer than a slogan. He certainly isn't troubled by the need to remember figures and facts. It's enough to say, "America is being destroyed!" without providing a single number or tiny bit of evidence. Saying it makes it so.

Biden, whose pre-presidential political career deserved a B- grade, may have lost his speed, but he's held on to the notion of his honor. Perhaps he has only now found that elusive virtue.

And Biden is right. He knows how to do the job, and Trump doesn't. Donald Trump has never been anything more than a smirk and a slogan, and that is not leadership and that is not honor. It is cheap.

Joe Biden, older and weaker than he used to be, knows what he must force his aging body and mind to do, and that is stand against what many of us see as the descent of this nation into a putrid soup of hatred, a time when the country will be given outright to bloated corporations who work you long hours for bad wages and no insurance and no union, and then tell you it can be fixed with the Ten Commandments and more blind hatred of anyone poorer than you are.

Watch Joe Biden. Watch him stand, alone, and bear the attacks of a man who, confronted with the word "honor," might put ketchup on it and eat it as a snack. Biden stands in honor and offers himself as his nation's shield.

To find out more about Marc Dion, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, a collection of his best columns, is called "Mean Old Liberal." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com and for Nook, Kindle, and iBooks.



 

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