Wednesday, July 4, 2012
I've been thinking about this story for about a week now, so I thought it would be appropriate to post for this Independence Day:
The Man Without a Country is a short story by Edward Hale. It's about Army Lieutenant Philip Nolan,
who renounces his country during a trial for treason saying, " Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!" The judge grants him his wish: He is to spend the rest of his life aboard United States Navy warships, in exile, with no right ever again to set foot on US soil and with explicit orders that no one shall ever mention his country to him again.
For the rest of his life, Nolan is transported from ship to ship, living his life as a prisoner at sea. No one ever speaks to him about the US and his newspapers are censored. One day, as he is being transferred to another ship, he begs a young sailor to never make the same mistake that he did: "Remember, boy, that behind all these men...behind officers and government, and people even, there is the Country Herself, your Country, and that you belong to her as you belong to your own mother. Stand by her, boy, as you would stand by your mother...!"
Deprived of a homeland, Nolan slowly and painfully learns how much his country means to him. He misses it more than his friends and family. When he is dying, he shows his room to an officer. It is a shrine to patriotism to the US. The Stars and Stripes are draped around a picture of George Washington. Over his bed, he has painted an eagle with lightening blazing from his beak and claws grasping the globe. At the foot of his bed is a map of the old territories. Nolan says, "Here you see, I have a country!" He dies after the officer tells him all that has happened in the US since he was exiled.
I'm so glad I live in this free country and for the freedoms we enjoy most abundantly here!
Happy Independence Day!