Loyalty, Friendship, Good Reason

I weep whenever I hear the Star Spangled Banner. I am not a Republican. I am not a right-wing Christian. I do not believe in this bloodbath in Iraq. I don't bowl. I can't stand country music.

The point: I weep whenever I hear the Star Spangled Banner.

I weep for a special and dear friend who fought in a horrific war for no good reason he could think of except that he was called to fight by a President who was the boss.

I weep for this special and dear friend whose first brother also fought in that war but on a different continent. And his second brother who also fought but did not come home because he was blown to bits by the designated enemy. This was the youngest of the three who went because of an abomination in the Pacific that made him itch for justice and fair play and who, damn it all, was going to be a part of getting that justice and fair play.

Mostly, though, I weep for the special and dear friend who was my great uncle and my dearest friend, Alan Isbell. He loved me for who I was and taught me about friendship and loyalty and patriotism. And he taught me the one essential paradox at the heart of all three: love doesn't always know what is right but does the best it can anyway. Sometimes love does what's wrong for all the right reasons.

Sometimes out of loyalty and love, we fight in the wrong wars. But we do it because we love with so much heart and soul that we have to. Showing up to be beside the next guy means everything to the next guy. That's exactly where it was with my beloved friend and great uncle.

He fought in the South Pacific during World War II because the heart of his love for his friends and family meant showing up, whatever the cost, whatever the disagreement--and whatever the misguided stupidity of the guy in charge. That is a remarkable thing. It wasn't about him; it was about us.

When I hear the Star Spangled Banner, I weep for the uncle who is no more, the one true and loyal friend who was always the one sure thing in my life. The one whose love for and loyalty to me I never doubted. The one whose love was complete in every way.

The one who taught me that words count. If I call you friend, there isn't anything I won't do for you. That is an immutable truth. This is a fact and a reality and a gift and a way of being for which my uncles put their lives on the line and for which one died horribly. If I call you friend, I don't turn back.

I weep when I hear the Star Spangled Banner because the standards are high, and I love you.


  1. Nice words...from a nice person. I love this blog. Keep up the great work.

  2. Anonymous7:15 AM

    This is really powerful.

  3. Thanks, Vlad, for taking the time to comment. That's some cat you have there!

  4. Thanks a lot for posting such a thought provoking article...hats off to u...am really moved by ur love for ur friend and the way u take life...I appreciate ur outlook towards ur life and have deep sense of respect for ur friend who has sacrificed his life...I would be glad to have ur views shared at my blog too...best wishes :)


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