By: Ben H. English

“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

—C.S. Lewis


My dad had a saying: “If it is honest, it is honorable.”

He was the product of being raised on ranches and in cow camps in the vast, empty expanses of a Texas that is quickly becoming little more than failing memories and old black and white photographs. As a small child his home was often enough a tent; when it rained hard the floor became a morass of mud and the only air conditioning to be had in the scorching hot summers was to roll up the tent sides. The winters provided other challenges to adapt to.

My grandfather was a man who was many things; sheriff, game warden, tick force rider, construction worker, trading post operator, trucking company owner, and more. But he always seemed to return to what he loved the most and knew the most about, and that was the land and everything which lived on it. A man with a limited formal education, he never used such a liability as an excuse nor did he ever let it stand in his way. He read voraciously throughout his life, and possessed knowledge on a variety of subjects that would shock some college professors.

He was a man who was respected by many and feared by some, with good reason. To him, “git ‘er done” would not have been mere words used by a psuedo-redneck comedian to entertain crowds of fine-haired suburbanites. It was his philosophy of life, the very essence of what made him what he was. He was only one of millions of Americans of his generation whose work ethic and sense of honor made this nation into the greatest mortal power ever to see the light of day on this earth.

Both of these men knew the value of honest labor, and respected anyone who did their job well and remained true to the code. They taught me many lessons as I grew up, and I never knew any Marine drill instructor who could chew anyone out as well as they could when I did not perform a task, no matter how menial, to the best of my God-given abilities. Their words of “a man who is not afraid to get his hands dirty may never be rich, but he will never starve” echo through my mind still whenever I lay may hands to any job needing doing.

As the decades passed and I grew older, I began to more fully appreciate the hard facts of life they made me privy to. More so, I did my level best to pass them along in turn to my two sons. I made certain they got their own hands dirty, and admonished them to never trust anyone in a position of power who was squeamish about doing so when faced with adversity.

These two men, who were so instrumental in my growing up, have been gone for some time now. I still think of them often, but it seems I do so even more when Labor Day comes around. I miss them and their belief about the inherent dignity of doing any honest labor, and doing it well. I never saw them take the measure of a man by his last name, the color of his skin, or how much money he had in his wallet. What mattered to them was if he did his job well, and took care of whatever task he was assigned. That meant anything from digging a post hole to running the country.

There is no such thing as any honest job being beneath someone’s dignity. Any able-bodied man who refuses any job and uses this sorry excuse to take from others who do work is involved in institutionalized thievery. One of the problems we have in our nation now is the fear and disdain of hard work by so many. Somehow getting their hands dirty is beneath them. Yet taking hand out after hand out is something which is not only okay with them, but they demand it as part of their “rights”.

Of the myriad of problems we face in our nation, this one underlines just how twisted and unbalanced our society has become in its sense of values. The following article, written by Wes Riddle, details the true importance in the dignity of labor, and how it is foundational to the exceptionalism of our constitutional republic.

Often enough, better men than we labored hard and with great care to create this great and mighty nation we now live so comfortably in. All we have to do, is to maintain and at times improve upon what we have been so blessed by a benevolent God to inherit.

The question is, are we up to the task?