“The American Thermopylae”
Some of you may wondering about the title of this week’s memo as given above. This is why I support a true classical education and the study of history. When anyone in western civilization sees the word Thermopylae, it should create a sense of honor and regard.
It was there, circa 480 BC, that Spartan King Leonidas with his personal, hand-selected guard of 300 Spartans — and a coalition of other Greek city-states — stood in a narrow gap at a place colloquially called “the hot gates,” named Thermopylae.
Before them stood the invading army of Xerxes, king of Persia who was returning to avenge his father’s defeat at Marathon 10 years previously, and defeat the ideals of individual liberty and democracy. In essence, freedom and liberty stood before tyranny and subjugation.
At the beginning of the battle, Xerxes demanded that the Spartans lay down their arms. Leonidas’ reply was “Molon Labe.” The battle was enjoined, and over the course of two days, the Spartan-led coalition wrought massive death and casualties upon the attacking horde of Persia. Then, a Greek traitor provided information to the Persians about a secret pass that would lead to the encirclement of Leonidas’ force. Leonidas chose one Spartan warrior to take a message back to the city-state of Sparta, “Go tell the Spartans, and strangers passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.”
The Spartan code, the law of Lycurgus, was “no surrender, no retreat.” Thus, Leonidas and his remaining Spartans were killed at that place called Thermopylae. However, their sacrifice bought valuable time, and rallied all of Greece.
In the end, Xerxes was defeated, and individual liberty, freedom, and democracy was saved in Greece, and for the rest of the world.
And, so it was, some 2300 years later that there was a small mission, a garrison, in what we call San Antonio, Texas, today, that history did, indeed, repeat itself. There, at the place called The Alamo, some 185 men came together; a coalition of men who answered the call of arms, of duty. They were Texians, Mexicans, Georgians, Tennesseeans, and those from Missouri and South Carolina. They were led by a young 26-year-old from the Palmetto State, named William Barrett Travis.
They took up their positions on February 23, 1836 and watched the gathering army of Mexican dictator General Santa Anna take the field. On February 24th, Col. Travis chose one man, Juan Seguin, to deliver a message to General Sam Houston. The Travis letter requested support and aid, and it spoke of no surrender, no retreat…about honor of sacrifice and closed with the immortal words, “Victory or Death.”
For 13 days, over 180 men fought, and held, buying time for Houston and for what had been declared, an independent Republic of Texas. No reinforcements came, no support, but, a line in the sand was drawn and every man accepted that challenge, knowing their true end.
So it was, on March 6, 1836 The Alamo fell, and every defender was killed, put to death, and their bodies piled and burned. Iconic American names such as Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett perished that memorable day, the day of the American Thermopylae.
Now, this week, on September 22, the Texas Historical Commission will vote on the moving of The Alamo’s open tomb memorial, The Cenotaph. There are those who say we need to “reimagine” The Alamo. I say, we need to simply “Remember The Alamo.”
History and heroism do not need be reimagined. These are character traits that should be taught to each and every new generation. The Spartans, today, in Greece, embrace their legacy. We Texans should do the same. However, it was just a few years ago that the Texas State Board of Education had to meet in emergency session to prevent the removal of the word “heroic” from Texas state history books with reference to The Alamo defenders. This is not “revisionist” history, this is a dedicated effort to erase our history.
Texans have spoken — and resoundingly reject — any design that will move The Cenotaph from its current location, near the very north wall where the Mexican Army stormed the garrison. There is no doubt that The Cenotaph’s current location is on The Alamo battleground. But, the woke cancel culture mob supporters who sit on the San Antonio City Council do not see themselves as protectors of those who defended Texas. No, they would rather surrender Texas history, an American iconic symbol, to the progressive socialist leftist mob.
The Texas Historical Commission must vote with the people of Texas who said, with over 90 percent support, that they did not want The Cenotaph moved, or The Alamo “reimagined.” They prefer it be remembered by future generations just as it is, and revered. We do a disservice to those who sacrificed all if we move their open tomb just to appease some real estate developers and leftists.
It should be a matter of pride for Texans, and all Americans to visit The Alamo, gaze upon the faces and names of those on The Cenotaph, and remember the men who sacrificed so that the Lone Star State would come into existence.
I am a Tennessee Volunteer, and a former member of the US House of Representatives. Whenever I visit The Alamo and look upon The Cenotaph, I see the man whose legacy I carry, Davy Crockett. And Congressman Crockett, says, “remember us.”
The Greek words “Molon Labe,” translated into English, mean “Come, Take.” The fight for Texas liberty started on October 2, 1835 when the Texians responded to the Mexican cavalry demand to return a cannon. “Come and Take It.”
The Alamo is our American Thermopylae. The Alamo Defenders are our Spartans. Leave The Cenotaph where it is, and honor their memory, and commitment to our present-day liberty.