You may not have realized that Veterans Day this year was an especially significant one, marking the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice. I usually don’t think much of the day, honestly—I thank my father for his service, post a grateful message on Facebook, and then the day pass, but perhaps because of commemoration last year, I thought a little more on it, and especially about the patriotism I feel towards my country. Those feelings aren’t as pronounced in me as they once were, whether because of the state of divide currently in the nation or—and I think this more likely in my case—I don’t constantly pull in patriotic ideas as I once did. I grew up as a military brat and frequented army bases, so love for my country was in the very fabric of my youth. But when I moved away from parents and military installations, I saw my patriotic furor start to slow. I still identify as a proud American, but I’m certainly not as fiercely loyal to my nation as I once was. I don’t think that’s altogether a bad thing, but it is a little confusing.
In the Netflix series, Violet Evergarden, the title character walks a similar line. Modified and trained to be a loyal soldier, once the war (styled after WWI) ends, Violet learns to adapt to civilian life. It’s not an easy adjustment—as for many soldiers, the subtleties, customs, and casualness of civilian life are lost on her. However, one challenge she doesn’t have to deal with is in shedding her national identity—it was given up long ago when she decided to fully move over from one allegiance to another, from that of a combatant for her country to identifying instead as Gilbert’s “dog,” the personal weapon to Major Gilbert Bougainvillea. Love for country, if there ever was any (and also depending on how you would define the concept, which the series goes into in great detail), has been replaced by love for a person, and not just love—loyalty, dedication, and allegiance.
As a Christian, my allegiance is to God first, but there was a time where I was confused…where does allegiance to one’s nation fit into my identity? Like a dual citizenship, could I show allegiance to both God and country? Was I making my country an idol? That discomforted me, because I didn’t want to think that all I grew up valuing had to be dismissed on account my faith. I wasn’t ready to let that go.
But that thought offered some insight into my shortcomings as a child of God, into my inability to worship him alone. I find it compelling how easy it was for Violet to make such a decision. Certainly, her life before Gilbert was terrible and so maybe it wasn’t as hard for her to let that go…but then again, maybe it was difficult. Raised in a servile manner, brainwashed to be a dog of the military, it couldn’t have been easy to untrain Violet’s mind. But the Violet we see throughout the series has shifted her dedication entirely.
Gilbert treats Violet with kindness. He tends her wounds and teaches her, giving her value as a human when before, she was only a weapon. He even gives her a name, one that demonstrates that only is she beautiful as a flower, but she is beautiful to him. He’s given her meaning and entrusted her with his love—having received these wonderful gifts, Violet would betray her country for him in a heartbeat if he asked her to.
I wonder…would I do the same for my love?
Thankfully, I’m not being asked to do so, and, as I matured, I understood the idea that my allegiance to God trumps all other allegiances, meaning I could still be loyal to my country, still treasure it, but not above all, not above God. My ultimate allegiance is to Christ, he who gives me a name, who treats my wounds, who sacrificed himself that I might live. My hope is that I’ll cherish those gifts, that I would treasure Christ as he has treasured me. And in doing so, if push comes to shove and I have to choose between two masters—which increasingly becomes a possibility in this fragmented country—that I’ll be able to demonstrate that like Violet, my own allegiance is ultimately undivided and I really only have one master, and one love, after all.
Featured art by Nagu (artist allows reprints)