from <the swamp> to the stars

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VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
As for the peace that we would preserve, I wonder who among us would like to approach the wife or mother whose husband or son has died in South Vietnam and ask them if they think this is a peace that should be maintained indefinitely. Do they mean peace, or do they mean we just want to be left in peace? There can be no real peace while one American is dying some place in the world for the rest of us. We're at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it's been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.
(from a Ronald Reagan speech)

How would you understand "the swamp" here? Is countable or uncountable in the sentence?
Thank you.
 
  • se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't know whether Mr Reagan is thinking of the kind of place where Early Man lived, or if he is thinking of the Primordial Soup. Primordial soup - Wikipedia

    I think marshes are attractive places for hunter-gatherers - with lots of fish and wildfowl to catch. But a swamp can also be a metaphor for the moral status of savages...

    Then we often think of dinosaurs as living in swamps. 5 Cryptid Sightings that Could Prove Dinosaurs Still Exist
     
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    Franco-filly

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    To me, iT refers to man's evolution from the lowest form - perhaps one who lived/hunted around swamps - to one who now studies and/or seeks to reach the stars.
    cross-posted.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    To me, iT refers to man's evolution from the lowest form - perhaps one who lived/hunted around swamps - to one who now studies and/or seeks to reach the stars.
    cross-posted.
    I thought of that, but there was that reference to Vietnam. So I thought of the rice paddy.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    But "his long climb" specifically refers to "mankind", not "enemy", whatever context it was said in...
    Where is "enemy" entering this? The "swamp" in Vietnam was probably a rice paddy. The context is Vietnam. I am not referencing any enemy.
     

    Franco-filly

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    I disagree. It's saying that mankind (& perhaps specifically the US soldiers themselves) - who evolved from swamp to stars - is facing it's most dangerous enemy yet. I suggest Asian paddy fields are a relatively recent development in comparison.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Where is "enemy" entering this? The "swamp" in Vietnam was probably a rice paddy. The context is Vietnam. I am not referencing any enemy.
    But what does Vietnam or its rice paddies have to do with this?
    "mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars"

    There're many versions of that speech (A Time for Choosing). E.g.:
    We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is not fiscal and economic stability within the United States.
    http://cdn.constitutionreader.com/files/pdf/constitution/ch123.pdf

    And there is no mention of Vietnam there in the whole document.
     
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    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    For me it's definitely about the human race: mankind's evolution.

    I see "swamp" as being the place where man's earliest land-dwelling ancestor's emerged from, when the first things like the mudskipper, from which we all evolve, emerged and took their first breath.

    "To the stars" is reminiscent of the Latin phrase "ad astra" (to the stars), where "to the stars" is often used to represent striving towards the pinnacle of human development or achievement.
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Along with Packard I'd say that the prevalence of rice paddies in the minds of most Americans at the time certainly influenced Reagan's choice of images, but I think the literal meaning is the primordial swamp Trochfa and others point to. You couldn't watch the evening news without being reminded of the daily death toll in those very paddies.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    It is a metaphor for "from the lowest to the highest".
    Exactly, but although this was mentioned in the context of Vietnam, it really refers to the wider context of the evolution of mankind from the old caveman (hunter-gatherer, "swamp") days to (and beyond) when whatsisname stepped or leapt from the lunar lander onto the moon.

    That is precisely why thought of rice paddies makes no sense here at all, unless one is trying to insult those who built them and work in them.
    Rice paddies are not examples of "the lowest". Far from it, they are examples of cultivating land, which is a significant step up on the progress scale which began in our "gatherer" days.
     

    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    That is precisely why thought of rice paddies makes no sense here at all, unless one is trying to insult those who built them and work in them.
    Rice paddies are not examples of "the lowest". Far from it, they are examples of cultivating land, which is a significant step up on the progress scale which began in our "gatherer" days.
    Rice paddies makes no sense in the literal interpretation, but the fact that they are "watery places with plants growing in them" means that on a very basic level an association can be made between them and "swamps". Obviously, they are totally different in their form and function and are a highly developed system which enables the production of huge quantities of food.

    Personally, when I think of swamps in the context of Vietnam I think of the real swamps soldiers would have waded through.

     
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    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    But what does Vietnam or its rice paddies have to do with this?


    And there is no mention of Vietnam there in the whole document.
    As for the peace that we would preserve, I wonder who among us would like to approach the wife or mother whose husband or son has died in South Vietnam and ask them if they think this is a peace that should be maintained indefinitely.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    As for the peace that we would preserve, I wonder who among us would like to approach the wife or mother whose husband or son has died in South Vietnam and ask them if they think this is a peace that should be maintained indefinitely.
    But in the version I quoted in #16, there's not such a line. As I said, there're different versions...
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
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