Four years ago, I wrote the following post. I re-read it the other day and decided it was time to dust it off and update it some. Everything I wrote then still holds. But there are some other things I feel need to be said as we reflect on this day and what it means.
As I sit here this morning, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be an American. It is a topic that has often been discussed in my family. You see, we personify what America is — a melting pot. My great-grandmother (maybe it was great-great?), a full-blooded Cherokee, was born on the Trail of Tears. She later married an Irishman. Together, they raised their family in Southern Oklahoma. On my mother’s side of the family, some of our ancestors came over from England long before the Revolutionary War. Others immigrated from Ireland and Scotland before the Civil War. Still others came over after that, from parts of Europe like Germany and the Netherlands. In every instance, other than the Cherokee, they came to this land by choice because they wanted the freedom this country offered. Freedom of religion, speech, assembly, etc. They wanted the freedom to make a life for themselves and their families.
These same people answered the call and fought for this country. Some were injured in service of the country and others died. I’ve traced these ancestors to the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Hanging on the wall across from me are my great-great grandfather’s discharge from the Union Army and the history of the battles he served in. Those papers belonged to one Nathaniel Foster Wilkinson from New Jersey. He was my mother’s paternal great-grandfather. On her paternal side, Absolam Schall also served in the Grand Army of the Republic and, ironically in some ways, fought in many of the same battles as Nathaniel, even though he was with one of the Pennsylvania regiments. He was also wounded in the same battle — Second Bull Run — in the same leg (right) as was Nathaniel.
At least one member from our family has served in each major conflict this country has been involved with. They did so because they believed in what this country stands for. Their families stood behind them for the same reason. My son now serves in the military. When I asked him why he signed his contract — and he did so while still in college and on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — his answer was simple. He believes in the ideals of this country and thinks them important enough to stand ready to defend them.
It is especially important this Independence Day to remember those freedoms and not get lost in the rhetoric coming at us from certain parts of the political spectrum. The United States isn’t perfect. No country is. But it is still the best country there is if you want to be free to live your life the way you want.
This is still a land of choice and opportunity. For everyone yelling about how awful it is and how we need to do things differently, I suggest they study those countries they seem to idealize. Many so-called progressive countries do not allow citizens to voice certain forms of protest against the government.
To those who would erase our Founding Fathers because they believed–or didn’t fight hard enough against–things that are abhorrent today, I suggest they reconsider their position. Without these men, where would this country be today? Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and so many others helped lead this country to freedom. A freedom that did eventually lead to the freeing of slaves, giving the right to vote to women, etc. How long would those accomplishments and more have been delayed without those men?
But here’s another question I haven’t seen addressed by those clamoring for the removal of statues, the renaming of buildings and streets, the removal of references in history books of those posthumously convicted of wrong-think (and, yes, slavery is abhorrent. But it didn’t originate here and it did end more than a century ago. How long is our cultural guilt supposed to continue?). What about other accomplishments by those you would cancel now? Do we ignore those contributions because we don’t approve of one aspect of their lives?
We need to move forward, learning from our mistakes, instead of continually looking back and flogging the issue. Build instead of tearing down. That is what this country was founded upon: building a better future.
We’ve come a long way since the colonists dumped the tea into Boston Harbor. We’ve made huge advances since the day President Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation. But se still have a long way to go. We can do it, as long as we never forget the fundamental reasons this country was founded and the building blocks of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution as a whole. God bless this country and her people.
I will leave you with these two quotes that haunt me each time I see someone advocating erasing yet another chapter of our history:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — Spanish philosopher George Santayana.
“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” — Winston Churchill