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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Land of the Free

My kids know I always have a lot to say when July rolls around. This year is no different. Our country looks more like the "Un-United States of America" than the "United States of America" and that makes it harder to be excited about celebrating our nation's Independence Day. It seems like through the media and social media lately people are forming sides in almost every arena.

That is not what United means. It isn't even the definition of tolerance. I read a new article every day with a new group of people who have a beef about our founding fathers doing what they did at the time with what they had, maybe it wasn't their best, but it is what happened. At the beginning, there was a desire to unite thirteen colonies but they knew they weren't going to be able to free the slave population AND unite as a nation against Great Britain. So, some things were put aside at the beginning and goals were made to work toward "all men created equal".

Read the history...not the REtelling of history, but the words from the mouths of the men who were there. The story of slavery from the beginning of our country (and before) to the Emancipation Proclamation (and beyond) is fascinating! There are heroes and villains in both black and white skin. Mankind is not perfect but before we go and post something out of the emotions we feel toward the injustice we perceive, seek out the truth. Read of the champions against slavery. My favorite is John Quincy Adams who had a greater impact on this country after he was a president.

He spoke on the floor of our congress for years after his presidency (and eventually died there) championing the cause of freedom for those who were still held as slaves. Find biographers who are dedicated to writing the truth from the mouths of their subjects and be enlightened by the story of freedom and compromise.

Nothing is easy and I think in our world today we forget that there is a vast array of ease wherever you look. I have seen smart phones in soup kitchen lines, and Lexus' parked outside driven by those who want to give their time to the "less fortunate". We don't understand the world our founders lived in. At least those of us who haven't taken time to put ourselves back into the period and read about life from the ones who lived it.

The most enlightening thing I found out in the reading I have done in the last few years is that Abraham Lincoln was a junior senator when the aging John Quincy was speaking on behalf of the slaves. If you read John Quincy's words, you can't help but wonder how much of his influence Lincoln took with him. John Quincy was quite an orator like his father. I don't doubt that some of the words that Lincoln heard in the first years of his career echoed in the years to follow, in the decisions he made and the principles he developed in the quest to truly live in the "Land of the Free".

Then there was an article last week I read about the Native Americans. The article stirs up feelings of injustice toward the men and women who "owned" the land we came and took from them. I have read much of their history too. You should if you haven't. I have found myself close to tears as I read some of the books. I wish there had been a way to preserve their way of life in some form but when we really think about it, if we hadn't settled the land, some other country would have sent their people to do it. How many of us would have liked Mexico to extend up to Canada in the west? It may not have turned out like we wanted but we fail to think about how it could have been. There really is never a compromise where both parties are 100% satisfied.

I am sure after reading Andrew Jackson's biography that I would not call him a villain or an Indian hater. On the other hand, I am not going to make excuses for him. Each one of us has to answer to our Maker about the decisions we make and how we treat others. Again, he lived in a different time, and although it was the same country, we certainly could call it a different place all together when we look at the way people thought and lived. If you want to see a real villain to the Native Americans read about William Henry Harrison and the Indiana territory. There are always two sides to a story and sometimes there are many more! I don't think that you can find many "savages" among our Native American brothers and sisters today. But you could back in the day!

I am sure that I wouldn't be thinking of the rights of the Native American when a group of them show up at my log cabin that my husband and I built with our own hands. With the intention of stealing from us and scalping every last one of us including our children, I would defend my land. Many tribes did that...and not just to the white man, but to other warring tribes. They fought over territory among themselves. So I am not sure that we can say that pioneers were in the wrong to try their hand at settling there. It would be hard not to see them as savages if they showed up at your door with a tomahawk.

Unfortunately, you have to dig pretty deep to find those stories because the ones that are the most popular are the ones where white men drove them off of their land. There was a lot of double crossing and manipulating and many reasons to distrust but the truth of the matter is, after reading pretty thoroughly, I can say with educated certainty that there are heroes and villains on both sides of history.

With all that said, I still think we live in the greatest nation on this earth. I sang in the Voices of Hope concert this year and watched the Color Guard bring in the Stars and Stripes. I believe God made this nation great, not because of the injustice and mistreatment of many through the years, but in spite of it. He hates the division and the lack of love toward our fellow countrymen that is here today. It makes me sad too.

It has become such a "controversy" to talk about God but you can't take Him out of our beginnings. Men through history in other civilizations have taken Him out somewhere along the way only to usher in the end of their world as they knew it. God has protected this nation and our founders knew He would. They prayed for the things that they didn't agree with and worked together (from diametrically opposite sides) civilly which is something our national leaders today need to go back and review.

There was a sense that all men are created equal and had a right to be heard. Do we have a record of duels when they didn't agree? Yes, Do we have a record of the horrors of slavery when some didn't know how else to keep their economy going? Yes! Do we have a record of hatred spewed toward another because someone came to the end of their ability to listen to ideas other than his/her own? Yes! Do we have a history of civil war because states didn't feel like they were being listened to? Yes!

I watched three times last week the ceremony for the fallen soldier. If you haven't seen that done before, find an opportunity. It is a solemn ceremony and it is powerful. Those who have the courage to die for their country are to be honored. Included in that number, at least in my head are the slaves, the native Americans, all who have been lost to the war of misunderstanding and human-ness. I hope I don't' step on anyone's toes when I include in that number the pioneers who (as it was made famous in the "Oregon Trail" played by millions of middle schoolers during study hall in the library in my day) "died of dysentery" buried along the trail as our ancestors made their way across this land. We really could say today that we are all equal...if we choose to be. All sacrificed to make the nation we have today. We are all free here in the United States, now we just have to decide what to do with that freedom. Sitting on the computer all day posting our opinions isn't productive for anyone. Is there not a better use of time that could bring a meaningful conversation?

There is no "Daily Show" clip or MASH episode that can laugh that kind of sacrifice away and unfortunately as I sat and watched that ceremony, I realized how seldom my children are witness to meaningful experience in our nation. Does anyone else get the feeling that with our disposable world things have become petty? We have become a country that majors in the minors. Just spend a few minutes on Facebook or Twitter.

We have advanced to the point where the world can be struggling with the same kinds of things our country struggled with in our history and turn a blind eye to it because we have everything we need and then some. John Adams said "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy." I am afraid that we have come to the point where people are bored with mathematics and philosophy and just look for ways to waste time with meaningless pursuits.

I had a very good talk with my 12-year-old son this weekend about that very thing. I am a lover of this nation and of the God who blessed its beginnings. When I see the Stars and Stripes I see the God who "made and preserved us a nation" (Francis Scott Key). For me it goes hand in hand. If it doesn't for you, I have no problem hearing why you think otherwise. I only have my own experiences and my own perception and I won't apologize for a belief system that has come from years of living, research, and a very real faith.

John Adams also said "you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it." Are we making good use of it?

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