By Tom Reynolds, Treasurer
Last Spring, I walked through a Civil War cemetery and was struck by the number of graves labeled “Unknown”. Over 150 years ago, those men fought and were amongst the 600,000 that died in that war. Presumably, most of them were young and had not begun to enjoy the many blessings of the life that stretched out in front of them. Now, their dreams, hopes and ambitions are known only to God. But those dreams were real to them and they were willing to forfeit those dreams and give up their lives for their country. They never new what the America they were fighting for would become and its irreplaceable contribution to the betterment of the world. They only knew what it was and that it was worth fighting for.
Why are people willing to fight and die for their country? One reason is because we are the product of the stories and history of the Americans that preceded us. Those stories and that history give us reasons to stand up and fight for our country.
Those that died in the Civil War would have grown up on tales of George Washington, Daniel Boone, Andrew Jackson and the heroes of the Alamo. They were taught to respect and to emulate heroic actions and they believed in the promise of America. My parents’ generation fought World War II, where 400,000 Americans died. I grew up in a culture that promoted love and devotion for America while hearing veterans speak of their experiences and sacrifices.
Without an historical foundation, which teaches love of country as well as the blessings of being an American, it becomes easy to reject American values and uniqueness. That’s why the current fad of destroying our historical figures is so dangerous. Without their examples to guide us, it’s easy to be self-centered and provides a ready excuse for tearing down the very essence of America; our traditions, heritage and Constitution.
Some try to use slavery to de -legitimatize everything that happened during the first “four score and seven years” of America. Slavery was indeed a blight on our heritage, but it was also bitterly opposed by many Americans during those years and, eventually, hundreds of thousands gave up their lives to end it. My point being, there is more to those stories that attempt to delegitimize America than just the headline.
For example, the anti-Americans would paint George Washington solely as a slave owner. He was. And if you have read about his life, you know that as a young man he was extremely ambitious and not always in good ways. But he was also so much, much more.
Forget his time as the commanding general of the continental army and his time as president, where his judgment and leadership made him one of the icons of history. Forget his willing to sacrifice; had he lost the war, he would have lost everything (think Mount Vernon where he was one of the richest men in America). Forget that he had the courage to risk execution as a traitor to England – he was that– if he had lost the Revolutionary War. (Remember the execution scene at the end of “Braveheart” - that’s what England did to traitors.) There were two events in his life that should inspire Americans as to what’s best in us and provide powerful reminders of what our history really is.
At the end of the Revolutionary War, Washington was the most powerful and popular man in America and could easily have been made king; he had the army behind him, something that dictators throughout history have found irresistible. But instead, he resigned his commission, gave up physical control of the military, rejected any formal political position and retired to private life. Later, he gave up a very enjoyable private life when drafted to serve as our first president. After eight years, he gave up what would have been a lifetime position; he turned over the power of the presidency to others.
Washington’s mortal enemy King George III, the man who would have executed Washington as a traitor, said that if Washington gave up control of the army after the Revolutionary War, he would be “…the greatest man in the world”; sounds like he was more than just a slaveholder.
The historical foundation that Washington gave us served as an unofficial guideline for America and must not be forgotten: that all Americans are citizens where some are called to temporary duty in leadership positions and that they will eventually give up those positions; and that even the most irreplaceable amongst us can be replaced. Thanks to Washington’s example, in 230 years the only military coup we had was the Civil War. Thanks to Washington’s example, only two presidents have ever attempted to cross the out-of-bounds that Washington set about a third term. (By-the-way, both were named Roosevelt.)
If Washington is only remembered as a slave holder, the anti-Americans will have succeeded in invalidating his other achievements. On a larger scale, if they can tarnish enough of our history, they can bring down the Constitution and thus bring down America.
Why fight and possibly die for the America they want us to picture? Why obey a Constitution that judges and other government officials are sworn to preserve protect and defend but ignore when it meets their personal political needs? Why submit to the will of the electorate and the guidelines of the Constitution when the bureaucracy can attempt to overthrow the election if a president they don’t like? Why allow free speech, just because it’s constitutional, when the speech is contrary to your beliefs? Why allow people to have guns just because the Constitution says it’s their right? Why believe in the traditional, religious, moral values that have been at the basis of America’s growth if you can convince people that America is a nation of gun-toters, white supremacists, sexists, racists, etc?
We know that America is not what the anti-Americans would have us believe and it is worth preserving, protecting and defending. We cannot sit idly by while our youth and culture are poisoned by Hollywood, the liberal educational system and main stream media.
I was talking with a Baptist Minister about the many ways that the government is pushing religion and traditional religious values out of American lives. We both were unhappy about that direction but I theorized that, perhaps, this is God’s plan to test us; we had become dependent upon the government to push our religious values and this change puts the onus back on our shoulders, where it belongs. We can’t depend on the government to do what we should be doing. We’ll have to step up.
In much the same way, our culture, media and educational system formerly pointed out the many good things about America. They do the opposite now and it’s back on our shoulders to do something to preserve our constitution and values. If we sit idly by while doing nothing and only complaining, we will lose the essence that made America great and the world would have lost its “last best hope”. It’s time to fight back and remind people of what’s good about America. We’re not perfect but we’re a damn sight better than whatever is in second place.