When we were a young nation we didn’t have time to celebrate so much, we were too busy. We were mostly an agrarian lot, with farmers in the fields, and fisherman along the cost. Of course we had merchants and craftsman, and the industries necessary to support that farming foundation. With large families we grew and grew and grew. For those who were dissatisfied with their station in life there was tremendous opportunity to change, to move to new lands, and start over again. All this was done with a minimum of government assistance and interference.
Thanks to a few bold men we expanded to fill the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific. After some struggle we came to find agreement with Mexico and Canada on what are now our borders.
We have had our disagreements over how this nation should shape itself and what freedom really means. When we started out, the idea of slavery was acceptable, even though a few visionaries had come to realize the evil of it. Many of our original European forefathers had paid their way to this new land as indentured servants, and for their term were no better than slaves. The real issue was the involuntary servitude of the African’s, brought to this new land to toil in the fields and serve their masters, principally in the southern states with their large cotton and tobacco plantations, with no expectation of freedom at the end.
To create this nation, those who realized the evil of slavery were not at first able to force the issue, and had to settle for compromise with the representatives of states like South Carolina and Georgia. But like any infection it was inevitable this would fester and inflame until it broke out in open war.
This great civil war forced the issues of slavery and states rights on the entire nation and cost the lives of 620,000 Americans. In the end we remained one nation, and the African slaves were freed in Lincoln’s Presidential Order, the Emancipation Proclamation.
Following the conflict, the Grand Army of the Potomac set out to remember those union soldiers who had fallen in the great struggle. The women of the South had started a similar push. I imagine there was some national consensus we not forget the men who had fought and died in the painful fight to determine if, as Abraham Lincoln so succinctly said, “…this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
So it came to pass that May 30 was set aside, not as marker to begin summer but as a day to remember the sacrifices of those men, and women, who placed service before self, and have given their last full measure that America remain a land where freedom exists. Where we have the right, like any family, to squabble among ourselves, but let there be no mistake, if an oppressor should view this as weakness they would find an unmistakable resilience and resolve in our core. It is not shaped by the politics of the day, but a deep belief in our right to self-determination and despite what some would have us believe, a unified view by all of us that the USA is a great place worth defending.
On this day I hope each of you have a chance to hug your loved ones, feel the warmth of freedom with your families, and spend just a few moments reflecting on those who have not come home, or are in distant lands so that you may complain about the economy, or the political campaign, or even the dog catcher.
Happy Memorial Day!