Tuesday, November 19, 2013

GETTYSBURG THEN AND NOW

Today it can be looked back upon as three days of hell.  On July first through July third in 1863 chances are that many of the thousands of men who were caught on the battlefield outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania thought that they were in hell.  Three days of battle that left approximately fifty thousand dead Americans defined the American Civil War.  There will be those readers who say that there weren't fifty thousand Americans because half of the battle was waged by members of the Confederate States of America.  To me, even the Confederates were still Americans who had beliefs that conflicted with the United States establishment.  These beliefs were strong, so strong that they felt they had to fight for the rights they believed in.  On November 19, 1863 President Lincoln visited the battlefield at Gettysburg, stood before a small crowd that had gathered to dedicate the battlefield and spoke seven words that every American would recognize as he said, "Four score and seven years ago....".  He spoke but ten sentences that day.  Ten sentences that every American should revisit and find out what truth that short speech holds for each of us.
After the battle - Gettysburg Pennsylvania July 1963
It seems like every nation goes through what the United States went through during those four years that marked the bloodiest war in the history of our country.  Most countries go through this type of upheaval more than once.  Thinking back on my history lessons in school, the American Revolution comes to mind as well as the Russian revolution, the French revolution, the Spanish Civil War and so on up through today's wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Syria and many others that are being waged around the globe as I write this.  It seems to be a necessary step that a country must go through to obtain some kind of civility and stability for it's people.  The civility and stabilization seldom lasts though and we, as humans, tend to go through these wars over and over never learning the lessons we thought we had been taught.

I look at my country and see that battles are still being waged.  We have been in many armed conflicts such as Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and others, but we are also still fighting among ourselves here in our country.  It's as if the Civil War ended for a short period of time, but then continued on other fronts.  True we have never had a bloody conflict between our shores to rival that of the 1860's but the battles being waged in our country carry just as much passion and belief as those that brought about the fifty thousand casualties in Pennsylvania 150 years ago.

We now fight several wars among ourselves.  The battle between the people of different races in this country still rage on.  We can look back and see how much progress has been made, but the progress has not gotten to the point of where all people feel themselves equal.  Like the Civil War, there are soldiers on each front waging this war.  There are Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Middle Eastern people looking for what this country showed promise of, that being that all men are created equal.  The battle lines are blurred at times as there are people of each race who do come together in agreement but still have to fight for what they have come to believe.  There are people of different races who try to enter the country illegally to take part in the American Dream causing a chain reaction that results in limiting those who can enter and become Americans in their own right.  I am proud to say that my Grandfather was a soldier in the war of the races, and he was on the right side I think.  He did not believe himself to be better than anyone else based on race or a number of other qualifiers and he stood up to be counted for what he believed in.  His legacy has been one that has seen those that follow him in life carry on his thoughts and beliefs.

There is a war raging among the economic classes in this country.  This war has been raging for many years as well and still continues to be fought on a daily basis.  This land was once known as a sort of promised land where people from all over the world would immigrate to and try to partake of what became known as the American Dream.  Some say the dream is dead, or at least dying.  No man, woman or child should go hungry in this country that supplies so much of the food for the world and actually pays our farmers not to grow too many crops.  It is a complicated war though with many different ideas clashing on what is the proper way to keep the American Dream alive.  I do not have an answer to that.  I do have my own ideas and beliefs that every person who is lucky enough to be a part of this great country should also contribute to the greatness of this land.  The great battle seems to be between the overly rich and the overly poor and it is up to the middle class to take most of the casualties in this war.  There is an answer to this situation and perhaps we will stumble across it one day, it doesn't appear to be close at hand.

Perhaps the biggest war that is pushing this country against itself is the war of political philosophy.  We casually pigeonhole everyone in to one of two categories.  Liberal or conservative.  Democrat or Republican.  In reality, Americans fill a broad spectrum of philosophies that lie between those two extremes.  Lately though the extremes have seem to have taken over the battle cry for each side.  This did not start with the current administration or the one before it.  I am not sure when it started.  My thinking is that this battle has been raging ever since the days of John Adams vs Thomas Jefferson.  Never before has it been as loud of a conflict or as dividing a conflict as it has grown to be in the current age of politics.  New weapons have come out that heighten the level of this war for the minds of people.  Radio, television, cable television and now the internet all contribute to information being fed world around in a split second taking away the time needed to do some thinking, and digesting of ideas and news before reacting to them.  This is, I believe, why the extremes of conservatism and liberalism have come to the forefront so fast.  We react to news or ideas as soon as we hear of them instead of having the time to think things through and figure out what the proper reaction would or should be.  The President is expected to react almost immediately when something happens on the other side of the world.  Gone are the days when our leaders, our thinkers, our writers and our philosophers could take time to think, to look at different sides, to listen to different ideas before setting up a policy to deal with whatever the event is.  This, I believe is the most dangerous war we, as citizens, are involved in.  This is the kind of war that can once again tear our country apart and replay those four terrible years of 150 years ago.  We need to back off, sit and think.  All of us need to do this, not just the leaders of our country.  As Americans, we are still seen as leaders of not only the free world, but of the world in general.  I see our grasp on that claim slowly slipping.  cool heads and thoughtful minds are call for in these turbulent fast moving times.  We all, the whole world, needs to put on the brakes just a little bit.

There are many other wars being fought in The United States today.  Too many for me to write about.  We need to find a way to deal with these situations that all of us face every day.  What President Lincoln said in Pennsylvania is a good start I think.

As Americans, we should never forget those ten sentences that President Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg on that November day in 1863.  We should read them.  We should consider them.  We should make those words come alive as we live in this great country along side of each other.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that 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.


Read it.  Consider it.  Think about the words and what they mean to all of us today, because these words do have meaning to us today.  These words sum up the history of The United States and the future of The United States.  No matter what philosophy each of us subscribe to, these words have a message for all of us.

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