“A new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Such lofty words those, the first sentence of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. But I have to say that when I look around this country I see scant evidence that anyone really believes these words. On so many levels we fail to even treat each other with a modicum of respect, much less equality. I’m not talking only of race relations; our gender bias absolutely astounds me — considering that 1/2 of the population of of the “other” gender from you, or me. How can we disrespect so many people and think that’s ok?
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
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 battle-field 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 that 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.
November 19, 1863
We once fought a bloody war to insure that slavery would end. I know there are scholars who will take umbrage to that idea — there are always those who want to make things complicated and try to convince average folks that they don’t know anything, but the constant move forward towards actually letting men live free has been one slow battle, won one battle at a time through our nation’s checkered history.
When I look at the recent rulings of the Supreme Court, and the unwillingness of Congress to take positive action I honestly think that we are once again “engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” The only difference is that today’s civil war isn’t being fought with bullets and cannon — it’s being fought with pens and typewriters and computers and smartphones.
Protest has been a fundamental part of U.S. history. We were a bunch of unruly, upstarts in the 1700’s when we declared our independence, and we haven’t really tamed that unruliness one bit.
Today’s battle is different — but the ideal is still the same, “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It’s not supposed to be government by corporations, nor government by the rich, nor by special interest groups, nor by lobbyists. It’s government of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE, and for the PEOPLE.
We have been spoiled rotten. The times we have sent boys and men to war, with the one exception of the Civil War, those soldiers have gone to fight on other people’s soil. We have not seen what it’s like when tanks and artillery go traipsing through our country. We have not had our power plants bombed and our water treatment plants fouled. They haven’t been our bridges that have been bombed or fields sprayed with defoliant making them infertile for years.
I don’t know hwo much stomach the average U.S. citizen has for a fight. I don’t know how long people will say that what’s going on in Washington is just business as usual. I have to think that at some point even those who are the least inclined to get upset will, in fact, get upset.
But just as in Germany at the end of the 1930’s there is a time when citizens can effect change, and there is a time after which all the unhappy faces and disappointed expressions will not stand up against entrenched power.
This country was built on wonderful ideals. But ideals are fragile things and they need defending. When no one stands up to those who will replace ideals with pragmatic solutions then ideals will die. Pure and simple. Whining on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t change anything. Real resistance involves a great deal more. And will the populace have enough fire in their belly to do what needs doing? I don’t know.