i had a good day today. With the help of daughter, i touched my toe in the water of the cyber world, learning how to survive there because for goodness sake one cannot live by bread alone: he must be able to navigate the “cloud” and new fangled no-chord technology. We aren’t talking about Philco radios or RCA Victrolas any more.
i wrote quite a bit. i did some home projects. i created a post or two i liked. i did some work outside and in my garage. i like to tinker and i tinkered away. Good day.
Then i tired from those enjoyments and decided to end the day sorting and throwing away office stuff and cleaning up my documents. There i found the below file i had almost finished but put aside.
i think it captures my mood about our country today:
Thomas, John, James, Abraham, and Mose
In 1776, Thomas Jefferson penned the draft for the “Declaration of Independence.” His words:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The idea had far deeper meaning than Jefferson and the fifty-five other British colony representatives who signed the document could have imagined. The idea is no less powerful for their lack of understanding the depth and breadth the meaning of those words would come to hold for everyone, and i mean everyone, who would become, one way or another, citizens of this country, and to the world at large.
* * *
James Madison is credited for being the major writer of our Constitution, from which our country formed the best governing system, which remains so today. It begins:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Madison likely had no idea how impactful his words were to become to the country, but his lack of knowledge of the future does not detract from the power of his concept.
* * *
Abraham Lincoln spoke to a large crowd it the Gettysburg Civil War battlefield to honor the fallen Union troops. It is known as “The Gettysburg Address:”
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 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 cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot 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.
As our forefathers before him, Abraham Lincoln did not fully grasp the breadth and depth these words have come to mean to us. Abraham Lincoln was not ready to accept racial equality. Where he lived when he lived was not ready to accept races as equal. That was true of all races. The dominant powerful races ruled, but had the “Native Americans,” the Negroes, and all of the other races had the technical superiority and power of the Caucasians, they too would have considered themselves superior, and quite likely did. Yet Lincoln’s words, especially the last part of the last sentence from that address: “…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” captured the essence of equality we not only continue to strive for, but believe in all of our hearts, at least those who try to be pure of heart.
These forefathers’ worlds were different than ours today. But their ideas captured what we should be still attempting to achieve in the true, complete sense of the words they wrote and spoke even though it was not a complete, perfect thought in their minds. It was their ideas of freedom and equality that has made this country great.
It seems to be we have forgotten their ideas of freedom and equality for all humans.
Mose Allison recognized this in his song “Mercy:”
Everybody crying mercy when they don’t know the meaning of the word…
Everybody crying justice, just as long as they get theirs first…
Everbody crying peace on earth just as soon as we win this war…
i am sad.
4 thoughts on “Let Freedom Ring”
The beauty of these words seems to take a back seat to our daily lives. Thanks for sharing them and giving me a “head slap”. It was a real eye opener and I thought to myself “Get over yourself”. Democracy is messy but the concept is divine. ❤️
Jim, This is one of your finest. I know most of it is quoted from these great Americans, but we need more of this and I believe you really nailed it in that even those men didn’t realize what their utterances would come to mean for future Americans.
Fine words from the “civilized” men who composed those words. We Natives are still referred to in the Declaration of Independence as “savages”. The term stuck until the 1970’s, when the government finally stopped sterilizing young Native women “savages” trying to wipe us out as a people. Congress has been petitioned to change the wording but they refuse. Now everyone tries to claim Native bloodlines. I guess it makes them feel better about the treatment of Natives. I never knew so many Cherokee walked this earth. Looks like the great great great grandmas outnumbered the great great great grandpas 500 to 1.
Just as today, our Founding Fathers held different philosophies about the limit and scope of the state. The Declaration was a good starting point. The Constitution further specified and codified more precisely what our rights should be. The devil is always in the details. When I consider the Bill of Rights, the only Amendment not hotly contested in the last 231 years is the Third Amendment. We are all egocentric to a degree believing that our lifetimes are the most important and relevant in history. Constant debate may feel frustrating at times but it is the greatest ensurance of freedom. If I am sad about anything, open debate is on hiatus for the time being.