Friday, May 28, 2010

My Country, 'Tis of Thee

My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!
Our country is not perfect. That is one of the great beauties about it. We can argue and debate and go back and forth on what things mean and what it should all be about. 
One thing I know for certain: men and women, like my friend Sandy's nephew, Joe Lewis, who gave his life in Afghanistan this past year, who went out to willingly serve for a country he believed in and loved - these brave people have given me the ability to walk free in my country. Young people like my husband's cousin, Zach, who is training with the Marines, make it possible to continue to live in this sweet land of liberty.
I have had the privilege this past semester to study the Constitution with my children. It is breathtaking. The vision for this country was something that had almost never been done (successfully) before. There have been historical flaws in living out this vision, but the idea behind it is staggering: 
"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."
Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome laid many of the foundations of democracy, but were never able to hold on to it for long. Sooner or later, some crazy dictator or emperor or senator would come along and take control. We learned much from these cultures, but they did not do what we did.
At the same time our country was being founded, France was undergoing severe trials and rebellions. Many dreams died there, many people died there. Young Americans learned a great deal from France, about what to do and what not to do.  Robespierre spoke loudly and passionately. The founding fathers of America were quite aware of what he said. Some of it was inspired, while some of it was the ranting of a cruel, merciless dictator. "Not only is virtue the soul of democracy; it can exist only in that government," Robespierre proclaimed. Too bad he followed it with "Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country's most urgent needs". You lost me at the whole terror=justice thing, Robespierre!
No, as imperfect as our country is and its people are, the principles we are founded on are amazing. Looking into the workings of our government inspires a sense of awe. Yes, there are many problems with politics today. Many! But the idea behind creating a government of checks and balances, and watching it play out in front of our eyes - not many countries have that kind of transparency!
I get very frustrated with my government and the feeling that I am a little person who the Big Guys in Washington are happy to step on. However, I am truly, truly thankful for the beauty of our country and its ideals. And extremely grateful to all those who serve this nation, so that my family and I may live in extraordinary freedom.
Happy Memorial Day!

1 comment:

GMN said...

Thanks for the thoughtful and beautiful thoughts - and for neat pictures too!