I remember well the first time I ever saw my Dad cry — I had been pestering him with my childish naiveté to tell me about life during the Great Depression. Even up to her death just shy of 98, Mom would euphemistically recall those first years of their marriage as “Those Dirty Thirties.” Our nation has faced tough times before.
Our nation has serious issues to address today. Our political process sputters just above dysfunctional. The verb “to govern” seems to have disappeared from our lexicon, leaving us with politicians rather than leaders. Yet, we should worry about our rabidly anti-government rhetoric poisoning — perhaps precluding — the formation of a needed and healthy patriotism among our children.
How do we purge the nastiness that has taken hold of our national character? We retreat to isolated enclaves in defense of the solitary rights of private citizens, forsaking the solidarity of common citizenship. Like spoiled children we obsess about individual rights rather than accepting personal responsibility for self and others. With narcissism cloaked in the rhetoric of Ayn Rand we facilely assert “freedom from…” leaving “freedom for…” holed up in the National Archives.
Yes, our nation has faced tough times before. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated hardly more than a month after delivering his Second Inaugural Address. Perhaps his concluding words are as fitting for us on this Fourth of July as they were when he first spoke them to a war-weary nation:
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.