My morning commute (with NPR) has informed me that today is National Poem in your Pocket Day. While this may surprise many, I am a fan of poetry. I thought about posting If by Rudyard Kipling. I thought about The Patriot Pastor by Thomas Buchanan Read. But, I finally settled on one that has been a favorite of mine through the years.
Dreams are weird things. Memories are weird things. But the memories of dreams of yesterday are not only weird, they haunt.
“We must get away from shadows that will never let us be. Tomorrow to Calais for a ship across the sea. Hurry Cosette, say no more. Tomorrow we’ll away. Hurry Cosette; it’s time to shut a door and live another day.” ~ Les Miserables
Buried deep within the recesses of my hard drive, in an archive of an archive of an archive, there is a file that was written with Microsoft Word back when it only had a few more features than a typewriter. It is my life plan that I wrote my senior year of high school. I should have know better. It has chance quite a bit since then. Changed isn’t the proper term. Been totally and completely destroyed and replaced a few times is more like it.
That was seven years ago. Back then, I was to have been married and running a vigorous electrical company. Six years ago, I was to be finishing law school right now. Five years ago, I had decided to go to a different law school, and would have still be in it, and engaged. Not to some random person, but I “knew” who it was going to be. Three years ago, I abandoned the thought of law school, and opted instead for going straight for a PhD. At no time did I think I would be sitting out the summer of 2010 praying that I found a job before the money I had saved in grad school ran out.
“Why are entire years strewn on the cutting room floor of memory as single frames of one magic night forever flicker in close up on the 3-D IMAX of my mind.” ~ Rent
The last 72 hours has seen a parade of memories flowing through my mind. There was a time when my life was falling into place. All the pieces of my plan were there, they just had to be put together. But the problem was, it was my plan, not God’s plan. I was about to graduate from GMC, the girl I had been interested in for over a year had finally agreed to have coffee with me, and life was looking good.
We had coffee that day, and she told me about the new, wonderful guy she had started dating the day before. In the following weeks, my circle of close-knit friends began to split apart. To get over it, I buried myself in a campaign. From graduation day to Election Day, I breathed, ate, and lived the fight for the Georgia 8th. We lost. We lost by 1752 votes, or about one percentage point.
I recovered and moved on. I went on to intern at the capitol. My major plans changed again. I was told it would be stupid for me to go to law school (from someone how had just graduated law school…) and decided instead for a master’s degree.
So, what brought up this walk down memory lane? Sunday afternoon. I attended the Peach Pundit Roadshow and a meet-and-greet for a man I first met and came to respect during that capitol internship. He was a member of the committee I for which I worked and was chairman of one of the subcommittees. Rep. Scott is now a candidate for the same GA-8th. I was introduced around as having worked for Collins four years prior. I felt like one of the members of the light brigade. That started the gears of memory turning. How much I loved the game, even though I’ve never actually experienced the happy side of election day.
- What if I had gotten the duet I wanted instead of the solo I ended up with?
- What if I had asked her out the week before?
- What if I could have recruited 10 more volunteers to work for 8 more hours?
- What if we had actually won that election?
- What if 50 something other Republicans had won that fateful night in 2006?
- What if I had went on to law school?
- What if I had taken that job in Virgina three years ago? Would I have won that race?
- What if I had taken that job in Atlanta two years ago?
At the dawn of this day, I knew it would be a long one. I had to docent a class that is nowhere near my field (The History and Sociology of the American Woman…). I had to lead a freshman study group (an absolute terror to any graduate assistant). Today was the day that the much debated Student Wellness and Recreation Center finally would come to a vote before the Senate of the Student Government Association. Then, I found out a motorcade was going to be rolling through downtown.
This was no typical motorcade. This was to honor an individual who, though I never met him, would have been offended if you called him sir. “Don’t call me sir; I work for a living,” would have likely been his response. He was the father of three kids, worked for the Bibb County sheriff’s office, and was a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard. He was also killed in action outside Khost, Afghanistan on September 30th by a roadside IED.
The Senate Session, the most important and intense of the year (and quite possibly the most important since I have been involved with GCSU Student Government) paled in comparison to what was happening outside in the street. As the sirens approached in the distance, the business of wellness centers and increased fees didn’t seem quite as important. The senate recessed so its members and observers could join the crowd gathered on the sidewalk to pay their respects as a hero passed by. On any other day, this would have been the most notable event. But this was not any other day.
Later on in the evening, I led a study session for Politics and Society, my school’s freshman American government course which is required of all students. After the session was over, a student came up to me. He was an international student from Iraq. He didn’t know about the motorcade; he’d been studying for the upcoming exam. What he didn’t understand was why students had not participated more in the decision about the wellness center. Out of six thousand students, less than 100 attended the meetings.
He told me how if you had expressed opposition in Iraq, even about something as minor as a student fee, you were risking your life. He told me of family members who had lost their lives. He told me of the betrayal of friends who had join the insurgency. Then, he talked to me about how much he loved being in this country. He spoke of how he couldn’t understand how Americans did not take advantage of the freedoms to which they had become accustomed and apathetic. He understood how valuable and precious the freedoms are that are largely ignored by people who have lived under those freedoms their entire lives.
In spite of the snide comments of some of the scumbags in the crowd, who didn’t understand why we were honoring someone who killed for a living, the mass of people who lined the streets understood a fact so profound that many can no longer comprehend it. SSgt French understood it. A young international student understood it. Freedom is precious. Bringing freedom to the far corners of the world “forgotten by all but the war lords” is worth sacrifice. America, even with all of its problems, is still the greatest nation in the world. “People want a better life, and they want it here.” But, what about freedom everywhere? Why can’t that be our goal?
~ President John Kennedy
Two hundred thirty-three years ago, fifty-three guys got together and decided that some truths were simply self evident. All men are created equal. These men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, these rights being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They declared that the purpose of government was to ensure these rights, and when government failed to perform its duty, the people had the right to alter or abolish that government.
These men went on to list the ways in which King George had violated these rights and submitted this indictment to a candid world. Then, “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” they pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
Of course, I am writing of the Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate on this day. The men whose names are affixed to this document which announced to the world:
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.
Their names are burned into our minds and history books: John Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton. Yet, none of these men acted alone. Why? Because, in order to succeed, this undertaking would need MUTUAL effort. One colony, or even a group of colonies, could challenge the British empire effectively. It would require a united effort.
It has never failed that, upon the occasion off viewing a film based in the time of war in the 18th or 19th century, that my uninformed companions mention the idiocy of the tactics of battle during that time. Well, that was a time of major transition in battlefield tactics, but this rank and file system of the battle line was highly effective at the time of its inception. While it may seem foolish to stand in neat lines (ranks in one direction, files in the other, thus rank-and-file) and fire weapons at each other at close range.
But, go back another couple thousand years, when these tactics began. A lone combatant was the strength of one. When combined into a group of 8 men (a Contubernium), and those groups were combined into a Centura (10 contuberniums or 80 men), they were a highly powerful and effective fighting force. Some they locked their shields together and provided defense not only for themselves, but also for their comrades.
The principle of mutually facing life with comrades is also found in scripture.
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” ~ Hebrews 10:25
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” ~ Matthew 18:20
So then, not only do we gain strength from each other, the Lord also promises to be in the midst of those who fear him.
Over the course of the last three days, I have celebrated our nation’s independence in three very different ways, in three very different places. On Thursday, I was in Warner Robins. Independence Day is a very big deal there. It is a military town and home of Robins Air Force Base. Just about everyone in the town is somehow related to public service. And boy, when it’s time to celebrate, they go all out. Somewhere between twenty to thirty thousand people pack into the local high school football stadium. There are overflights by military aircraft. The Band of the Air Force Reserve performs along with nationally known guest artists. The fireworks display is something to behold. The show goes into the night, the stalemate in the parking lot much later. It is typically well after midnight before I am able to return home and get to bed. But, it is well worth it.
Friday saw another celebration. This one was what was once the middle of nowhere (in my lifetime) between Eatonton and Greensboro. Then, Lake Oconee became THE place to be in this section of the state. The per capita income has $9.365 in 1985 (when I was born) to $31,331 in 2007. Even adjusting for inflation, that’s more than double. Put frankly, the population, and the wealth, of the county has exploded. Where the Warner Robins was patriotic and enthusiastic, this was regal and elegant. As well it should have been. Instead of a band, the artist here at Reynolds Plantation was trumpeter and vocalist Phil Driscoll (who lives nearby) backed up by the Atlanta Pops. The setting was a far cry from the battleground of a high school football field. Instead, it was on the lake, between the beach and a swimming pool on the back lawn of the Ritz-Carlton Lodge. Instead of taking swallows of coke, here the spectators sipped wine. Instead of wheeling in an ice chest, there were caterers onsite. While I am certain that those in attendance loved their country as much as those I had I had seen the previous evening, they expressed their patriotism in a very different manner.
Finally, today, I went to the Independence Day Celebration in Wrightsville, Georgia. Wrightsville is not really known for anything. Most of the plants which were there have closed. Its main claim to fame is now this one day a year when they go all out to celebrate this country and a guy who was pretty good with a football about 30 years ago. Wrightsville is rural Georgia. VERY rural. It would have done well as the set of Sweet Home Alabama (the actual location of the filming would require a drive of about 60 miles north to Crawfordville). The people here, while not ignorant by any means, are faced with more important concerns than contemplating the deep meanings of life in the United States. But, they love this country. I saw more red, white, and blue today than I did in the last two days combined, never mind the that there was as many people at the Ritz as live in the entire county, and at least three times as many in Warner Robins. The air was full of patriotism. From the parade, to the booths on the town square, to the runners in the road race.
Why do I mention all of these three very different places? Because if this nation is going to continue into the next 233 years, the people at Reynolds Plantation are going to have to join forces with the people in Warner Robins, who in turn are going to have to link arms with the people in Wrightsville. Though many, we ARE one. We are one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge–and more.
America is at a crossroads. We have become so divided that idiocies are accepted as proposals simply because they are different than the status quo. My friends, please join with me. Once again, this nation needs to, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, to mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. Let not history judge this generation as the one who destroyed the greatest nation in the annals of time.
If the embedded video doesn’t display, click HERE.