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 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 before us… that from theses 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, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.
— Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863
President Lincoln delivered those words at the dedication of The Soldier’s National Cemetery on a battlefield in Pennsylvania. Though that civil war is over, I can’t help but think that the fight for a ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people’ is an ongoing one. Not all wars are fought with bayonets and rifles, with missiles and tanks. It seems to me that whenever people are free, wherever there is liberty for the masses, someone is at work to take that freedom away.
As a result, the war for the idea of America… the idea that all men are created equal has been fought on the battlefields at home and abroad, in courtrooms, town squares, and in our city streets since we won our independence so many years ago. We have won some battles which have brought us closer to the ideals on which we were founded, evidenced by a Presidential election that saw a Latino, a black man, and a woman vie for the Presidency of the United States, as well as the increasing recognition by individual states that sexual orientation should not be used as grounds for withholding the basic human rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
However, the fight continues with new and resurgent attacks against our liberties. New technologies that invade our privacy by both government and business interests have infiltrated our daily lives and invaded our homes. The oft effective and readily used excuse of safety and security is once again at the forefront of reasons why we the people should relinquish that very basic and human right to privacy. That argument is being wielded as it has been throughout the course of history by those in power to leverage their will upon the people by convincing the people to voluntarily give up what was so violently and costly won.
There also seems to be a contradictory struggle between those fighting for liberty against the tyranny of those who would impose his own religious beliefs upon society at large. I call it a contradictory struggle because the basic strategy in that fight is to attack and suppress the basic freedoms of religion. It is no more your right to extinguish your neighbor’s right to worship as it is his right to force upon you his beliefs.
We must rediscover a balance, or find a new balance in these changing times and shifting mores, in which we are all free to worship or not, believe or not, in the manner which we choose for ourselves. The global war we find ourselves in these days is the result of religious extremism and lack of tolerance. Why is it then that our response to that threat is to scatter to our own corners of intolerance and religious or secular extremism. We are strongest when we are one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Whether you feel that nation is under God or simply under the clear blue skies of freedom, our collective response should be in the spirit of Liberty. Under that spirit, we are indestructible by outside forces. Respect your neighbor’s belief in God. Respect your neighbor’s lack of faith in a higher power. Share the earth hand in hand and let God or nature prove who’s right and who is wrong at the end of time, but don’t spend your life fighting over what is so personal and unprovable. To fight over that is contradictory to the both the Bible and the ideals of Liberty. So live and let live and stand together as Americans. That is what sets this nation apart from so many others on earth.
This is a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is our duty as citizens of this great nation to educate ourselves, to read, reason, and react rationally to the issues of our day and to become involved in a process that has been hijacked by special interests and greedy politicians. In this way we can ensure that those who have fought for, died for, marched for, and lived for our freedoms have not done so in vain.
If America is ever to crumble, it will be from within. Our greatest enemy today is the corruption of our government. Of the people, by the people, and for the people does not exist if those whom are elected to power are there to serve only their self-interests and are willing to do so at the expense of our nation’s. It seems to me that that is becoming more and more the case. Record tax revenue is met with record spending and yet so many of our population goes without the basic necessities of life. Our bridges and infrastructure crumbles, our schools fail, our elderly go hungry, our veterans go without medical care, our borders are porous, and our debt rises all the while rich men and women get elected to public office to be servants of the public but behave only as servants of themselves and they become richer on the backs of the American people. This trend has got to stop. Without a representative government, this notion of Liberty and justice for all cannot survive.
We cannot forget what President Lincoln so eloquently said that day in Pennsylvania, “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task before us… that from theses 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, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Happy Fourth of July everyone. Stay safe. Put aside your political and theoretical differences for the day and embrace the ideals we share despite our differences and celebrate that great notion upon which this country was founded. Celebrate that idea because that idea is America, and America is beautiful.