A cracked Liberty Bell summons to America. Forever.
Sometimes to initiate a newbie to our youth group we’d randomly place on a sheet, in full view of everyone, a dozen or more eggs right out of the carton. The new kid on the block was then blindfolded and challenged to walk from one side of the sheet to the other with the objective of not stepping on any of the landmines.
During the blindfolded instruction time all the eggs were removed and each replaced with a half-dozen or so stacked soda crackers.
To ensure that there was no way the blindfolded youth would successfully cross without the sound of an egg (stack of crackers) being crushed, we would purposefully move the crackers to where their foot would next descend and loudly proclaim, following the cracking sound, ‘Oh, yucky, white and yellow slimy yoke is messing your shoe! How disgusting!’
G.K. Chesterton describes our current age as “a miserable truce,” wherein “everyone is walking on eggs, afraid to offend and suppressing the truth on account of this fear.”
Two-hundred thirty-eight years ago this coming long holiday weekend – during which “fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions and political gatherings,” in keeping with celebrating America’s birthday not to mention extended vacation trips thanks to the Fourth falling on Friday, all comprising the choices on our fun-stuff-to-do list – way back when, before the Continental Congress of July 4, 1776, there was but one choice, a most difficult choice: “either become glorious Founders of a new nation or swing from the gallows.”
Knowing “they were signing their own ‘death warrants,’” the fifty-six men who placed their names on the Declaration of Independence did so for love of country, to be free from tyranny.
In his book “Our Sacred Honor,” William J. Bennett laments the loss of perhaps the most important part of the legacy bequeathed by the signers and other leaders of the American Revolutionary War, many of whom “had to flee their homes, some lost their property and their fortunes, which they and their families never recovered”: patriotism, and the passion that drives it.
“Most of us don’t have as keen a sense of that now as did the Founders.
“Patriotism means the love of country,” Bennett writes, “and it can call for great sacrifices and courage, perhaps even for the sacrifice of one’s own life.”
Patriotism implies there is something worth fighting for; a conflict in which to engage; a horse to saddle up; a voice to be raised; an alarm to sound.
Now, not so much.
“We tend to live in egotistically soft, thin-skinned times,” writes Msg. Charles Pope. “The pervasive relativism seems to require that if we are going to believe in something we ought not to hold it too strongly, because then we might have an ‘agenda’ and actually let slip that we think there is a truth to be upheld and insisted upon.
Even – and no doubt especially so – in anger, “an ordinary and necessary human passion,” the necessary fuel that lights a necessary fire.
In fact it is quite unlikely that justice will prevail, or truth will be spoken, or declarations signed unless we are vexed and incensed about the injustice or deceitfulness or wrong that should give us no rest until it is made right.
Pope continues, “Rare indeed in the American setting is someone who will respond in a way that both admits anger and owns it as something positive and important, perhaps by saying: ‘I am angry. And I am angry because I really care about this matter. I am not merely a neutral observer. I fully admit I have an agenda, an agenda I passionately believe in, and I experience grief and anger when what I value is dis-valued. Yes, I am angry, and I care about this.’”
Of this last, our Founding – and sword-wielding, musket-carrying, cannon-firing – Fathers, had backbones where it appears, apathetically so, many people today have a wishbone. Theirs was not an age of spin but of spine; not of tolerance and go-along-to-get-along-ness but rather a tea-thrown-in-the-harbor, not-going-to-take-it-anymore toughness for which they most certainly paid a price. They lost their families, property and lives but we, in our can’t-be-bothered stupor, are paying a price as well: we have lost our minds, and along with it, our backbone, our tongue and, in the process, we are sacrificing truth and freedom.
Now it’s vogue to be vague; careful communications are couched in euphemisms (shields) as opposed to dysphemisms (weapons); and generally speaking we speak in generalities.
Caler la voile, we have lowered the sail rather than nailing our colors to the mast.
“Don’t Know Much About History,” was not just a song Sam Cooke wrote in 1959, a line from which President Obama used as a parody in his 2008 presidential campaign suggesting John McCain “don’t know much about industry,” it’s the title of Kenneth C. Davis’s book in which he bemoans our lack of knowledge about where we come from as a nation, suggesting “truth is not cosmetically perfect” – that perhaps the history we learned in school was ‘prettified.’
Pretty – and gone so quickly – are the red-white-and-blue fireworks displays not unlike the not-at-all pretty red blood shed and lives prematurely lost by some 50,000 American dead or wounded between 1775 and 1783.
All to win our nation’s right to be free. Rights – not the current equal rights, sexual orientation and gender identity rights, or reproductive rights that currently and daily clamor for attention, none envisioned then – but to distinguish and then to obtain right from wrong.
Like the Liberty Bell, though cracked when first rung after arrival in Philadelphia summoning lawmakers and citizens alike to the public reading July 8, 1776 of the Declaration of Independence, Americans are summoned again this and every July 4 to herald a message that still rings true, of which Bennett wrote:
“Just as we have a fair claim on our rights, so America’s honor – our sacred honor – has a fair claim on us.”