The 4th of July conjures up all aspects of the American experiment. Old Glory waving in the July breezes of summer; baseball games and hot dogs; fresh apple and cherry pies on picnic tables and bazaars; grills a-blazing; festive tunes and songs with some banjo picking; and of course fireworks to send dogs yelping and babies crying, with spectacular displays to dazzle and enchant the child in all of us.
There is just something about a great fireworks extravaganza to evoke patriotic feelings. The red, white and blue still hold meaning in 2016 for many.
Of course a number of July 4ths have occurred during great civil conflicts and wars. The great war in the United States was the Civil War which saw brother against brother, and the American landscape tainted with the spilt blood of the young and old.
“In the deep green grasses of the blood stained world
They never dreamed of surrenderin’, they fell where they stood” Bob Dylan’s Cross The Green Mountain, from Gods and Generals
“At daylight we moved back and rejoined the brigade. It was the 4th of July, the eighty-seventh anniversary of American Independence, and here we were on a field strewn with the bodies of our comrades, who had died for the great principles which our fathers had maintained in 1776. With the exception of a little picket firing there was no fighting on the 4th, and that night the enemy began their retreat back to Virginia.” Captain E. C. Strouss, History of the 57th Regiment
In his moving poem, Come Up from the Fields Father, Walt Whitman relates a letter received by an Ohio mother from the battlefield concerning her son Pete, their only son:
Open the envelope quickly,
O this is not our son’s writing, yet his name is sign’d,
O a strange hand writes for our dear son, O stricken mother’s soul!
All swims before her eyes, flashes with black, she catches the main
Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish,
taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.
The letter gives hope that their only son, seriously wounded, will survive. Unfortunately, like so many young sons, the poem continues
Alas poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be needs to be
better, that brave and simple soul,)
While they stand at home at the door he is dead already,
The only son is dead. http://www.daypoems.net/poems/2029.html
Since 1776 many brave and simple souls have died on battlefields both known and unknown “for the great principles which our fathers had maintained in 1776”. Many have gone to watery graves. Many are buried in plots of ground still remembered or forgotten over time.
Many mothers have cried tears lost in the streams of time. Fathers have silently grieved for their beloved sons and realized poignantly all the hopes and dreams lost during a day of battle.
When the framers of the Declaration of Independence signed their names to a paper document on July 4th 1776 they had little idea what the words on this document would come to mean down the path of time.
“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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
It has been a struggle to view all men created equal, especially the Native Americans and the slaves. In many ways the struggle continues today with other segments of the population seeking those unalienable rights, those great American ideals. They have traveled a great distance to be part of this great experiment.
What makes America great are those ideals which many continue to strive to achieve for themselves and others. Those inalienable rights are not limited on this planet traversing the cosmos to the United States. They are ideals for every person on this earth.
“This was not written for chiefs. Hear me! Hear this! Among my people, we carry many such words as this from many lands, many worlds. Many are equally good and are as well respected, but wherever we have gone, no words have said this thing of importance in quite this way. Look at these three words written larger than the rest, with a special pride never written before or since. Tall words proudly saying We the People. That which you call Ee’d Plebnista was not written for the chiefs or the kings or the warriors or the rich and powerful, but for all the people! Down the centuries, you have slurred the meaning of the words, ‘We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution.’ These words and the words that follow were not written only for the Yangs, but for the Kohms as well! They must apply to everyone or they mean nothing! Do you understand? ” Captain James T. Kirk, The Omega Glory
May you have a great 4th of July and take time to remember your heritage if you are a part of the United States. Remember: there is still a lot of work to be done to make it united and based on those lofty ideals of so long ago and that shining city on the hill.
“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind, it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace – a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.
“That’s how I saw it, and see it still. How Stands the City?
“And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that: after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm.
“And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the Pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.” President Ronald Reagan’s farewell address to the nation January 11, 1989 http://www.nytimes.com/1989/01/12/news/transcript-of-reagan-s-farewell-address-to-american-people.html?pagewanted=all
G. D. Williams © 2016
E. C. Strouss
Declaration of Independence
How The Flag Came To Be Called Old Glory
You’re A Grand Old Flag
Jayne’s Letter (A Civil War Short Story)
Heritage: A Few Moments To Remember July 4th
Gods and Generals: Bob Dylan “‘Cross The Green Mountain” Music Video
I cross the green mountain, I sit by the stream
Heaven blazing in my head, I dreamt a monstrous dream
Something came up out of the sea
Swept through the land of the rich and the free
This Land Is Your Land
“Going Home” from Gods and Generals by Mary Fahl (formerly of October Project)
Hymn To The Fallen