Independence Day is less than a week away as I write this, and I can’t help but wonder what it will be like this year. COVID-10 is an issue, of course, but also the recent riots and denigrating our founders. When you see the US flag burned on a statue of George Washington, you can’t help but wonder if anyone will celebrate Independence Day.
I hope most Americans do. Independence Day is not just a celebration of declaring our independence from Great Britain, but of this country’s ideals. “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.” These words came from the quill of Thomas Jefferson, a man now reviled, and his statue removed from view in places.
What first begins with the man soon follows with his words and ideals. How long before the Declaration of Independence itself is equally reviled by those who hate this country?
None of what we’ve seen recently, the riots, and the tearing down of heroes, comes from those who love this country and its ideals. For two hundred and forty-four years this Saturday, those who’ve loved this nation have fought to preserve those ideals from enemies both foreign and domestic, to see that those ideals were extended to all. It is a history of all races, for all who have loved this country have played a part, for they have seen something good in this nation’s ideals, something worth defending, even to the point of the ultimate price. It is a history of those who have sought to build up, not tear down. Independence Day is an observance for all who love this country as much as they, a celebration in which those who hate it have no part.
Make no mistake: what we have witnessed these past few weeks, from the burning of US flags to a repeat of the Paris Commune, has not come from a love of this country and its ideals. It comes from a hatred of the very things so many have loved and marched and died for. It is a hatred in search of rationalization, as so many hatreds are, seizing first on those who owned slaves, then, as it festers, on abolitionists and others who never did, until it condemns all that the rioters and their fellow travelers already hated. When they tore down the statue of George Washington, it was not because he owned slaves, but because they saw no value in his part of creating the United States and its ideals. That’s why the statue of abolitionist Hans Christian Heg also ended up in the dust, and why rioters defaced memorials to World War II dead. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that vandals painted a hammer and sickle and communist slogans on a North Carolina World War II memorial. Those who would prefer the tyranny of King George III to liberty no doubt would prefer a tyranny of Marx to what we have now.
I wonder what Crispus Attucks would think of the rioters. Or the blacks who joined with Francis Marion to fight the British, or the men of the 54th Massachusetts, or the men of the 9th Calvary Regiment, or the 369th Infantry, or Lieutenant Jackie Robinson of the 761st Tank Battalion. All these and more knew first hand what today’s generation has never experienced, from slavery to segregation and intense racism, and all fought beneath the very banner that rioters burn today. That’s because they loved this nation and its ideals, saw the goodness there, saw that it transcended the bad, and in those ideals saw something worth defending. When someone says they see no good in America, they say they see no good in what these men did and what fought for. And what would those men say to see what they loved spat upon and discarded like so much garbage? I suspect it would be unprintable.
Think of that whenever you hear someone try to justify tearing down our heroes and ideals. The question isn’t how can someone raise a statue to imperfect men, but how can we not honor those who stood against tyranny, who, against all odds, formed our nation and its ideals. And know that those who would burn our flag and deface our statues and memorials have no love for this country and its ideals.
I hope that most Americans realize this, and that those who hate our country and ideals do not have our best interests at heart. And since they find our country and its ideals so odious, you have to wonder what sort of nation they’d prefer. That hammer and sickle and communist slogans on a North Carolina World War II memorial are strong hints.