Memorial Day services in Bruce and Calhoun City Monday morning provided wonderful reminders that the holiday for most is more than the official beginning of summer. However, simply remembering those lost serving this nation falls short of a proper memorial.
Rev. Dwight Brown said it best Monday on the Bruce Square when he encouraged those listening to honor the lives lost fighting for freedom by “using your freedom well.”
Not to compare the speakers, but Brown’s point to his message reminded me of the words of Abraham Lincoln in the famous Gettysburg Address when he said, “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 remaining before us - that from these 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, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
President Lincoln was urging Americans to utilize their freedom responsibly and honorably. That is an incredibly tall order and one all of us likely falter on from time to time.
It left me to wonder if those who died on the battlefield over the course of this nation’s history could come back now and see our country and how we are using our freedom, what their impression would be.
I’m confident they would be amazed at how much we’ve accomplished on a grand scale – from a fledgling nation in 1776 to the world leader today; the eradication of slavery and the achievements of the civil rights movement; the true melting pot of a society we have become; and the strength and might of our modern day military.
But I also suspect there would be some incredible disappointments. The fact that so few Americans participate in our election process, such a critical aspect of freedom they fought and died for.
The idea that too many of those revered and worshiped in today’s society haven’t done anything of note beyond making a fool of themselves on TV or the movie screen.
The idea that more Americans could identify what a Lady Gaga is than tell you the name of their United States senator. And let’s not even start on what constitutes debatable issues in today’s political races (See McDaniel vs Cochran).
American politics have been combative from the earliest days of this country, but I’m not certain the blame game has necessarily been the hallmark of both parties’ platforms before, that whose idea it is takes more precedence than the worthiness of the idea itself.
We owe it to all those who have fought and died to use our freedom responsibly. Cast a vote. Stay informed and think seriously about what you can do to improve your community, your state and our nation.