Friday, July 2, 2010

America, the Beautiful, America the Blessed

I'm not ashamed to admit that I cry when I hear the Star-Spangled Banner. I picture Francis Scott Key and his friend standing on the deck of the ship, peering through the breaking dawn, fearful of what they would - or wouldn't see. Then the sun reveals the heart-stopping view of the American flag, still waving over the fort, though tattered and blackened by the battle which had raged throughout the night. My heart beats in gratitude for the inspiration he received to write that anthem.

I hear Patrick Henry's stirring speech, "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH!" and hail those early heroes who knew how dangerous was their course, but plunged ahead anyway, giving me the opportunity to raise my children in the "land of the free and the home of the brave."

When we were in Armenia, there were only two flights in and out of that little Christian country per week and only one friendly border that could be crossed because of wars with neighboring Muslim countries. One day sitting by the open window I heard the sound of an airplane. I commented to my husband in the other room what an unusual sound it was in Armenia. Having lived on and near numerous Air Force bases in our 25 years in the Air Force, it was a sound we were so used to, we eventually didn't give it a second thought. But when he called back, "That's the sound of freedom," I realized the significant truth in that statement.

Freedom! What a beautiful word. What a privilege to live in this country where so many gave their lives and their all that their posterity could enjoy those priceless freedoms they held so dear. Those 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence sacrificed their families, their homes, and some even their lives because of their stand against the crushing oppression of unreasonable taxation.

When Thomas Jefferson said: "We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor," he meant it, as did each of those men.

John Adams said: "All that I have, and all that I am, and all that hope, in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off as I begun, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God, it shall be my dying sentiment, Independence, now, and INDEPENDENCE FOR EVER."

". . .Thomas Jefferson tells that on the day of our nation's birth in the little hall in Philadelphia, debate had rated for hours. The men gathered there were honorable men, hard-pressed by a king who had flouted the very laws they were willing to obey. Even so, to sign a Declaration of Independence was such an irretrievable act that the walls resounded with the words "treason, the gallows, the headman's axe," and the issue remained in doubt.

Then a man rose and spoke. Jefferson described him as not a young man, but one who had to summon all his energy for an impassioned plea. He cited the grievances that had brought them to this moment and finally, his voice failing, he said, "They may turn every tree into a gallows, every home into a grave, and yet the words of that parchment can never die. To the mechanic in the workshop, they will speak hope; to the slave in the mines, freedom. Sign that parchment. Sign if the next moment the noose is around your next, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the Bible of the rights of man forever." He fell back, exhausted.

The 56 delegates, swept up by his eloquence, rushed forward and signed a document destined to be as immortal as a work of man can be. When they turned to thank him for his timely oratory, he was not be found, no could any be found who knew who he was or how he had come in or gone out through the locked and guarded doors. Fifty-six men, a little band so unique, of which we have never seen the like since, had pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor

What manner of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, eleven were mercants and tradesmen, and nine were farmers. They were soft-spoken men of means and education; they were not an unwashed rabble. They had achieved security but valued freedom more. Their stories have not been told nearly enough.

John Hart was driven from the side of his desperately ill wife. For more than a year, he lived in the forest and caves before he returned to find his wife dead, his children vanished, and his property destroyed. He died of exhaustion and a broken heart.

Carter Braxton of Virginia lost all his ships, sold his home to pay his debts, and died in rags. And so it was with Ellery, Clmyer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Rutledge, Morris, Livingston and Middleton. Nelson personally urged Washington to fire on his home and destroy it when it became the headquarters for General Cornwallis. Nelson died bankrupt.

But they sired a nation that grew from sea to shining sea. Five million farms, quiet villages, cities that never sleep, three million square miles of forest, field, mountain and desert, millions of people with a pedigree which includes the bloodlines of all the world. There have been revolutions before and since ours. But those revolutions simply exchanged one set of rules for another. Ours was a revolution that changed the very concept of government.

Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights: that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people. We sometimes forget that great truth and we never should." Written by President Ronald Reagan, 1981 on a yellow pad at Camp David for Parade Magazine.

I couldn't have said it better. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing on Sunday, the 234th anniversary of that day in 1776, remember how incredibly blessed we are to enjoy the freedoms provided us by a loving Father in Heaven, and all those who have spilled their precious blood to keep us free from the tyranny that ever endeavors to take it from us. We must always remember, freedom isn't free. It must be preserved and protected, even from within our own borders and government.

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