On a day when the kids were still quite young, I was hit with the “It’s not fair!” line. All parents have heard it numerous times. On that one day, I responded, “That’s right! Life’s NOT fair! Life’s tough, then you die. The sooner you accept that fact, the better off you’ll be.”
It was gratifying a couple of decades later when at least a couple of my kids told me that those words had stuck with them and helped them get through some rough spots.
On this Memorial Day, I reflect on what many men and women did in making the ultimate sacrifice. Was it “fair” that they gave their life? Was it a noble cause to secure liberty, or was it some ill-conceived political notion?
I frequently quote the late Paul Harvey. He often reminded his audience that “with increased liberty comes increased responsibility on our part.” In reality, that is much the same sentiment Benjamin Franklin shared when he suggested that those who give up liberty for security would find they have neither. If we are not willing to accept the responsibility, then someone else will, and you will have forfeited your ability to choose.
At present, I don’t recognize my country anymore. I never thought the hit by Shania Twain, “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” would be put to use by men. I never thought that calling someone “him” or “her” would be a problem. LGBTQIA: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, and Allies. Really? Everyone gets a trophy; everyone passes as long as they try. I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the picture.
You may be surprised to hear that this is not a new phenomenon. I am working on an article about choices and consequences, look for that soon.
People have tried to escape reality and therefore, responsibility, ever since man walked the Earth. Today our thoughts are of those who not only refused to escape but ran headlong into the fray because they valued liberty more than life. I am reminded of the line from “America the Beautiful:”
O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life! America! America!
I frequently hear there are no Thomas Jeffersons or George Washingtons amongst our present generations today. Neither did those figures exist at the nation’s founding—until they stepped up. When the men and women who pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor did so over 200 years ago, they wrote a blank check for all their worldly possessions and their lives. They secured the pledge with their honor.
As our nation budded, George Washington was asked to lead the nation’s army and militias against the British. Great Britain was the world’s major power of the day. It would be like the Puerto Rico taking on the U.S., today. At the time, Washington loved his farm and did not want to leave, yet he left it for six long years. Prime years of his life were given as service to an idea, liberty.
In 1783, responding to discontent in his officer’s ranks (justifiably so, considering what Congress had been doing), Washington gave a stirring speech to those assembled. Perhaps the speech was sufficient, however, as he unfolded a letter from Congress to read, he said, “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.” The discontent faded.
After the war while working on the Constitution, political morale was bad and the convention was struggling. Men came to Mount Vernon and asked Washington for help. He initially refused, saying, “Haven’t I given enough for my country?” No, he hadn’t, and he realized it.
General Washington did not say much at the convention; he didn’t have to. Just his presence added a tremendous amount of integrity to the process. Historically, great military leaders become kings or dictators, as the power they accumulate while in office as a general is very hard to relinquish. King George III asked American painter Benjamin West what General Washington planned to do after winning independence: “They say he will return to his farm,” West said. The king replied, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” Indeed he was.
George Washington did not lose his life in service to our nation, but he did give it freely. What of those like Crispus Attucks, the first casualty of the Revolution? Killed in the Boston Massacre, Crispus was a well loved, black man. What of Nathan Hale who served as a Colonel in the Minute Men Militia who died at the hands of the British after being captured? What about Davy Crockett who fought in the War of 1812 and died in defense of the Alamo in the fight for Texas independence?
Some of our nation’s wars have had a noble cause, securing liberty for us at home. Some have been in defense of liberty for those abroad, and in some cases, it has been to further a political agenda. The only way our system of military strength works is that it is led by civilians who unquestioningly follow legal orders. If their lives are given in vain, it is not their fault; it is ours. In my upcoming article on consequences, I will look at every angle. While we might have a tendency to point fingers, in many cases the finger will be pointing at us.
Today, while many of us will celebrate by having a cookout or day with the family, remember those who are not here. Remember those to loved country more than self. Remember those who kissed their loved ones goodbye only to have it be the last kiss, the last goodbye. Remember those spouses who had to carry on alone. Remember those children who never got to share those special moments with their mom or dad. Remember those who did not make excuses and accepted the challenge.
Remember, life’s not fair or easy.