When you think of the word freedom what pictures are conjured up in your mind? I see a nation with rights and freedoms for all. I think of people able to worship as they wish or not worship at all if that is their preference. I see people fiercely loyal to their country and their flag. I see people willing to help each other in times of need.
It is during these times of need that our nation seems to come together as one. Think about Sandy Hook and Hurricane Sandy. Think about 9/11. Think about the Boston Marathon bombing. When people are hurting the nation comes together to help. Charitable organizations mobilize their efforts to provide the necessities that people need to survive the trauma.
What has happened to our country? What has happened to some of our freedoms? Why do large groups of people have to compromise their faith to accommodate others? Is there no room for all of us in this melting pot nation that we live in? Do we not all have rights?
It seems like more and more laws are being passed that infringe upon our basic rights. I fully realize that along with the rights that I cherish there are responsibilities. We have the responsibility to respect the rights of others to worship as they please. We have the responsibility to let others live as they choose. That also means that they must reciprocate and grant us that right. That should give us the right to uphold the laws of the nation. We should not have to compromise our basic freedoms.
Large groups of people have pushed for more and more rights. Well, I for one object! For every right that disappears I am making a sacrifice. Think back to the time that this great nation of ours was founded. No, the founding fathers probably did not do everything right, but at least they left room for the differences. The laws did not need to be changed to accommodate them. I consider more than 200 years of history important. We should not have to amend the Constitution or pass laws to fix what has been working well.
I understand that times are different, but why are they different? They are different because the people who call this nation home are not all citizens with rights and privileges. They are different because corruption and blatant abuse of the laws of the land are rampant. The proliferation of drugs is a serious issue that we have to deal with as a nation. It leads to the crowding of our prisons with people who feel they are above the law. I have just scratched the surface here so do not feel like my list is complete.
If we could go back to the teachings that we all grew up with like Robert Fulghum wrote about in his book "All We Need to Know We Learned in Kindergarten," what would life be like? Would families be strengthened? Would there be less racial conflict? Would there be a more charitable feeling toward others? Would there be less violence? Would illicit drugs even be an issue?
Recently in church we sang the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." That song comes from the time in history when brothers were fighting against brothers and our nation was divided. The author, Julia Ward Howe, was a woman who would put her life on the line for a cause she believed in. She was a woman of action, yet she as a writer understood the impact that her words had.
Howe was a noted writer and lecturer. As the Civil War broke out her travel increased. Her work took her and her husband to Washington, D.C. During one evening of travel around the city the group heard the depressing words of the song "John Brown's Body" being sung by the troops that were gathered around campfires. Someone offered her a challenge. "Surely there are better words for such a wonderful tune."
Haunted by the melody Mrs. Howe put pen to paper to see what she could do. One source I consulted said that she had the first verse of the song done in minutes. As soon as she completed the song she sent it off to the Atlantic Monthly. The song brought such a response from the readers that it was soon published in other magazines. From that time until the close of the war Union troops marched to that song.
Although the verses of the song have undergone some minor revisions throughout the years, the essence of Julia Ward Howe's inspiring words live on to this day. Since we are celebrating the 150-year anniversary of the Civil War it seems quite fitting that it should become part of the festivities.
Who said a single person cannot do anything?
There are special memories for me this Memorial Day. Eleven years ago my last grandson was born. My granddaughter and I attended Memorial Day services at the Russell Cemetery. She tugged on my hand as grandpa's name was read in the roll call of veterans deceased in the last year. This year the grandson that was the Memorial Day baby once again celebrates on Memorial Day. He had the honor of placing the flag on his grandfather's grave this part as part of his Boy Scout duties.
As we think of the history of the military and honor those who served this weekend pause to give thanks for those selfless individuals who put their lives on the line over and over again to preserve our freedoms. Let freedom ring as people gather in their churches. How about ringing those church bells an extra time or two in honor of the veterans?
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.