There were no protestors in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania over the weekend…just those who came together to remember our differences and celebrate that which most now recognize as the event that brought us together.
I didn’t see any Republicans in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania this weekend.
I didn’t see any Democrats, either, though I know there were some there.
I didn’t see any actors, or disenfranchised college students, or any of the myriad of socio-demograhic groups who claim to be left behind with the election of Donald J. Trump for president.
Heck, for something as politically challenging as the Civil War once was (and still is) I didn’t see any protesters…of any kind. I did see one guy pan-handling near the city square Saturday morning, wearing a T-shirt that read, “One nation under God, fought and paid for.” I complimented him on the shirt and made a donation.
No, what I saw at the annual Gettysburg Remembrance Weekend celebration was a collection of about 25,000 people who were there to recognize and celebrate the differences that once divided our country; along with the 600,000 American lives sacrificed by both Union and Confederate armies to prove that “Union”, regardless of how imperfect, was devised by smarter, wiser people than those who opposed it then, and now.
There was a grand parade on Saturday afternoon, with re-enactors, historians, “dignitaries” from both sides – a half dozen Abe Lincolns – and the thought struck me as to how unique to see black, white, young and old that were that committed to a principle. And that committed to a period of history that has been derided for years as nothing more than a reminder of hate between people and sections of the country. By the way, there was no shortage of Confederate flags on Saturday, mixed proudly with the American flag, as a sign of history, healing and unity…and pride.
There were Lincolns…and there was a Frederick Douglass, too, marching proudly before a group of black living historians from Baltimore, Maryland dressed in Union blue. There were no signs declaring that one life, or one color, matters over another. Just the reminder that once, when given the opportunity, emancipated African-Americans proudly wore the colors as soldiers of the nineteenth century, just as willing to die for the principle of unity and country as their white brethren. Today our army, navy, air force and marines are dependent upon their example of service, even back then.
They’ve had this event, this “official” weekend, in Gettysburg since the 40s, as a means of consecration for the national cemetery and the final resting place of nearly 4,000 Gettysburg Union battle fatalities from July 1,2 and 3, 1863. It was begun long before civil rights, long before protests, and long before symbols of the Civil War were used to suggest broad-stroke bigotry and racism.
But truly, there was every indication on Saturday that for the lack of protest there really is more that brings us together as Americans than that which divides us. No one was asking for or demanding anything…just the opportunity to illustrate that our history has always proved to be the foundation of our future. We’ve fought wars for generations to be what we are; and we live with the reality that we’re yet to fight more to preserve that.
We’ve been reminded since the original Alexander Hamilton that the uniting principles set forth by the constitution are still more worthy than the idealistic notion that the assets and sacrifice of some is enough to pay for all.
If Saturday, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is any indication…we’ll be fine for generations to come.