To the endless question as to what’s wrong in America, and what would it take to make us better – and unified – some words of perspective on where the responsibility belongs. And it’s not Washington!
Gettysburg, PA – I’m in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania this weekend for business aside from sports, and coincidentally this trip coincides with that city’s annual ‘Remembrance Weekend’, commemorating the great battle between the states here in July of 1863. If you’ll remember your history, the North team won that day, but the Civil War itself went into overtime for another two years.
One of the central components of ‘Remembrance Weekend’ in Gettysburg is a massive display of 19th century military units, in full Civil War garb, that march in a two-hour-long parade on Saturday to pay tribute to those soldiers from both the Union and Confederacy that fought here 155 years ago. And of course, this “celebration” stands out to some with today’s modern perspective on race relations as a celebration of NOT how we once unified as a country, but as a reminder that back then America fought to preserve a culture that included slavery. And to that end, there are a ‘few’ dissident protesters in Gettysburg this weekend that want ‘Remembrance Day’ eliminated altogether – and an end to any celebration of history that might serve to foster continuing division in modern American culture.
Police and highway patrolmen were in evidence as I’ve never seen them before, but there was no disturbance, and no disruption of any kind. One would never suspect that it was anything but Gettysburg business, as usual. The locals, along with thousands who annually visit, paid their respects to the fallen from both sides of that great war, 155 years ago – unified!
So on this weekend following Veteran’s Day, where we put on a great show of national unity for the sake of those who have fallen to ensure the freedoms that we all enjoy…I’ll share some personal perspective on just what it would take to unify America, or at least…the kind of Americans that enjoy in this day the privileges thereof. Because now the privileges are quite expanded from those enjoyed by the people that survived the Civil War, World War I and II…and many who lived that same American dream right up until the ‘Great Society’ and Lyndon Johnson’s ‘war on poverty’ in 1964.
For the sake of disunity in this day most point to rhetoric of the president – of Donald Trump – and claim that he’s the one who’s divided America. He’s verbose, he’s inflammatory, unapologetic, and doesn’t seem to care about anyone’s opinion. But I don’t know that you can hold him accountable for dividing the country.
After all, the previous president came to office promising to bring us all together…and did anything but. If anything, he put a microscope on how the government has always failed with attempts to unify. What Obama promised was a means of unity that sought to (in his words) redistribute the wealth of America – tax those that had to pay for those that had not – and that we’d all feel better for it. In other words, he chose to throw money at the problem, and it didn’t work. It never has.
If you look at many of the issues that divide America today – and we have ’em – money is the central issue in people’s minds, and what it would take to make them feel a part of the American dream. The only problem is…the Robin Hood approach doesn’t work, and there’s no proof that it’s ever worked. You cannot mandate, or demand, through legislation that some have to pay for others – for education, for health care, for food and housing, and a solution to the homeless problem – without causing hard feelings. And it has since the beginning of time.
Bottom line: politics and politicians from either party have never done much to unify Americans. They only make it worse.
So what WILL it take? Well the solution does not lie with Donald Trump, Obama, or some other Republican or Democrat sure to come next. No, the solution lies with you and me – with the individual citizen of this country who takes it upon himself to reach out and be a good and trustful neighbor. It’s a “love your neighbor as yourself” thing that will ultimately make a difference, not a mass effort of spending and waste by federal bureaucracy.
But to the dissatisfaction of those who protest in Gettysburg this weekend, and others like them, it won’t happen overnight. It never has, not the since Jesus Christ himself walked the earth.
It’ll be a series of mini-wins as people discover the nature of kindness with which each of us is capable to one extent or another. It will happen as a result of one being taught how to fish, rather than expecting another to provide the fish already caught. It’ll come about as a result of individuals taking responsibility, and that personally, because government has been a miserable failure.
And why such failure? Because government is about getting elected, influence, favors owed, and promises that cannot be kept. Government exists on the very concepts of disunity as it mandates to take from one, proportionately, to pay for another. It DOESN’T work.
So…it comes down to you and me. And I asked one of the unhappy here this weekend, “Really, what is there to protest? What we’ve learned from history? Because we all know that none of this can ever happen again – that one part of the country can bring war on another? And isn’t this a good reminder of why we shouldn’t?”
“I think it’s the wrong message to pay respect of any kind to the Confederate flag,” he answered, moving on.
Perhaps, if you live in the past. But in the present…when the parade was over those people from both uniforms got together and had dinner, socialized, and supported each other’s right to agree or differ. They took individual responsibility for putting aside the differences that once divided the country, as many have done since the Civil War – of learning from our history. And their being here this weekend is surely one such sign of American unity.
But that’s not logical enough, or immediate enough, for the political mindset – those who seek the modern solution to everything. Why observe and have respect for those who have already shown an ability to resolve their differences?
Why do that…when you can throw money at the problem!