Four Score and Seven Years Ago
Posted on July 1, 2013
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
My grandfather’s grandfather arrived in America from Ireland about a decade before the most famous battle in our nation’s history commenced.
If you think about it, the battle of Gettysburg wasn’t that long ago.
I have met someone in my life who knew someone who knew somebody who fought in the Civil War. The history lives on and courses through our veins as if it were yesterday.
On my Facebook page, I see Tea Partiers who link to web articles calling it a shame that the South lost the Civil War. That is not my view.
I am from the Land of Lincoln, and I don’t pine for the past and wonder what might have been. I look at the glory of our disparate nation and say this is how it should be: America united and moving through history as the world’s most noble experiment in self-government.
Robert E. Lee, once held up as a hero, is now being blamed for blowing it for the Confederacy. If only he had not told Pickett to charge, the Johnny Rebs could have marched on Washington, and history would have changed.
Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker and historian, wrote a book to that effect a couple years ago. I didn’t read it.
The Civil War lives in on our national debate.
Southern politicians have changed political labels, but some haven’t necessarily changed their secessionist tendencies. The most extreme have called to nullify Obamacare, channeling their inner John C. Calhoun. Calhoun died before the Civil War, but he was an inspiration for the Confederates who followed in his footsteps.
Tensions between the North and the South aren’t what they once were, but they haven’t gone away either.
Bob McDonnell, the Virginia Governor (who ironically graduated from the leading Roman Catholic university, Notre Dame), asked to borrow a Reb flag that was captured by the Union Army during the Gettysburg battle to help commemorate that bloody day. Mark Dayton, the Minnesota Governor, basically told McDonnell to go screw himself.
The John Roberts Court ruled that portions of the Voting Right Act, which was enacted a century after the Civil War was concluded, were no longer necessary. After all, black turnout exceeded white turnout in many of the targeted states. Or so went the theory. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that things are just hunky dory, as far as race relations go, in the Old South, and the ruling provoked some controversy.
It is unlikely that Abe Lincoln, the first Republican President, could win a GOP primary contest these days. After all, he was a Deist, and he had a beard. And he didn’t give due deference to States Rights in his first campaign for the White House. That could make a pretty devastating 30-second ad on Super Tuesday.
Paula Deen was either set up or stepped into it in a nasty little lawsuit that revealed that she used the “N” word on occasion two decades ago, and that she once thought it would be cool to use only African-Americans servants in plantation-themed restaurant.
She first said she was really sorry and then she lashed out at her critics in a Today show interview.
Racial tension has reared its ugly head again in the George Zimmerman trial in Sanford, Florida. Trayvon Martin was shot dead by the neighborhood watch captain, and an all-white jury now stands in judgment of the white defendant. (Ok, he is not white, he is Hispanic, but the media wants to make this a really big deal, and it is a lot easier if Zimmerman is seen as a white cracker, to turn a phrase).
The African-American community has some built-in resentment towards law enforcement (for obvious reasons), but at some point, the distrust becomes counter-productive. Black Americans are more likely to be killed by other black Americans, and they have the most to gain by cooperating with the police. But many don’t see it that way. History lives on every day.
Slavery was America’s original sin and it lives with us to this very day. The battle of Gettysburg helped to set in motion that defeat of the Confederacy, and the ultimate victory of those who wanted to finally end the peculiar institution in all of the States of the Union.
But that didn’t end the fight for freedom in America. As Lincoln said, we the living must be dedicated to the unfinished business at hand, that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
That is the task before us. To keep expanding freedom to all Americans through our Constitution, with deference to our history but with great hope in a brighter tomorrow.