To the editor,
On Independence Day, 1863, General Robert E. Lee waited with his rebel army at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for an attack that never came. The decisive battle having been fought the day before, July 3. On the fifth, Lee’s army was back in Virginia.
In September, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address and the United States’ soldiers who died in that battle were properly interred in a cemetery dedicated just for them.
July Fourth is the national holiday for Americans. That battle, Lincoln’s speech and our holiday are indelibly linked in blood and ink with the Declaration of Independence.
Consider the self-evident truths of the Declaration that “all men are created equal” endowed “by their Creator with certain unalienable rights …”
Lincoln chose to say, those founders brought forth “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Our Declaration is a document that gives a rational argument for a new form of government. It lists 20 grievances supporting the change. For us, these men declare independence from monarchs, tyrants, dictators and despots. It is a dangerous document for the claim, “just powers (come) from the consent of the people.”
A speech is not a declaration. Lincoln’s goal was more poetic. Its allegiance to the words of the Declaration, the opening line of “Four score and seven years ago our fathers” is graceful, not blunt. Within the first 100 words Lincoln declares “We” are a “nation.” “We” are dedicated equally in pursuit of an ideal named equality.
Both express a spiritual morality. The Declaration’s Capital letter “Nature’s God,” and “Creator.” In the Gettysburg Address and its immortal ending “that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
But there is work to do, “unfinished work.” The definition of “We” has been widened. United States citizens now include the grandchildren’s children’s children of those Black American slaves freed by war meant to unite the American states.
From many tongues, music; a pluralism of ethnic roots, dance; moral and spiritual beliefs, poetry, politics and art we have become. Let us be “dedicated to the task” of nation building. Like in the song, “more or less in line, keep on truckin’.”
Patrik Vander Velden