The experience of a great people
“The flag of the United States has not been created by rhetorical sentences in declarations of independence and in bills of rights. It has been created by the experience of a great people, and nothing is written upon it that has not been written by their life. It is the embodiment, not of a sentiment, but of a history.”
— Woodrow Wilson
As the number of stars on the U. S. flag increased over the years, so have our population, our industry and our government. While not all of the changes and phases have been good or happy ones, few citizens of this country would wish to go back to former times. Nostalgic fondness for childhood notwithstanding, most of us have an easier life than our parents or grandparents could have imagined.
With our nation’s birthday celebration approaching, I’m mindful that today we are at the midpoint of a much more somber anniversary, that of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg fought on July 1-3, 1863. Wilson’s words about the flag having been created by the experience of a great people are true of the painful crucibles of our freedom, as well as the joyous moments of glory and unity.
There’s a pall of sadness that lingers over the fields of Gettysburg, where so many American lives were spent in the taking of other American lives. In the polarized climate of political argument that dominates so much of the media, it’s easy to wonder whether we could ever be brought to such a state of affairs again.
I hope not, and I trust not. Our flag has survived trial after trial, none more devastating than the Civil War that threatened to destroy our national unity. Such hard-earned lessons are not easily forgotten by those who take the time to examine them. While we celebrate the 4th with picnics, ball games and other fun events, let’s take a few minutes to reflect on the sacrifices of previous generations who gave us the freedom to live unencumbered by the burdens they bore.
Happy Birthday, USA!