Memorial Day, initially begun to honor those who died in the Civil War, both North and South, eventually evolved to include those who died in all wars, and finally to a day where Americans also remember their ancestral dead, many who fought in those wars defending freedom and liberty.
As I ponder Memorial Day 2013, I think of those ancestral family members who have paid the ultimate price to defend their beliefs, beginning with the Revolutionary War.
My Livingston line was among those who served in the Second Continental Congress, serving alongside Jefferson, Adams and Franklin.
My Fonger and Hagar ancestors who came to America in the early 1700s, New Jersey and Maryland, were among those who wanted to continue living under the British king, and paid the price for that choice when they were forced to flee to Canada by not so tolerant neighbors; but succeeding generations later migrated back to the United States as it expanded across the continent.
Members of my ancestral family from Iowa fought and died in the Civil War; my father and Joan’s father served in the Army during World War I; there were at least six family members who died serving during World War II; my brother and I served during the Korean War; a son served during the Vietnam War; a grandson and granddaughter served during the Iraqi War, with two grandsons currently serve in the armed forces, one a Marine, one a Coast Guardsman.
As I ponder the price of freedom, and Memorial Day 2013, I’m reminded of how costly that price is, in terms of human life and suffering. Fortunately America itself was spared from the real terrors of both World War I and II, these wars, and succeeding wars have all been fought on foreign soil.
I remember the stories of friends who walked across Europe and saw the total destruction caused by Hitler. I also remember how British Prime Minister Chamberlain was willing to shrink before Hitler, which would have plunged Europe into total darkness before Winston Churchill, who was raised up by God, preserved Europe, rallied the British and with America’s help defeated Hitler and his dream of a utopian German society.
But I am beginning to wonder if America is going to falter in its defense of freedom and liberty by rejecting the principles of freedom given to this generation by the Founding Fathers, and/or by rejecting the God of the Founders, Jefferson’s Creator and Supreme Judge of the World — Jesus Christ, he whom the Founders turned to for “divine Protection.”
There are those who strongly believe that there are those in America today who want to destroy those principles of equality spelled out by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence and then protected by the Constitution, specifically America’s Bill of Rights, those rights far too many Americans take for granted without giving thought to the price paid in blood to obtain and retain them.
Without them, America would soon become another developing nation.
As I ponder these thoughts I think of the source of real freedom, Jesus Christ, who said in John 8:31-32 “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Then I think of how Moses was given power by Jehovah to go free the Israelites from the tyrannical Pharaoh, and the price they paid for their liberty, but lost after asking for a king (1 Sam. 8) due to the corruption in their existing government of the people. They lived free for 235 years before asking for a king — and their loss of freedom. Will that same thing happen here in America — will corruption in high (even low) places in America cause the people to ask for a king, leading eventually to their re-enslavement?
Only time will tell. Recent revelations about Benghazi, IRA targeting, and the Justice Department’s immoral gathering of AP phone records may well indicate the direction America is now taking — where anything goes to gain power and personal self-glory.
Memorial Day 2013, a day to deeply ponder Christ’s words once again “… and the truth shall make you free.”
Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.