COLUMN: Remember our history

As I have sat and watched the events of the past few days unfold, I have found myself searching my memory for the lessons I learned in high school history classes.

Watching our nation’s Capitol building be breached for the first time since the British Army tried to burn Washington to the ground, I thought about our forefathers, who laid the groundwork for the great experiment that we are all a part of — an experiment we call democracy.

I have thought about Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and our greatest President Abraham Lincoln. I thought about some of the things they have said about our democracy and how tough it is to maintain it. Our democracy is worth fighting for. A democracy that almost came crashing down on Wednesday.

I believe that people have the right to voice their opinions and to voice their descent. But their actions should have, and do have, consequences. They do not have the right to destroy property and cause death. Because they did, they must be held accountable and face the resulting consequences.

I find it interesting that Wednesday’s dissenters are being called “patriots” or “protestors” in some circles, while this past summer when people took to the streets to voice their descent, they were called “criminals” and “thugs.” You cannot have it both ways — enough of the double standard.

I do not condone the violence and the destruction of this past summer, just as I do not condone the violence and destruction we witnessed on Wednesday. Our country has reached a tipping point. Which way we go from here is up to not only our elected officials, but by each and every one of us. This democracy will only survive if we find some common ground and begin to rebuild our trust in one another.

President Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Blood was spilled at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Five people are dead. The only way the tree of liberty will ever get refreshed is if we come together as a people, as a country, to address our grievances. Continued violence and bloodshed will only deepen the divide, not restore our democracy to its former glory.

There are several passages from the Gettysburg Address that I find fitting at this moment.

As President Lincoln stood on the battlefield, soaked in the blood of Americans, both on the Union side and the Confederate side, he tried to begin to heal our nation.

“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.”

Our country has been engaged in a civil war for quite some time now. It is not always evident that we are at war, but we are. On Wednesday, that war spilled out onto the steps of the Capitol. Let that be the final resting place of our current civil war. Let us move forward from here and begin healing the wounds of our country.

I know those wounds are deep and will take quite some time to heal, but we must at least commit ourselves to trying to put our country back together. We face a serious threat to our country in COVID-19. We need to band together just like we always do to fight this threat and to put an end to it. Our country has faced many challenges, both at home and abroad, but we have never failed to come together and defeat those threats.

I will end with my other favorite passage from the Gettysburg Address. One that is most fitting as we get set to usher in a new government.

“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.”

 

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com.

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