I confess – I do not recognize America today. I grew up learning about Pilgrims and Pioneers and Patriots. It was Pilgrims who left everything behind to travel by ship to a new world, in the hope of escaping religious persecution and of building a better life for themselves. Many didn’t survive the voyage but died before ever reaching America. They took a risk. They risked everything. (sea travel in the 1600’s was dangerous and uncertain) They risked everything to pursue their dreams and find freedom.
I learned about Pioneers. They left the known safety of the settlements and cities they had built to set out in covered wagons into the unknown, unsettled lands to their west. Many didn’t survive that journey either. Whether crossing the mighty Mississippi, the plains or the Rockies, sickness and harsh winter weather often took their toll, leaving many dead before they reached their destination. Still Pioneers continued to venture west, courageously crossing this continent in covered wagons, until they reached the Pacific Ocean. They took a risk. They risked everything. They risked everything in pursuit of their dreams.
The Patriots risked everything including their lives to fight the British for their independence. It would have been much easier and safer to simply remain a colony and comply with whatever Britain required of them. But they valued something more than their individual lives, and that was liberty. (Give me liberty or give me death) And so they took a risk. They risked everything. They risked their own lives in order to be free. They risked their own lives to leave us a legacy and a life of freedom.
There were others who also valued freedom more than life. The Underground Railroad is a testament to that. Those who risked their lives escaping slavery and those who risked their lives to help those who were escaping, knew at what cost freedom comes. Harriet Tubman was one such person. She not only escaped herself, but she helped many others to escape, returning many times, risking her own life every time so that others might find freedom. She took a risk. They all took a risk. They risked everything for freedom.
Our nation’s history has not been a history of cowardice but one of courage. We not only took risks for our own freedoms but we have risked our lives in order to liberate others. We stormed the beaches of Normandy and liberated those in Germany’s death camps. Heroes such as the Tuskegee Airmen helped others find freedom from Nazi Germany’s invasion and oppression. They took a risk. They risked everything. They risked their own lives in order that others might be free.
America’s tradition of courage has continued in her exploration of space. Although we put a man on the moon in 1969, the Apollo 13 flight in April of 1970 proved a test of endurance and courage for everyone involved in bringing those three astronauts safely back to earth after a problem with their spacecraft occurred.
Sixteen years later, Americans were still courageously exploring space. I remember all too clearly January 28th, 1986. The space shuttle Challenger launched, carrying seven astronauts into space. It burst into flames seconds later. There were no survivors. Seventeen years later, on February 1st, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia would burst into flames as it returned to earth, killing the seven astronauts that it carried on board. Those astronauts took a risk. They risked everything. They risked it all in pursuit of their dreams.
America’s legacy of courage has continued and was never more evident than on September 11th, 2001. On that day firefighters, police officers and other first responders ran into burning buildings, not away from them. They took a risk. They risked everything. They risked their own lives in their valiant effort to save the lives of others. They risked their own lives in the execution of what they had pledged their lives to – their sacred duty to serve and to protect. They left no doubt that day of their courage and their character. How quickly we forget our history.
As we look back, we see that in the past, America has been marked by her courage not her cowardice. She has needed courage because freedom is not for the faint of heart. Freedom requires courage – courage to create it and courage to sustain it. With the writing and the ratifying of the Declaration of Independence, the opportunity for equality, justice and freedom was created.
The sacred task then became to make the vision of those that penned those words a reality and to keep it a reality for future generations. The implementation of those words which guarantee to us all the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, rights which are given to us by God not by any government, has been a constant and often bloody process.
The Civil War attests to that as do the civil rights protests of the 60’s. The United States has faced many foes in her short two-hundred forty-four year history. I refuse to believe that COVID-19 will be the foe that brings about her untimely death. We have fought too hard and come too far to allow her to die now.
These words of Dr. Otto Gritschneder should give us all pause. “He who falls asleep in a democracy will wake up in a dictatorship.” If the United States dies, freedom dies with her – our individual freedoms and our freedom as a country. When we become the oppressed, we will no longer be free to supply food and medicine and disaster relief aid to those in need around the globe.
Freedom has always been worth fighting for, worth the cost. Until now? The silence is deafening. Since we were attacked mid-March by COVID-19, we as a people have continued to walk into Walmarts and into Home Depots and into liquor stores and into Planned Parenthood centers and into Costco and we haven’t batted an eye nor missed a step.
And yet we don’t have the courage to walk into a polling place and cast our vote in person on November 3rd? Or do we believe that a polling place is vastly more dangerous than a Costco or a liquor store? If all the polling places are open as in years past, crowds will be light and spread out over many locations. Only by closing some of the polls will crowds and wait times increase. Voting in person is the hallmark of a democracy. Without it, democracy dies.
How unbelievable that with the heritage left to us by such people as were the Pilgrims, the Pioneers, the Patriots, the Harriet Tubmans, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Astronauts, the Martin Luther King Jr.s, – a heritage of courage, a heritage of risking it all for the freedoms that will live on long after we are gone – how unbelievable that we would be too afraid to vote in person. Rather, we would sit silently by, paralyzed by fear in a cancel culture, fear of not being politically correct as rampant as fear of COVID, and let America die on our watch.
Options, freedom of choice, the ability to choose for oneself, is essential in a free society. We have long had the option to vote by mail (absentee ballot) if we choose to do so, rather than to vote in person. This choice should never be taken from us. Likewise, the choice to vote in person should not be denied us either. Closing the polls would deny us that choice. Having the polls open does not deny anyone their right to vote by mail. Both choices should always be available in an election. Will we let fear dictate otherwise?
Shame on us! Our legacy is courage not cowardice. With the courage of our convictions let us correct our mistakes and fulfill the promise of our Declaration of Independence. Let us pray that “government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” (Gettysburg Address)
“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
sincerely, Grace Day