so young, they said – such a shame, they murmured shaking their heads in disbelief – but bound to happen, they agreed among themselves. They were somewhat sad, but not wholly desolate in their mourning of this death – as if they were attending the funeral of someone they had never really known personally – therefore, their grief was limited by their lack of familiarity with the deceased . . .
oh they had heard the stories of the deceased – well, actually they had not heard the stories, her stories, personal, painful, promising, proud stories of overcoming odds and surviving adversity (a civil war, a dustbowl, a depression, two world wars, a cold war, endless threats from without and within) – probably because there were so few left, if any at all, to tell these stories, her stories. Not many were left who had known her in her prime – those who had cherished her, believed in her, fought for her, served her well in exchange for the privilege of living free, the opportunity to pursue dreams, the peace and safety she provided within her borders, the right to worship as they wished, to own property, to assemble, to speak, to determine their own destinies (because the government had been of the people, for the people, by the people in those days) – all things that passed away with her passing.
But how do you mourn something you don’t remember? How do you long for something you never had or celebrate something you didn’t experience? There are so few at this funeral who know, who remember – some Holocaust survivors, some Tuskegee Airmen, some who know what life is like in other parts of the world and understand how unique she was in all the world, knowing unique does not mean without flaws, her beauty and her strength came from her ability to mend those flaws without destroying herself or all those who depended on her for their daily lives –
why don’t they remember? Is it because one can’t remember what one never knew in the first place? Why don’t they know who she is, who she has been for nearly two and a half centuries? (so young by History’s measure) Could it be they no longer learn about her short life in school, as was customary for previous generations? Are they no longer told the story of her birth? Do they not know how she came to be and what growing pains she survived, emerging each time stronger, ready to face the next challenge? And the challenges have been many.
Without memory we cannot mourn. Maybe that’s what’s missing – the clear memory of all that she was. Her past erased (and then rewritten) – much like China’s Cultural Revolution, which took only a decade (1966-1976) to wipe out centuries of art and artifacts, sacred texts and temples, the history of a people documented in its books, books now banned and subsequently burned, leaving no trace of the people whose stories they once told – when all who have memory of her are no longer here to tell their stories, her stories – voices fallen silent – into the silence enters the discourse of deceit.
Those left to mourn her, never knew her. They never lived in the land created by the Constitution, described by the Declaration of Independence, filled with fearless overcomers, who preferred hard work to a government handout, who fought for freedom, theirs and others – who were not afraid to pray, to sing the national anthem, to fly her flag or to die for her, for their country – there was once such a place.
There was honor in the struggle, no shame in being poor, one vote – one voice, each one had a say in a land of laws – laws that permitted liberty to live and thrive. Much of her story is told in her music (if it has survived her?). These songs give a glimpse into who she was in the eyes of those who wrote the songs and in the eyes of those who have sung them with such pride over the years. ie. “Oh beautiful for patriots’ dream, that sees beyond the years, thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears, America! America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”
The words to this Civil War era song reveal the deepest essence of who she once was. “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me; as He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on. Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.”
There’s that word truth again. That’s something the mourners will not know in the future – the truth that she was born out of a search for a place in which God could be freely and openly worshipped and served. Other countries had kings and dictators and tyrants – she had no king – the people would govern themselves – no ruling class! Unheard of! “An experiment bound to fail,” they said. And yet she thrived even as her citizens prospered. People poured in from around the globe in pursuit of the freedom her Constitution offered to them.
Having little in common, yet bound together in their determination to make better lives for themselves and for their children, these various peoples shared the vision of faith and freedom given by the Declaration of Independence, saying, “endowed by their Creator.” America was a shelter from the storm, a safe harbor, a land of opportunity. Her foundations were built upon faith in Almighty Creator God, truth, freedom, law, equality and justice. All are inextricably entwined. When her faith in God was attacked, ridiculed, restricted and then removed, when the people turned away from God, – the other things, truth, freedom, law, equality, justice, – they were no longer supported and she collapsed from the inside out. They tried to revive her, (or did they?) but it was too late.
Without God, without a foundation of faith, there was nothing left to build upon. The shifting sands of popular culture cannot sustain a free people desiring to exercise their God-given rights to life. liberty and the pursuit of God and happiness. Only a foundation of faith in God is strong enough to support a free country. (is that why most dictatorship/communist countries are atheistic?) When we stopped pursuing God and pursued instead our own pleasure, something shifted in her, our beloved country. That’s when her foundation began to crumble. Now we find ourselves here, mourning her passing, shaking our heads and wondering why there aren’t more people who know enough to truly mourn her loss. (because if you believe she was inherently evil from conception, you are celebrating her death, not mourning it – you have no idea of the light that has been lost, because you have only known the dimness of a fading light on its way to extinction)
You have believed the lie, and there is no one left to tell you the truth. With every “objectionable, dangerous” book burned, every statue toppled, every monument gone, every street, every school, every building, every city, every town, every sports team renamed, with history rewritten, who is to know what she once really was? No pilgrim, no pioneer, no patriot remains to tell her tale. Still, if music remains, then perhaps music will tell those who never knew her, what she once was. I can hear that music now, playing at her funeral (or would that be allowed?) In the words of Lee Greenwood,
“the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away – and I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me – and I’ll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today, ’cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the U.S.A.”
God did bless her, in spite of all her flaws and mistakes, His protection and blessing have been upon her for almost two and one-half centuries. We were a people who looked to Him for guidance and also gave Him thanks for what we had. A look at the Thanksgiving proclamations of Washington in 1789 and Lincoln in 1863 confirms this truth. She was born out of a desire to exercise a personal faith in God and the removal of that faith from her, was her cause of death. Only those that have memory of her, that knew her or heard her stories from those that knew her, will mourn her passing, realizing what has been lost. No one else will shed a tear.
But as for me, I will shed tears and mourn her well. And I will be thankful in my heart for memories of her that no new narrative can erase – because I lived those years and I remember what true freedom was. This current counterfeit does not fool me for one minute. I will gladly stand up and defend her. I wonder, will there be any that stand up with me?
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.” (Psalm 33:12)
may we again turn our hearts to God, perhaps He will bring her back to life as He is in the resurrection business – “Let the Amen sound from His people again!”
sincerely, Grace Day