Rick and Monique

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Declaration

"Make all the right choices," I whispered to an infant lad vacationing in my home for a couple days while foster mom and dad were making a visit out of state. I'm not sure why I gave him the advice. I guess I'm just glad he's here. Quite a few dads blessed their children similarly in their day I'm sure. My dad asked me to preserve his good name. Another dad says, "Whatever you do, be great." I simply said, "Make the right choices." I wish we would--I wish we all would. My mistakes have probably made me what I am today--I'm still good with the blessing though--"make all the right choices"--they would also form who I could've been.

Make the right choices--It's July 5th today. I enjoyed the celebration of my country's independence. I'm a United States citizen. I'm part of the melding pot of the world. I live as part of a union that professes, ""Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free." No man left behind.

Y'know, I care about fiscal responsibility, I want to pay less taxes, I want Roe v. Wade overturned and I want freedom to worship. But they do not themselves define my patriotism. I want my country's leaders to make the right choices because, beyond my political ideals, I'm simply a proud American. I'm not better than a Frenchman or a Dutchman, but I'm proud that men and women of the new Americas wanted a government and a system supporting freedoms never before realized. Find your way of life. But understand what you have. Make all the right choices--understand the nature of the blessing--Fathers fear it, but the strongest of them desire nothing else.

Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence--a process that started well before July 4th, 1776. Fifty-six fathers birthed their sons wanting their best from them--"make all the right choices" I can hear them say.

"Make all the right choices." I like to think the fathers of nine who signed our Declaration of Independence and whom also fought and died from Revolutionary war wounds or hardships, gave them this blessing.

A Father had his son Carter Braxton of Virginia. Carter became a wealthy planter and trader and also signed the Declaration and soon after saw his ships swept from the seas by the opposing Revolutionary Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay debts. He died in perverse poverty.

Thomas McKean's signature rests confidently on the Declaration of Independence. Soon after he signed, he was so hounded by opposing search parties that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward. Make all the right choices.

Soldiers, thieves and vandals radically against this new establishment looted the properties of signers Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Declaration signer Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the opposing forces had taken over the Nelson home for their headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire on his own home. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt--make all the right choices.

Opposition destroyed Declaration signer Francis Lewis's home and properties. His wife was jailed and died within a few months.

I have no idea if John Hart's father watched his son's blessing come to fruition. Opposition drove Declaration of Independence signer John Hart from his dying wife's bedside. Their 13 children fled to destinations he would never discover. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For well over one year he lived and hid in forests, caves and shadows, returning home to find his wife and children vanished. Only a few weeks later he died exhausted and broken. Signers Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

John Hancock, who's name we so often pilfer every time we encourage someone to sign on any lesser dotted line lost his home, his way of life, his friends and his possessions when Boston burned.

Would a father bless his son then if he knew the consequences of the right choices? Would fifty-six 18th century fathers have blessed their sons? Were they, in the end, proud of them?

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. Many more stories have been lived and told since then. President Abraham Lincoln urged for a more perfect Union--he was assassinated. Men in Viet Nam fought communism, favored freedom and came home to a silent country--backs turned, fires raging.

The men of the Declaration of Independence, of the Revolution and beyond were not merely petulant, wild eyed, hooligans, trouble makers and ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They were men of blessing--"make the right choices."

These men had security, wealth and power, but saw as more important the security, power and liberty for all men.

They stood proud, tall, straight, and unwavering -- and they pledged: "For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

The song--our song says the morning broke and "The Flag Was Still There." Our fireworks last night were their glaring and deadly red rockets.

I attended an Independence celebration at the Iowa Capitol. The colors were presented. Many talked right through the ceremony. Our national Anthem, the song of Independence was played, and most did not sing, some talked right through that, some did not remove their hats, others gazed here and there at whatever caught their attention--where is your song? Where is your voice? Make all the right choices. The Macy's day celebration included the celebration of the exploration of the Hudson River 400 years ago. One song during the amazing fire works display compared the U.S. to a bunch of rivers heading into one ocean. The Hudson is beautiful and I am a river. But I heard little of the choices that gave them their song.

Make all the right choices I said to the young infant boy put in my charge a mere two days. I may never know the consequences of his blessing. I hope his adoptive father does. But I blessed him much like my father blessed me and I felt the fear. It felt real.

Make all the right choices.

Sing our song, our National Anthem. Many courageous and terrible choices formed the free path you tread today. Sing our song, The Star Spangled Banner. The rockets glared red and I live free. Sing the song, a song too often relegated to some superstar. Sing your anthem, a song that should be sung by the life and breath of an entire nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. I've lived too long here to allow someone else to sing it for me.


Joh said...

I read a story about the sacrifices of Hiram (Harry) Bingham IV, during the early part of WW II (before the US entered the war) [smithsonian]
a lesser known and more recent hero

Warren Baldwin said...

A fitting tribute to great men who risked all for this republic. What a shame their names and memories are honored by so few. Posts like yours will help keep those memories alive. Thanks.