Not long ago I read that noted anti-U.S. literary Margaret Drabble was upset because some American warplanes have "grinning cartoon faces painted on their noses ... with big sharp teeth". This is the British author that said "I loathe America and what it has done to the rest of the world." My Dad left his widowed Mother and Fiance and spent four years in Norwich, England supporting the safety of Ms. Drabbles home country, along with so many brave people of her nation, all who put their lives on the line for that great fight. There he watched, more than once, friends and crew mates die horribly in front of his eyes, with said airplanes, trying to land fatally wounded Liberators after a day of protecting her country from further attack, I think he would probably disagree.
I think instead, that of the words of the ever ungrateful Ms. Drabble, we best remember the words of John Stuart Mill "War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
Every soul yearns to be free and each day we are free to choose the life we live. Freedom is about having a choice. It is not not taxed, not levied, nor given to us at the end of a very sharp pointed stick, while our own sharp pointy sticks are taken away from us.
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So here we are, a nation often at war, with others, with ourselves, for many things, but always for freedom. For that of our people, for that of other nations. Concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl said, "There are two ways to go to the gas chamber: free or not free." The only way to win our freedom back is to face our situation honestly and—no matter how terrible things may be—continue to act on the heart's calm guidance.
I've learned a lot about what's important volunteering at a shelter for battered women. The reason that I volunteer there is one that is personal, but it is important to me. These women and their children have seen the absolute worst of what life has to offer. Yet they still have hope, in themselves and their capabilities, in their future. There are some that will cling in bitterness to what has robbed them, as people tend to do, but, with help, many go forth stronger from the whole wretched experience. The children, especially, seem to see through it all, and still retain a few elements of their childhood where they know what's really of value.
In the weeks after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon was hit I was on duty pretty much 24 and 7. It was some time before I could go to the shelter. One little boy there was watching the continually replaying collapse of towers on TV. I looked at it, as stunned and horrified as I was when I first saw it, and said.. . "isn't that awful". . And he replied "yup". All those people gone. "What do you think we should do?" I said. It wasn't a rhetorical question. I was hoping perhaps for some childlike perspective, looking through new eyes at something in which I'd already spent my own powers of comprehension. And he said, "I not gonna be afraid again." I don't think he was talking about 9-11 but I totally understood. I didn't want to be afraid again either.
Our country has been hit, the values of everything so many of us have given years of our life for, disparaged. Our Constitution is treated as outdated, needed to be "modernized", as liberal politicians and rich dowagers spit on the very flag that have kept their countries free. But I won't give up on her. I've seen fire and rain and still remember a time, not all that long ago, when I was so devastated by the sudden loss of something that I was hardly able to get out of bed in the morning. But I kept breathing, and kept praying, and I knew I would not be vanquished.
That is what our forefathers held fast to, that's what our soldiers fight for for, cling to. Freedom. Not guns, not religion in the defined sense of a particular church, not bitterness, but a faith in the God of our Fathers and a love of our country and every principal on which she was founded. We may not agree with every conflict we have engaged in, nor every decision made by our country, our love for her is honest but it is not blind. But we still we hold her flag up high, in iron and unwavering symbolism for that which she has always stood for.
The ground outside is wet from an evening sprinkle of gentle rain, clouds gone, the sky breaking out in light blue patches. Outside all is quiet, the sunlight laying like scraps of cloth over the town. In the distance, there is the siren that blares each day at the same time, unless the weather is forecast severe, the siren that tests the warning system for tornados. Upon the still air it sounds, then another cry in the next little town over, the next, all taking up the alarm, as if signaling one another. In the clearing sky, it's hard to think of the dangers that are outside us, but we are always ready. We have to be ready.
So for today, I just ask that you put politics aside, and cherish those gifts, those sacrifices, made for each one of us to keep us free, rather than take them for granted. We need to remember so that we can make the right choices for our coming days, for the sake of our past, and the possibilities of the future.