Remember those before us
As the 4th of July approaches quickly I want to take a moment to simply remember some great people in American history, people that are responsible for Freedom in this nation.
Now some would think I would start my list with George Washington. But this is an honest list. George Washington lost every battle he was in except for Valley Forge. He was a horrible General, but Valley Forge made him famous. So I won’t discuss him.
Some would look to Thomas Jefferson, a great thinker and an architect of the Constitution. Again I wouldn’t include him. He was part of those that agreed a Black man only counted as 3/5th of a man. He maintained slaves, even though he did eventually free them. And he hid the fact that he was an adulterer. Fathering children with a Black slave, he denied it though it was a well-known if not unspoken fact that was resisted until the dawn of the 21st century – hundreds of years later.
Yet some would say that I have to include Abraham Lincoln. And those same people probably have never read the words Lincoln wrote as an editorial 1 week before the Emancipation Proclamation. In that article he clearly outlines the fact that if he could keep slavery and save the Union he would. They would forget that slavery was the 5th most important reason for the Civil War, no matter how many movies and books have romanticized the past. And they ignore the Jim Crow laws and segregation that was accepted in the place of slavery for over 100 more years.
So who do I want to not forget?
The Slaves. Those Africans that were taken from their home in numbers so great it’s believed they could easily outstrip those killed in the Holocaust and if laid down could provide a bridge from Africa to America and beyond. Those Africans that fought in the American Revolution like Crispus Attucks who died in Boston and was the only African American mentioned, in the history books I grew up with, until Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1960’s. [Have history books changed at all in the last 30 years?] Like those Africans that fought in the Civil War, and the War of 1812, and the Spanish-American War, and every single war and conflict this nation has ever known.
I want to remember the Slaves that built virtually every road and foundation in the 13 colonies, especially those in the South and in New York City. I want to remember the Africans that had to give up their names, like Kunta Kinta – an ancestor of Alex Haley (who’s detailed book of his lineage was classified as a fiction in the 1970’s) – and take on the names of slave masters that split families faster than they would split up horses or cattle.
And why must I remember these Men Women and Children?
Because like the Holocaust we should never forget. If we forget we allow the sacrifices made to mean nothing. If we forget we allow the past to repeat itself. Because if we forget, the truth becomes nothing more than a yellow paper.
I love America, and on the 4th I will be celebrating like everyone else in the nation. I will think of those in Iraq and Afghanistan and thank them. I will remember my time in the Marines and those I served with. I will remember my father and the sacrifices he went thru because of Viet Nam. I will remember my best friend’s father and what he did in Korea. I will even celebrate the romanticized histories of Jefferson, Lincoln and Washington.
But today I will simply remember all those that weren’t thought of as important enough to have the freedoms, rights, and opportunity that I enjoy today – in a nation literally built on their backs and bones. Because freedom comes at a price and sometimes that price is remembering the truth.