IF YOU’RE AN AMERICAN, then last Wednesday should be one of your favorite days of the year.
Independence Day – or the 4th of July – is a day when we not only look back at those who risked their lives and gave their lives so that we could enjoy our freedoms; but it is also a day when we look forward to where our nation and its citizens are headed.
This year the 4th of July had some special meaning, because over Memorial Day my wife and I had the chance to take a trip to Hawaii; and there we visited the USS Arizona Memorial over Memorial Day weekend.
You hear about it. You read about it. You see pictures of it.
Then you stand on it.
The memorial itself sits docked in Pearl Harbor directly over a portion of the USS Arizona. When you look over the side of the memorial, you can see the ship, sitting silently as a monument to those who lost their lives while serving on it that morning on December 7th, 1941.
You hear the stories about the drops of oil that still are being released from the ship and it makes an impact on you, then you actually see them rise to the top of the harbor, and it’s truly chilling.
You can only access the memorial by boat, and as you cruise up to it, you see the iconic shape and the American Flag flying high above it and you know you are seeing a true American monument.
Then you step onto it, and you walk through it to the back wall, where you find column after column of the names of the soldiers who lost their lives on that ship that day. The wall is massive, and at times you feel surrounded by those men as you read through the list of names.
Off of one side sits the USS Missouri, now in permanent dock in Pearl Harbor, and in seeing it you get a glimpse of what it must have looked like that morning with all of the ships in the harbor, just before the Japanese air attack arrived.
We had the privilege of going to Ford Island, which is located next to Pearl Harbor and is still an active military base. There we saw the USS Oklahoma Memorial; and we also had the chance to see one of the airstrips that remains from the day of the attack. At the end of the airstrip is a flight tower, still riddled with bullet holes from that morning.
It was more than a chapter in a history book, it was viewing a true life and death struggle by brave men and women.
It took a daring plan and perfect execution; and that’s what happened, except the Japanese failed to account for the fight in all of the American people - not just in our military.
A sleeping giant was awoken, and history was written.
But this is not a Memorial Day column, this is an Independence Day column.
I tell you those things because all through our history this nation has been faced with challenges, from the invasion of the British to the attacks on September 11th.
But the bloodiest time in this nation’s history was not when we were attacked from the outside - but was when we turned on ourselves.
Did you know that more Americans died in the Civil War than in all other American wars combined?
That’s because everyone that died was an American in that war, they were just on different sides.
We live in a nation where we celebrate our independence and our freedoms, yet more and more we spend our time in discussions and in the discussions of others, with talk of division - not unity.
The upcoming election is less and less about our great nation moving forward as much as it is about creating a line of division between two or more groups of citizens.
Rich versus Poor.
Citizen versus immigrant.
Gay versus straight.
Are we a ‘Christian’ nation or not?
Are we tolerant or are we rigid?
Do we welcome or do we shun?
It is no surprise to say that we have serious issues facing this country; but the way to fix them and move forward is through that same passion of patriotism that filled us after the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon.
It was at those times when we weren’t “Democrats” or “Republicans”. We we’re “liberal” or “conservative”. We didn’t choose to label ourselves with any other name other than
It was at times of crisis that this nation has always found what it has in common and stopped worrying about how its different.
We are the great melting pot of history; and we became the greatest nation in history by embracing what makes us different and coming together to form strong bonds.
‘E Pluribus Unum’ is on your money.
It means, “From many, One”.
From many different backgrounds, we have come together as one nation.
We need to remember that, especially on days when we pause to celebrate our freedoms and our independence.
My fear is not that we can’t fend off an attack from outside forces – we have always done that well.
My fear is that the true enemy lies within.
It is time to find what we share in common – not exploit what tears us apart.