• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

Memorial Day, 2014

… that these dead shall not have died in vain … Abraham Lincoln

 Cheziray Pressley, War in Afghanistan … Aaron Elandt, Iraq War … Abraham Lincoln, President … Andrew Goodman, Civil Rights Worker … Anna Campos, Spanish American War … Antonio Francisco Abad, World War II … Charles Bent, Mexican Campaign … Chief Black Kettle, Indian Wars … Clem Moser, World War I … Brandon Kirton, War in Afghanistan … David Douglas, Union Army, Civil War … Donald McIntosh, Indian Wars … Edgar Hubert, Spanish-American War … Edmund Rice, Union Army, Civil War … Emily [unknown last name], Union Army, Civil War … George Cohen, World War II … Ivan Appleby, Vietnam War … James Newell, War of 1812 … John Dzeda, World War I … Joseph Freeman, World War I … Kurt Gruber, World War II … Nathan Hale, War for Independence … James Earl Chaney, Civil Rights Worker … Jesse Farley Dyer, Mexican Campaign … John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President … Justin Pollard, Iraq … Lars Larsen, World War I … Mary Hartso, World War II … Michael Schwerner, Civil Rights Worker … Mitchell Red Cloud Jr., Korean War … Mohammed Ali, World War II … Ramon C. Ojeda, Iraq … Reuben Smith Turman, Spanish-American War … Russell Smith, Jr, Persian Gulf War … Sitting Bull, Indian Wars … Stanley Bartusiak, Persian Gulf War … Taylor Maricle, Union Army, Civil War … Thomas H. Amos, Vietnam War … Walter Szeliga, World War II … William Dunkin, War of 1812 … Wilma Ledbetter, Korean War … Amaru Aguilar, War in Afghanistan

 Eleven score and eighteen years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

 Are we? Are we truly dedicated to the proposition that all of us are created equal? Do we truly share in our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Because if we don’t — and we don’t do something about it — then they died in vain.

And here’s where it gets tricky, incredibly tricky.

Take for example, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s recent claim that blacks might have been better off as slaves. Or Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson’s rant against blacks and gays. Or Donald Sterling’s pathetic diatribe against blacks in general and Magic Johnson in particular. Not among America’s finest examples of our dedication to the proposition that all men are created equal!

And yet, aren’t they too created equal, entitled to the same inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the blacks, gays and others who they do not respect as equals? For if not, wouldn’t these dead have died in vain?

**********

Who were the 1,250,000 men and women who gave the last full measure of devotion in America’s wars? How dedicated were they to the proposition that all men are created equal?

Given the fact that 13,000 died during a time when slavery was legal in half of America and that those who died from the states of the Old South grew up in a legally segregated society until the 1960s, a reasonable guess is that at least 25% of the men and women who died in our wars would have agreed with the views of Bundy, Robertson and Sterling, that we are not all created equal.

That’s 250,000 men and women who gave their last full measure of devotion dedicated to a proposition — an ideal — that I believe in but they didn’t.

In other words … Racists died so I would have the opportunity to speak out against racism.

Humbling.

 **********

 The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function … F. Scott Fitzgerald

Is this what dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal means … holding our own ideas of equality while also considering the ideas of someone else, with different views?

Is this what Judge Learned Hand meant when he said the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women?

Perhaps this is what St. Augustine and Gandhi meant when they encouraged us to love the sinner while hating the sin.

I can hate the racism but — if I am to be dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal — then I must have respect … and compassion … for the person expressing the racism.

Perhaps this is what is required of us that these dead shall not have died in vain … that we honor their sacrifice by contemplating — seeking to understand — even their racist ideas.

**********

“If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which … is the great high-road to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause if, indeed, that cause be really a just one.” …  Abraham Lincoln

In a recent TED talk, Ariel Investment President Mellody Hobson — who happens to be African-American — encourages us to be “color brave” instead of “color blind,” embracing talk of race instead of shying away from it, understanding that it is by getting to know each other that we will come to better understand and respect each other … that here lies the drop of honey.

So let’s talk about race … and all the other things that divide us in America’s culture wars. Homosexuality. Freedom of choice. God. Atheism. Immigration. The environment. Health care. The wealth gap. All of it.

Let’s talk about these things with each other as we would if we knew the person we were talking with was going to die tomorrow on a battlefield fighting for our freedom.

For he did.

Let freedom ring.

 

Copyright © 2014. Stan Stahl. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay in its entirety provided its source is identified asThe Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org and this copyright is included.

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