• 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, 2015

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

Rita and I had the pleasure last month to spend a few days in Boston, the cradle of Liberty. One of the places we visited was the Old North Church. There in 1775 — on the 18th of April — Paul Revere began his ride to warn the patriots. The British are coming.

The next day at Lexington and Concord, those first patriots gave their last full measure of devotion in the defense of liberty. It was here that our new nation was, as Lincoln said, conceived in liberty.

After Boston Rita and I went to Philadelphia where — 15 months after the shot heard round the world — America was born. It was in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776 where America first dedicated itself to the proposition “that all men [and women] are created equal.”

Even as we have always failed — sometimes miserably — to fully live up to this principle, this is the highest principle to which we aspire — to live as a people conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all of us are created equal. This is the standard Lincoln set; the standard by which America measures ourselves.

This is the principle — that we are conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal — for which more than a million men and women gave the last full measure of devotion.

And the most important thing we can do to honor their memory is to live our lives fully aware that we too were conceived in liberty, dedicating ourselves to the proposition that all are created equal.

Which brings us — of course — to America’s culture wars.

Take for example the story of Memories Pizza, the Indiana restaurant that came under fierce attack after saying that — because of their religious beliefs — it wouldn’t cater a gay wedding. The restaurant’s Facebook pages were defaced, they received hateful phone calls and they were threatened on Twitter.

Or the hostile racist replies sent to President Obama when he launched his new Twitter account. Death wishes. Threats. Even a distorted image of his iconic HOPE poster — with a noose around his neck — re-titled ROPE.

Or the hashtag #BANISLAM I saw yesterday on a car here in Los Angeles.

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

We can be quite certain that a large percentage of Americans we honor today had sincere religious beliefs that gay marriage is wrong just as we can also be quite certain that a significant percentage of Americans who gave their lives for liberty and equality were gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender.

We can be certain as well that no matter which side of the culture wars you happen to be on, someone on the other side died to preserve the liberty you seek for who you are.

We can be certain that the men and women who died in the Middle East or in Vietnam or on the beaches of Normandy — that these men and women represented the full spectrum of American diversity — Gay. Straight. Black. White. Native American. Christian. Jew. Muslim. Liberal. Conservative. Even racists and bigots.

No matter what I believe about America, someone having diametrically opposite views died to protect my liberty. A slave-owner died in the War for Independence so that my generation could be free to launch the modern civil rights era.

We are bound together as free men and women in the self-evident recognition that we were conceived in liberty and are dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal. As Martin Luther King, Jr put it “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

More than 1,000,000 Americans have died so that we the people could arrive together at this unique moment in history … a moment that calls upon us to find that new more perfect union, balancing our rights, our liberties and our responsibilities — and in so doing building upon the principle of a civil body politik, described nearly 400 years ago in the Mayflower Compact.

In the Federalist papers, Madison taught us about factions, the perfectly ordinary act of free people to split ourselves into groups. Different people think differently and have different interests. Those with similar attitudes and objectives often bond together, seeking to accomplish their agenda in the political marketplace. The result is faction.

As Madison observed, factions are to liberty what Oxygen is to fire. Take away factions and you take away liberty. What you are left with is tyranny.

As Madison so wisely observed though, “factions are too often much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.” This is where America finds ourselves today.

On this Memorial Day, we should remember the more than one million men and women who gave their last full measure of devotion so that we could be free to follow our own moral voice.

But I think Memorial Day should also be a time to remember that those men and women also died so that those who feel differently about our cultural values are also free to follow their own moral voice. Liberty cannot be you or me. Liberty must be you and me. Anything less is tyranny. Anything less means they died in vain.

If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. … Abraham Lincoln

So let us lower our voice, whichever side of the culture wars we are on. Let us approach the other side with understanding and compassion. Let us reach out in friendship. And let us be an example to others, that they may do the same, that they may come to feel as friend.

Lowering our voices … reaching out in friendship … this is the way we honor the men and women whose voices have been forever stilled … the men and women who died so we could come to this seminal moment in our history … continuing anew our sacred challenge to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

Let freedom ring.

Copyright © 2015. 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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