ECHOES FROM GETTYSBURG:
LESSONS WE MUST HEED TODAY
By: E.P. Unum
April 3, 2023
After a three-day battle against the Union army at Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army retreated on July 4th, 1863. The battle was not only a major turning point in favor of the Union Army but was also the largest and most devastating of the Civil war, with total casualties numbering over 50,000. Four and a half months later, the process of reburying the thousands of bodies that had been shallowly interred on the battlefield had begun but was not yet complete. In this sobering setting, Abraham Lincoln delivered a brief address to an audience of about 15,000 people, who interrupted him five times to applaud. Newspapers across the North also responded very favorably. Lincoln’s comments that day, however, comprised only a brief moment in the cemetery’s dedication. Before Lincoln’s three-minute speech came music, a prayer, and the featured oration, a two-hour discourse delivered by Edward Everett, retired Massachusetts politician and former president of Harvard.
While Everett’s speech dwelled on the details of the battle, Lincoln attempted to give meaning to the events at Gettysburg, indeed to the Civil War itself, by speaking about the ideals for which he believed the Union stood.
His remarks echoed in history:
FOURSCORE and seven 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. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting pl for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln, despite his eloquence, was wrong on one glaring point in his brilliant oration: “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here”. Indeed, his words have endured for 160 years and counting. I remember learning them in fifth grade studying the history of the Civil War in Catholic grammar school in New York City. I was so intrigued by them I committed them to memory and can recite them verbatim to this day. I wonder how many of our young students today would even know their meaning or could even recite a passage from them? I wonder if they even heard of Gettysburg or can articulate the significance of the battle and the carnage that ensued. I’ll wager the odds that most young students today haven’t a clue that over 600,000 lives were lost in the war to end slavery in the United States. Those losses were more than America sustained in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam combined. Staggering!
I can tell you unequivocally that the students today in grades 1-8 would be hard-pressed to know this largely because teachers are not teaching American history. I suspect it is the same in grades 9 through 12 and I know for a fact they are not teaching it at our colleges and universities. I know this because I have been teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels for forty-five years! Thomas Jefferson must be turning in his grave!
How did we let this happen to our country?
How did we let this happen to our children?
The sad truth is that we became complacent and fell asleep at the switch. We have allowed the scourge that is socialism, the forerunner to communism, to slowly and inexorably intrude into the fabric of our coveted education system to the point that America today ranks 25th in the nations of the world in terms of quality education. Here we spend more time telling children that it is OK if they want to change from being a girl to a boy or vice versa and there is no need to tell their parents about it. Teachers devote more time to thumbing down America; more time instructing on the proper use of pronouns than they do teaching algebra and trigonometry. That is unacceptable. It is also tragic.
The brilliant statesman, Sir Winston Churchill, speaking to a session of the British House of Commons said “Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.” His words are prescient today. Consider the great nations of the world: The Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Chinese, England, France, Spain, and Italy, all our rich in history and accomplishments, and the leaders who emerged from those nations have been studied and emulated. Their histories date back thousands of years and they have contributed much in the fields of mathematics, science, engineering, the arts, music, literature, and the law. But none of them….none of them…..can compare to what America has accomplished in its 250-year history.
In our two hundred and fifty year history, our country defeated the largest and most well-trained military in the world, the British Empire. We became a nation of immigrants…a “melting pot” of individuals who came to our shores, many with only the clothes on their backs, and through hard work and dedication built a life for themselves and their families and earned the right to call themselves Americans! Through their efforts, the Polish, Italians, Indians, Irish, Greeks, French, Chinese, and others made great strides and fostered innovations in science, medicine, and engineering that became the envy of nations the world over. We invented the cotton gin; the automobile; a rail system that enabled expanded commerce; pioneered and settled the West. The Wright Brothers invented the airplane. We launched the exploration of space, built the International Space Station, put men on the moon, and probed the far reaches of the galaxy. We developed a system of education that exceeded that of any other nation on earth, and earned this fledgling nation known as America more Nobel Prizes in peace, science, medicine, literature, music, and the arts than any other nation in history. In the course of our development, we built the single greatest economy the world has ever known with more accumulated wealth and the greatest standard of living than any other nation in recorded history.
Throughout, we placed great value on the intrinsic worth of every individual and our Constitutional Republic was the product of great men like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington, to name a few. Its underpinning was based on the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Montesquieu, Descartes, Justinian, and others, all of whom believed passionately that each individual is given by God certain rights that include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights are not something the state or federal government provides to us; they are given to us by God. Indeed, God, our Creator played a huge part in the birth of what we now call the United States of America. But God has been driven from our classrooms! Why?
We did all of this in 250 years while fighting two World Wars, liberating and rebuilding 19 nations in Europe from the devastation of WWII and the entire country of Japan, never once seizing territory or resources from any enemy. Once again, America became a refuge for those who were impoverished or downtrodden to come and build a new life for themselves and their families.
“E Pluribus Unum”… Out of many, one.
Our Founding Fathers envisioned a nation where the ultimate power rests with the people. It is why the first three words of the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States are: “We the People.” They believed in a small government with ultimate power resting with the states and its citizens. Stripped of all sophistication, we are a nation that has a government, not the other way around. It is still to this day a unique, noble, and American concept…that the power of our great nation rests with the people. The President, Congress, the Senate…they are accountable to we the people…us!
Thus, as Lincoln so eloquently expressed at Gettysburg, “…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
This original concept of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, encapsulated in the word freedom was the driving force, the key impetus that led to our successes in WWI and WWII. Our fighting men and women prized freedom above all else and they were fiercely proud of our country. It is the one intangible that Hitler’s Germany and Hirohito’s Japan did not fathom or understand. Americans were unwilling to give up their freedom to a fascist or imperialist state, and would willingly suffer any hardship or pay any price to preserve that freedom. 16.3 million men and women wore the uniform of our nation during WWII and their sacrifices are the stuff of legend. Four hundred thousand of our Greatest Generation gave their lives for the noble cause to free the world of tyranny. They gave up their tomorrows, exchanging them for our todays.
Do you think after reading this that our younger generation today has the same pride in our nation? Do you believe they value the role God has played in their lives? Do you believe they cherish their freedom and standard of living? Do you believe they value the free enterprise system we created that has its roots in capitalism or do you think this generation of Americans is leaning towards socialism? Do you believe that today’s youth has accumulated enough knowledge to discern whether or not they want a government with total control over their lives or prefer to embrace the freedoms embodied in our Constitution?
I am confounded by the apathy that has gripped our young. They seem preoccupied with their cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. They worship the immediacy of communication, of discussing how their weekend dates went or playing games throughout the day. When asked how Hitler came to power in Germany in the years leading up to WWII, they are like a deer caught in headlights. They probably would be shocked to learn:
o It didn’t just happen overnight,
o It didn’t just start with gas chambers killing Jews, Christians, and Gypsies,
o It didn’t start with Germany “annexing’ another country,
o It started silently with one party controlling the media:
§ One party controlling the message,
§ One party deciding what is truth,
§ One party censors speech and denigrates the other party,
§ One party dividing citizens into “us” and “them”,
§ One party calling on their supporters to harass the others,
§ One party making race a consuming force.
It started when good people turned a blind eye and let it happen!
Remember the great writer and philosopher Edmund Burke who said: “All that is necessary for evil to prosper is for good men to stand by and do nothing” This is where America stands today.
In my humble opinion, unless and until we get control of our education system here in America, re-instill pride in our country and our Flag, and get back to rewarding innovation through a merit-based system, and not one built on DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion). Unless we get God back into our classrooms, and stand up to the lies and rampant corruption in our federal government, this beautiful experiment in freedom we call America, will end up in the ash heap of history.
We cannot….we must not… let that happen.
The key to all of this is to find leadership that can provide the inspiration and motivation to achieve the things that need to be done. There is someone who fits that bill and he has the integrity, strength, experience, and will to do what needs to be done. Specifically, create an environment that fosters courage over timidity, hard work over a love of ease, and peace through strength.
This man can and will Make America Great Again!
As an avid observer of politics since my undergraduate days at Berkeley 50 years ago, I concur with the Civil War analogy that more astute observers have recently made; the United States is in a similar predicament to pre-Civil War 1860 America. Lincoln could not safely detrain in confederate sympathizing Baltimore on his way to his inauguration. The polarization of America is almost complete along the lines of rural vs. urban, red vs. blue, progressive vs. traditional, left vs. right. The tragedy is that the 60s Boomers have gone all in for a prog, liberal takeover of fundamentally a status quo/conservative historical people desiring limited government. The in-your-face-ism, SJW fascism of the covid plandemic organizers and coup cabal is pushing for complete chaos. That may indeed occur much to the dismay of we who do remember history. Those of the Biden, Pelosi, Feinstein, Schumer ilk once screamed “baby killers” at young returning Vietnam Vets who thought they were supporting stability have become the true “baby killer abortionists” and advocates of family collapse and the unreal definitions of gender identification. Trump is not without baggage, BUT he did not say one untruth after his NYC arraignment. He is more complex than I originally thought, definitely more on top of his game than Brandon in his basement. Before the Civil War, grammar examples included the term “the United States of America ARE” a federation of democratic states. After the Civil War, conventional grammar standardized the “United States IS” a unified country even during Reconstruction. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the United States are a polarized political entity with diminishing capacity to regroup under current leadership. A timely resurrection of national identity is needed or the polarization and complete delegitimization of the American Experiment will be chaotically achieved. Pay attention Citizens!