This Memorial Day weekend I am thinking about the men and women who died defending this great country of ours. Men and women from all races and religions. Immigrants and sons and daughters of immigrants. Descendants of the Mayflower and descendants of the first immigrants who crossed the Bering Strait 12,000 years ago. They died for a dream – America is not about what America is now, but what America could be and what it is progressing toward.
American Liberty is messy. American rights are messy. We have the absolute right to say whatever we want, regardless of who is offended. We have the right to be a member of whatever religion we choose, whether others call it a “cult” or not. We have the right to practice no religion – no one will burn us at the stake because we don’t believe in God. We have the right to have firearms. We can even wear them in public. We have the right to shut up and not to be compelled to confess to a kangaroo court. Our free press is the most powerful in the world. We are the only country with the right to pursue happiness. Our rights are indeed holy – the Declaration itself declares that Americans’ rights are “endowed by their Creator.” And to an American, the ideas of curbing the press or putting people to religious tests are blasphemy.
Our rights are messy. Our democracy is messy. Our democracy has always been messy – Mark Twain complained about congress 150 years ago. We’ve had ballot-stuffing, dead men voting, machine politics since the Republic began. And yet we’re here. The Republic is still here.
Our men and women went to war knowing that our Union is imperfect. And yet they went anyway, and they died for the America as it is now, and for the America it will become.
There is no greater sacrifice. And I thank them and their families from the bottom of my heart.