Remembering Others’ Sacrifices

Remembering Others’ Sacrifices, written in (partial) anticipation of The Big Walk, is presented in isolation below:

It’s an absolutely beautiful day in the northeast. A weak hurricane traveled up the coast yesterday, becoming a mere tropical storm as it passed New England, leaving behind cloudless skies and clear, dry air. With preparations underway here and there for tonight’s celebrations of July fourth, central Connecticut is looking its best.

While out for a spin with my good friend John this morning, taking in the lovely sights of the countryside, we passed a statue of a civil war soldier. Such statues are sprinkled throughout the northeast: reminders of the sacrifices borne by boys from even the smallest towns. It’s estimated that 620,000 Americans died in that war, about 2 percent of the population – a number that would equate to about 6.3 million today – an unfathomable tragedy.

moodus

But necessary. Without their sacrifices, our world would be horribly different. Half of the country would have preserved for decades longer the evils of slavery, betraying the founders’ magnificent, but only partly realized, vision and permanently dividing the land in a manner that would surely have meant that the United States could not have played a decisive role in saving the world from tyranny three times in the twentieth century. Our world is far from perfect, but few would argue that it would be better had the Kaiser, Hitler or the Soviets triumphed.

Too often, we take the many, many blessings of being Americans for granted. Our individual freedoms – and the prosperity that flows from them – are the fruits of Enlightenment ideals and the innumerable people who were determined to bring them to life and to protect and extend them – even if at the expense of their lives.

By focusing more on fighting over the spoils of our system than on the ideals that underpin it, we betray those ideals and the men (and more recently, women) who died for them. Indeed, through our ever-fiercer disagreements over how to divide the economic pie, we risk again becoming, in Lincoln’s phrase, a house divided against itself. The politics of division – by race, religion, class and region – are a very dangerous game.

I am planning to do The Big Walk later this month – from the 26th to the 31st. I will pass quietly through some of the richest, and some of the poorest, neighborhoods in the northeast.

As a result of this morning’s ride, I have decided to add another element to my plans: I will photograph all of the many civil war statues that I walk by en route – a small tribute to those to whom we owe so much. I’ll decide later what to do with these pictures, but at a minimum I’ll include some of them in the daily summaries I’ll write of my impressions of the journey.

Happy belated fourth.

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