|A famous James Brady photograph of three Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg after they had surrendered.|
I love my country. In the past few weeks, I've done some trips looking at some natural beauty as well as some history.
|One of Ricketts Glen's numerous waterfalls.|
|An F-4U Corsair at World War II Weekend.|
So I guess history and natural beauty were on my mind as I watched the fireworks. Without even leaving the eastern portion of my state, I've had the chance to see some spectacular things and witness some of the struggles Americans in years past endured. It's hard not to be humbled by how hard men had to work to earn a living in the late 19th-century Anthracite region, or by the sacrifice made by Americans in World War II, a war in which our Allies were much more at threat than we.
If I return to the photo at the top of this blog, I must comment on Gettysburg. The battle ended 152 years ago today. It cost more American lives than any other single battle in any war. The men who fought there were motivated by something both simple and abstract: love of country. I say that's abstract in that love for country fuses both land and ideas. Soldiers fighting for the Confederacy were fighting for a way of live centered on slavery though most of those soldiers didn't own slaves. There was a greater concept of liberty at play for them, a concept that would likely differ a lot from liberty as we know it today, but one that is no less powerful. As for the Union soldiers, they fought for the preservation of the Union. How would their lives have been worsened by allowing 11 recalcitrant states to break away? It's hard to tell how they would have been materially worsened. But they fought anyway.
As Americans today, we still fight (squabble might be a better word) but we do so over issues that seem proportionally smaller than those that motivated those boys in gray and blue. We squabble over issues that are smaller than those at stake for the G.I.'s seventy years ago. Bicker might be an even more fitting word for our scraps over issues that dominate the news.
So I write this today (enjoying a surprisingly sweet Tasmanian whiskey, by the way) thoughtful more about the great issues with which our forefathers fought and appreciative of the beautiful land we happen to enjoy. Perhaps tomorrow I'll see signs that our political leaders are taking more seriously the things over which they prefer to bicker, and place our struggles today in the proper perspective. I was tempted to end this post with a photo of a preposterous billboard I saw in Benton, PA over the week. But I think I'll leave it there (and vent about that billboard later).