Thursday, September 14, 2006

I am an American and Proud of It [re-post]

[Some years ago Sunflower Woman, thinking that our children knew very little of their Ammerican roots, started on a genealogy of the Cliff family. Being by education both a folklorist and a journalist, it became much more than a list of family trees and who begat who. Her, "They Came on the Mayflower" is 350 pages and still growing. Full of history and anecdotes it's quite an interesting read.

More important,it's part of the reason we will be visiting my mother's grave today, which, as far as I know, I have never seen. Will it bring some sort of closure? Perhaps, perhaps not.

In any event, my wife's story of my family and America is what inspired today's post. What we will be doing today explains why I breach etiquette and repost something as recently posted as the beginning of August.]

I came to this land on the Mayflower and in the bottoms of other stinking ships, sometimes in freedom, sometimes in chains...

A draft dodger during the Civil War, I worked my way through Canada and died somewhere in Mexico -- with a gun in each hand.

On the desolation of the western plains: we hung a murderer by the light of the full Moon. We buried him by the roadside, next to the man he had killed that very same morning.

I once owned half the waterfront of what is now downtown Chicago and let it slip through my fingers.

Mothers and fathers, poets and paupers, preachers and puritans, heathens and harlots, sometimes noble sometimes a scoundrel -- hardworking, common folk for the most, I built this land and made it what it was:

A nation conceived in a vision that a society could actually be dedicated to liberty and justice and even equality.

A vision common in the human heart: “When Adam plowed and Eve span, who then was the gentleman?”

A vision common to all humankind, but seldom realized and then imperfectly so, even in “the Land of the Free” .

Democracy and freedom did not simply fall into our laps.

The prize was felicitously snatched from the whirlwinds of history and we paid for them in installments of life blood, tears and sacrifice.

Freedom, Liberty and Justice are more than artifacts, mental constructs or philosophical abstracts. They are burning desires in the heart of our common humanity.

If we forsake it all for the Lure of Empire, what will America then become?

[Surprisingly, some Americans don't recognize the flag I prefer above others as it, to me at least, represents somethingof the vision which brought our nation into being.

It is the so-called Betsy Ross flag, called that because a lady by that name sewed it as the first American flag. Actually there had been other flags used before but this one was officially commissioned in May, 1776, three months before Independence was actually declared. The thirteen stars and stripes represent the thirteen colonies who were then trying to achieve independence.]

The painting was done by Charles H. Weisgerber. You can see it in better quality here.

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