“When you were in the thick of things, your ears rang from the noise of the warriors [but] you’re here.” The Gettysburg Address of Abraham Lincoln’s day is a reminder of a terrible infamy. The Civil War is also a summons to human potential, shown by the hundreds of thousands of men that Lincoln is referring to when he paints a story of “man’s goodness against evil, and the end of the darkness with the light.”
The defense of the North during the Civil War is really about defending the values we hold dear, and not least the values of the people in this country. That is a call to the citizenship of all of us. Those who fought the war volunteered and committed themselves to that idea.
As we reflect on the 150th anniversary of that terrible war, we must be aware that even then the story of the American experiment was not yet complete. In the growing elite of college presidents and bankers that dominates our political system, patriotism is close to nonexistent, and words like “narrow minded” and “small minded” are used as pejorative labels when they are not uncritically used in praise of the rich and the powerful. What is patriotic is when people work to defend America’s ideals, ideals we hold dear. The world is not for sale. The rights that humans hold so dear are not things to be traded, or broken for the sake of money.