Life

Random Observations on the Fourth

“I believe in the United States of America as a Government of the people by the people, for the people, whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a Republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect Union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.

“I therefore believe it is my duty to my Country to love it; to support its Constitution; to obey its laws; to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.”

I wonder how many people are familiar with this quotation.

It is known as “The American’s Creed,” and was written in 1917 by William Tyler Page, a descendant of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and of the 10th president, John Tyler.

The creed was written about a year after the United States entered World War I. The spirit of patriotism was popular. But the Great Depression was still eleven years away, the death of Franklin Roosevelt, arguably the most beloved president of the 20th century, wouldn’t happen for another 48 years. The shocking death of President Kennedy was still 56 in the future. And while there was a September 11th on the calendar that year, the day that changed what that particular date meant to history wouldn’t happen for 84 years.

Or, to put it another way, times were very different.

Note that I said different. Not necessarily better. There have always been problems, because there is never any possible outcome to a situation that will universally please everyone. There were plenty of people willing to speak up for their opinions back then, too.

But it seems to me — and I may be wrong — that back then, there wasn’t this apparent need to divide that we have today. Our current president has a lot to do with that, but he certainly didn’t invent the popularity of division, even if he has been quite successful at manipulating it to his advantage, and his party’s disadvantage.

The two most divisive people in the current presidential race are probably John McCain and Hillary Clinton. Is that a good thing? I’m not sure. Not all division is bad: at least, it can inspire genuine debate. Ironically, one of the most divisive groups at the moment is the Christian Right, which should want to unite at every opportunity.

Debate today isn’t about discussion. It’s about getting personal. Calling people names. Calling people uneducated. Calling people insensitive or uncaring. And there are few kinds of treatment that one can receive that can make them more insensitive and uncaring than the constant barrage many face today. It’s all about cause and effect.

The spirit of patriotism is still alive in this country, as it was back in 1917. But today’s patriotism is dependent on a series of conditions and codicils: we support the troops but not the war, we support the Constitution but not the interpretations applied to it, Religious freedom but not specific religions, Freedom of Speech but not the right to say anything freely.

Somehow, the optimistic writers of yesteryear that set out to unite as many people as possible in this country with pieces like “The American’s Creed” probably never imagined a culture as fractured as ours. If they did, they probably never imagined that such a condition would be the norm.

The question is, what must it take for people to set aside the anger, the hostility and the presumption and actually unite?

5 Comments

  1. “There are no athiests in foxholes”

    I don’t remember people fighting over much on Sept. 11, 2001. It is only when people have enough time on their hands to become complacent that apathy and avarice seep into the equation.

    The human animal can rationalize nearly any misconduct as long as they are held accountable for the result.

    Remo

  2. I imagine it might be a little because of my age (I was in college until 2000 and therefore had my head up my @$$), but it seems to me that the US was MUCH more united before George Bush. Even during the first Gulf War, the protesters were seen more as the crazy minority than the logical masses.

    You know what I think would unite the country? Having a President who was willing to follow The American’s Creed and not interpret the Constitution to suit his purposes, ignore the laws that don’t suit him (or her), or attack enemies under flase pretense.

  3. Very thought provoking piece. I like the conditions section to think about.

    Perhaps the conditions are through a process of realizing our forefathers had no idea what that could really mean. They may not have even imagined how the world would change. They would not imagine all the different religions being very few then. They may never imagined all the diversity of people who would come to America and how these people would be able to practice these freedoms in harmony together. I can’t see they would imagine our Rap artists of today when language like this was not around, though equivalent terms perhaps of the time existed, they may not have used it due to social norms based on the religion. I can’t imagine they would foresee guns that would go through the armour our police wear. They would not foresee men stalking & raping women. What I’m trying to say is when you mention times are different this is the exact reason for conditions, because they could have never foreseen what the world would be like. I don’t know I would even say “conditions” but different interpretations.

    I don’t think the division is that different. They divided from the British so much they left the country to come here right? They divided from the American Indians (yes I have part in me) & basically all but wiped them out…similar perhaps to what others in the world want to do to us today? When people immigrating here they lived in separate neighborhoods say in Chicago & today while this may still occur some, there is much more diversity in one area so in a way they have come together.

    I think the creed is still alive & well but our defintions of some of those terms have changed & rightly so as the world has changed. Should we not change what it means to be a husband or wife today? What if we held to the old definition today? True freedom is allowing someone to disagree with the war or even soldiers. They do fight for that freedom. For a soldier or parent of a soldier to say you can’t speak out against the war just doesn’t make sense…that is the freedom they are suppose to be fighting for. Seems to me like freedom was more strict before & now it is more open. African Americans are more free today than in the past, women are etc. I suppose it is how you really look at it. Quite frankly I think some of the political division is from those who FEAR change & what freedom really means. They want to adhere to the definitions of the past. They don’t want freedom! They want to say “no this is how it has to be” due to a certain religion & not the freedom to believe what you want. The creed is also alive by who we vote in office.

    P.S. My niece’s 10th b-day is 7-7-7! 🙂

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.