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Just dropping by ... The timeless Gettysburg Address

Yevet Tenney Published on 29 August 2012
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In seventh grade, I memorized the Gettysburg Address. At the time, the speech was just pleasing words grouped together in a concise poetic manner.I have quoted them many times since, but until recently I did not realize how prophetic and applicable they are today.

If Lincoln had written the speech today, “four score” would be 225 years ago.

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Our Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. The U.S. Constitution is the grandfather of many constitutions and stands as a standard of greatness to the world. This nation was indeed “conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Equal has become a buzzword for many things now days, but back then it meant every person had equal opportunity to pursue happiness without fear of censure. Equality simply meant protection and fairness before the law.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war. We are engaged in wars all over the world. Protesters have brought down governments and fallen prey to military law. Even in America, protesters scream that they have been ill-used by the rich and powerful.

They want their fair share of the spoil. This war is not about equality; it is about supremacy. It is about getting something for nothing. It is about taking from the haves to give to the have-nots. It’s about power and greed, not equal opportunity for all.

Daily, we meet on the battlefield of that war. News anchors give a play-by-play of the action and the casualties. Some victims of that war die a literal death; some die in name only. They lose their honor and dignity, groveling in the sewer of lies and political expediency. What is the war all about? We are testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

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Some people think it would be better if we had a dictator so we could bypass Congress because the process takes too long. They haven’t read history to find out what happens when a dictator comes to power. King George would be a gentleman compared to the dictators who could take power in our day.

There are others who think we should abandon parts of the Constitution because it is old-fashioned and written by men who lived more than 200 years ago. After all, what could they know about the modern world of computers, Internet and space travel?

People who want to abandon the Constitution are not familiar with the archetype of man. That is to say that the toys and the weapons may change, but the basic inner workings of man stay the same. Men are motivated by power and position unless they yield to the Spirit of the Lord.

The Constitution is a document that self-governs the inner man by making him accountable for his actions. There are few, if any, in the government today who would totally yield himself or herself to the Spirit of the Lord. Political campaigning is the first order of the day. The political winds shift and so do the opinions.

On the other side of the spectrum, some people want to return letter for letter to the original document. They would even abandon some of the amendments. Of course they would not get rid of the right for all men and women to vote. They would not reverse the Emancipation Proclamation that brought slavery to an end – but maybe the 16th Amendment, the Income Tax Amendment, that they believe was too hastily drawn up and passed.

These people trust the Founding Fathers and trust the archetype of man. They want to be left alone to do what they do best, create and work for the betterment of mankind. Now they must be engaged in a war for their very lives. They must fight day-by-day to preserve what the Founding Fathers created.

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They are angry at the political mumbo jumbo and the executive pen that deletes the relevance of the Constitution. Yes, we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

The Gettysburg Address was not a political speech. President Lincoln came to dedicate a cemetery of soldiers who had died on a battlefield. Parents and friends of the lost ones were in the crowd. His heart was swollen with sorrow for the lost ones.

He recognized that he could say nothing that would bring comfort to these grieving people. Their sons, brothers, husbands and fathers were cold in the silent graves marked by white crosses.

Lincoln said: We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate – we cannot consecrate – we cannot hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

Lincoln knew that the war was not over. He knew that if the nation was going to survive, the rebellious states must be brought under control. He knew that many more young men would die. He knew the country would be ripped and torn in the aftermath of war.

Famine and hardship would be the result, but he knew what must be done. The alternative was not an option. Why not just let the South become her own nation? They would be sister countries happily living side-by-side, right? No! Lincoln understood the archetype of man.

He knew the insatiable quest for power that lives in the heart of man. He knew that border war would follow border war. Peace could only come when the country was united.

Lincoln expected to be forgotten. He expected to fade into history as other men, and he would have if he had not pulled the nation together. Lincoln’s concern was not for his own fame or power.

He wanted those young men to be remembered. They had given all to preserve freedom and liberty for their families. Lincoln did not want them to have died in vain. He wanted us to honor them.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.

When I think of all those who died in the Revolutionary war, the War of 1812 and the Civil War, I am filled with sorrow – but when I think of all the young men who died in the First World War and the Second World War, the Gulf War and the Iraqi and Afghanistan War, I am literally overwhelmed. We have so many more lives to remember and honor than Lincoln could even imagine.

We must not let the number diminish the sacrifice of the one. Each soldier had a family, a mother and father who would never be the same. Some had wives and brothers and sisters whose lives would forever be altered.

We must here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.

What a shame it would be to give these lives and the precious gift of freedom away because we want someone else to pay our bills. We want someone else to solve our problems. It would be a travesty to adopt the very tyranny that our founders fought against.

We do not need a dictator. We need the Constitution. Self-reliance and self-governance is the only form of government that has created long-term peace and has allowed people to create prosperity beyond anyone’s imagination. We cannot stomp on the graves of those who gave their last breath to buy that freedom and prosperity in exchange for a cell in the prison of history.

We are Americans with a tenacious heritage of independence and fortitude. We have the best blood of the American dream running in our veins. We must resolve no matter what it takes and say with Lincoln that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. PD

PHOTO:“Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Photo courtesy of Thinkstock.com.

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