Friday, November 18, 2011

The "Great Task Remaining"

Tomorrow marks the 148th anniversary of President Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address."  He spoke for only a few minutes.  Others preceded him at the podium with loud, lengthy speeches; and, when Lincoln spoke, many in the crowd struggled to make out his words.  Not until much later, after they were published in the newspapers, did these words strike a chord that resounds even today: 

"...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—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—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."

A little over four months had passed since the titanic battle at the quiet pastoral crossroad college town in Pennsylvania.  A few men in the final grey-clad assault against the Union Army's defenses actually reached the rock wall behind which their brothers in blue had poured hot lead into, and decimated, their ranks.  Historians have since marked that spot as the "High water mark of the Confederacy."

Only it wasn't.

At least it wasn't the northernmost invasion of the North by Southern forces.

That distinction actually belongs to the Battle of Salineville, fought in Northeastern Ohio three weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg.  A Confederate cavalry force under Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan struck deep into enemy territory and was eventually cut off and defeated by Union forces under the command of one Brigadier General James M. Shackelford, to whom the Colonel is distantly related on his mother's side.   

The Colonel digresses.

The point of this post, for which the thousands of you who regularly display enormous erudition and enhanced cultural consciousness by imbibing liberally of the literary libations poured out hereon have waited patiently for the Colonel to make, is that the "great task remaining before us" to which Lincoln referred in his remarks honoring the sacrifice of those "who gave the last full measure of devotion" was not accomplished with the end of the American Civil War. 

Lincoln's "Great Task" remains ever before us.  Like God's perfection, it is an unachievable goal toward the achievement of which we must never cease to strive.  

"Government of the people, by the people," and, "for the people" is not an easy thing to achieve.

It is, in the history of man, nearly an impossibility.

Therein lies, the Colonel believes, the true measure of the greatness of our republic.  The American people are world-renown for achieving the impossible.  Need an example?  Just look at the impossible leap made, in less than a citizen's lifetime, from the sandy dunes of Kitty Hawk to the dusty plains of the Sea of Tranquility.  

The Constitution, with which, and on which, the American Republic was founded, is not so much a blueprint of a form of government as it is an aspirational torch lighting the way for Jefferson's inalienable right to pursue freedom.  

It is claimed that the Constitution contains guarantees of our rights and freedoms.

It does no such thing.

In our republic, the people, as Lincoln so clearly understood, guarantee their own rights.

In our republic, the people guarantee their own freedom.

And when a government oversteps the constitutional authority given to it, not by the Constitution, but by the people, the people must guarantee their own rights and freedoms with a box of ballots; and failing that, when due to clearly unconstitutional governmental trampling and usurpation, with a box of bullets.

The Colonel has his hopes on the former and his money in the latter.              
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