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Out of pain. comes a rebirth

July 05, 2002|By John Schildt

We're 225 years young and still growing. Happy Birthday, America. Pain and birth. There's always pain in birth, in childbirth, in seeing new truths, in making mid-course corrections and adaptations.

There was pain in 1776. The colonists said, "enough is enough," and 13 distinct, unique colonies, "in the course of human events," came together. They shelved some of their individuality to become one. And in the hour that "tried men's souls," God raised up George Washington. He had to face the pain of leadership, the loneliness and isolation of command, the agony of making difficult decisions.

At Valley Forge, he knelt in the snow and prayed for his ragged, cold, barefooted men, a few good men, a handful of patriots, backed by the women at home, engaged the most powerful nation in the world. They were committed to a cause. There was pain, and there was birth, the United States of America.

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Then new clouds loom on the horizon. The enemy has been defeated, can we return to our own individual ways? No. The leaders of the colonies wrangled at the Constitutional Convention. Each had their own agenda. They were going nowhere. Then Benjamin Franklin spoke. "How is it that we have not consulted the Father of Lights? If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, then hardly can a nation be born without his blessing. Sirs, I move that prayers be offered seeking his divine assistance." That was the turning point in the Constitutional Convention, pain and birth, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The settlers pushed westward, and expanded the boundaries of the nation. Lewis and Clark explored the Louisiana Territory. Now there were new growing pains, the economy, slavery, and the issue of states rights. Politicians sought compromise -- the Wilmot Proviso, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the Missouri Compromise. Many proclaimed that slavery was wrong. Pain and birth.

Then came an April morning in 1861. Confederate guns fired on Forth Sumter, and the great Civil War had begun. Homes and families were divided. The nation was torn asunder. It was questionable whether "the nation could long endure." The armies left a trail of death and destruction. Thousands were maimed. Others died from disease, and many were killed on the fields of battle.

On July 4, 1863, Mr. Lincoln, Father Abraham, could announce victory at Gettysburg, and the fall of Vicksburg. There was light at the end of the tunnel. In November of that year, Mr. Lincoln uttered "a few brief remarks" at Gettysburg. They have become a classic. Pain and birth.

The war ended. And a few days later, the man who had sought to "bind up the wounds of the nation, and to care for the widow and the orphan," was himself dead, shot by an assassin. Pain and birth.

Then the nation looked beyond the wide Missouri, and the theme was "Go west young man." Thousands undertook the trek. By 1869, the Transcontinental Railroad was completed, and the telegraph spanned the nation. Settlers in prairie schooners forded the rivers, circled the wagons at night, slept under the stars, endured heat, cold and Indian attacks. They pushed on over the Oregon and California trails. Alas, many never made it. They died, and were buried in crude graves along the route. But at last, America reached "from sea to shining sea." It was a beautiful land, a good land with natural resources and stout-hearted people. Pain and birth.

Life is never stagnant. Good and evil exist side by side. In the new century, American men, doughboys, went "over there." They went to "make the world safe for democracy." Soon the nation learned of trench warfare and mustard gas attacks. The lads from across the USA fought in faraway places with strange sounding names, places like the Meuse-Argonne, Belleau Woods, and Chateau Theirry. Many never came home. They rested in a grave, "Known but to God." Pain and birth.

It was supposed to be "the war to end all wars." but then came September 1, 1939. The lights went out in Poland, and then all over the world. Man's inhumanity to man reached a peak, the Holocaust and 50 million deaths in Europe and Russia. The lives of men, women, children and soldiers were snuffed out like candles. Sadly, there was more to come, Pearl Harbor, "A day of infamy," Bataan, Corregidor, Wake Island, Midway, Guadacanal, Iwo Jima, bullets, shells, bombs, and death. And there was Omaha Beach, the hedgerows, Saint Lo, Brest, Julich, Munchen-Gladbach. The result: White crosses and Stars of David. Pain and birth.

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