On our way to upstate New York we made a side-trip to Gettysburg. I was not really interested in dealing with another touristy location. But this isn’t REALLY touristy. Yes, it’s a little nerve-wracking to drive through town with a 37-foot fifth wheel attached to your oversized Ford truck. And I’m not driving! Still, it was worth it. I didn’t realize how much it would be worth it.
Just the street shops alone…so cute! I could have spent a day or two here! Then we reached the spot. The place where Lincoln gave his famous speech.
Across from this cemetery is where the battle played out in early July. Ironically the days before our nation celebrated our independence. There are markers everywhere noting where men died, battles were fought, lives were changed. You cannot stand on this ground and not feel the weight of it. I tried to keep tears from falling down my cheeks.
You can just see it in front of you. The Union holding their ground. The Confederate advancing up the hill. Guns and cannons blaring. Men groaning. Crying. Praying. Dying.
The Boy talks about military. Weaponry. War. And then he sees this. And we tell him. This. This is what war is. You stand beside your brother and watch him die. You pray you make it out alive. It’s not a video game. It’s real. And it sucks. And it’s hard to understand. And you just want to ask the Lord to end this crappy world already because you are sick of men killing one another. Hating one another. Destroying our world.
You look out over the valley and you begin to realize just how big the battle at Gettysburg was. And you silently cry. Your heart mourns. Sad. Brother killing brother. Hating one another. What God had put together, men were tearing asunder. Instead of love, they were choosing hate.
This is what hate looks like. A monument of the dead, the wounded. Hearts broken. Lives ruined. And a country that says United, but really have been divided since those fateful days.
How does one explain why our nation had a civil war? How do you explain to a child, who has not been raised with the concept of racial superiority or slavery, that men fought and killed one another to keep a human being as their slave? That the reason they kept slaves was to benefit themselves economically? That they felt God not only allowed it, but blessed it? That because the difference of skin color, they were justified? It’s hard. But it’s the ugly and brutal reality. History was fun while we talked about the First Thanksgiving (minus the ugly realities) and animals and moon and all things benign. But there comes a time where my children have to mature. They have to face the harsh reality of our past and our present if they are ever going to be able to change our future and theirs.
So, we learn. And my momma heart cries. Cries for the innocence of their younger years. For the times I could shelter them from the pain. The hurt. The ugliness of a country founded on Christian principles but never actually putting them into practice. Of people who say they love with their mouths, while their actions show the true intentions of their hearts. Ugliness wrapped up in pretty packages called patriotism and pride in our nation.
Don’t get me wrong. This trip has only sealed my gratefulness to be an American. But it has also opened my eyes to the reality of who have been as a nation and who we are today. And I worry. I pray. I hope for a brighter future.
So, I make our children stand. Stand where Lincoln stood. Close your eyes. You are there. Imagine you hear these words for the first time. OK, ignore the fact that you are reading it from a Kindle Fire AND there are trucks driving by and you cannot hear. Just imagine what it was like. LISTEN to the words.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. 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 can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. 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.
In 2013 my family walks away from the site. We don’t know the pain of living in slavery. We don’t know what it was like to hear the cannons. The cries. The smells of war. We only know the luxury of being a 21st century family in America.
Before leaving we walk through the cemetery. This is where it all ends. Ground and a stone. Then I find the one I wanted.
War. Death. And no one even knows your name. The ultimate sacrifice. I weep. And pray that my children never have to face this…that our nation never again turns against each other. In blood. Hate.
May our nation never forget. A house divided against itself shall not stand.