Right now, right at this moment, I am watching a ceremony on television that I watched as a child when I visited Washington, DC.
I am at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and soldiers are walking through the ceremony.
The soldiers are immaculately dressed, and they perform admirably.
It is a beautiful ceremony, but I must guard myself to not take the wrong lessons away from it.
Washington can seduce you when you visit there.
There are many memorials and monuments worth seeing.
They represent the history of our country, and it is a country that we can be proud of.
But these monuments also have the power to destroy.
Many of these monuments were built by Americans of a different generation who did not think the way we now think.
Our country has drifted far from its religious underpinnings.
When our antecedents built memorials, God, and all the good that God represents, was foremost in their minds.
The power of Caesar was not.
And yet, the white marble, the vastness of the buildings, their sheer weight and size, can so be easily misconstrued as to what these monuments represent.
Lincoln was a godly man who was not so much concerned as to whether God was on his side but whether he was on God’s side.
His memorial must convey that.
As must the others.
But we are not of Lincoln’s era.
Nor that of the Founding Fathers.
And so these monuments have taken on a different meaning.
They are now a catalogue of sites that Americans check off as part of an indoctrination program into America’s might and power.
Our news media forever crows about America as the most powerful nation on earth.
As do our leaders.
The President of the United States is regularly feted as the most powerful man on the face of the earth.
Did Lincoln shower himself with such illusions?
The monuments are now part of the supporting cast to justify our Presidents’ decisions on waging war around the globe.
The monuments sanctify us, purify us, justify us.
But that was not their intent when they were first constructed.
Monuments and memorials do not exist for war. Nor do they exist to create heroes.
Nor do they serve as a pretext for vengeance or domination.
They exist to deliver a message.
Those men who sacrificed their lives as in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are talking to us.
They want to tell us something.
They are asking us to dedicate our lives to forging a better world than the one that took their life.
As Lincoln said in the Gettysburg address:
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.
Copyright 2021 Archer Crosley All Rights Reserved