Is there a price too great?
Today a visitor to Washington, DC will easily walk down what is called the Mall, heading away from the Congress buildings past the Washington monument, the Whitehouse just off a block or two to your right, past the relatively new World War II monument, and down the length of the reflecting pond toward the Lincoln Memorial. The walk takes you past close to a dozen buildings which combine to form the Smithsonian Museums, the Holocaust museum is just a couple blocks off the mall almost directly opposite the Whitehouse. To the left of Lincoln, the Korean War Memorial, to the right Vietnam. Just past the Lincoln memorial off to the left toward the Jefferson memorial the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and if you walk around back of the Lincoln memorial you can see across the bridge the elevated land of Arlington National Cemetery. General Lee, leader of the confederate army, owned the land and his house today is just above the John F. Kennedy memorial both of which look directly out over everything I’ve just described looking back toward the Congress buildings.
Keeping an eye on the nation sits Abraham Lincoln. Today (January 1, 2013) is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln didn’t wait until the war was won to state the outcome, the Battle at Gettysburg would occur 6 months later but the time had come to make the statement, there would be no more slavery in the United States of America. You can examine the original documents and read the transcript here.
It is pretty easy today, particularly for those of us in the world who are not American, to forget the price that people have paid all over the world for a measure of what might be recognized as freedom or even basic human rights. The Civil war in the United States, revolutions in England, France, Russia, to name just a few highlight the courage of people to stand up and be counted for as individuals worthy of consideration.
Lincoln did not start this movement, and it certainly did not end with the American civil war but it serves as a somber reminder that even a nation identified as a bastion of democracy struggles to hold to its own Declaration of Independence as it struggles to bring to actualize the statement, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
There are over 11 000 books that is some way involve Abraham Lincoln at Amazon. There are only 52 million results on a google search for “Abraham Lincoln”.
When I consider Lincoln, I ponder what I believe about the ability to control my destiny, what I believe about the value of each individual, and what is required of me to ensure that the people I come in contact with are valued, respected and supported as they seek to be the best they can be.
Finally I consider that the struggle for personal human rights and dignity did not end with the civil war in the United States, just as the war didn’t end with the proclamation.
Lincoln said, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right”. Sound advice, no easy path to follow.