America

First, I am proud to be an American. I live in a land where I am free to voice my opinion on the things that matter to me. I also have the freedom to vote for those who I want to represent me. My opinion may differ from your’s, but that is fine. I can respect you even if I don’t agree with you.

I feel as if respect for others is something we have lost. One thing that doesn’t help is that we all have been given a “bully pulpit” through social media. The term “bully pulpit” was coined by our 26th president Theodore Roosevelt. He used these words to describe the opportunity that he had as a public figure to speak out on the issues of his day. Roosevelt used the word “bully” to mean something that was magnificent or glorious. Sadly, “bully pulpit” has taken on a whole new meaning today.

One look at Facebook shows just how unkind we have become to each other. This is epecially true when arguments begin over political issues. We all have been given a “bully pulpit” from which we can spew hate, prejudice, and ignorance. We have moved so far away from the principles of our Founding Fathers. For instance, in his farewell address to the nation, George Washington warned about the division that political parties would bring.

Washington words have become quite prophetic: “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” These words were written in 1796. However, they describe what is happening to America in 2020. We are coming apart at the seams.

I will admit my political leanings are more in the conservative direction. However, I would probably best be described as a libertarian. I believe our government has become an overreaching “big brother” that should leave us all to pursue life and liberty. This should be done in a way that is respectful of our nation’s constitution. Likewise, it should be done in a way that respects the rights of our fellow Americans. Finally, we should all act responsibly.

Our constitution gives us the right to speak our minds. However, it doesn’t give us the right to be cruel to others. We have lost our civility. We have used our “bully pulpit” to bash those who believe things that our contrary to what we believe. This needs to change. We can disagree with someone without hating them.

This weekend as Americans celebrate our independence, let’s take a step back and examine what this truly means. Let us use our freedom for good. Furthermore, let’s try to regain our civility as a people. We are one nation under God. In 1858, Abraham Lincoln, who was running for the U.S. Senate at the time, gave an address in Springfield, Illinois.

In this speech Lincoln used the words spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln was addressing the issue of slavery, and the wedge that had been driven between those in favor and those who were opposed to this evil practice.

Today we are still divided, especially on issues related to race. However, that is just one of the many issues that separates us. I understand the passion with which people fight for the causes in which they believe. In fact, I admire the dedication individuals have in standing up for their principles. However, just because I believe one way doesn’t give you the right to demean me. Just as I have no right to demean you for your beliefs.

We should stop letting those in Washington D.C. divide us. It is quite apparent that many of our politicians are only out for their own interests. Our Founding Fathers never meant to create a system of “career politicians.” However, that is exactly what we have. Let us start using our “bully pulpits” for good. In the words of mothers everywhere, “if you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say it.” Today, let not only freedom ring, but let peace and civility ring as well.

Memorial Day

“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” – George Santayana

Travelling is one of my favorite things to do.  It is always enjoyable to go to unfamiliar places and experience new things.  A few weeks ago Amanda and I flew to visit Washington D.C.  This is a city that we had been to before.  However, because I love history so much, it is a city that I could visit time and time again.  The city is full of memorials to past presidents, fallen soldiers, and those who have helped lay the foundations of the United States.  It is also a place where one can see the buildings where the gears of our republic spin. 

The last time Amanda and I travelled to Washington D.C. we only had about a day and a half to try and squeeze as much sightseeing in as possible.  However, on our latest trip we had four days to explore the city, which was still not enough time, but it was a memorable time nonetheless. 

We got to visit some of my favorite sights in the city, such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial.  These are two places where one can feel both pride and sadness.  The Lincoln Memorial to me is such an awe-inspiring sight.  The statue of Abraham Lincoln, who was perhaps our greatest president, is such a beautiful sculpture.  It is a peaceful place where people are quite reverential as they pass through the great marble hall where the immense statue of Lincoln sits. 

This is a place where one can take in just how perfectly laid out the city is in relation to how the buildings and monuments are situated.  Looking out from where Lincoln sits, one can see the Washington Monument, which is reflected in the pool that sits in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  Lined up perfectly with the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, is the U.S. Capitol building. 

View from the Lincoln Memorial out the Reflecting Pool

Just a short distance from the Lincoln Memorial is a site that brings me great sadness when I see it.  That is the Vietnam Memorial.  This is a giant wall sculpted out of highly polished, black granite, on which all of those who lost their lives during the war are inscribed.  This is a stark reminder of how senseless war can be.  The names of more than 58,000 men and women are inscribed upon this slab of granite.  They will never be forgotten.  Being at this site on Memorial Day was a very poignant experience, as we got to see some of the men and women who did make it back home.  They were there to honor their friends who were not so fortunate.  I respect the sacrifices that all of these people made to serve a country which often did not welcome them back home with open arms. 

The Vietnam Memorial

Amanda and I were also able to visit the World War II Memorial.  This is a beautiful place, where one can’t help but reflect on all the people who fought to liberate Europe and other parts of the world from the evils of the Third Reich.  I am glad that we were able to be there to see these sites on Memorial Day, a day which Americans honor those who have died for the cause of freedom. 

I think one of the places that everyone should visit while in Washington D.C. is the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  One must visit this place to keep the memory alive of those  who died under the evil oppression of Adolf Hitler.  I am dumbfounded that there are still people who deny that these events ever took place.  Hitler and the Nazis were proud of what they were trying to accomplish and therefore were pleased to document the atrocities which they were committing.  There is no denying theses facts.  Over six million Jews were killed because they were thought sub-human. 

These two pictures speak for themselves

Being a person who is disabled, it also infuriates me to know that I would have been included among those whom Hitler thought of being “less than human.”  This was a shameful time in history, where many lives could have been spared, if the world would have not turned a blind eye to the suffering of those in Europe.  This includes the United States, who denied entry to thousands of Jews simply because we didn’t want to deal with an influx of refugees who needed a safe place to live.  It is shameful to know that genocide is still taking place in different parts of the world.  I strongly believe that every human was created in the image of God.  Therefore, we should treat each other with love and respect.

As often happens when I am in a city in which I am unfamiliar, there are those who do live up to the standard of treating others with love and respect.  I had many people willing to help me as I wheeled my way throughout the city.  For instance, as I was rolling along, making my way to the Lincoln Memorial, I was asked if I needed help getting up a rather steep incline by a woman who I assume was just resident of Washington D.C.  This woman appeared to be out for a jog, but she took some time away from her run to push me up a hill and into the area where I was able to catch the elevator up to see the statue of Abraham Lincoln.  I don’t know this woman’s name, but she showed me compassion, to which I was very thankful. 

Washington D.C. is a very accessible city to those with disabilities.  Every metro stop had an elevator down to the subway.  Likewise, every train was even with the platform, which made rolling into the train car very easy from my wheelchair.  Moreover, most, if not all of the monuments and museums have ramps or elevators, which make access very easy.  Finally, the city busses, which are free for everyone to ride, all have ramps which allow easy access for wheelchair users.   

The Metro system in Washington D.C. is top notch. Plus, each tunnel reminded me of my dad’s workshop as I was a kid. They all smelled like the welding rods he used. I am sure this was from the hot wheels of the trains running along the electrified tracks.

  One final event that made this trip so memorable was being able to visit Arlington National Cemetery, where many fallen soldiers are buried.  Arlington is also home to the gravesites of John F. Kennedy, along with his brother Robert F. Kennedy.  However, the most moving part of this cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Amanda and I were fortunate to visit the cemetery on Memorial Day where the Vice President of the United States, along with other dignitaries spoke, honoring those who have died fighting for the United States around the world. 

Vice President Pence hiding behind a teleprompter during the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2019.

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