The 4th of July – The Concord Battlefield And When The Mystic Chords Of Memory Fray
GrassTopsUSA Exclusive Commentary
By Don Feder
June 30, 2017
Every year, between Memorial Day and the 4th of July, I make a pilgrimage to the place where America began – the battlefield in Concord, Massachusetts. Today, it's a national park with beautiful green hills, flower beds, a meandering river and the Minuteman Monument.
The colonists gave birth to a new nation not on July 4, 1776 (with the signing of the Declaration of Independence), but at the Old North Bridge in Concord, on April 19, 1775. Words are fine and necessary, but nations, like individuals, are born in blood.
The Battle of Concord was the first time the colonists fired on British soldiers. The Redcoats on one side of the bridge first fired a warning volley, then one into the ranks of militiamen on the other side. Isaac Davis, commanding a company from nearby Acton, was shot in the heart and died on the spot. "Fire fellow soldiers, for God's sake fire!" cried Col. John Buttrick, another militia leader.
And fire they did. Their shots of defiance ring down through the ages.
In Emerson's immortal words: "By the rude bridge that arched the flood, Their flag to April's breeze unfurled, Here once the embattled farmers stood and fired the shot heard round the world."
Since I first heard the Concord Hymn as a school boy, I've thrilled to those lines. Apparently, I'm part of a dwindling majority.
"Younger Americans Are Less Patriotic," The New York Times enthusiastically reported on July 4, 2014. While 81% of the Greatest Generation said they love America, only 58% of Millennials feel the same way. The Times called it a generational-gap on patriotism.
In part, this lack of ardor is because many Millennials are afraid to commit to anything – it might require them to actually do something – marriage, career or country. It's also the result of a refusal to teach American history in either the public schools or higher education.
In the National Assessment of Educational Progress, American history always ends up at the bottom of the heap.
In a 2014 survey sponsored by The American Revolution Center, 83% failed a basic test on America's founding. More than 50% attributed Marx's axiom ("From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs") to George Washington, Thomas Paine or Barack Obama. Of course, Obama is easily mistaken for the communist theoretician.
More than a third of those surveyed didn't know the century in which the American Revolution occurred. Half believed either the Emancipation Proclamation, the War of 1812, or the Civil War preceded the Revolution. A third of those surveyed did not know that the Bill of Rights guarantees a right to trial by jury. Over 50% thought our form of government is a democracy (a word found nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or Constitution) instead of a republic. In another survey, two-thirds of Americans couldn't name a single Supreme Court justice. In a poll of high-school juniors by the San Francisco Chronicle, only 8 out of 34 students correctly identified FDR as president during World War II. Incorrect answers included George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon and Winston Churchill.
In his First Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln appealed to "the mystic chords of memory stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land." But what happens when the chords of memory fray or snap?
What happens is 8 years of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton (one of the most corrupt politicians in America) almost elected president, Washington forcing Americans to buy health insurance, a majority of Americans opposing Trump's border wall (60% according to an April Pew Research poll), the Supreme Court ruling that two men or two women have a constitutional right to marry, the fantasy that Islam had something to do with America's founding, those who believe the Constitution mandates a "wall of separation" between church and state (67% in one poll), and those who want to "Get guns off the street," or the village green?
How can an American not take pride in his country, knowing that we started by defeating the greatest empire on earth, went on to adopt a Constitution that provides the best system of government yet devised, kept the nation united and ended the scourge of slavery in the Civil War, recovered from the devastation of the Great Depression, saved humanity from Japanese Imperialism, Nazism and communism, became the world's laboratory of invention in the 19th century and the powerhouse of production in the 20th – all the while creating a middle class rich in rights and prosperity? Only the pathetically ignorant or the soul-dead can fail to love such a country. ("Breathes there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, This is my own, my native land.")
The Minutemen and Militia at the Old North Bridge had their counterparts in the Battle of New Orleans, the boys in blue who held Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg, the Doughboys at Belleau Wood, the Boys of Pointe du Hoc (as Reagan called them) on D-Day, and all the rest of the heroes at the Chosin Reservoir, the Tet Offensive and Desert Storm.
Tragically, we are raising a generation of historical illiterates. The zombies of horror movies consume human flesh. America's zombies are eating this nation's heart and consuming its spirit.
Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains a Facebook page.