It is no secret that politics in the United States are a puzzlement to me. Things I believe in – the common good, generosity and understanding in treatment of those who are not like me, a belief that freedom is a treasure that should not be eroded – these things are often not valued, if one can believe what gets reported by the fifth estate. Can the media today be trusted to report on the facts, to dig deeper than the public relations of a situation? It is all so confusing, and often discouraging. Often I don’t know what to make of things.
Last night, however, I was watching a program on the History Channel about the Revolutionary War. As a matter of fact, this program was in the middle of the series and mostly what I learned was about how the United States came to have any kind of government at all. Post 1776 was a chaotic time; a slight change would have taken this country down a different path.
As you might expect, the emotional fervor with which colonists became part of the Revolutionary War turned into a “now what?” situation once the outcome of the the actual battles became apparent. By 1781, Cornwallis had surrendered to General Washington, but an actual Peace Treaty with England would not be signed until nearly a year later. The Continental Congress would form a government which little by little gained recognition of other countries – first Spain, then Denmark and then Russia. It must have been quite difficult to fly in the face of England, a world power, in support of this newly formed United States.
Obviously everyone did not give this new United States much of a chance for success. In fact, in 1783, General Washington had to persuade the remains of the Continental Army not to rebel against the newly formed government. When I consider all that happened after the battles, after the Declaration of Independence, it is a miracle that this country indeed exists as it does.
So how does this history connect to the current state of affairs? For me, it is hopeful that over 200 years ago, despite all that could have gone awry, the United States came into being. It became the great and welcoming country to my ancestors, the country where differing views could be tolerated, where it wasn’t a crime to think – and to say – what you believe.
The United States is still a place where you can disagree and not end up in jail. And despite the discomfort with some of the politics of our time in history, I am glad to be here in the United States. If our country could endure the chaos of its beginnings, then there is hope. Hope that we will speak out when personal rights are challenged, hope that we will speak up against wrong and not just accept what is reported by those who may have an agenda. And hope that we will continue to be that welcoming place for all.