I have a rose bush next to my carport and often the thorns snag me when I’m getting in and out of my car. The bush was there when we moved in and from the looks of the height it must have been there for many years. Too often I notice how many thorns are on that bush and don’t notice the big, puffy, gorgeous roses it produces on the end of its thorny branches.
As the 4th of July approaches, I think it would do us some good to reflect on just what occurred on this date and what that meant in the history of our great nation. At times we appear to be a nation where thorns have overtaken that old rose bush planted by our Founding Fathers so many years ago.
Many thorns of our past are still so vividly visible today. It is true that America held slaves and continued for many long years the segregation of our fellow citizens. It is true that America forced Native Americans off their land and recklessly killed them to gain our “manifest destiny.” It is true that America did not allow women to vote and often treated them as second class citizens. It is true that during WWII America interned and confiscated the property of Japanese Americans and carpet bombed our enemies. It is true that Americans torched villages in Vietnam and took away the human dignity by humiliating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Grab. It is true that many such instances have occurred over those long years since our birth as a nation.
Yes, America has committed many indiscretions and even atrocities in its 234 year history which should be amended where possible, and at the least learn from our mistakes and vow to never let those mistakes happen again.
It is also true that these thorns in our past often cloud the big, puffy, gorgeous roses that many others have found in this great nation. Freedom of religion and from tyrannical kings was the first rose that attracted many seekers. Another rose was seen in the Emancipation Proclamation and the subsequent blood spilled to correct this shameful wrong. The Statue of Liberty has been a symbol of the rose that has brought countless millions of “huddled masses yearning to be free” to “the land of the free” for 124 years.
Roses were also seen in WWI and WWII as we took part in the liberation of millions of oppressed and exploited people. Another rose is political freedom found for those who fled repressive totalitarian and communist regimes. If we continue to peel off thorns, we may even see a rose in Iraq where people, even once subjugated women, are voting in free elections and holding public office; and where schools and hospitals have been built.
Here at home roses are seen in our attempt to amend the wrongs of the past with ended slavery and segregation, giving women the right to vote and equal status, and acknowledging the wrongs on interment and abuses. Yes, thorns still and will probably always will show up as political corruption, extremists’ fanatics on both the left and right, and just plain old regrettable mistakes, but they have not nor do they need to ever destroy the roses in our historical past.
The world loves to point out our thorns and say “see, they aren’t as good as they think they are. They need to become more like us.” I’m not here to argue over who has bigger roses or who has fewer thorns. What I am suggesting is that we, as Americans, acknowledge our thorns, but never forget to look at the roses; learn from the past and commit ourselves to making more roses - our own way.
Let’s continue to stand by those immortal words of our Founders: “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.”
No other nation has a rose like that. Let’s not let the thorns overtake and choke our roses. May God continue to bless America on this 4th of July. And may we continue to bless others with our roses.
Perry F. Louden, Jr.