I sat down at work to change my shoes, to put on steel toes to go into the industrial area. I work at the Rolls-Royce turbine assembly plant in Mt. Vernon, OH. As I looked up from the floor my gaze went to the window where I saw the VFW’s flag waving in the rainy breeze. “But of course,” I thought, “it’s at half-mast today.” It is September 11, 2014, the thirteenth anniversary of the tragic attack on our nation and the world by radical ideologues.
The day here in this little cross-road town in Middle America is gray from the passing weather front. The red, white, and blue stand out more on such a day, I think, in contrast to nature’s presentation and somehow this is where unexpected inspiration comes from.
It is a matter of fact and the natural course of world history making the United States the political and economic leader of free countries around the globe. The same natural course of history places this nation’s strength at the fore of the not-so-free governments and entities as a force to be reckoned with. The power of this nation is undeniable. It is a great responsibility we have inherited.
The power is envied. The wealth is desired. The responsibility to wield it is beyond any one person’s capability. All patriots together bear the burden of this responsibility. All of us, patriot or no, feel the pain in the thrust of the memory of the loss. Our tormentors continue to torment and they will twist this memory for as long as their own abilities survive. These are facts we face as a maturing nation and advancing peoples. These two burdens we must bear for they are inextricably tied together.
There was a time, two hundred years ago, when we were the tormentors, when this nation represented the terror and disorder against the powers of the world. Our ships, built and harbored in Baltimore, raided world trade. We invaded Canada. We marched on indigenous peoples and destroyed their homes and ways of life. We fought for the survival of our fledgling nation against the forces that would destroy it. Payments for our efforts included the burning of our capitol city, and the threatening repetition of that act against Baltimore. Baltimore stood, though, because the people, our people, shouldered the responsibility to defend her, and in doing so gave us a symbol to remember and an act to repeat. Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that will forever remind us of this act of responsibility, the sacrifice of our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honors.
We face no fewer threats this day than did those in Baltimore two-hundred years ago. We stepped onto the world’s stage in 1776 and defended our place on that stage in 1814. We committed acts of war as well as acts of terror to do so. We are leaders on that stage today and those that would oppose our way of life are the upstarts we once were. They attack our computer systems, steal our passwords and our wealth, behead our citizens, and shun their responsibilities knowing we cannot permit the vacuum to exist. They threaten our allies and our foes and create anarchy that we cannot permit to exist for long. They hurt us thirteen years ago at home using our own technology and freedoms against us. They can hurt us again using the same technologies and freedoms.
We have inherited the responsibility to exercise the ideals emblazoned in our own Declaration of Independence and in our Constitution. “We, the People…” cannot cower from this responsibility. We must stand fast, whether we do so from a small cross-road in Middle America, or a metropolis on one of our coasts, or in our work and business around the globe, or even orbiting out in space. We must do so showing a unified front to our allies and our foes, even as we argue amongst ourselves about how best to continue to exercise the ideals that are embodied in us, the people that are these United States.
I looked out the window to see a tri-colored banner waving in the breeze. “Yes, Francis. Yes! That Star Spangled Banner still waves, o’re the land of the free, and the home of the brave!”