Do you know who said that? Patrick Henry.
Do you know what the words that come before that famous line?
"They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Sir, we are not weak. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us.
Gentlemen may cry 'Peace, Peace!' -- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? Is our life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
Now.... I ask you this: Do you have that kind of passion, that conviction, about, well, anything? I'm not asking if you would die for Christ... of course, that's the first thing that pops into our heads, would we be willing to martyr ourselves for our beliefs... but it is more of a canned response to say "yes" when thinking about this in terms of religion. What about our country? No matter what my political beliefs are, I am an American, and I LOVE MY COUNTRY. It doesn't mean that I am defined by one person, it doesn't mean that I agree with the impositions of lawmakers, but it does mean that I respect the foundations of this country, and the many sacrifices that brought us to where we are today.
Master Chorus Eastside performs a patriotic concert every year, and last year we focused on the Founding Fathers... that is when I truly understood what it meant for those men to commit high treason against the Crown. They were willing to die for a pipe-dream that was discussed in bars, after hours. And not in a radical, "blow up the nearest Red Coat" sort of way, but being willing to take action - "The war is actually begun... why stand we here idle..."
George Washington said, "The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of \wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend on God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die."
Again - the only options presented were to live free or die - period.
In Rainier Chorale, we are working on a phenomenal piece by Randall Thompson, The Testament of Freedom, a setting of four passages from the writings of Thomas Jefferson.
Guess what, folks - this is what it's all about... and it feels dramatic... and it feels over-the-top... and, on the surface, it seems very ethnocentric when you look at how so many people try to define "America" today, a blend of all cultures, not so much seen as a melting pot anymore, where people come together to be one, but more of a tossed salad, where we all bring our own bit of flavor to the mix... But, you know what? It still comes down to believing in a dream that is Freedom. Whomever sits in that Oval Office, we, the people, are more than that one person. We are the millions of unborn that George Washington was talking about, the millions of unborn that inspired men to risk their lives so that we could be free! Somehow, we, the people, lost that vision, we lost that conviction. Instead, we look for the first opportunity to stand divided, to call ourselves "individuals" rather than stand united. We have forgotten that - in being a tossed salad rather than a melting pot - we each bring our individuality to the same serving bowl. We need to be able to co-exist without destroying one another, and we need to remember, respect, and honor what America really is. We need to reflect within ourselves and truly define what it means to be in America, whether you were born here or came here later in life - what does it mean, to be on American soil? To be protected by the very establishment that so many people protest? To have the right to protest without fear of death?
I will always stand for the National Anthem and remove my hat. I will always, always thank the men and women who have protected us, and continue to protect us. I will always put my hand on my heart and pledge allegiance. And, from now on, I will always get emotional when I am reminded of what so many have been willing to die for since the 18th century.
I challenge you to re-read Patrick Henry's quote at the beginning of this post, the two paragraphs. Read it out loud, as if you were speaking to a group of people, rallying the troops, so-to-speak. I challenge you to speak it, own those words with conviction in your heart, and do it without choking up. Now, do the same with the words of George Washington.
"For more than half a century, during which kingdoms and empires have fallen, this Union has stood unshaken. The patriots who formed it have long since descended to the grave; yet still it remains, the proudest monument to their memory." - Zachary Taylor