This I Believe

Joseph - Saint Leonard, Maryland
Entered on March 11, 2007

I believe in the redemptive power of the American Revolution. History books tell us the Revolution began in 1775 with the Battle of Lexington and Concord and ended in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris, but these are mere milestones in a continuing Revolution extending back to the 1600s and forward to the present day.

The founding of the Plymouth Colony is arguably the starting point of our Revolution. The Colony marked the first real foray into what would become the United States by a people in search of freedom, in their case religious freedom. The Revolution continues to the present day because our country remains as the greatest experiment in political, social, and religious freedom the world has ever known. Our Revolution has always been one of freedom, but justice has sometimes had to catch up. We took land from Mexico and from Indians under poor pretexts, and we unjustly killed, enslaved, or displaced many to advance our Revolution, but, uniquely to our Revolution, the slower wheels of justice did keep moving to catch up, and we acknowledged our mistakes. While it took more than a century from the end of the Civil War for African Americans to begin to approach equal treatment across our country, our Civil War ended more amiably than perhaps any other in human history, with key leaders on both sides recognizing the spirit of freedom embodied in the American experiment was more precious than any sectarian differences, no matter how severe. How could they know that the next century would see the United States as the indispensable beacon of freedom, serving first as a bulwark against totalitarian forces of the right, then against forces of the left?

I believed in the War in Iraq since its inception, and still believe in it. My faith in it has been tested, as it has been tested in probably all Americans and lost by many, by the mounting troop casualties, the horrific numbers of deaths from sectarian violence, and failures in leadership, both in conduct of the war and of the occupation. My faith has further been put into question by the knowledge that I have no real skin in the game. I have had a few close friends from my Navy and Naval Academy days in harm’s way, true, but no one has been shooting at me or my extended family, and my day to day dangers are limited to traffic jams and overconsumption of donuts. But one sight, burned in my memory, tells me we need to keep with it, that we owe it to our forebears to see this thing out. That picture is one of smiling Iraqis, proudly displaying their purple-dyed fingers, showing they are with us in our Revolution of freedom. They will never think in lock step with us, but it doesn’t really matter. They will be with us in the one overriding ideal. We cannot abandon their spark of freedom to the cold dark wraiths of totalitarian rule.