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Nation’s Lowest Moments, To Our Greatest Strengths

February 2, 2020

We forged a nation–and proved, over and over again the one truth at the core of both the Revolution and America itself: 

That in our lowest moments, we can find our greatest strengths.

That is the closing line from The First Conspiracy, a book about the plot to kill Geroge Washington during his time in New York City while leading the Continental Army.   The historical account from newspapers, official documents, and dairies showcases countless reasons why it would have been most reasonable to have doubted the ability of the colonials to upend the British military forces.

Authors Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch provide a fast-paced narrative about this formative chapter in our national story, along with an understanding of what allowed for the creation of an intelligence-gathering and spy operation in our country.  But what stands out from the story itself, is what the episode underscores for the time in which we live.

The past two weeks have been dramatic ones as the impeachment trial for Donald Trump was presented via television for the nation to absorb.  The troubling part was that while the nation watched and took in the facts presented, the Republican Party asserted their partisan role was more important than their oaths taken upon being sworn into office.

I happened to encounter at a grocery store two former neighbors who moved from our area but still reside in the city.  Our conversation quickly moved from fast personal updates to hearing them express pessimism about the future of this nation.  While Senate Republicans concern themselves with power plays and not being ‘primaried’ the married couple at the market spoke about our Constitution, national institutions, and norms of a nation that have been tossed aside.  They were not only sad but sincerely worried.

While I was able to commiserate about the place we are now at due to the machinations of Republicans I am not one to stay in a place of despair.  My DNA is constructed to see light even if only a flicker beckons from a great distance.  I have experience with hope being somewhere down the road.

When age 18, and following the suicide of my best friend after years of his being bullied, and with my then not having further educational plans, not being employed, nor having a driver’s license, along with no one I could talk to in my rural conservative community, I slipped into what would be termed a state of depression.

During that time I recalled reading the accounts of Theodore Roosevelt losing his wife and mother on the same day in 1884.   While his Mom passed away from typhoid fever, his wife would die just a few hours later from Bright’s disease.   It was following this double tragedy that the future President retreated to the Dakota territories to find himself and start anew. I knew there was a lesson to be found in his life.  Rough times can be fierce, but there is always a new chapter to be written. The moral of Roosevelt’s story seemed logical and rational to me in my Hancock home.  TR came into his own, as did I.

But there is also a lesson, in all that, for our times, too.  The dark days of this impeached president must pass along for a brighter one so the country can emerge stronger.  One doesn’t fight only when one is optimistic.  One fights when the days are gritty and because it is the right thing to do.  We fight now for this nation because America remains, as Lincoln said, “the last best hope of earth.”

There is no way not to feel troubled and deeply saddened by the actions of Senate Republicans, and the ones across the nation who defend and rationalize those actions.  It is now that we must grasp the fact we still have our freedom, and so we must use it.  We need to be the light of our time just as George Washington and his army knew they carried the torch of their time.  They did not accept that tyranny would be their destiny, nor should we think these dark times are what we must accept. 

History repeatedly shows that when it looks the darkest is when we find the road that is required we travel to reach a place we were meant to stand.  That is true in our individual lives, and also most true for our nation.

Now lets us make it so.

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