When I was growing up, we didn’t pay much attention to politics in America or even on the local scene. Later on, in life I grew to take an interest in what was happening. I think the fact I would grow up in the sixties would be part of the reason I grew to care more about what was seen as the character of a person, rather than the position that he or she took.
Two of the role models I came to believe in were Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. However, as I grew older, I realized that even our heroes were prone to human frailties in life, but only time would be the best lens to view their impact on history. I think Harry Truman would be the best example of what I refer to, for history and time has allowed us to view him in a much kinder and more focused manner.
Later in life I would find myself more aligned to the philosophies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, two men who I came to admire and respect.
I think about these things today because we are about to enter one of the most divisive and mean-spirited times in our nation’s 243-year history. During the next year we will be barraged with some of the most contentious and acrimonious campaigning we have ever seen.
We’ve traveled quite a road since those original 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence. When they did so they signed their death warrants and many of them would die or lose everything they ever owned and worked so hard for.
Five were captured and tortured before they would die. Nine would die of wounds sustained in combat. The sons of two of the signers would lose their lives fighting for independence, while the sons of another two of the signers would be captured during the war. Another twelve would have their homes ransacked and burned.
Many of the remaining signers sacrificed everything and died penniless for their commitment to a declaration which provided future Americans a nation we can be proud of today. They signed away their lives and property to provide us with what we see today.
It is ironic to me that our firefighters, police officers and other first responders would find refuge in St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City to rest on the pews and on the floors of that same sacred place which General George Washington himself had sought refuge and reflection during our War for Independence. It would be within those walls that Washington first had the Declaration of Independence read to his troops, enabling them to be able to comprehend what they were fighting for.
St. Paul’s again stood unscathed and next to the site of the dreadful terrorist attacks on 9-11, providing a haven for rest for those on the front lines after those cowardly attacks upon our nation and the foundations of our democracy, which saw the loss of 3,000 innocent men and women.
I look around in 2019 and wonder what those original 56 signatories of that document might think about what we have done with these great gifts of freedom and liberty which were bestowed upon us. Those gifts were written with their blood, sweat and tears, as well as the sacrifices made by those that lay in Flanders Fields, men who stormed the beaches at Omaha, Normandy, the Philippines, in the jungles of Vietnam and in the sands of the Middle East and mountains of Afghanistan.
Every evening we are constantly barraged with such negative news on the national, state and the local level when it comes to politics. We sometimes appear to be at war with ourselves, instead of concentrating on challenges that face us as a nation. Things such as health care, education and the age-old issue of poverty.
Professional politicians who feed at the trough of the American taxpayer were never envisioned as the leaders of our nation. It was citizen legislators, men and women who would do their service to their nation and move on rather than spend 25, 30, 40 or more years in office was the model the founders envisioned.
People committed to service to our country and not instead to themselves. Men and women who work within our communities to make them a better place to live by their contributions to improving them and not seeking to leverage power through money, photo-ops and slick political maneuvering as they seek higher office and more power.
The negativity which permeates social media and political discourse today would turn the stomachs of those original patriots who signed away their lives on a piece of parchment over 243 years ago. They would be appalled at the process and how we’ve let it degrade the value of their original sacrifices.
We have by our own inaction help to create another class of citizen in this great country of ours. We have created a ruling class by virtue of the positions we have placed them in and by letting them stay there for decades at a time.
Those that have come before us deserve better for the commitments made by their generations that have provided us with so much. It is our responsibility to ensure that our generation is capable of passing on a nation that they will be proud of and will last another 244 years.
Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced award-winning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at Stef@coastalbreezenews.com