Saturday, January 3, 2015

Disappointing Destiny?

Although I’ve had the privilege of serving in five of the ten active US Army Divisions, I was never in the one with the best motto. The 101st Airborne Division has an awesome motto – “Rendezvous with Destiny.”   The Division was activated in preparation for our expanding involvement in World War II.  The first commander, Major General William C. Lee, in his initial address to the newly constituted unit, read General Order Number 5 dated 19 August 1942 that begins:  The 101st Airborne Division, activated at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny. Like the early American pioneers whose invincible courage was the foundation stone of this nation, we have broken with the past and its traditions in order to establish our claim to the future…”

The same could be said of our fledgling nation in the early 1770’s -- no history but lots of destiny.  What faith our Founding Fathers had to have in order to risk their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for an unknown and uncertain future.   Even before they had penned their proverbial John Hancock’s to the parchment that proclaimed our liberty, they had a presupposition of what it would take to be a lasting success.  On June 21, 1776, John Adams wrote:

“Statesmen, my dear sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure, than they have it now, they may change their Rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty.”

A national survey of 1,000 adults was conducted late last year by Rasmussen Reports.  The question they sought to answer, “If America’s founders came back today, would they be impressed or disappointed?”  A plurality of 46% believes the Founders - a group that typically includes George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams - would view the nation as a failure.  Second to that number is the 36% of American adults who think the Founders would consider the United States a success.  The other 18% aren’t sure.  Think about that, nearly half of us think the Founders would find us a failure. 

For John Adams, it was “virtue” that would be the foundation for a lasting liberty.  Perhaps the half that thought they’d deem us a failure has recognized our country is virtually devoid of virtue.  Most students in our schools today would probably be hard pressed to define virtue, let alone demonstrate it to the satisfaction of the founders.  For Adams, it was pure virtue that held the key; for Thomas Jefferson, it was a right understanding of God that was the firm basis for our future success.

In 1789, while the Governor of Virginia, Jefferson put it this way, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever…”

The destiny with which MG Lee predicted they’d soon rendezvous ultimately included the harrowing parachute drops on D-Day into Normandy, the battle at Bastogne and the Battle of the Bulge.  For their valor during WWII, this Band of Brothers, the 101st Airborne Division, was awarded four campaign streamers and two Presidential Unit Citations.  They suffered 1,766 Killed in Action; 6,388 Wounded in Action; and 324 Died of Wounds during WWII.  Those figures alone make clear the high cost of successfully obtaining the liberation of Europe. 

This piece is not intended to solely lament the vapid state of virtue in our United States today.  More importantly, it is not implying an increased volume of virtue in our Republic can be mandated or legislated.  No, it will only occur if, and when, as Jefferson well said, the people’s minds can connect our liberty with the Giver of life; when they connect the Creator of life with the creation of our Constitution.  Now that would be a great class for a government school to give.   

Like Jefferson, I too tremble that we’ll not wake up before God’s justice does.

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