“I am American by birth, Southern by the Grace of God.” I’m sure you’ve seen the aforementioned statement on bumper stickers, tee-shirts, hats and anything else you can slap a saying on. From what I’ve experienced, the reaction to that statement is either love or hate and I’m guessing you can figure out for yourselves who does the lovin’ and who does the hatin’.
Regardless of what you think about the saying, I think we can agree that the Civil War, War of Northern Aggression or The Recent Unpleasantness isn’t that dim a memory to many folks. I would normally say, “to each his own,” but I admit to being fairly dismayed when I recently came across a Southern American family who refused to acknowledge—much less celebrate—the 4th of July.
Why? Well, this particular family really hasn’t gotten over the Civil War. “The Independence Day” that they choose to celebrate is the 24th of December 1860: The day that South Carolina seceded from the Union and spurred similar action from other Southern states which catapulted the nation into vicious conflict.
Setting aside the obvious argument that this family likely wouldn’t be able to choose what to celebrate without the “original” independence of 1776, I have—like most folks—personal reasons for my discomfort: Loved ones who gave absolutely everything they had for the defense of this country in its darkest hours and I’ll be damned if I’m going to dishonor them.
One of my grandfathers was in the Navy and stationed at Pearl Harbor in 1941. He completed his tour of duty and shipped out for home mere days before the Japanese bombed the base and roped the United States in to World War II. He worked in the Wilmington Shipyard building military ships for the remainder of the war and he then joined the Wilmington Police Department and protected his country in a law enforcement capacity until he retired as a homicide detective.
My other grandfather was in the Army and marched with General Patton across Europe. He also stormed the beach at Normandy and I don’t care how much money Stephen Spielberg spends on rubbing Tom Hanks and other egotistical actors with a little dirt and dropping them on a beach to fake gunfire, no one but the steel-spined men that spilled out onto the French shore to conquer the impossible on June 6, 1944 can tell you what Hell really felt like that day.
I never knew my grandfather who was in the Navy because he died before I was born. He died before he should have. I knew my other grandfather and I loved him and I could tell he loved me, but he had a troubled soul. My great aunts and uncles often said that what he saw and experienced during the war changed him forever. More sacrifice.
I have friends in the military, law enforcement and even the legal arena (those innocent souls with the lofty ideals that haven’t yet been punctured by reality) who fight on a daily basis to protect the spirit of what our forefathers envisioned for this country. Everyone who stands up selflessly for this country at one time or another deserves respect and it doesn’t matter if they’re from the North, South, East or West. The 4th of July is a holiday without borders. It’s a time to celebrate an amazing country that lets you celebrate things like South Carolina’s secession.
“I am American by birth and Southern by the grace of God.” Okay fine, but for one twenty-four hour stint can we say, “I am American by the grace of God and in honor of the men and women who fought tooth and nail to allow me to call myself an American in the first place.”
We can get back to all of that other shit on the 5th.
Whew! Blustering is exhausting.