Celebrating Unity & Sacrifice on Flag Day

It was not the mere matter of the separation of the colonies from the motherland; but something in that Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future time…

I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it.

Kansas City, Memphis, Texas all have a sweet rivalry: battling for the best BBQ in the world. Sauces and smokers, brisket and braising– the contest gets as heated as any boast-worthy region’s flame broiled rack of ribs.

Today, truck drivers traveling from South to North follow the same cowboy trail that was used for the long cattle drive from Texas to Kansas City– as they cruise up 35 Highway. 

The battle for best BBQ is but a smoky reminder of a past that we’ve largely forgotten: At one time, the state was nicknamed Bleeding Kansas, and it was the scene of the fiercest and most frequent battles of the Civil War, when “brothers murdered brothers.”

As a nation, we seldom remember that this rivalry has its prairie-roots in the ashy past of the Civil War. Just as the pony tracks of cowboys have faded into the highway, and drivers have become the Cowboys of the Road, so our memories of the bitter rivalry between the North and the South.

On Flag Day we want to remember to celebrate the unity this friendly rivalry represents, along with Abraham Lincoln.

 During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln refused to strike the stars of the confederate states from the flag. Lincoln, in his wisdom, believed in reconciliation and forgiveness. 

When the Civil War ended, Lincoln extended forgiveness and amnesty to the South. Achieving unity and restoring fraternity is the true lasting legacy of Lincoln: In contrast, following WWII the dominant powers forced Germany into subservience and debt. Could Hitler have risen to power if the Germans had been treated with more grace? Historians have often asked this question. 

But few wonder if Lincoln had shown less loyalty to restoring the Union, would the United States have survived? Likely, a Hitler-esque figure would have risen from the South’s smoldering desperation.

Ultimately, Lincoln did adhere to the principles of the Declaration of Independence: He established the Union and supported equality for all citizens of the United States. But tragically Abraham Lincoln’s statement that, “I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it,” proved prophetic, and he became one of the last casualties of the Civil War.

Nevertheless, his commitment to the Union, to retaining all the states is the foundation for rivalries that have faded into sweetness and the peace that has cemented paths between the South and the North that drivers traverse every day.

This Flag Day we say with Walt Whitman:

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up- for you the flag is flung- for you the bugle trills.

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