When we celebrate Independence Day we give thanks for the founders of this country who “won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn.” We pray, as the Book of Common Prayer puts it, “that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace.” We trust that our liberty will foster peace and righteousness.
Edward Hays writes that at the beginning of the Second World War a large number of bombs dropped by the Germans on France did not explode. French bomb experts defusing them were curious about what caused this malfunction. They discovered handwritten notes tucked inside the bombs. French prisoners of war doing forced labor in German munitions factories had written on tiny pieces of paper, “We’re doing the best we can from where we are with what we got, every chance we get.” (Book of Wisdom, p.190)
That is a good motto for us as we celebrate our country. What can we do to promote righteousness and peace? What can we do to influence good rather than evil?
Since the recent killing of nine black church members in Charleston, SC, by a white gunman who allegedly expressed racist sentiments, the governor of South Carolina and legislators have called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the capital. The governor said that the flag represents some of South Carolina’s heritage, but it is offensive to descendants of slaves and to those who choose to honor the dignity of all people. In Tennessee U.S. Representative Jim Cooper is calling for the removal of a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Tennessee statehouse. Forrest was a Confederate general and leading figure in the early days of the Ku Klux Klan. In both cases, people are doing what they can to remove from government facilities symbols that are reminders of evil and that have influenced some to become racists and murders.
We can’t bring back the lives of the nine killed, but we can strive to do the best we can “from where we are with what we got, every chance we get” to influence good.