Happy New Year–New Beginnings

Happy New Year to all the readers and followers of this blog.

The start of a new year is a new slate, the beginning of new opportunities. What we do with those opportunities that come our way, however, is up to us. And we can make the most of those opportunities by planning, setting goals, and being ready to take advantage of those opportunities when they arise. I’ve already made my list of goals for 2019. Have you?

A new year is also an opportunity to evaluate what was done in the past and to make adjustments as necessary. Often, however, it’s good to find someone to help us do those evaluations and make the changes that we determine are necessary. I’m doing exactly that with this blog. I need and value your input.

Since I began this blog more than two years ago, I have consistently posted every Tuesday and Friday. Sometimes I noticed that more views occurred on Fridays. Later, however, Tuesday’s posts began to show more views. But that shift in days has not been consistent. So I’m wondering when most readers prefer to receive my posts and how often. Is twice a week really the optimum? Or would less actually be more?

I have considered the possibility of reducing my posts to once a week. If I do that, however, I need to know which day of the week most of my readers prefer. Do you have a preference on either the frequency or the day of the posts? If so, I’d appreciate hearing from you. Just jot a short statement of your preference(s) in the comments section below, and I’ll consider all of those I receive before making any changes to the blog. Also, if you would like to read more (or less) about any particular topic(s) I’ve written about, include that opinion in your comments, too.

Thanks in advance for whatever suggestions you might offer. I know your input will do a lot to improve this blog.


Thank You, Military Veterans!

As we approach the Veterans Day weekend (and the actual date on Sunday, November 11), we owe a great debt of gratitude to everyone who is a military veteran for helping us maintain our freedoms. Perhaps no one said it better than one of those veterans, Charles M. Province. (Please note that when he uses the term soldier, we should also add the words sailor, airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman because every veteran of every branch of our military played his or her part.)

It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

Veterans, we offer our humble but sincere thanks for all you have afforded the rest of us.

Could This Explain the Mess We’re In?

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation recently released the results of a study it conducted concerning American voters’ knowledge of their history. What they reveal is downright scary as we approach the 2018 mid-term elections. But, be that as it may, they also help to explain why our nation is in its current situation of political polarization and the precipitous decline in the tone of politics in the last twenty-five to thirty years.

At the heart of the study is the U.S. citizenship test of basic facts about our nation’s history. Among the findings of the study are these:

Only 1 in 3 Americans can pass the citizenship test, which requires only a score of 60 percent. Most of those in the study didn’t score even that low grade.

72 percent couldn’t correctly identify the original 13 colonies.

Less than one-quarter knew why the colonists had fought the British in the first place.

Double-digit percent thought that Dwight Eisenhower fought in the Civil War. Some even thought he was a Vietnam-era general.

Only 19 percent of the people aged 45 and under passed the test.

(You can see a full report at https://fee.org/articles/americans-are-woefully-uneducated-about-basic-history/?utm_campaign=FEE%20Daily&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=66688242&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–4U_RPR4hYyXCurJUpBhzlwO4b8EksI9bD2wwH-4WqVi2L9HQWpt9jx4mL08sYbjJsyOExXbU7O-zm3I10dBiHdVt72Q&_hsmi=66688242.)

These results are not just embarrassing for a nation that has the greatest access to education and that spends substantially more on education than most of the other developed countries of the world. They’re critical to any effort by freedom-loving people to preserve what is left of our American freedoms. They represent an ominous omen for our national future.

This is why I’m not too thrilled with massive voter registration drives. Freedom requires INFORMED voters, not just large numbers of voters. Some politicians intentionally use such drives to flood the polls with uninformed and therefore gullible voters. They also appeal to the electorate’s emotions sparked by incidents without any regard for reason and logic about real foundational issues. Many such voters won’t even know who is running for which offices until they walk in the door of their polling place and glance at the sample ballot posted there. Furthermore, if they don’t know their history or their constitution, demagogues both journalistic and political can promise them the moon, and many of them will believe and vote for the imposters. Before such voters even realize that they have been enjoying freedom, they will lose it.

Sincere lovers of freedom do not call for blind patriotism or mindless ritualism. They want an informed patriotism and civil civic dialogue about real issues. Demagogues know, however, that they cannot win in a contest of logic with informed voters.  That’s why we’re seeing today the development of a mindless mob mentality.


The Project that Birthed Death and Life

On this date in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved a secret project that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and ended World War II. But it also led, in the long term, to the birth of a city and numerous other projects that resulted in countless prolonged and enhanced lives.

On October 9, 1941, President Roosevelt signed off on what became known as the Manhattan Project. It was a military operation the likes of which the United States and the world had never witnessed. It was cloaked in secrecy. It was empowered by the national government to take the farm lands, homes, churches, and grave sites of countless individuals, families, and church congregations in numerous small, tight-knit communities in the hills of East Tennessee for the purpose of building enormous facilities for the manufacture of the world’s first atomic bomb.

Not unlike the situation that occurred to the Cherokee Indians more than 100 years earlier and to the residents of hill communities in the nearby Norris community a decade earlier, the residents of Bear Creek, Scarborough, and numerous other small communities were given mere weeks to vacate their ancestral homes so that the government could erect the facilities of three super-secret “reservations” where the components of the bomb would be built. Those locations were code named X-10, Y-12, and K-25.

Thousands of workers were imported into a thrown-together, prefabricated city that became known as Oak Ridge. And they lived and worked within the confines of guard towers and barbed wire fences as long as the work continued. They could not talk about the work they did, and informants ratted them out if they did. In fact, most of them had no idea of the larger product of which their work was a part. Only after the bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki did they learn what they were producing. And even then, few really understood it all. (Although I seldom read fiction, I recently read a novel titled The Atomic City Girls by Denise Kiernan, and its descriptions of life within the Secret City and its plants is spot on.)

The products of all those thousands of employees’ labors resulted in the deaths of a conservative estimate of 225,000 people (150,000 at Hiroshima and 75,000 at Nagasaki). But it also saved the lives of inestimable thousands of American servicemen who would have been killed if the United States had been forced to invade the home islands of Japan to end the war. Moreover, perhaps millions of lives have been saved, prolonged, or enhanced since that time through the civilian uses of nuclear energy that resulted from the ongoing studies of nuclear power.

I grew up only a few miles from Oak Ridge. During the Cold War (especially during the Cuban missile crisis), my life and the lives of my school classmates were directly affected by the potential threat to the facilities at Oak Ridge, which were deemed close enough to our community to affect us. Civil defense drills became a part of “normal” life in our school. We were even issued “dog tags” for identification following any enemy attack. I still have my dog tag as a reminder of those perilous times. (I wrote about growing up during this time and working there in “Living in the Shadow of the Atomic City,” Blue Ridge Country, May-June 1998.)

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that one day I, too, would be one of those workers at the Oak Ridge plants, but I was. For seven years, until the end of the Cold War and the defense cut-backs of the Clinton years, I was a senior technical editor there. Many of the restrictions described in Kiernan’s novel were still in place even at that late date.

But my work was not focused on bombs and destruction. Rather, much of my work there dealt with the peace-time uses of nuclear energy and the transfer of the technology developed during the Cold War to civilian industrial uses. Just as many of the gadgets we use today are the result of the space program, many of them are also the result of the nuclear defense program at Oak Ridge.

Although we still have swords, we also have plowshares. As President Reagan termed it, “peace through strength.”




The Origins and Proper Observance of Patriots’ Day

All of us who are old enough to remember the event, remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. (The scary part, to me, is that an entire generation does not remember!) I was editing a book manuscript for a client when my sister called and tersely said, “Turn on your TV. Just turn on your TV.”

Three days after the attacks, while Americans were still trying to come to grips with what had happened to our nation, President George W. Bush called for a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the victims of the terrorist attacks on the United States. On October 25, 2001, Representative Vito Fossella (R-NY) introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives. It was cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats, and it passed the House by a vote of 407-0. (Amazingly, 25 members–17 Republicans and 8 Democrats–did not vote, apparently unable to decide which side they were on!) The resolution passed the Senate unanimously on November 30. And the first official commemoration of Patriots’ Day was observed the following September 11, 2002.

In the attacks, 2,977 innocent people died in the Twin Towers, 189 in the attack on the Pentagon, and another 37 in the thwarted attack in which the plane crashed in Shanksville, Pa. Since the attacks, the United States has waged the longest war in American history, 17 years. An entire generation of children have grown up in a country engaged in constant warfare.

Twenty percent of active duty military personnel have been deployed in some aspect of this war three or more times. More than 50,000 have been deployed four times. I’ve heard a report of one Marine who finally retired after his sixth deployment into a combat zone. The average deployment has been 7.7 months with an average time between deployments of 21 months. A lot can happen to a family in 7-8 months. Babies are born. Infants grow up. Fathers are absent, and mothers must somehow cope. Bills pile up. Homesteads deteriorate for lack of strong hands to maintain them. Marriages suffer.

Those are individual losses that families of deployed military personnel incur. Even greater in magnitude is the loss suffered by the nation as a whole.

Etched in my mind from the September 11, 2001, attacks is the image of members of Congress from both parties standing shoulder to shoulder and singing “God Bless America” on the steps of the Capitol. They were apparently united, much as the nation’s leaders united following the Pearl Harbor attack and throughout World War II.

But that image is only a memory today. A quick glance at Congress today, and one would never know it was the same group of people or that they were united on anything, let alone the mutual desire to protect our freedoms. What has happened? Political charade, hypocrisy, and insanity!

Collectively, we, the American people, and especially our politicians, have forgotten not only what brought them together that day but also, more generally, what made and makes America what it is. To look at them today, one from another planet would never know that we have thousands of service personnel engaged in battle to the death against an enemy that is set on destroying not just our troops who oppose them but our very way of life. The politicians bicker and fight for power, willing to sacrifice everything to obtain it. And the media love to have it so. Together, they are making a shambles of America. They call good evil and evil good. Corporate America celebrates millionaire athletes who deplore America and desecrate its symbols and who hypocritically cry about how they’ve been mistreated by the American system. And they ignore or downplay the true sacrifices made by the American military personnel and their families.

Yes, thousands upon thousands of military personnel and their families have made and continue to make sacrifices. Nearly 7,000 of those sacrifices have been the lives of military personnel given in service to one of the multiple operations conducted during the war. Sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, cousins and nephews, etc. Men like Pat Tillman, Chris Kyle, and Justin Peterson.

And then there are the families of service personnel who have endured multiple deployments. Fathers who missed the births of their children, the infant years of growing up, the important events of the teen years. The physical sacrifices of lost limbs and other physical injuries. And poor service members who will continue to suffer from the often unseen and less often diagnosed or understood mental and psychological wounds of PTSD. These, not politicians, are the real heroes.

As we commemorate Patriots’ Day this year, let’s truly honor the memories of the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks and of those who later sacrificed all and help those who sacrificed physical and mental health and loss of family time to secure and protect us.

And the best way of honoring those sacrifices is to be adult Americans who are more serious about preserving our freedoms than spoiled, temper-tantrum-throwing two-year-olds whose sole interests are griping about what’s wrong with America and gaining political power.



Reflections on American Citizenship by a Former Alien


BBC’s Nik Gowing hosts a live “Special World Debate” with panelists Economic Historian Niall Ferguson, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, Goldman Sachs Jim O’Neill, International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Chairmwoman of Sabanci Holding Guler Sabanci at the Istanbul Congress Center October 3, 2009 in Istanbul, Turkey. The Annual IMF/World Bank meetings are being held this year in Istanbul, Turkey. IMF Staff Photo/Stephen Jaffe

I recently read a column by Scottish historian Niall Ferguson in which he described the process by which he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. (You can read the entire column at https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2018/07/17/picked-fine-time-become-american/ehIazmkFPG6et4jvf5noDL/story.html.) Several things in his article caught my attention and set me to thinking.

As he began his column, titled “I Picked a Fine Time to Become an American,” he seemed to be speaking sarcastically or at least with a little of his tongue in his cheek. He mentioned that his naturalization ceremony coincided with England’s defeat by Croatia in the World Cup, Trump’s visit to London, and a “gray, overcast morning.”

But then his commentary took on a decidedly different tone as he described the other 1,094 people with whom he was being naturalized: people from 85 different countries, about 20 percent of them from China. And he asked the thought-provoking question, “How many Americans became Chinese citizens this week?”

“Very few,” I think, would be a safe answer. In fact, very few American citizens give up their U.S. citizenship to become citizens of any other country. (Even those who famously declared that they would move to Canada if Donald Trump were elected president have now proven that they’ve thought better of that move and decided to remain here, Trump or no Trump!) There’s a reason for why this is so. The United States is the greatest (and by that I mean the freest, most welcoming, most economically promising, and least volatile) country in the world. No other country can compare, especially not those that have sold themselves to the myths of socialism, communism, and all other totalitarian schemes of government. Even when critics bad-mouth the United States for what they perceive its weaknesses and shortcomings, their continued presence here and their insistence on not giving up their citizenship shows that deep inside they know that there is no other better place to go.

Furthermore, Ferguson described the ceremony, including the oath of allegiance that each candidate took:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service int he Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

Then, he said, they pledged allegiance to the U.S. flag; sang patriotic songs, such as “Yankee Doodle,” “This Land Is Your Land,” and “God Bless the USA”; and watched a video speech by President Trump. In it, Trump told the new citizens that this country and its history and traditions were their country, history, and traditions. Moreover, he explained, they now had the responsibility and obligation to teach American values to others and to assimilate into the American way of life.

Ferguson admitted that all of this seemed to his British sensibilities as pure “hokum. But this hokum is now my hokum. And this president is now my president. . . .” He concluded, “Yes, I picked a fine time to become an American–because there is no other kind of time.”

We can only hope and pray that the other 1,094 people present that day experienced the same feelings Ferguson did.



a conservative British historian and political commentator. senior fellow at the Hoover InstitutionStanford University an atheist.


Builders of the American Dream

Our recent celebration of Independence Day set me to thinking about how many of our holidays focus our attention on what has made America great and how it came about. Independence Day, of course, emphasizes the colonists’ declaration of independence from the British king’s tyranny and the freedoms we gained by that independence. Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day emphasize the men and women of subsequent generations who served and often died or were wounded to preserve and maintain that freedom. Too often unsung, however, are the thousands of everyday people who have taken advantage of the opportunities afforded by that freedom to improve themselves and others, thereby making America an even greater nation.

Common, everyday people like you and me invented the automobile, the airplane, the telegraph, the telephone, the light bulb, and many other now-common time- and labor-saving devices. We think that people with names such as Ford, Wright, Morse, Bell, and Edison were somehow different from the rest of us. And they were in many ways. But they were, in the final analysis, just common people who showed initiative and ingenuity and took advantage of America’s freedoms to do extraordinary things. The aforementioned names are now household names that nearly everyone recognizes and can tell about to some degree. But millions of other people also contributed to America’s greatness.

Totalitarian and authoritarian “big brother” states have tried to control, regulate, limit, and even artificially induce such innovative people, but America liberated them, giving them the freedom to dream, to risk, to attempt, and then to succeed or fail. Many times, they succeeded, but even in failure they learned something–what to do better or differently, what not to do, etc. In the process, they became wealthy because they helped others through their efforts. Contrary to statist thinking, such people were not greedy oppressors. Rather, they were imaginative and innovative and sought to help themselves by helping and serving others in various ways. Those others were not forced to buy the good or services that they developed. Rather, they willingly chose to buy because doing so was in their own best interests. The innovators’ wealth was the reward for their serving their fellowmen.

A segment of society seeks to gain power and wealth and control over other people by turning groups against each other using mankind’s sinful nature: envy, jealousy, and covetousness. They strive to make the poor turn against the wealthy, the unsuccessful against the successful, the non-producers against the producers, and the laborers against the financiers. The instigators of such class warfare seek–with the ready complicity of the envious, the jealous, and the covetous–subsidies for the noncompetitive, handouts (“entitlements”) for the non-productive, and taxes on the successful. The only beneficiaries of such actions, however, are the demagogues and their cronies. Consequently, consumers are forced to buy inferior products. Innovation is stifled. Capital is dried up because those with money are less willing to risk its loss. And only government grows.

Absent such counterproductive, anti-freedom obstructions, however, growth and wealth increase across the board. Common people come up with great ideas; capitalists fund the development of those ideas, transforming them into useful goods and services; consumers are better off; and everyone in the process (design, manufacturing, marketing, transportation, and distribution) is rewarded. It’s a win-win for everyone–except the statists.

Oh, wait! Even they benefit because they use the same goods and services that they are trying to suppress. Some of them decry technology and those who make it possible even while they use that technology. Others rail against carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses while they jet around, emitting far more than the average persons, who will be heavily taxed if the dictacrats have their way. And legislators pass laws placing onerous restrictions on innovation while exempting themselves.

In several future blog posts, I’d like to feature the stories of some exemplars who sought no special favors or advantages, asking only for the freedom to try, and who developed ways of helping others. The names of some of them will be familiar to many readers, but they might not know the story behind their names, or, as Paul Harvey was fond of saying, “the rest of the story.” But all of them made invaluable contributions to their fellowmen. And in the process, they played important roles in making America great.

In this regard, I recommend several books for your consideration. One is James K. Fitzpatrick’s Builders of the American Dream (Arlington House Publishers, 1977). Beginning with Daniel Boone and going through Douglas MacArthur, Fitzpatrick tells the stories of the contributions of thirteen great Americans who realized for themselves and made possible for others the American dream.

Another good work is Thomas DiLorenzo’s How Capitalism Saved America (Three Rivers Press, 2004). DiLorenzo provides a definition of capitalism that demolishes collectivists’ efforts to broad brush all entrepreneurs and capitalists as greedy oppressors and sets the record straight. Beginning with the Pilgrims and proceeding to the twenty-first century, he shows that Americas has become great and individuals’ lives and living standards are the best in the world because of capitalism.


But two other books, both by Burton Folsom, put the argument for freedom and against statism on the bottom shelf where everyone can understand it. In The Myth of the Robber Barons (Young America’s Foundation, 2010) and Uncle Sam Can’t Count (HarperCollins, 2014), which he wrote with his wife Anita, Folsom shows how capitalism (“big business”) has contributed to American–both national and individual–greatness and how government has predictably messed things up. Folsom shows how Vanderbilt, Hill, Rockefeller, Mellon, Dow, and other innovators and capitalists became wealthy not by stepping on and robbing others but by helping others and lowering the prices of the goods and services to a level that the poorest could buy at affordable prices what they needed. In doing so, they helped those common individuals rise and made the entire nation better.

I look forward to sharing in future posts some snippets from these and other exemplars’ lives. Stay tuned!

Symbols of Our Independence

With the approach of this Independence Day, in spite of the many distractions and interruptions that are accompanying the lead-up to it, I’ve been thinking about how this holiday is rife with symbolism. Although many other examples exist, I’ve chosen to focus briefly on five that seem to carry special significance and meaning for me. At the same time that I’m proud of these symbols, I’m also disheartened by the seeming increase in people’s ignorance of them and what makes them important to our national and individual freedoms.

First, of course, is the document that declared our independence in the first place, the Declaration of Independence. Although many people can recite many of the phrases in the second paragraph, a lot of people don’t know what the opening paragraph and the rest of the document says, let alone understand the few phrases that they seemingly know. “We hold these truths. . . .” The truths that follow are the foundation of the rest of the document. “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights . . . among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” This was the second time that the document mentioned God, the Author of our rights and entitlements. The document goes on to state the purpose and source of human government, which is to be a servant of the people, not their master. It also enumerates the colonists’ various grievances against the king and declares the reasons why they were declaring their independence from his rule. It would do us all good to read the entire document again carefully so that we will gain an appreciation for not only what the document means but also what the Founders risked to achieve our independence.

Second is Independence Hall. That building has a double meaning for me. It’s primary symbolism, of course, is political. But it’s also personal in my memory. The first time I toured the building was the day before my wedding. My groomsmen and I had driven to Philadelphia to pick up another groomsman from the airport, and we all decided to take a detour to Independence Hall on the way back. It was a hot and humid day. I was sleep deprived and anxious about the wedding and honeymoon details. I had not eaten good breakfast, it was well into the afternoon, and I had had neither lunch nor fluids, so I was getting severely dehydrated. I was standing in the Assembly Hall, intently trying to focus on what the National Park Service member was saying, when I suddenly found myself sitting on the step in front of the building. My groomsmen had caught me before I hit the floor in the Assembly Room and supported me out to the step and into the “cool” air. A drink of water and some lunch revived me, but I’ll forever know firsthand how many of the delegates meeting in that sweltering room in early July 1776 must have felt as they accepted Jefferson’s masterpiece.

Then there is the Liberty Bell. Too often, we forget (or did we even know) that this hunk of finely crafted metal has engraved on its upper portion the words of Scripture: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land.” Most people who do know that those words are there think that they refer to political liberty, but they are actually referring to spiritual liberty. Scripture also states, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Again, those words refer to spiritual truth, the gospel story. But the enemies of freedom are also the enemies of the Bible, from which those words come, and of Christianity because they know that spiritual liberty leads to political liberty. If they can enslave people spiritually and keep them spiritually ignorant, they know they will also be able to enslave them politically. When a nation forgets God, it will soon become enslaved to political dictators.

And there’s the Minuteman Statue in Massachusetts. It symbolizes the many men who were ready “at a minute’s notice” to come to the aid of the cause of liberty. And not just ready to fight but also to die, if necessary, that their posterity–we–could enjoy the blessings of freedom and liberty. I must ask myself how ready I will be if the need arises to defend freedom. How much would I be willing to sacrifice? At the very least, I must be eternally vigilant because the enemies of freedom are ever-present with us, perhaps never more than in the present day. Freedom is never free. As the slogan says, we are the land of the free because of the brave.

Finally, there are the fireworks, perhaps the single most used symbol on Independence Day now. Although many people have forgotten the content and meaning of the Declaration, and to many people the statues and emblems and symbols are merely relics, we all love a beautiful fireworks display on the Fourth of July. John Adams declared that the day should be marked by such fireworks displays, but I think that he would rather have people celebrating the meaning rather than the mere display. My family has traditionally set off fireworks every Fourth, and those performances have tended to grow larger every year, especially as sons-in-law have desired to add their funds to increase the boom and the beauty. But we should remember that we can enjoy the beauty of fireworks only because earlier generations suffered and endured the blasts of cannons and “bombs bursting in air” in a much more deadly way. But it was for the Cause, and we enjoy the fireworks today because of their sacrifice in wounds and death back then.

Take some time to reread the Declaration of Independence this Fourth of July, and remind yourself of why we’re celebrating. And then thank God that you were born and can live in a country that affords us such freedom as our forefathers gave us. And why.

Learning from the Trail of Tears

Today is the Trail of Tears Commemoration Day, the recognition of a national tragedy.

The seeds of what culminated in the near-annihilation of several entire tribes of Native Americans, most notably the Cherokees, were planted in the soil of the sinful souls of fallen, materialistic men. Settlers had always moved west, coveting the opportunity to settle the fertile Indian lands, but that temptation was intensified by the discovery of gold in northeast Georgia, the heart of the Cherokee Nation.

The Cherokees had been transformed into a peaceful people, their last military conflicts with the settlers occurring about the end of the Revolution. They were, in fact, foremost in what were known as the Five Civilized Tribes. They had, thanks to the genius of Sequoyah, developed their own alphabet (syllabary) and written language. They published their own newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix. They had formed a democratic form of tribal government based in large part on America’s own founding documents. And many of them had embraced education for their children.

This much is readily admitted by secular historians. What they downplay or ignore is the dramatic role played in all of these civilizing actions by the Christian missionaries and teachers who ministered among the Cherokees. Many individuals and Christian denominations had a hand in making the Cherokees the civilized people they were. Among those people were

  • John Gambold, Abraham Steiner, and Gottlieb Byham–Moravians
  • Evan and John Jones–Baptists
  • Joseph Miller and William McMahon–Methodists
  • Gideon Blackburn, Cyrus Kingsbury, and Samuel Worcester–Presbyterians


These ministers founded numerous missions among the Cherokees, including those at Park Hill, Mulberry, Brainerd, and Springplace. Part of the work of those missions was education, so one might say that the Cherokees were among the earliest participants in the Christian school movement!

The Cherokees even had their own preachers, including the first native Baptist preacher, Kaneeda, and the more renowned Jesse Bushyhead.

But then the State of Georgia, desiring the Cherokees’ gold and land, began imposing its laws on the sovereign Cherokee Nation. The peaceful Cherokees patiently tried to resolve the problem diplomatically. But they were divided over how to counter their enemies’ efforts. Some, led by John Ridge and Elias Boudinot, wanted to negotiate a treaty with the U.S. government, surrender their lands (for a price), and move west. john-rossOthers, led by John Ross, wanted to resist legally as long as they could. Within that group were a few who favored hiding in the mountains and even resisting with force if necessary. Even the various missionaries were divided over the issue.

Then two of the missionaries were arrested and imprisoned, allegedly for living and working within the Cherokee Nation without a license from Georgia’s governor. Underlying this official charge, however, was the fact that they were helping the Indians oppose the theft of their lands and their forced removal. The missionaries appealed their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and, in the 1832 ruling in Worcester v. Georgia, they won.

John Ross

andrew_jacksonPresident Andrew Jackson, however, disagreed with the ruling and refused to do his constitutional duty and enforce the ruling. “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it,” he crowed. The Court, of course, has no power of enforcement, and the Georgians, ignoring the Court, took the Cherokee lands. Then the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was enforced, bringing about the Trail of Tears.

Historians disagree about Jackson’s motives. Some point to his history as a ruthless Indian hater and fighter and conclude that he was trying to exterminate not only the Cherokees but also all other Indians. Others say that he foresaw the terrible bloodshed that would result from the continued presence of the Indians within white society.

Only God knows Jackson’s true motivation. The fact remains, however, that an entire nation suffered, both Christians and non-Christians. An estimated 4,000 people, especially the youngest and the oldest, lost their lives during the arduous trek. And some of the missionaries went with their congregations and shared their sufferings and deprivations. And many other tribes were also caught up in the relocation.

trail-of-tearsThe Trail of Tears is not something of which we can be proud. It should, however, be instructive. Some Cherokees thought, It can’t happen here. We’ve adopted the white man’s ways. We’ve even accepted the Christian religion. Others thought, It could happen, but it won’t. Our leaders won’t allow it. God won’t allow it. But it did happen.

Similarly, the German people didn’t think that a Nazi takeover could happen, but it did. Christians and Jews alike thought that such intense persecution as the Holocaust couldn’t happen. But it did. Hardly any natural American or Japanese-American thought that forced relocation of a race could happen, but it did.

And in our nation today, many people believe that we could never lose our freedoms. “It couldn’t happen here–we have the Constitution.” Germany also had a constitution, as did the Cherokees. Constitutions can be changed quickly and catastrophically. In fact, there’s a positive-sounding but very dangerous movement afoot to call a constitutional convention, but that could backfire, being used by devious forces to “fundamentally transform America.” If men were angels, maybe they could be trusted. But men are not angels.

Freedom is fragile. The lessons of history–including those afforded us in the events leading to the Trail of Tears–tell us to beware. “Eternal vigilance is ever the price of freedom.”

Celebrating the Fourth

Jefferson and AdamsI’d like for this blog posting to be a positive, upbeat, what-a-great-country-we-live-in encomium of American patriotism. Don’t get me wrong. We certainly live in the greatest and most blessed country on earth–but compared with what?

Since most of us will be indulging in cookouts (weather permitting) on this holiday, allow me to use a food-related analogy. If one has fed on nothing but hot dogs–even the real, bun-length, all beef dogs, not the mushy chicken-pork composites or the fake turkey dogs–his entire life, and he looks at other people who’ve eaten nothing but potted meat, his diet looks fabulous. He feels really good about it. But he’s ignorant of the fact that something infinitely better is actually available–steak.

Third-world countries are the potted-meat eaters in my analogy. America and other Western “free” countries are the hot-dog eaters. The steak eaters represent what America once was, what the Founders intended it to be.

Two of those Founding Fathers held quite different political opinions concerning the role of government. John Adams wanted a strong, centrally controlled government; Thomas Jefferson wanted a small, locally controlled government. Jefferson believed that the government that governs least governs best. These men clashed so fiercely over this issue that the disagreement disrupted their close personal friendship. Only in the waning years of their lives were they able to restore their relationship. They died within hours of each other on the same day–appropriately, on July 4, 1826.

As fiercely as these two Founders disagreed with each other, I have no doubt that they would be in total agreement on the state of the country today. If they came back to life today, they would not recognize their country; they would think that they were in a different universe. I don’t meant the modern technology or clothing fashions they would encounter. I mean the moral decline, the incivility, the utter disregard for human life, individual freedom, and other things that really matter. They would, however, recognize the government we now have, but they would recognize it as the very kind of government they sought independence from, the kind they wanted to avoid.

Benjamin Franklin, when asked after the Constitutional Convention what kind of government the delegates had given to the Americans, said, “A republic–if they can keep it.”

We haven’t been very good stewards of what the Founders gave us. I think it began with the War Between the States, when the latent conflict between big-government and small-government proponents came to a head–and big government won out. It accelerated with the internationalist, big-government ideals of Woodrow Wilson and later the socialism of FDR’s New Deal. And it has increased steadily ever since, as we have been distracted by our materialistic pursuits and various forms of entertainment–our bread and circuses–while our freedoms slowly have been taken from us.

My father-in-law confided shortly after my first daughter was born, “I fear for my grandchildren and what kind of world they’ll grow up in.” Now that I have several grandchildren of my own, I think I understand what he meant. My grandkids will never know the America I grew up in. That country is gone–perhaps forever.

Once known as the freest country on earth, the United States now ranks twelfth, behind such places as Hong Kong (first), Singapore (second), Chile (seventh), Estonia (eighth), and Mauritius (tenth) (Heritage Foundation). Mauritius?!

The erosion was gradual, but it has accelerated dramatically before our eyes. It has increased exponentially in the last decade as the powers that be have worked tirelessly to “fundamentally transform America.” They told us they would do it, and they’ve been true to their word.

But an even greater Word has also been uttered, the Word of a holy God, who promises judgment–individually and nationally–for sin. “God is not a man, that he should lie” (Num. 23:19). The sow-reap principle still operates. We as a nation have sown the wind, and we will one day–perhaps sooner than we realize–reap the whirlwind. The biblical promise “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psa. 33:12) has an implied flip side: the nation who has any other god is not blessed but rather will be judged and punished. Has America’s punishment begun?

I will celebrate on Monday, July 4. I will eat hot dogs (bun-length, all beef) and hamburgers. I will shoot off fire works (they’re legal here), just as John Adams said should be done on this holiday. But I will be celebrating not the America that now exists but rather what once was, the America we have let slip away. And I will be praying that somehow, by God’s mercy, we will one day see our country once again as Jefferson, Adams, and the other Founders intended it to be.