Thursday, July 20, 2006

230 Years Ago, One Year Ago

I've been thinking a lot about the American Revolution lately, and having recently read David McCollough's 1776, and at the same time doing some family history research on ancestors who served then. Most recently, I've found the war pension files of a 5x-great-uncle which make a fascinating read. The file contains personal statements from both my uncle and aunt with some vivid description of what they endured. He worked much of the war for the commissary, which basically meant that he ranged the countryside around the Continental Army encampments in search of food and other provisions, begging, borrowing, or buying it (mostly on credit) as he could. McCollough described how many of the soldiers had old shoes or no shoes at all, as they marched through winter conditions. This was probably the case with my uncle, who froze his feet in search of provisions, an injury that afflicted him the rest of his life. At one point, his superiors had asked him to basically take a break, as his health was in jeopardy from his exertions. However, he felt an obligation to continue, thinking of the garrisons that were close to starvation. All this time, the men were often going long periods of time with no pay to support their families, yet they spoke repeatedly of "duty" and "public service", and dedication to their cause. His wife speaks of the hard times endured by the women, and the uneasiness of living among divided countrymen. Check it out here.

Understanding the tribulations our forebearers went through to establish this nation should make us appreciate all the more the great liberty that we enjoy here. This is put in stark contrast by thinking of those in the Middle East who are struggling to establish or defend democratic ideals against vicious enemies, and those who are living under oppressive theocracies. A trenchant reminder of that last point came yesterday as dozens of groups around the world solemnly commemorated the one year anniversary of the hanging of two boys in Iran just for being gay. Islamic Sharia law punishes homosexuality by execution, and in Iran boys as young as 15 and girls as young as 9 are eligible for execution. These two boys, who were around 15 and 16 at the time of their "crimes", were incarcerated for 14 months and beaten with 228 lashes before being hung. Could "religion" and "justice" possibly be more perverted than this savage villainy?

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