On Remembrance Day

Posted on November 20, 2010 by


It’s Remembrance Day in Gettysburg… and I deeply regret that I couldn’t make it as planned. Still, I take the time to remember… whether I’m there or not.

Gettysburg experienced in November is different enough, but if you haven’t experienced Gettysburg on Remembrance Day, you miss an opportunity to see the place… if not feel the place… in a different way. The day is designated as such because of the anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Actually, yesterday was the anniversary of the exact date, but the day as “remembered” is reserved as a Saturday event.

What I find most interesting about the day is the manner in which remembrance is… remembered.

While what you may see there today, on this day, may look like nothing more than “us” remembering the war and the people in it, I also see it as interpretations of how we have been tasked with the act of remembrance… and perhaps as tasked by words spoken by Lincoln, on this day.

Well, but then, it actually makes more sense that Lincoln’s words were directed to the audience present at that particular time…

…that we here highly resolve…

“Here” is a variable. Depending on how you look at it, it seems, when put together with other words, that it was written for the people of the nation engaged in the preservation of the Union then, particularly because, shortly after this, he mentions “a new birth of freedom.” Lincoln tasks those of the nation, at that time

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced… that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain

I see Lincoln as tasking people then with the work that remained necessary to realize a phoenix, rising from what might otherwise appear as the ruin of the nation in a war with so much human cost.

On the other hand, that variable has a timelessness in it as well. I think others may interpret “here” in two other ways…

Is it meant 1) as a legacy to those who continue to live, long after the words were spoken, long after the war, long after the generation who lived at that time… and/or is it meant as 2) a message to those who come together on this battlefield?

…in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men [no longer living, but all now dead], who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract… it can never forget what they did here.

Indeed, perhaps we can take this as a model of how we should remember the people in that struggle, today.

Therefore, no matter what, here’s thanking Lincoln for what may be interpreted as some remarkably timeless words… and perhaps we should take more from these words, beyond a single day in the year, and, at the very least, consider the significance of them throughout the Sesquicentennial.