I have to admit it - I just can't deny it. I'm in love.
I've been in love for quite a long time, really. I guess you could say it started out as a schoolgirl crush. I was just a child when I first fell, and boy, did I fall hard. And I've been deeply in love ever since. Not that I was blind about it - I saw my love clearly, warts and all, and it only made me fall deeper. For more than 30 years I have carried the torch, and this past year has been like meeting my love again for the very first time. I'm head over heels all over again.
I'm in love with my country.
I lived in Philadelphia in 1976. We lived in Society Hill - the old section of the city - and I spent my days exploring. I learned to make mob caps at Betsy Ross House, listened to tour guides at Independence Hall, and walked on the cobblestone streets once trod by our Founding Fathers. I even befriended a carriage driver who not only taught me how to drive a horse and carriage, but also taught me the wonderful stories of the Founders and the War and the city of Philadelphia. I would sing the Preamble to the Constitution (thanks Schoolhouse Rock!) as I skipped through the history that permeates those tree lined streets.
In that Bicentennial year, in that historic, beautiful city, I felt as though I was a part of it all.
Much of my childhood was in the Brandywine area of Pennsylvania. There was Revolutionary War history everywhere, and I was fascinated. I read every signpost, relived every battle in my mind. I loved going to Valley Forge, sitting in the tiny log huts the soldiers lived in. I couldn't get enough stories about patriots like George Washington, Henry Knox, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Molly Pitcher; they filled my head with visions of heroes and perseverence in the face of overwhelming odds.
Molly was a personal hero of mine, but she is not someone most people have heard of, although Glenn Beck mentioned her in his Founders Friday show this week. She was a remarkable woman, one who voluntarily suffered the same depravations as the soldiers at the bitterly cold Valley Forge camp so that she could be with and help her husband. She embranced the life, and was the personification of an American woman - strong, gutsy and capable. Like many camp followers, she cooked, cleaned, mended clothes and nursed the wounded and sick, but she was definitely not your average camp follower. She was a true patriot.
Her real name was Mary Ludwig Hays, but she earned her nickname by bringing much needed pitchers of water for the soldiers during battle, both to quench their thirst and to cool their guns. If a man was wounded, she was even known to hoist him up and carry him off the battlefield. Needless to say, the men had a great deal of respect and admiration for her.
Her husband, John Hays, was a gunner for the First Pennsylvania Artillery. During the Battle of Monmouth, he was wounded as Molly looked on. After first making certain he would survive, she then grabbed the rammer from his hands and took his place at the gun. She held her position all day and fired over and over at the enemy. At one point, an enemy cannon ball passed right between her legs, taking off a large chunk of her petticoats, but, thankfully, missing her. She shrugged it off, merely observing it was lucky the ball wasn't a little higher "for in that case it might have carried away something else", and continued loading and firing her cannon.
Her bravery and dedication to her country garnered her the adoration of the troops, and a personal meeting with General George Washington himself. He commended her for her actions and conferred on her the honorary rank of Sargeant. In later years, she was granted a pension for her service during the war, and was given a military funeral when she died. She was a remarkable woman, and one of my first heroes. It saddens me that her story isn't better known. She was a shining example of what an American woman could do and be.
As I walked the streets of the old city as a child in my mob cap and peasant skirt, I would pretend it was the 1700's. I was part of the adventure that was the Revolutionary War period. My companions were all of the fascinating people who filled the city in the 1770's - our Founding Fathers and the amazing women who bravely offered whatever support they could in pursuit of liberty.
I have often been asked who my favorite Founding Father is. Hands down, Benjamin Franklin. Don't get me wrong, George Washington was a man among men, a man of principle and honor; God smiled on this country when He graced us with Washington. He set the bar with his realization that the office is more than just one man, and a truly great man can step away from ultimate power - a lesson many of our entrenched politicians could stand to learn.
But Ben Franklin, well, he tickles me. To me, he is the epitome of American-ness. He was inarguably a brilliant man; his inventions and experiments affect our lives to this day. He was a unique individual - really quite a character. He was an entrepreneur at a time when most people took on their parent's vocation without question. He was a free thinker and rather scandalous. He loved women, music and 'air baths'. He spoke five languages, was our first Postmaster, a printer, a consummate Statesman, and a writer who is still quoted today. He gave us our first lending library and hospital. He is arguably the one Founding Father who could easily assimilate to America in 2010 - although he would be quite vocal in his disagreement with the direction the country has been taking in recent decades - most likely on a blog!
Beyond the people who helped create our nation, I have always loved the uniqueness of this great country in and of itself. There is no place on Earth quite like it. We are kind, generous people, but we won't back down from a fight. We are a shining beacon of freedom in a world of petty tyrants and sharia law. We are vibrant, innovative and a force for good in the world.
There has been a concerted effort in this country and around the world to belittle the US, to make it seem mean and petty and out of touch. I just don't buy the hype. This country has changed in the 30 years since I first fell in love, but at it's heart, our Constitution, it is the same as it ever was.
As distressing as current events have been, I still try to see the silver lining. It is hard, sometimes, because there is just so much going wrong and we are so far from where our Founders meant us to be. Even with all of that, or, more to the point, because of it, there is a resurgence of patriotism in this country. People are rediscovering our history, thwarting the best efforts of the progressive movement to change or ignore it. More and more people are falling in love with this glorious country. Once you know the history of it's creation, how can you not?
As a child, I fell in love. As an adult, my love is stronger than ever. But the best part of all is that I am not alone, and more people every day are joining me in my love and devotion for this great country. Happy 234th birthday, U.S.A.!
Have a safe, happy Fourth, and God bless America!