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Wednesday, August 07, 2002
Jeff Jarvis doesn't like the fact that the Gettysburg Address will be read at the observance of the first 9/11 anniversary.

How many people on a committee did it take to come up with that ridiculous compromise to saying something real.

The Gettysburg Address is about a nation at civil war, a nation that was not sure whether it could survive. That is not us. We are not in a civil war; we are united! We are not unsure about our fate; we know that we will and should survive.

I disagree.

The Gettysburg Address, all 267 words of it, is set out below. My comments interspersed.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

We are now engaged in a war to see whether our nation, or any nation "conceived in liberty" can endure, or whether theocratic thugs will decide when and where my wife can go for a walk.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

They will be.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

That is part of what they will be there to do, given the thousands who are now what either Steyn or Lileks called "death loam." (Sorry, guys, I can't remember which of you said it.) To be fair to Mr. Jarvis, the thousands of dead, with the exception of the emergency responders, did not give their lives so that their nation might live. Their lives were stolen by religious fanatics bent on achieving world domination for a bizarre and brutal sect.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

Can anyone disagree that this applies to the WTC and the Pentagon sites?

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. 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.

Even if that last phrase doesn't perfectly describe the vast majority of the WTC and Pentagon dead (who gave the last full measure of devotion, but not voluntarily as the soldiers of both the Union and the Confederacy had at Gettysburg), it fits the responding emergency personnel to a T.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

I am completely areligious. But that still draws an "amen" from me every time I hear it.

The Gettysburg Address is only nominally about a nation at civil war. It is about the sacrifice made by those who died in a war being waged so that "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." It is about renewing the commitment of the living "to the great task remaining before us[:] ... that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion ..."

Re-read that speech, Jeff. There's a reason we had to memorize it in grade school.
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