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  • Michael Henry Dunn

The 4th of July: The Keeper of Our Stories

(Tyrion Lannister, "Game of Thrones" on the power of memory)

"What unites people?" asks the chained aristocratic dwarf. "Armies? Gold? Flags?" He shakes his head.

"Stories. There's nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it. And who has a better story than Bran the Broken?"

And so, in the final episode of the global phenomenon that was the bloody power struggle called "Game of Thrones," a crippled impotent boy becomes the Prophet King of Westeros, because, as Tyrion notes, Bran Stark dared to go beyond the dreaded Wall and became the Three-Eyed Raven who remembers all things.

"He is our memory. The keeper of all our stories. Our wars, weddings, births, massacres, famines, triumphs, defeats...our past. Who better to lead us into the future? From now on kings will not be born - they will be chosen...that is the wheel our Queen wanted to break."

On this day 244 years ago, the signers of the Declaration of Independence put "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor" on the line to 'break the wheel' of tyranny if they could. Tragically, even as they reached for their own freedom, they left slavery in place, bequeathing their grandchildren the horrific bloodbath of the Civil War - possibly (as Winston Churchill noted in his "History of the English-speaking Peoples") "the noblest and least avoidable of all the great mass conflicts of which till then there was record."

Be warned, my friends. The noble and tragic story of America is being destroyed out of ignorance and arrogance. There is nothing more precious than our national memory - in all its beauty and horror. Deeply flawed though it is, it was a gift to the world. We must stand up and save it.

If Thomas Jefferson had been a born-out-of-his-time virtuous incarnation of 21st Century values whose life story would pass muster with those who now cry for his condemnation, his memory would not in fact be saved and honored - there would be no memory to save. His political career would never have happened: there would be no statues to tear down.

Nor would the words "all men are created equal" have echoed across the Atlantic, and eventually the world to inspire generations of men and women to throw off the chains of tyranny.

(Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence)

He opposed slavery in principle, yes, but owned slaves...some of whom were his own children by his enslaved concubine, Sally Heminges. He was a great and good and flawed man born into a privileged position in an evil system. But 244 years ago today he made the ultimate destruction of that system possible.

If Jefferson had been a fiery abolitionist in 1776, we would never have heard of him. If there had been no Thomas Jefferson, 84 years after the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln could not have reminded America that "all men are created equal" was the defining principle of a war to save the Union and free the slaves - at the cost of 600,000 American lives.

When people talk about "reparations" they might want to remember those rivers of blood and treasure demanded, as Lincoln said, by a Divine Providence who decreed that "every drop of blood drawn with the lash be repaid by one drawn with the sword." My Irish-born great-grandfather fought for the Union at Gettysburg and became a sergeant at age sixteen...simply because most of his unit was dead at day's end. His family came here to escape British oppression - you may be sure that they had heard the name of Thomas Jefferson.

If Jefferson had been a racism-free paragon of enlightenment, there would have been no Bill of Rights - and the young Republic would likely have slid back into monarchy and British domination under the influence of corrupt puppets of the London bankers such as Alexander Hamilton (Broadway's darling these days, for reasons I am unable to fathom).

Without the far-seeing Jefferson, the separation of Church and State would likely not have been enshrined in the Constitution, and the tyranny of theocracy might well have joined hands (as it so often has done over the centuries) with the tyranny of the "divine right" of kings and queens to imprison the American spirit.

How comes it that young people can be so abysmally ignorant of their country's story? Has political correctness (so dreadfully incorrect) triumphed so thoroughly, has divisive tribalization chopped us up so completely, that we are now able only to say, "I'm a black American," or "I'm a gay American," or trans-gendered, or a Native American (now there's where reparations are actually due) - in short, have we lost all pride in the words, "I am an American"?

When the Twin Towers fell in September of 2001, amidst the shock and horror and grief there was a palpable sense of unity in simply being an American. A moving commercial aired in those weeks in which Americans of all races, genders, colors, languages, occupations would look up from their work into the camera - the old Chinese cook, the young African-American lawyer, the Hispanic cop, the white woman elementary school teacher, young, old, fat, thin, ugly or lovely - they would all look into the camera and say simply, "I am an American." They said it with unaffected pride.

Divisiveness and tribalization are not accidents. They are the ancient systematically applied tools of oppression practiced by tyrants for centuries. You don't have to get a doctorate in history to see the pattern. In America, the old story of oligarchy vs the people is stark. You can see the successor organizations (and often the same families) of the London bankers systematically weakening and demoralizing the intimidating miracle that was America. The oligarchs smile and toast each other these days, no doubt, to see the success of their reliable old tactics as the emblems of our struggle for freedom topple from their pedestals.

I grieve. I know who these men were - flawed and great and irreplaceable: Thomas Jefferson. George Washington. Abraham Lincoln. Ulysses Grant. Franklin Roosevelt. John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert. Dr. King (yes, there are those who now call MLK an 'Uncle Tom' and want his statues down as well). They are and will forever be inspiring examples of the highest achievements of the human spirit.

So to those who dare to spit, to vandalize, or to attempt to destroy the memories of these heroes, I call you out for what you are: ignorant, violent, easily manipulated - non-entities whose names will be forgotten before this summer's leaves are dried husks in the street.

And so I gladly echo the last words of John Adams, that other firebrand of Independence Day, who as he breathed his last on July 4th, 1826 - the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration - smiled to his family and whispered, "Thomas Jefferson survives!"

(John Adams, 2nd President of the United States of America)

Adams could not know that Jefferson himself had died in Virginia five hours earlier, leaving this world together on the very date they had made unforgettable.

There is nothing in the world more powerful than a great and true story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it. For God's sweet sake, let us unite as American brothers and sisters...and remember.

- Michael Henry Dunn

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