From Little Acorns Mighty Oak Trees Grow

America is like this parable.

We used to gather in the assembly room of Edgewood Elementary School just around the corner where our three grandchildren grew up. On the walls on both sides of the stage in large size were a couple of songs we often sang, including the one above.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson penned these words from the Declaration of Independence in 1776

At the time these words were written and attested to by 56 English colonialists desiring independence, the phrase was far from true and certainly not self evident to many in the colonies, in England and around the world. Men, women and children within those thirteen colonies and elsewhere around the world were human beings, but also property owned by other human beings.

Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were slave holders as were others among those 56 men, and they personally and collectively were denying Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness to their human property, and had the “right” to deny life as well.

So that’s how this nation, the United States of America began …

But a great irony is that those words – that phrase – was the “little acorn” that has grown into a “Mighty Oak Tree.”

And like that little acorn, birthed beneath the dirt, alive but not yet an oak tree – liberty and the pursuit of happiness was yet to come.

But come it did, but not without struggle – too much struggle and too much time. Consider that the time line for this struggle should not be viewed as the time from 1776 to our present day, but rather be measured back to the time of the Exodus of the Hebrews from an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh some 3200 years prior to the little acorn of Jefferson’s words.

But the acorn was yearning for the sun and the air and the chance to grow into a mighty oak. Likewise, there was a yearning for liberty in the colonies, and especially those enslaved.

Liberty took root in 1776 with those words of Jefferson. Liberty began to sprout in 1776 with those words of Jefferson. The acorn of American liberty was then watered with the blood of patriots during the 8 years of war against England. At Yorktown, the acorn sprouted as liberty was gained and the yoke of the English throne was cast aside.

Branches formed from the trunk of liberty as a new independent government was formed. A Continental Congress grew, but was a frail branch with little strength against the challenges of life amongst the vultures of the world. It was soon discarded as a convention was formed to reform the Articles of Confederation. Instead, a strong branch was formed behind the closed doors in Philadelphia in 1787. But that strong branch of a brand new constitution needed further protection, and a Bill of Rights was added giving protection to individual citizens against a federal government that someday might seek to put a boot to the God given rights of individual citizens. This new and unique constitution was ratified and gave life to the 13 states in 1789.

The oak tree of liberty grew, but liberty remained denied to those who were property of others. The tree was diseased and split, perhaps fatally, with this disease of slavery. A new branch grew from the tree of liberty, a new political party – the Republican Party grew with the intent of stopping the spread of slavery into new territories of the Republic.

A great storm was brewing, one that would pit ‘free‘ states against ‘slave‘ states. Many in the ‘free‘ states worked tirelessly to abolish this dark sin of slavery – they were called Abolitionists. Ominous clouds formed on the near horizon.

The Republicans elected Abraham Lincoln as president, a man of humble beginnings in Illinois.

The diseased ‘slave‘ states, threatened with the destruction of their way of life, rebelled and declared once again their independence from a government they deemed oppressive. They took up arms and violently rebelled and fought for their independence. War was at hand, and the survival of the republic of 1789 was threatened.

President Lincoln and the Union prevailed and the war was won preserving the 13 states as one nation. But the cost was high – six hundred thousand died in that struggle. But the disease was confronted and defeated.

Three new branched then grew from that oak tree of liberty. Three amendments to the Constitution of 1789.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, 
except as a punishment for crime whereof the party 
shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within 
the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this 
article by appropriate legislation.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution reads:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the 
United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, 
are citizens of the United States and of the State 
wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce
any law which shall abridge the privileges or 
immunities of citizens of the United States; 
nor shall any State deprive any person of 
life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; 
nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction 
the equal protection of the laws.”

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned 
among the several States according to their respective 
numbers, counting the whole number of persons 
in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. 
But when the right to vote at any election for 
the choice of electors for President and Vice President 
of the United States, Representatives in Congress, 
the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the 
members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to 
any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, 
or in any way abridged, except for participation in 
rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation 
therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the 
number of such male citizens shall bear to the 
whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.”

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative 
in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, 
or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, 
or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, 
as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, 
or as a member of any State legislature, or as 
an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support 
he Constitution of the United States, shall have 
engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, 
or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. 
But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, 
authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of 
pensions and bounties for services in suppressing 
insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. 
But neither the United States nor any State shall assume 
or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection 
or rebellion against the United States, or any claim 
for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts,
 obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.”

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, 
by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote 
shall not be denied or abridged by the United States 
or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition 
of servitude.

Section 2. The Congress shall have power to 
enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

That little acorn, the words of Thomas Jefferson written in 1776 finally achieved the intent of 1776, and of 1789 – all men are created equal, and no human could own another human in these United States of America.

But the disease lingers on in the heats of individuals to this day and threatens the mighty oak tree of liberty.

Moving forward into the twentieth century we see the mighty oak tree of America spawning branches of liberty in other places around the world, the most vivid examples being World Wat II, followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Following the World War I defeat of Germany and the humiliating conditions imposed on Germany, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party came to power and rebuilt a formidable military power with a matching appetite for conquest and revenge. Along with Imperial Japan, the entire world was plunged into war, and countless millions brought into bondage from foreign powers.

The United States was brought into World War II on December 7,1941 with the attack on Pearl Harbor. At that time, the Germans had conquered most of Western Europe and was invading the Soviet Union. The Japanese were in the process of conquering much of the western Pacific including China and South East Asia, and had attacked Australia.

On June 6, 1944 the Allied forces invaded German occupied France and proceeded to battle German forces through western Europe with the Soviet Red Army pressing Germany from the east. The final defeat of Germany was May 8, 1945.

In June 1950, Soviet client state North Korea invaded South Korea and came close to capturing the entire Korean peninsula. The United Nations, led by the United States, pushed back the invasion and pushed the North Koreans back to the border of China. It appeared the war would soon be over and the peninsula united as one nation. But China entered that war and the war dragged on to 1953 as a stalemate. But South Korea survived as a nation, and over the years since has emerged as a strong democratic nation and an economic power house. South Korea – another branch grafted into the tree of liberty.

The final defeat of Germany liberated the western European nations, and other branches were grafted into the oak tree of Liberty. The US sponsored Marshall Plan and the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) solidified these branches and representative constitutional governments were established.

Later on August 14, 1945 Japan surrendered. American General Douglas MacArthur stayed on in Japan and formed a representative constitutional government which over the years brought liberty to that nation, thus another branch was grafted into the tree of liberty.

The end of war in Europe brought liberty to the nations of western Europe, but for the nations of eastern Europe, dominated by the Soviet Union, it was a very different story. Communism was forced onto those nations. The brutality of these Soviet Union communist satellite nations is now somewhat well known, but was for the most part hidden behind what Winston Churchill called the Iron Curtain. That changed with the collapse of the Soviet Union as East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania transitioned to the freedom of representative governments. These new branches were grafted into the tree of liberty. The United States under President Ronald Reagan was largely responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent liberation of those eastern European nations. My wife and I have traveled to some of those formerly captive nations and have friends in Germany, Croatia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

On this July 4, 2020 American Independence Day we must recognize that we no longer live in 1619 when the first slaves arrived on these shores, we no longer live in the days of slavery, we no longer live in the days when there was structural and systemic racism. The little acorn has grown into a Mighty Oak Tree providing liberty and opportunity for all who seek it.

We must be diligent and hold fast to that little acorn – those words of Thomas Jefferson. We must protect that mighty oak tree of liberty.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png

Don Johnson — July 4, 2020

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s