(July 4th , 2019 Speech by James Redwine in New Harmony, Indiana)

Thank you, Nathan. And thank you all for being here. By the way, you can relax and rely upon this being a short speech, although you may say not short enough. You see, you have an insurance policy as some members of the Redwine family insisted on attending today to make sure I do not go over my allotted twenty minutes.

When my sister and our two brothers and I all sang in our church choir, our minister, Reverend Max Wolfe, would sometimes rattle on as the congregation yearned for relief. So his daughter, Judy, who was the church organist would allow max to go about five minutes long then she would begin softly playing the introduction to “The Doxology”. Therefore, if you hear my family begin softly mumbling “Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow…” Just join in and I will sit down. Not yet, David Campbell!

It is good to be with you on this day of celebration of America’s Independence. It is called Independence Day with good reason. Our founders were willing to die for the right to control their own lives. They were not seeking war with the most powerful nation on earth in 1776. They were not attempting to dictate to King George III how the English should behave. They sought only free will for America to determine its own course.

I am honored to have been asked to speak by the Friends of The Working Men’s Institute, The University of Southern Indiana and The New Harmony Kiwanis Club. When my friends, Jeanne and Nathan Maudlin, contacted me they asked me to address issues swirling around America’s struggle for Independence during the Revolutionary War. I believe they thought I was old enough to have served in it. While I am proud to be an Honorably Discharged Veteran it is not true that I served during the Revolution. There was no United States Air Force in 1776.

However, I do understand the desire to get a first hand account of history. All of us wish we could ask our parents about things long past or perhaps have a chance to ask past heroes such as George Washington or James Madison what really happened in those secret meetings in Philadelphia that produced our Constitution.

For example, one of my heroines is Frances (Mad Fanny) Wright, that fighter for Women’s Rights, Black Rights and Freedom from Religion who spoke here in New Harmony on July 04, 1828. Oh how much we could learn if we could speak with her now. Then I remembered we may have someone with us here today who may have known Mad Fanny and what she really thought. Is my friend Charlie Gaston here? Hello Charlie. Do you mind me asking? Didn’t you use to date Mad Fanny Wright? Well, thanks. Maybe we can talk about Mad Fanny later at MacLure Park over a hot dog.

Another of the great independence type questions those of us privileged to live in Posey County often ponder is why did Father George Rapp’s celibate religious commune last from 1814 to 1825, but Robert Owen’s atheistic enlightenment commune only made it about three years from 1825 to 1828? Well, in doing research for today’s gathering I read that at their Fourth of July galas Father Rapp’s Rapittes gave out free beer, but according to Robert Owen’s Fourth of July speech in 1826 Owen called for his followers to “…abandon the use of spirituous

liquors…” Apparently we can make it without sex, but not without beer. That’s another of those Free-Will options we celebrate on the Fourth of July.
Isn’t that what matters most to all of us? The visceral need for the freedom to make our own choices is why on that day we now call Patriot’s day, April 19, 1775. At Lexington and Concord those suppressed colonists, “Fired the Shots Heard ‘Round the World”. And in our current political climate, when Americans today get embroiled in political discussions it sometimes feels as if both sides have muskets at the ready.

When I find myself surrounded by the competing political Mini Balls I try to remember to remind myself this is nothing new. Over the two or three hundred thousand years we Homo Sapiens have been around, after air, water, food, shelter and procreation, we seem to have two more basic needs: The control of our own lives; and the strong desire to control the thoughts and behavior of others. These two related but directly oppositional impulses apply to groups of people and nations as well. You know, we will each defend to the death the Right of our political adversaries to agree with us. But conversations can rapidly turn to confrontation if someone comes down on what we believe is the wrong side of such issues as religion, global warming, immigration, war and peace, and especially today, who should or should not be president of the United States.

The Right to control our own lives makes us smile. The desire to control other peoples’ lives can lead to such things as vitriolic statements and sometimes even vicious interchanges in our public interactions. Sometimes the discussions about control may center on sexual assault and the “Me Too Movement” or hate crimes and “Black Lives Matter” or perhaps even questions of War and Peace.

Rape is a terrible crime not because of forced sexual contact, billions of humans have had sexual relations. No, rape is a terrible crime because of the victim’s loss of the right to decide for themselves whether and with whom to have sex. The fear, terror, anger and humiliation caused by losing total control of one’s body is incalculable. It is in itself a life sentence that can lead to permanent bitterness toward and distrust of our legal system. Much as lynchings can result in an entire race of people living with constant concern about their freedom.

Lynchings, such as those that were committed on our Posey County Courthouse lawn on October 12, 1878, are a collective denial of another’s right to control their own destiny. And it is not just the victims who lose, but even those who deny justice to others may reap the whirlwinds of retaliation and political correctness.

Wars of aggression, not constitutionally authorized wars for national defense, are our country’s or people’s Right to independently determine their own destiny. One of the main causes of our country’s post-WWII denials of the right of other countries to control their own lives are wars instigated by independent executive action without Congressional authorization.

We can each quickly cite evidence of such wars based on false premises and rash executive action. President Lyndon Johnson used shaky premise of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution to get us hopelessly embroiled in Vietnam. President George W. Bush relied on false intelligence reports that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was involved in 9/11. President Bush then precipitously led us into what appears to be an endless and pointless war in the Middle East. And now, if we in America as led by President Donald Trump, insist on controlling Iran, it could be the Persian Gulf War Redux based on the pretext of torpedoed oil tankers or downed drones. As Pete Seeger’s song “Where have all the Flowers Gone?” asks us, “When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?”

Our founders’ wisdom of placing the authority to wage war in Congress is that such a procedure keeps all of our citizens more closely involved in these grave decisions. And, it

requires much more careful deliberation when Congress is involved. Also, when we eliminated the military draft we turned from a citizen minute man type military to a professional and less ecumenical type force. To make the tragic choice to go to war all Americans should feel the direct cost. That’s one of the main reasons we went from 1918 to 1941 at peace. But after we ended the draft we have been without conflict. It is too easy to hire others to impose our will on the powerless. With a professional standing military our armed forces never stand down and the temptation for any of our presidents to play with these awesome powers as if they were toy soldiers is too intoxicating for most to resist.

One of the good things we received from one of our British cousins and the ideals Robert Owen’s commune ascribed to, were John Locke’s enlightenment philosophies as highlighted by the Doctrine of Separation of Powers. Our independence as a nation has survived great trauma due in large part to our government’s three separate and equal powers: Executive; Legislative; and, Judicial. We forget this at out peril.

Our founders understood human nature. That’s why we have an elected president instead of an anointed king. It seems that almost no matter who the chief executive is, the temptation to control others by military might is irresistible.

Control of our lives is an inherent need for individuals and nations and, if lost, can lead to long-term bad effects for both the invaders and the invaded.

A couple of weeks ago Peg and I attended a rodeo in Osage County, Oklahoma where thirty-five competing cowboys were introduced as they held a gigantic American flag in the middle of the arena. Each cowboy stood at attention as he held the flag with one hand and held his western hat over his heart with the other while a cowgirl on horseback sang “The National Anthem”. It was a moving experience for Peg and me as we stood at attention with out hands over our hearts. It made me think about the National Football League and silent protests by players as well as raised fists at the 1972 Olympics and members of the U.S.A.’s Women’s Soccer Team who choose to stand but not place their hands over their hearts. What a feeling of freedom it should give us all when our fellow citizens voice their dissent even if we disagree with their positions. These Patriots harken back to Patrick Henry and his preference for death over life without choice. Dissent by others, especially by those diametrically opposed to my beliefs, helps to remind me Independence Day is one of life’s greatest gifts and reinforces my gratitude to our Fourth of July 1776 heroes. It makes me think of James Madison and his demand that the first ten amendments to the Constitution be adopted.

The First Amendment is that ultimate recognition of the importance of choice: Freedom to Petition our government whether in writing or by demonstration. I am proud that in the United States of America if Peg and I want to stand for “The National Anthem” or for any other cause, such as “The Hallelujah Chorus” or the “Indiana University Fight Song”, we may. And, if others do not wish to, they have the right not to . Even those misguided people from Purdue University, Kent Schuette.

For some reason that rodeo experience reminded me of what our soldier son, Jim, told us he observed when he visited the old Soviet Union before the wall came down and before he was sent to war in Iraq. Jim said when he happened to see other Americans in the old USSR he could always pick them out from the crowd of Russians because the Americans were the only ones smiling.

Then when I was sent by the National Judicial College to teach Ukrainian judges in 2000 and then to Russia to teach Russian judges in 2003 I had similar experiences. In Ukraine I took their dilapidated great subway train and was crammed in with many Ukrainian men and women and one boy about six years old. The adults were all dressed in dark clothing and had sober dark expressions. No one smiled or nodded hello. Then I caught the little boy’s eye and smiled at him. at first he almost smiled back then cast down his eyes.

In Russia Peg was with me and we took the subway to see the Onion Domes of The Kremlin. Peg had on a light blue coat and I was wearing my red ski jacket. Every other person on the train had on dark clothes and dour faces. When Peg and I smiled at one another because we were happy to be in Moscow together we were the only ones smiling. That’s when we realized what freedom and independence and the Fourth of July are all about. We are confident we have the Rght as Americans to control our own destinies. That means everything. And that is why when Americans are seen among the people of other nations often the Americans are the only ones smiling. But if we insist on imposing our will on other countries or upon one another, we should not be surprised if they do not smile back.

We can keep smiling as long as our friends and fellow citizens respect our opinions and they will keep smiling at us as long as we respect their right to their opinions

Uh oh, I think I hear the off-key strains of “The Doxology”, so thanks and I’ll see you later for hot dogs at MacLure Park. That is, of course, if you independently choose to go there. And maybe we can ask Charlie Gaston about Mad Fanny Wright.


James Redwine


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