The Reason For Tears

Why was I nearly crying? After a lot of soul-searching, I think I know. But let me set the stage for you. In the end, you may want to give it a try for yourself.

Our family decided that this year’s Independence Day celebration would be a day early, on July 3rd. As we often do, we planned to attend an outdoor concert, held at Conner Prairie, a living history site north of Indianapolis. The 1812 Overture, some Sousa numbers, and a few other patriotic-themed pieces would be played by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra against a backdrop of fireworks. Always special.

I normally don’t cry, though. It’s moving, to be sure, but not where I’m verging on weeping. This time was different. The tears wanted to flow. They welled in my eyes. I kept them back with great difficulty. My upper lip was sore from the stiffness.

I’m still sorting it out in my head. I think I know why.

I had taken our two daughters to a US naturalization ceremony earlier in the day. It was on the lawn of the President Benjamin Harrison Home. We stood on the edge of a tent-covered court session. Beneath the canvas people from across the globe raised their hands and said the oath of allegiance in front of US District Judge Sarah Evans Barker. Judge Barker, friendly and stern all at once, noted that the sides of the tent were up and open, wall-less. Children from the crowd carried a small American flag to each of these new Americans. The rest of us at the gathering–and there were many witnesses and onlookers packed under the sprawling white tent–clapped and cheered. Judge Barker announced the court adjourned. My very first attendance at such an event was over.

Seven hours later, I’m on a sloping meadow with a few thousand other people. At the bottom of the slope is Conner Prairie’s gleaming concert shell and two large video screens. My wife and I sip wine, our daughters and their friends are close by. On a warm summer evening, the orchestra plays selections from The Patriot, a movie about the American Revolution. Sweet notes rise from the strings section, ahead of distant fifing from the winds and rat-a-tat-tatting by the percussions. Later will be readings from the Gettysburg Address, the finale of Tchaikovsky’s famous overture, and explosions from fireworks and artillery.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the earlier ceremony. The two parts of the day had an invisible connection. In the morning one group made a life-changing choice. In the evening another group honored a world-changing decision. Both were strangers to each other and as individuals may never meet, yet they belong to the same family of Americans. Both share the same place, bound by the same ideas and ideals, ageless so long as they are remembered. Both seek the best as they best define it. Both are living out a birth called a Declaration. Together, both led me to tears.

Wiping my eyes, I think about the numbers. 98 and 56. 98 women and men in Indianapolis on Wednesday, July 3, 2019 swore allegiance to the United States and joined the rest of us as American citizens. 56 men in Philadelphia on Wednesday, July 3, 1776, prepared to be signatories to the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.

Take a few seconds and think about that. What if we could introduce the 98 to the 56? How utterly astonished, how amazed and overwhelmed, would the signers be at the sight of the oath-takers? What impressions of the 56 would first form in the minds of the 98 and which of those views would endure? What would they talk about together after they had settled in?

Just a suggestion: if you can, try to pair your attendance at a US naturalization ceremony with your attendance at a July 4th celebration. I’m guessing you’ll feel it.

Life is a River, and a few drops in the current are tears.

All the best, Dan


  1. Eileen Hightower says

    It is only natural you would shed tears during both of these events. I had tears at a separate event. I watched the celebration of our country via TV on July 4th. During the event when the chorus began to sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Blue Angels flew over, they made my heart swell with American pride. Not an arrogant pride, but a pride of how far this country has come in the past 243 years of our history.

    Coupled with it is the sadness I feel at the direction in which this great country is headed and the disrespect the common American taxpayer and hardworking man and woman is getting from those who wish to tear every statue down, tear up every document, including the Constitution, do away with the Bible, historical books, and anything which has to do with American History. When I see others burning our flag, wanting to tear down crosses, erect Satanic statues, do away with the Ten Commandments, knock down an elderly woman, kick an elderly man, bully Sarah Sanders at a gathering, malign our first lady, and I could go on, but you get the point then my heart cries out for true justice.

    There is a civil unrest in this country and the people of this country who have had their sons, daughters, husbands and wives not only pay their taxes but serve their country in the armed services and law enforcement in general, are at the boiling point, and it will take only just a little more before this country erupts into a civil war. We the people have had enough.

    When we no longer have civil discourse, when Congress, especially the House moves ever close to full blown Socialism, then the only way we will be able to keep our freedom will be a war, and it will be vicious and ugly as all civil wars are. I hate to see it coming, but have no idea how to instill into our young people the dangers of socialism, but if they get what they want, for most people will grab at the first flashy and shiny ribbons and empty promises, they will then find there is a hook, but it will be too late not only for them, but for America in general.

    That said, this was one reason my eyes filled with tears, for as you, your heart was stirred with memories, pride in our country and what you and I and millions of Americans will lose if the alternative, Socialism ascends the presidency.

    We can then say, “By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” Psalm 137

    We will have been one more empire to have fallen. Medo-Persian, Roman, Assyrian.. .etc. My prayer is our country will pull back from the insanity of Socialism, and if we don’t, then America will be one more on the trash heap of fallen empires.

    With all of our blemishes, we are still the greatest country and idea this world has ever known. We the people don’t mind others coming into our country, but they must come in orderly and go through the process so that we can witness them becoming American citizens just as you witnessed.’

    I remember a line William Wallace’s uncle told him when witnessing the burial of his father and brother. He asked his uncle what the men with the bagpipes were playing. “Outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes.” George Patton also said, “No one ever defended anything successfully, it is attack, attack and attack some more.” Freedom isn’t free and must be defended vigilantly. God Bless America!

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