What we don’t know can get us into trouble.
That may well be the case for those planning a rally in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 18 in support of their confederates who were arrested for attacking American democracy at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
If there were one week during the year that you’d want to avoid trying to hoodwink the American public regarding your culpability as an insurrectionist, this would be it. Not knowing that is why historical literacy is so important.
Saturday, Sept. 11, was the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, of course. Along with the first responders who ran toward danger at the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the flight crew and passengers of United Flight 93 are also American heroes. Forty courageous souls aboard the plane overpowered the hijackers and prevented it from crashing into its surmised target, the U.S. Capitol. They gave their lives to protect the honor of that symbol of America for posterity, not so some mob incited by irresponsible politicians could smash its way inside, ransack offices and defecate in the corners.
Sept. 13 is the anniversary of the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, an attack witnessed by Francis Scott Key, who penned the words to our national anthem after seeing on the following morning “that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” That British attack at Baltimore followed by three weeks their burning the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Sept. 17 is U.S. Constitution Day, this year the 234th anniversary of our founders creating the law of the land by which we govern ourselves without the intrusions and whims of monarchs, dictators or wannabe emperors. This is the nation’s hallowed document and, more so, its sacred concept — a government, as Lincoln declared, “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” not a mob of irresponsible, aged-yet-immature bullies embittered because they lost an election and didn’t get their way.
And yet, in the wake of all this patriotic history of what’s good and honorable and worth protecting about America, some group decides this is the time to go to Washington to argue that Americans should forget what they saw and ignore the actions of those who called for the death of elected officials, who stormed this citadel of American democracy, who battered its doors, trampled its integrity, brutally injuring and causing the death of sworn officers. For what those gathering in D.C. want to accomplish — some granting of undeserved leniency — this would be the one week to avoid. Unless, of course, you don’t know. That’s why history, critical thinking skills and civics education are essential to protecting American democracy. Citizenship and its proper exercise are rightful privileges — privileges earned through thoughtful consideration and by responsible actions.
And if this gathering’s disrespect of that history in early September were not embarrassing enough, their pitiful pleas will likely fall into ridicule afterward, at least in North Carolina, as we observe during late September and through October the history on our soil of the one campaign of the American Revolution later called the “turning of the tide” in that colossal conflict — the Battle of Kings Mountain. American patriots in the North Carolina backcountry in 1780 were threatened by the arrogance of those who thought they knew better than all of us together, by those who promised to hang leaders and “lay waste your country with fire and sword”. These North Carolinians understood that liberty is secured only when freedom is matched with responsibility. They showed up in large numbers to confront those invaders who were marching toward their homeland, intending to destroy communities. They stood tall and held fast.
That history is commemorated along the 330-mile Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, mostly lying in North Carolina. On Sept. 16, a statuette of “The Militiaman” will be presented to the History Museum of Burke County in Morganton in honor of former-U.S. Sen. James T. Broyhill, who worked during his 24 years in the U.S. Capitol to secure congressional recognition in 1980 of the OVNHT.
Please join heritage groups across the state this fall in watching the free “New Kings Mountain Story” video trilogy at BecomingAmerica250.com. Each 40-minute episode helps everyone better understand this important part of North Carolina’s revolutionary war history.
Study America. It’s a good idea.
Randell Jones is the award-winning author of “Before They Were Heroes at Kings Mountain” and recipient of the national History Award Medal conferred by the Daughters of the American Revolution. He is the creator of BecomingAmerica250.com. He lives in Winston-Salem.