Imagination of a Country

In the late 1600’s and early 1700’s people began to come to this country in large numbers. The young men of Ireland, who climbed aboard merchant ships often became indentured servants. Their passage was anything but easy, and many died on the hundreds of voyages from scurvy, viruses or injury as the ships made their way from the shipyards of Ireland to ports around the globe. I am imagining my ancestors were just such people in 1700 who may have lived a life of indenture to come to the settlements in America.  They worked on the ships for maybe four years and then were typically given a flint-lock rifle, clothes and maybe a place to live and were on their own in the new world.

People who made the early journeys to the America’s possessed imagination and perseverance as well as the ability to adapt to whatever might be thrown at them or they would not survive. They were going to a land with little government, only community agreements on how to feed and clothe themselves and reckoning what was right and wrong, sometimes with cruel consequences. The ideology that all men were created equal hadn’t been hatched yet much less for indentured slaves, so they came to the table in small ways until they could prove their worth. They became mill workers, farm hands, dock workers and carpenters as they endeavored to fit in.

Together those early immigrants bonded and fought to carve out a nation, a desire they shared. They argued and agreed in like numbers hammering on ideology as much as the logs they were using to construct their shelters. Their backgrounds were very different, but they shared the bonding of sweat and blood through the 1700’s as they moved toward a nation with tenets eventually agreeable to most. They realized early their differences were their strengths because we all looked at things differently based upon individual experience. Seeing the many dimensions of the human existence they forged agreements not always favorable to each of them, but in terms they could live with.

As this nation matured it took on a collective attitude that together we could be better than our individual selves. Our imaginations were challenged, and ideas pulled from them. We moved into communities where benefit of the whole became the doctrine. Invention took off as our collective imaginations soared and we created tools, constructed foundries and bound books of knowledge for the path forward could only get better with education. We always looked forward, only looking back to assess our mistakes.

The slaves brought to this country from the African continent were utility and left without any representation along with women. Following emancipation a few of them with the imagination to look forward chose to escape their bonds and they became drovers, explorers and guides to families moving west. Women too began to explore their worth. The two Beckwith mountains west of Crested Butte were named for an African American explorer who saw the west long before most. The ex-slaves contributed to the great cattle ranches of the west pushing cattle from Texas north to Kansas to meet the railroad that eventually was constructed across this continent. They were as much a part of the building of a nation as anyone but were stricken from our history out of both fear and greed.

The 4th of July highlights how far our collective imagination has taken us. We put a man on the moon in twelve short years, but we can’t seem to grasp how alike we are. It seems we argue, and lay group claim to the very thing that made this nation what it is; free. Freedom was the one thing that brought every man, woman and child here, yet it is being used by some to divide us. There is fear instilled in us for monetary gain of a few that “the other” is taking that freedom from us. The notion is planted to divide, but historically bridged when our collective thinking moves us to take stock. Eventually we are led to understand the reasons division is used. Historically, we slowly see past the fakery and move to a combined understanding that we are the ones in control, not the divisive few.

We have survived as a nation on change and adaptation, protest and eventual agreement; together. This country has moved forward at a rapid pace and perhaps has gotten ahead of itself as we have forgotten the lessons from our not-too-distant past. Perhaps all of us need be reminded why our ancestors came here and put some real thought into our freedom and the freedom we have helped others obtain around the world. The imagination of our forefathers has carried us for 250 years. They imagined a world unlike the nations they abandoned, and the United States of America has indeed led much of the world from the front because it carried the lessons of our past on its’ back.

Our independence came through imagination and hard work, together. We Americans have the lineage of our ancestors still in our veins, and we all bleed the same life-giving blood. If one of us bleeds, we all bleed because that is how this country was imagined. America works together, or it won’t. That should be an easy choice.

Leave a Reply