By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
On Memorial Day, I and about 30 other members of Liberty and Prosperity marched in the parades on Shore Road in the Mainland towns of Northfield, Linwood, and Somers Point in Atlantic County.
We displayed the portraits of Eric Rivera of Atlantic City, Anthony Sausto of Somers Point, and Bradley Iorio of Galloway who each volunteered to join the U.S. Army, and died in Iraq at ages 21, 22, and 19 respectively.
When President Abraham Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, he said it was “fitting and proper” to hold a ceremony and dedicate a cemetery for those who gave their lives so that our exceptional nation, a nation “conceived in liberty,” could live.
But Lincoln also said our brave soldiers, living and dead who struggled at Gettysburg, had already consecrated that ground, and it was up to “us the living” to be dedicated and finish their unfinished work.
Lincoln urged us to “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
And so besides displaying the portraits of our “honored dead,” we carried 6-foot wooden poles – symbolic pikes draped with caps of soft red cloth. As we marched by, small children asked their parents, “What are all those red things?” Few parents gave an answer because they did not know, either.
There was a time when every American knew the meaning of a red cap draped over a wooden pole, and when almost every American school child could recite Lincoln’s complete speech (address) at Gettysburg from memory.
The red cap and wooden pole were important symbols of the American Revolution. If you look at the two ladies pictured on the New Jersey state flag, one representing Liberty and the other Prosperity, you will notice that the Goddess of Liberty is holding those symbols.
The red cap is known as the liberty cap or Phrygian cap. According to legend and tradition, this red cap was worn by slaves in ancient Rome who had somehow obtained their freedom. They wore the red cap to hide the brand of slavery on their heads, and to show the world that while they once had been slaves, they were now free.
The wooden pole, or pike, was also a symbol of liberty. Before Americans built a society where almost every farmer owned a firearm, the only weapon available to farmers, craftsmen, and tradesmen in Europe was a simple wooden pole or pike.
This weapon was totally useless against a knight or nobleman who rode a horse, wore armor, and carried a sword, lance, or gun. If any ordinary citizen dared to defend his home, his property or his freedom alone, using a pike as a weapon, he would be killed instantly.
If the rest of the ordinary citizens in a county stayed home and did nothing when a handful of knights or nobles abused their power and wrongfully robbed another citizen of his or her liberty or property – if they had the attitude “They’re not coming after me so it’s not my problem,” then nobody in the county had any rights. Anyone could lose everything at any time.
But if every citizen in the county picked up his wooden pike to defend any citizen whose rights were threatened, they would overwhelm the knights and the nobles and the liberty and property of every citizen was secure.
The Americans who created our nation in 1776, “four score and seven” (87) years before Lincoln gave that speech at Gettysburg, combined the symbols of the red liberty cap and the wooden pole to remind us that we are free, and no longer slaves.
But our freedom depends on certain obligations. Each of us – not some judge or lawyer – has a personal obligation to read and understand each of the unalienable rights that are written and described in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution and to teach our children to do the same.
Once you know and understand those rights, it is your personal obligation to protect and defend them – not just for you and your family, but for every American – even if it costs you everything you have, including your life. That was something to also remember on Memorial Day.
(Reprinted from June 6, 2012 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, http://www.shorenewstoday.com/snt/news/index.php/politics/25616-americans-have-a-duty-to-know-their-rights-and-defend-them.html)
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears on 92.1FM 8-9 a.m. Saturday. For information see www.libertyandprosperity.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner on Fire and Tilton roads in Egg Harbor Township.
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