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These things take time.

When I think of the American Revolution, I tend to think of specific incidences and spurts of battle. I envision Washington crossing the Delaware. I hear Paul Revere riding his horse and yelling his warnings. I see Lafayette surveying the troops at Valley Forge. I think of the local militia in Lexington and Concord.
Maybe that how our brains work. At any given moment, we are capable of understanding pieces of the big picture.
In fact, maybe it’s impossible to consider the fullness of an event as vast as the American Revolution at once. In reality, that war lasted for eight long years and was muddled, rambling and had so many aspects that few of us consider today — even though our youngest generations are learning all over again that war is messy in any arena.
Every time I read about the American Revolution, I learn something new — something that was major then and of which I’ve led my life completely unawares. For example, did you know more people died of smallpox during the American Revolution than died as casualties of war — and that the epidemic may have changed the outcome of the war? An enormous smallpox epidemic was spreading and Washington had the foresight to realize its potential consequences. Many historians believe that Washington’s decision to use the barely 100-year old smallpox vaccine to inoculate his troops played a huge role in the American victory.
This week, we’ll focus on the healing that has happened in the years since America declared and won its independence from Great Britain. Our once sworn enemies are now our allies.
These things take time.
We will celebrate the signing of the document that Thomas Jefferson drafted between June 11 and June 28, 1776. Our country’s forefathers then signed the document within weeks’ of its completion. The war had already been waging a year and lasted seven years more after the Declaration of Independence’s signing, but we commemorate that one point in time.
Radical change isn’t one point in time — and it’s seldom about joyous celebration. It is painful and sometimes takes generations to unfold before coming to an accepted resolution.
These things take time.
More than two centuries later, we’re still feeling the growing pains.
Last week, an attorney here in Lafayette told me that he reads the Declaration of Independence out loud every year on the Fourth of July. Maybe that’s a good practice for all of us. With his permission, here’s what he said about that reading:
“Every time, it strikes me that it is pretty bold talk from men who owned slaves — men who did not practice what they preached,” my friend wrote. “Then it strikes me that these flawed men set up an American Experiment that has moved toward freedom, time and time again. From the emancipation of slaves, to women’s suffrage, to the Civil Rights movement…”
These things take time.
I believe my friend is right. Even though, in the throes of that movement toward freedom, what’s happening around us may not feel like progress to some. Yes, it’s sometimes painful. Yes, sometimes we take steps backwards.
“It is a lumpy, messy, sometimes chaotic process,” he continued. “But imagine the genius of our system, which in its own cumbersome way can continue to bring increasing vibrancy to that word that meant so little to the world of 1776, but just shines like the sun today: freedom.”
These things take time.