Burns: The dead don’t go away

Lincoln, Rosie the Riveter and Charlie

You young people need to weaponize yourself to win the wars, both of them. “What wars?” you ask, “and who the heck are you to be giving me advice?” Fair enough, allow me to introduce myself and then I’ll tell you about the wars.

My name is Clinton Burns, and I died 85 years ago. In the front row of the Windy Gap church to be precise. My heavenly hobby is watching you — yes, I’m a people watcher since, well, angels are pretty boring company. And, no, I’m not the NSA, just a friendly uncle concerned with your future.

Today and yesterday by James F. Burns

Today and yesterday
by James F. Burns

I do have your interests at heart — have you read the fine print on the will, what your parents are leaving you? A wicked world and a boatload of debt. No joke, Aunt Rosie gets the house and the car and you get stuck with the bill.

If looks could kill, so can ideas. Put those ideas into words and images, and, bang!, you’re dead. An editor and a cartoonist just arrived up here from France and can testify to the truth of that.

So War One you’ll be fighting — are fighting—pits your ideology against one where freedom is frowned on. Its adherents can be bossy, telling women what to wear and men what to do — and especially not do. Their gurus are great at preaching hatred of you and your values and giving potent pep talks to their young people about killing those who disagree.

Arguing with an AK-47 tends to stifle debate. But the dead don’t go away, you know. They leave the living with a gnawing sense of needing to honor their sacrifice with action. Your man Lincoln — concerned both with racial injustice and national unity — said it best, that they “shall not have died in vain, that the Nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom and that governments of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Those French fellows just said “oui” — as in “WE” the French, we the Americans, we the Brits, the Germans, and so on. By the way, Abe’s up here and he calls that French fellow “Charlie.”

Now on to the second battlefield — money!! Hate to be so crude and materialistic when we’ve been talking high ideas and freedom, but weaponizing yourself in both spheres of action requires resources. And, remember, Aunt Rosie’s generation gets the good stuff and you get stuck with the mega-bucks bill — 18 trillion, I hear … and counting.

By the way, Rosie’s mother was a riveter in World War II. She rolled up her sleeves and went to work when an evil ideology that preached supremacy and hatred reared its ugly head. Her brother died at Normandy. They got the job done, too, or you wouldn’t be free to download all those songs and videos. Hope you’re not too busy texting, streaming, and scheming not to still be tuned in to my advice. If so, you’re about to be blindsided by people who want to stone you back into the Iron Age and who behead people to silence voices of dissent and free expression. Don’t want you to be next, you know.

And me and that Windy Gap church? Well, I had driven all the way back from Illinois to that little church on the edge of Appalachia to honor my parents and the way they raised me. I always gave the talk on family history at our reunions. Had car trouble on the way and was late. “Here, Clinton, have a seat in the front pew and catch your breath before giving your talk.” Friend, I never made it to the altar. Will you speak for me? And fight for me? And for our way of life? Waiting to hear from you, Uncle Clinton.

James F. Burns is a professor emeritus at the University of Florida and an ancestral cousin of Clinton Burns.

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