Independence Day: Why I am a DAR

I was tempted to write something related to the founding of our country in honor of Independence Day, but decided to write something more personal (and patriotic): Why I am a member of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

In south Louisiana, it seems that the dead play as vital of a family role as do the living. Before I was born, my grandmother’s youngest sister Louise (“Sweetheart”) had married and moved to the west coast. She was interested in joining DAR, and my grandmother, back here in Sweetheart’s home town, did the genealogical research. (This was long before the days of the internet.) My great-aunt joined DAR years before I was born, but I grew up with a knowledge that I had ancestors who had supported the cause of American independence in the Revolutionary War. “You could join DAR,” my grandmother (not a “joiner” herself) told me. She wanted me to know that my patriotic roots ran deep.

BL Flag

At home, I fly the flag. Solar lights keep it lit at night.

I thought that one day I might do so. I grew up knowing that while the USA wasn’t perfect, it was a very good place to be – and that as a US citizen, I have a responsibility to be informed and engaged. Our children were taught this.

About 8 years ago, I felt the urge to do something more proactively patriotic. I contacted my local DAR chapter through the national DAR website (www.dar.org)and asked about membership. I received an incredibly kind and welcoming phone call from the chapter regent. I remember hanging up the phone and thinking “why didn’t I start this process sooner?”

I’ve been a member now for 7 years. Every once in a while I get an occasional surprised look from someone – a new friend or acquaintance – when they learn I am a DAR. I’ll joke about it: “Nope, sorry, left the gloves and hat at home!” In the words of author Cynthia Moore writing in Town & Country magazine, “We’re not all thin-lipped white women with our noses in the air.” Yes, people have misconceptions about DAR. I’ve heard a lot of them. I’ve even had some of them myself (which is probably why it took me a while to look into membership). But the truth is that this is an incredibly diverse, active organization.

flag box

One of our chapter projects: Placing flag disposal boxes in local libraries. Folks know they aren’t just supposed to throw away a worn American flag, but what to do with it? The boxes were generously made by a “HODAR” – “husband of DAR!”

The mission of DAR is threefold: Education, Historic Preservation, and Patriotism. DAR is strictly non-political. There are currently more than 185,000 members in over 3,000 chapters around the world. Membership is open to any woman, aged 18 or older, who can prove direct lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution. This is the only requirement for membership, and the society does not discriminate on the basis of creed, ethnicity, race, background, etc. The ancestor may have provided military service, civil service, or material support, so not all were soldiers.

In Louisiana, we have quite a few members who have ancestors who were part of the Galvez expedition. Some (such as my 5 X great grandfather Joseph Dupuis) were Acadians who had been divested of property and displaced from their homeland in the mid-1700s. (I can only imagine that these Acadians would have welcomed the opportunity to oppose the British!)

Members join DAR on the basis of descent from a single patriot, but members can later “add” patriots. I joined DAR on the basis of my lineage of another 5 X great grandfather, Landlot Porter, of South Carolina. Why him? My great-aunt had joined on that same lineage, making it relatively simple (no pun intended) for me to complete the lineage documentation. These “additional” patriots are other ancestors that you show descent from, and they are called “supplementals.” The beauty of all of this is that DAR members are constantly adding information to the DAR Genealogical Research System database, which is open to anyone for genealogical research – no membership or fee required. (See www.dar.org and click on the green “GRS” button at the top.)

But why did I join? When I first visited a meeting, I met a group of down-to-earth, caring, intelligent, faithful and involved women with whom I had in common several very important things: A love of country, a respect and passion for historic preservation, and concern for the education of our coming generations. Some were women I already knew from church or other connections, others were new faces.

We are not the same, and come from different backgrounds and even different political ideologies. However, we hold some important things in common, and this is the treasure of DAR. Different members tend to focus on different projects that are near and dear to them – that’s another wonderful thing about the organization – there are many opportunities for service, and opportunities for women to stretch beyond their comfort zones. Some of the things we do involves supporting our military and veterans, providing scholarships and taking on conservation and historic preservation projects. Some of our projects are small, and some are connected to larger statewide and nationwide projects. Our members are involved in their communities and volunteer hundreds of thousands of hours in a wide range of capacities. It’s not all just about lineage and genealogy; far from it!

DARling cookies

We have fun. We love our country. And we like cookies.

I laugh about the fact that genealogy is the “great equalizer.” If you go digging into your family tree, you will find that not every branch is exactly stellar! We are all descended from saints and sinners (and perhaps a pirate or two)! We can look at our patriot ancestors and feel some pride in what they did for American independence. I can’t help but wonder – would our ancestors be proud of us?

That’s something that DAR makes me think about. I can be so grateful to those who went before me, to those who – ancestors or not – birthed this country, inspired by ideals and concepts for freedom and self-government. DAR helps me to find things that I can do to help pass on the blessings of liberty to the next generation. Perhaps best of all, I have made some very precious friends through DAR.

DAR flags gumbofest

With some awesome friends at the Gumbo Cookoff in New Iberia, LA

President Ronald Regan said “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom, and then lost it, have never known it again.”

Our freedom is a blessed and fragile thing. Today, and every day, I give thanks for those who defend it and pray for their protection. I pray that God blesses the USA, and that God’s gift of freedom may be enjoyed by all people, throughout the world. Lord, guide me to do whatever I can do to ensure and support freedom, so that all may worship and live according to their conscience.

241 years.  Happy birthday, USA. May our imperfections lead us to continue to better ourselves and our country. It’s still America the beautiful, land of the free, because of the brave.

The comments reflect the personal views of the author, and are not an official statement or representation of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  For more information, see www.DAR.org.

Memorial Day

Yesterday I overheard someone saying “Happy Memorial Day!” It struck me as a little odd.  I wondered if someone had slept through civics (or history) class.

The holiday we know as Memorial Day reflects a centuries-old tradition of honoring those who died in war.  In the United States, “Decoration Day” began in the years after the US Civil War.  After World War I, the recogntions were expanded to honor all Americans who fought and died for their country.

I wore my Memorial Day poppy this weekend.  A few people recognized its significance.  At church I sang “In Flanders Fields,”a musical setting of the poem written during World War I:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

~~~By Lt. Col. John McCrae (Canadian Army)

Read about the writing of this poem here:                                 http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/flanders.htm

and learn more about the history of Memorial Day here:
https://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.aspArlington blog copy

I hope you’re spending a relaxing day with family today, and ask that you join in our national moment of prayer at 3 PM (your local time).

For our military readers…thank you. God bless you and we pray for your safe return home.

The Quagmire

I told myself months ago that I wasn’t going to get into political musings on this blog. So this isn’t intended as a political discussion, but rather my own musings on trying to “remain untainted” by the dirty business of politics in our flawed world.

I often hear comments like “I avoid politics” and “I vote, but that’s it.” Sometimes I think that may mean “I vote, but don’t actively engage in supporting specific candidates.”  Fair enough.  Or perhaps it means “I don’t want to talk about it.”  I can understand that, too.

happy-dog

To ease the pain of a political post, here’s a photo of a happy dog. You’re welcome.

But what if it means “I’m going to vote the way I always do because I don’t want to be exposed to the negative energy of the election?” Therein lies the spiritual challenge to each of us.

In writing this blog, I try to apply spiritual principles to everyday life.  I subscribe to the idea that I am what I think about most – and who wants to think about politics?  It never ceases to amaze me how we can wind up with so many candidates for so many offices that disgust us so much. “I avoid all that! I don’t want to go there!”

Neither do I, but I do. It is one of the challenges of living as a part of a community, one of the lessons we as humans must learn. To say one is disengaged from the political process “but vote, and that’s it” is to abdicate power and participation in the process.  It’s irresponsible.

We hear much in the media about “uninformed voters,” which can mean “someone who doesn’t vote the way I do.”  Unfortunately, most major news outlets are extremely biased, and even closely following major news outlets does not necessarily result in being informed.

Personal disclaimer: I did not vote for either presidential nominee in the primary. So, I am one of those who may be tempted to not vote, or to write in the name of my initial choice.  But I won’t. (Didn’t. I voted early.)

blue-dog-vote

Louisiana’s “I Voted” sticker. Not necessarily a political commentary…

WikiLeaks.org and projectveritas.com have released (and continue to release) bombshells.  I won’t use this space to dig into the findings of either of those websites – why deny you the fun of doing it yourself?

Here’s where our challenge comes in.  United States citizens have a right to vote.  It is also a responsibility, not to be taken lightly.  Don’t give up the opportunity to learn as much as possible about the candidates presented because it’s depressing and you really don’t like either one of them.  If we took that attitude towards all distasteful tasks, the human race would have died out long ago because dealing with babies means dealing with a lot of merde.

whew

I also urge you to avoid the easy way out.  “_______ is a ________!”  Ask yourself truly: am I just repeating a soundbite?

No candidate is perfect.  We are all flawed human beings, and most of us do NOT live our lives planning a run for political office.  Somewhere along the line, we’ve pissed some people off with careless comments.  We may have mismanaged our own affairs – which provides one with great lessons.  Some of the “regular” questions are easy to ask: What has A achieved?  What is B’s stance on C?  

The big questions facing us about our candidates are ones we never thought we’d ask, and hate the idea of having to address them: Has X seriously endangered national security?  Can Y be bought?  Did Z commit treason?

Am I making the right decision?  Is there a right decision in this election?

Yes, I do believe there is. There is no perfect candidate, so each must voter choose an imperfect one. I am reminded of Louisiana’s 1991 gubernatorial election: “Vote for the crook, it’s important.”  A choice between Edwin Edwards (who was later convicted for racketeering and served 10 years in a federal penitentiary) and former KKK wizard David Duke taught me to never say never.  I didn’t like Edwards, but I held my nose and voted for him anyway.

Jesus hung out with sinners, lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors and took on the establishment of his day.  He didn’t let the “bad energy” dissuade him from bringing light into the world.  King David was a pretty flawed guy, but did great things for God anyway.

I’ve always said you couldn’t pay me enough to run for political office – I wouldn’t even run for dogcatcher, as the saying goes.  (I’d want to take all the dogs home!) Politics challenges us as individuals, and as spiritual beings.  We want a world with peace, equality, hope, opportunity, love, religious freedom.  We don’t want to have to go “slumming” in the stinking gutter of the political quagmire and would just rather steer clear of it all. We don’t want to have those discussions with friends that vote differently from us. We say why can’t we just all get along?

This is the human condition, so participate. Pray for the process, our country, and the candidates. Don’t sink low. Realize that you can dive into the yuckiness of politics and still be a light in the world.  In spite of her flaws, America is still an example of freedom in the world.  Exercise your free will and vote.

reagan-quote-spiritual

Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.
–Ronald Reagan

D-Day Gratitude

Today is the 72nd anniversary of D-Day, and I am once again deeply and profoundly grateful for freedom.

DDay monument copy

National World War II Memorial, Washington, DC

This afternoon while driving, I heard an excerpt of a speech given by Ronald Regan in 1984, on the 40th anniversary of D-Day.  As he related that fateful day, he said that Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue.…there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest.

Amen, amen.

Marine Corps monument

Marine Corps War Memorial, Washington, DC

I mused a lot about prayer and war as I drove, and got home and started writing.  Then I put my musings aside and lost myself in reading the transcript of his speech.  There’s no way I can add to this, so I’ll just include another quote from President Regan’s speech:

The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They fought — or felt in their hearts, though they couldn’t know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4 a.m., in Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying, and in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.

Something else helped the men of D-day: their rockhard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer he told them: Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we’re about to do. Also that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”

Find the full text – transcript and recording – here.  Read it, bookmark it, and join me in giving thanks for all who have fought – and will fight – for freedom and peace.

Arlington

The last verse of Horace Trim’s (original) lyrics of Taps:

Thanks and praise for our days
‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, ‘neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is nigh.