Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


May 27, 2014

WE THE PEOPLE: Finding a common ground

CROSSVILLE — Rifle fire honors the veterans. Some young man, perhaps a young woman, plays taps for a small but respectful gathering. The notes rise and fall with the wind gusts and settle among the stones and disappear to wherever such music goes. That’s how I remember Memorial Day years ago on the small and windswept hill overlooking the Arkansas River Valley town of my birthplace.

Events of honor and reverence are conducted every Memorial Day in thousands of towns across the nation. Cemetery visitors tend toward the old. There are speeches, but politics are largely on hold as families arrive and depart, bearing vases, puttering with the landscaping and sharing recollections of long-gone relatives. Everyone is an American, at least for that day, even the lonely soul laid to rest in one far corner of the prairie cemetery I remember—a Chinese railroad worker who helped build the Santa Fe, and who died with a pick in his hands. He had no known relatives or friends, though someone did carve a few Chinese characters into his marker.

It’s strange that it’s so peaceful at the end of the trail. It’s the same but different in many towns. Not every living visitor is overly thoughtful or reverent. Somewhere, a middle age man sizes up the crowd and wonders how he might buy the place and sell tickets. Another town has an old man who is critical and cynical about everything as he wanders through the stones, looking for a small audience to capture and impale on his narrow views. His square-framed wife carries a Bible as she follows. She has (and would) forgive him of almost anything.

And somewhere a young girl holds the hand of a boy in her high school. She loves school. He does not. He does not even understand why the moon stays in the sky. He wants to drive nails for a living and help the pretty girl enter the next generation of mothers. He will go to a war not yet declared. That will free her to take her grief to college and become a doctor of astrophysics. The boy she loved at the edge of her own childhood will lie somewhere under the buffalo grass. She will not always come on Memorial Day. She will join the modern ranks of those who once were cowboys, mountain men and sailors always searching for new horizons. The trail she seeks through the stars is unbelievably long and difficult.

And so they arrive and wander and go, the old and the young. They hear speeches, share news of their ailments and offer histories of those buried soon after the Indians were gone. They recall a few incidents, but remember little about many who fought in Vietnam or in the Middle East and those who never came back but, instead, lie in Margraten in Holland and dozens of other cemeteries.

The day, also known as Decoration Day, is for the fallen like the fake flowers that grace the stones and the tears that fall in the dust. The past is gone and will stay gone. Life is really no longer than a few tomorrows. We, the living, should pay respect for a moment, and then use what we learned from those who fell to make better use of today.

• • •

This column represents alternative thoughts to other published columns in the Crossville Chronicle. “We the People” is published each Wednesday. Opinions expressed in “We the People” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact John Wund, coordinator, at

Text Only
  • Lion and the Lamb: A promised land?

    Back in biblical times there was a group of people who believed that God had promised them a segment of land on this planet that would be theirs forever. Who could have known back then that this ancient promise and territorial justification would be used by their descendants today to claim the same segment of land?

    July 29, 2014

  • We the People: Bring back the American dream

    Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling?  Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014