Independence Day is Bitter-Sweet for This Descendent of Original American Rebels

By Joseph Merlin Bowers

I was raised by my mother’s parents, Merlin and Lottie Goetschius. Merlin was a direct paternal descendent of John Mauritius Goetschius. John M Goetschius was the commanding officer of the Bergen County Militia during the American Revolution. This militia probably saw more actual combat between fighting Howe’s regulars marauding from their New York City headquarters directly across the Hudson and the numerous very active Tories of Bergen County. John’s house and barn were burned to the ground by Tories during the hostilities. A history book says that these men worked their farms by day and watched for Tory raiders by night. None of them slept a night in their own bed for more than five years.

John Mauritius’s father John Henry Goetschius was probably responsible for instilling rebellious sentiments in his son. John Henry was the leader of the faction of the Dutch Reform Church advocating American autonomy from European control. The same history book quoted above says that John Henry who died in 1774 was probably more responsible for our independence than any of the many rebel officers who passed by his grave during the course of the war.

These men worked long and hard and sacrificed much to help bring about our independence. Tomorrow, July 4th, I will fly our flag and celebrate their achievement. My celebratory spirit will be somewhat muted, however, by current reality. The day for me is always bitter sweet.

My ancestors rebelled against the most powerful, oppressive colonial empire that the world had yet seen and they prevailed. Today the resulting nation has become the very thing they sought independence from-the most powerful, oppressive colonial empire the world has yet seen. For those who would object to my use of the word “oppressive” I point out that many British citizens in the Empire days would not have believed that the word applied to their empire either. Yesterday and today, however, those peoples being dominated by more powerful colonists might beg to differ.

Colonialism is inherently evil. There are many rationalities used by colonists to justify their domination of foreign peoples. Some of these are even sound, but fundamentally no nation has an inherent right to impose it’s will upon another people who pose no clear threat. Becoming the colonist instead of the colony does not make colonialism desirable.

I have grave doubts that my ancestors fought the biggest bully on the block so that they could become the biggest bully on the block. So for me tomorrow will be bitter sweet.

I am not as interested in living in a rich country or a powerful country as I am in living in a great country. Donald Trump wants to “Make America great again.” I contend that this country has never been great. It has been a country with great aspirations as yet unrealized. An example is the last words of our pledge of allegiance, “with liberty and justice for all.” We aspire to that. We have not achieved it. Let us continue to aspire greatly and lets work toward the achievement of great things. Great does not mean rich. Great does not mean powerful.


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