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Harris Blackwood: This Independence Day, look beyond the bickering
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

I love this country of ours. A lot of things have changed in my lifetime, but I still believe this is the greatest land on earth.

If all goes according to my plans, I will be celebrating Independence Day in South Dakota.

Several years ago, I fell in love with the American West. The unspoiled land of crystal blue skies is something to see. But we also have beautiful cities, wonderful rivers and coastland that looks out over beautiful oceans.

We seem to forget about the three men who signed the Declaration of Independence from Georgia. They are Lyman Hall, George Walton and Button Gwinnett.

Gwinnett died less than a year after signing the declaration. He was killed in a duel with Lachlan McIntosh. They were in a feud over control of the Army of Georgia. Interestingly, we named a county for both of them.

George Walton was a lawyer by trade. He was one of the founders of the University of Georgia.

Hall was a physician and preacher. Walton and Hall are buried beneath the signer’s monument in Augusta. Like Gwinnett, we named counties for Walton and Hall. I don’t know if it was by design, but the namesake counties are geographically connected.

Call me what you like, but I still get a lump in my throat when I hear songs about our country. With all respect to Francis Scott Key, who wrote our national anthem, I am partial to “America the Beautiful.” It was during my first trip out West that I saw amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties.

I also became rather fond of Teddy Roosevelt, who many consider to be the father of our national parks and forests. We spent a night in Medora, North Dakota, where Teddy is the star of the show. A summer outdoor musical chronicles Roosevelt’s visit to Medora. A nearby national park bears his name.

Were it not for Roosevelt’s vision of preservation and conservation, we might not have some of our beautiful parks, such as Yellowstone.

The thing that troubles me about our country is how divided we have become. Our partisan bickering seems to have started in Washington and filtered its way to Main Street in almost every hamlet in America.

I’m not suggesting that we give up our basic beliefs, but there are plenty of things we can agree on. Too many people go to the people’s house and feel the only thing to do is vote “no” and go home.

Here in Georgia, we were once almost exclusively Democrats, at a time when there were people considered Southern or Conservative Democrats. About 20 years ago, the political leanings shifted and our state became largely Republican. Now, some counties that were considered solidly Republican are now voting largely Democratic.

We are heading to a time when we will largely be split among party lines, according to those who study demographics. We will accomplish little if we can't find room for compromise.

I don’t want to go back to the days of Gwinnett and McIntosh when the only way to settle something in a duel. The people who signed our departure from British rule represented various religious beliefs, but they found enough to agree on to form a wonderful nation. I hope we can keep it that way.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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