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Individuals together can shape tomorrow’s world

Sometimes as a citizen I feel as though everything ‘ institutions, projects and people ‘ are putting demands upon me. I read the newspaper and am called to become more informed. I watch television and am challenged to at least mentally participate in global activities. Like you, I get faxes, e-mails, phone calls and letters that call out for me to make decisions and participate. It is a temptation to seek a seat in the corner and just ‘veg out.’
And then comes an experience that wallops me one and brings me back to reality. A trip through the Freedom Center museum in Cincinnati last weekend was a real wake up call. At our farm in Harrison County, our family lives in an old log barn built after the Civil War and an attached log cabin built about 30 years earlier. Log construction is pretty simple, just like children’s Lincoln log sets. So you can’t vary the style much beyond a large room, with dimensions determined by the size of the trees in the area. They call these log enclosures ‘cribs.’ I have always felt the warmth of Mother Nature within the walls of our log home.
When you walk into the Freedom Center, a large wooden log crib building greets you. Eager to stand amidst the strength of a native structure in which I felt at home, I entered it with a sense of pleasant anticipation. The size of the structure, the color of the logs and the feel of the place were all a copy of my home. All my senses felt the pleasures brought on by happy familiarity. As I stood in silence looking up through the golden logs, I noticed sobering signals of the building’s original use. It had been a slave pen used in Kentucky to hold human beings caught by slave traders, and the leg and hand irons where still there to tell the story. Men were chained on the second floor with no release for personal needs. Women and children were allowed to move around and cook for the group and clean up the mess, I suppose.
Our barn was built by a man who came home from the Civil War after being incarcerated in the military Andersonville prison with his brother. His brother died there under the horrible conditions that existed and the surviving Mr. Rogier from Perry County returned to Indiana and built a homestead for the rest of the family. I’ve never been able to thank him for what he did during the Civil War and after to make my current home possible.
A whole system where people lacked the freedom to participate in a happy, productive and safe way existed during the Civil War. Now today we reap the benefits of their suffering and have the audacities to take it all for granted at best and often gripe about the responsibility imposed by a participatory democracy.
I have over the years found such personal peace in our log barn home. I hope I can look at it the same way again while also hearing the past that made it all possible and the call to do my part to keep a good thing going. With this in mind, I have just finished reading the consultant’s plan for Corydon. They sure blocked out instructions for us to follow, but there are a lot of decisions yet to be made and great gobs of actual work to be done. It would be easier for me to leave it to the experts both from home and far away to carry out the as of now, broadly stated plans. But would this be just a more comfortable form of living in a slave pen where others determine the setting and activities for our lives?
At the Freedom Center, we were exposed to a vivid animation of an escape through the Underground Railroad that was the route taken to get people to freedom from slave states. It took daring and compassionate rescuers and brave and desperate slaves to develop the complex system of safe houses, guides and routes that became known as the Underground Railroad. I’ve read that it was an amazing example of unlikely alliances between people and an example that all folks can organize around a cause and provide leadership when they are committed.
So Harrison County and beyond, where is our allegiance to the way we desire to live? Will we risk comfort and calm to seek new freedoms for all our citizens? It is not as heinous as the conditions of slavery, but we are talking about the same basic opportunities that allow us all to become the best that we can be. This means making available good health care, safe and affordable housing, living-wage jobs, good educations, non-threatening living conditions, and a chance to be a part of an expanded cultural and social life.
Oh yes, you knew I would get around to it again, urging all of us to jump into the action in a growing and changing Southern Indiana. We will then meet the needs for which our ancestors fought.
The ‘icing on the cake’ for us today is that though it will be hard, it will be invigorating and even fun. Perhaps this is the best way I can say thank you to all who paved the way for us today. Each generation will have to look into a mirror for themselves and ask, ‘What do we think our grandchildren will wish we had done when we had a chance to make a difference?’