“…the way it should be.”

34 stars, 1863

“You want the country to be the way it should be,” a woman named Lou Riggen wrote to my great-grandfather Ed Lybarger when he was a 22-year-old lieutenant in the 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, US Army. “I want the country to be the way it was,” Miss Riggen concluded.

In the reading I’ve done about Civil War opinions and politics in order to better understand my great-grandfather’s letters, Miss Riggen’s statements were social code in an era when few people were explicit about anything. What Miss Riggen meant was that my great-grandfather was willing to fight a war to save the Union and end slavery in every state. Miss Riggen meant that she didn’t think it was worth fighting a war over slavery, just let the slave states continue on with their way of life, and let life go on as it had in the North before the war.

50 stars, 2020

I agree with the sentiments of my great-grandfather Ed in the 1860’s.

In the 2020’s, I want to live in a country the way it should be, where:

  • Every person is treated equally and with respect.
  • It’s easy for every citizen to vote, without restriction or suppression.
  • Every voting district is drawn ethically and equitably.
  • Maybe the US has 3 or 4 political parties, giving us a fuller discussion of social solutions.
  • Actions caused by hate are as illegal as we can make them.
  • Policemen live in the communities they serve, and are accountable to those communities when they fail to protect and serve, by use of excessive force.
  • Workers’ unions are supported as much as police unions are.
  • We welcome immigrants, as our immigrant forebears were welcomed to this country, not turned away.
  • We make meaningful reparations to the indigenous Americans whose land and way of life our forebears lied and stole to acquire.
  • Our children carry on less of our racial bias, and their children carry on even less racial bias, and etc.

It’s difficult for me to understand that anyone could purposefully choose not to “hold these truths to be self-evident.”

In 1865, at the end of the Civil War, Ed Lybarger and Lou Riggen (a wartime penpal) arranged to meet for the first time. But their letters ceased, and they never met as far as I know. Ed returned to Millwood, Ohio and married his hometown sweetheart Sophronia Adams, the love of his life. She wanted the country to be the way it should be, too.

I’m grateful to have an ancestor who fought on the right & winning side of the Civil War. He enlisted with his friends at the start of the war in order to preserve the Union and not let George Washington down. I’m grateful that when the fight came down to ending slavery before the South could be defeated and the Union preserved–he stayed in the fight until the Union won and slaves were free men and women. And I’m grateful that he came home alive.

One thought on ““…the way it should be.””

  1. I’m with you — and your ancestor! We are now so far from what we should be, but there is a growing feeling that we MUST rescue “the soul of the country,” as Biden says.

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