Pilgrims footsteps in 'Monumental' leads to knowledge

Tri-City HeraldSeptember 4, 2012 

All across America there are memorials that pay tribute to our forefathers and the freedom we enjoy today. Commemorative plaques, testimonials engraved in stone and monuments that bear witness to sacrifice have been erected as reminders to the generations that follow.

Television star, actor and film producer Kirk Cameron believes we need more reminding.

Monumental: In Search of America's National Treasure is a documentary where Cameron traces the origins of our nation and the historic men and women who were an integral part of the growing pains.

I watched the DVD this past week with fascination. The pilgrims I envisioned as folks in black broad-brimmed hats and quaint muslin dresses daintily setting foot on our shores in New England was a distorted picture.

But by the time I vicariously reached Plymouth, Mass., and then spent the first winter with these 102 brave souls in search of religious freedom, my vision of their suffering was only clouded by tears. Nearly half died from starvation and disease, the brutal elements taking their toll. Many of the women died as they lay on top of their children to provide warmth in the freezing temperatures.

How could I have never understood what drove these pilgrims to hope for a better life and the suffering it took to create a new one. None of what I was learning matched my Norman Rockwell image of smiling pilgrims seated together at their first Thanksgiving.

There was the misery they endured under King James in England as they secretly met for worship and Bible reading; their voyage to the New World on the Mayflower — a wine ship that had never sailed across the Atlantic -- to face 66 days in storms that flooded the hold where they sat in filth — cold, wet and sick.

But the film took me beyond those early settlers to our Founding Fathers whose story was told through historic experts while visuals played on the screen. Cameron himself visits the little known Matrix of Liberty, a monument erected by Congress to demonstrate the key fundamentals for freedom: Faith, Justice, Education and Liberty.

As the film points out, this magnificent monument is a blueprint for what keeps freedom alive — a reminder of our liberty. It is what our forefathers wanted us to remember as our nation faced unknown challenges.

Should we ever forget the roots of our heritage — the willingness to sacrifice for the next generation, our faith in God, the determination to preserve liberty — I worry the consequences could be monumental.

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