Famous words echo telling the same, familiar story.
December 23, 1776
“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but “to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER” and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then there is not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.” — Thomas Paine link
Certainly these are the times, not unlike those of the past. A moment crying for clarity. A time of regrouping in the face of prevailing winds against us.
I was reading the passage Ezekiel provides describing his journey to the bone yard. Of course, he sees the situation for what it is. God, however, shows him something else. God instructs him and the bones are reassembled and come back to life. (see Ezekiel 37)
But even Ezekiel alone would not have expected that. He refers to them as “very many” and “very dry”. It is a message of renewal, of possibility against odds. Those were trying times and hope seemed all but lost. It was hard to encourage people at the time when they saw little in their circumstances to be encouraged by. They looked at reality and accepted it for what it was, then adjusted accordingly to accommodate it. Ezekiel’s mission was to change their perceptions and offer them a message of hope in the face of despair.
Paine had a view too. He called to the depths of inspiration to rally the cause. Freedom is a cause. The sunshine patriots would see and accept what they wanted. He knew that. People would adapt.
Just as the Declaration says,” and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” — resigning oneself to inevitable evils flung their way.
Today, we have people with an appetite for unlimited “patient sufferance”.
“I have as little superstition in me as any man living, but my secret opinion has ever been, and still is, that God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly to perish, who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war, by every decent method which wisdom could invent. Neither have I so much of the infidel in me, as to suppose that He has relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils;”
Describing the battles against Howe, pointing out an error his forces committed, he said: “but if we believe the power of hell to be limited, we must likewise believe that their agents are under some providential control.”
Speaking of the fatigued and weary forces, he said:
“All their wishes centered in one, which was, that the country would turn out and help them to drive the enemy back. Voltaire has remarked that King William never appeared to full advantage but in difficulties and in action; the same remark may be made on General Washington, for the character fits him. There is a natural firmness in some minds which cannot be unlocked by trifles, but which, when unlocked, discovers a cabinet of fortitude; and I reckon it among those kind of public blessings, which we do not immediately see, that God hath blessed him with uninterrupted health, and given him a mind that can even flourish upon care.”
Paine goes on, in closing, to hammer the case home:
Why is it that the enemy have left the New England provinces, and made these middle ones the seat of war? The answer is easy: New England is not infested with Tories, and we are. I have been tender in raising the cry against these men, and used numberless arguments to show them their danger, but it will not do to sacrifice a world either to their folly or their baseness. The period is now arrived, in which either they or we must change our sentiments, or one or both must fall. And what is a Tory? Good God! What is he? I should not be afraid to go with a hundred Whigs against a thousand Tories, were they to attempt to get into arms. Every Tory is a coward; for servile, slavish, self-interested fear is the foundation of Toryism; and a man under such influence, though he may be cruel, never can be brave.
But, before the line of irrecoverable separation be drawn between us, let us reason the matter together: Your conduct is an invitation to the enemy, yet not one in a thousand of you has heart enough to join him. Howe is as much deceived by you as the American cause is injured by you. He expects you will all take up arms, and flock to his standard, with muskets on your shoulders. Your opinions are of no use to him, unless you support him personally, for ’tis soldiers, and not Tories, that he wants.
Much as he detests their stands, he reasons with them for the good of the country’s future. He knows the fierce urgency of time and that they’re just an “invitation to the enemy”. Sounds eerily similar. He also has the realistic sense he cannot convince them all. But he doesn’t stop trying. He understood the consequences of such thinking and actions.
Sunshine patriots, then and now, are as much a threat as enemies plotting against us. Let us have the reason to discern them. To add further insult today, they peddle their own false hope. It doesn’t matter that they carry a banner of “hope and change” when its a vain hope. Complacency disguised as hope – empty and shifting in the wind.
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