July 2, 2017
Happy upcoming Independence Day, fellow Americans. I don’t vent my political spleen with these posts (for which probably half of you are grateful and the other half condemn me as a coward.) I’m not going to alter that custom now. Instead I want to highlight a few (I hope) innocuous words of Thomas Paine.
He wrote, in The Crisis (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 everything 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….”
Impressive words, no? Stirring. We take America for granted now, and assume as inevitable the triumph of the colonists over the Crown. But our ancestors undertook no simple task and with no guarantee of victory. Death, whether by hanging, by lead ball, by disease induced or exacerbated by military camp, was as likely a prospect as was defeat of the mighty British army and its Hessian mercenaries. I wonder if I would have possessed the courage and fortitude to see it through.
I was what Paine might have considered a summer soldier, serving as an Army Reservist in the period between the Gulf Wars. My sacrifices, such as they were, were relatively minuscule in light of the struggles that preceded and followed my term of enlistment. But I’d like to hope I’m no sunshine patriot. I’d like to think I value my freedoms. But I wonder if I accord them their true worth. It seems that most of my life freedom has been increasingly devalued, people more concerned with what their country could do for them, not what they could do for their country. What increasingly seems of value is not the freedom from tyranny the country ensures, but the goods and services the country doles out.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just settling into early geezerdom. Maybe true patriotism is alive and well and love of freedom endures, along with those willing to ensure its continuance. I hope so. And, since I fear I may be drifting dangerously close to the shoals of politics, I’ll simply reiterate Happy Independence Day, and then shut up.