“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
We have no definitive proof that the opening line of Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, “The American Crisis,” published in the deepest dark of the American Revolution, directly inspired George Washington and his troops to cross the Delaware, surprise the British at Trenton, and change the momentum of the war.
“The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country…”
As a man who has always viewed citizenship as a responsibility of heart and hand and mind, rather than of arms, I like to think that Thomas Paine’s words made as much difference as any musket.
“…but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the most serious threat our democracy has ever faced. I do not pen those words lightly. We have endured a Civil War when states seceded from our Union; a Gilded Age of backroom political bosses; a Jim Crow era of vigilante action; and a purge on so-called Unamerican activities. I came of age during the era of Civil Rights, and can attest that the physical violence we laid upon each other during those years was far greater than that we witness now. So, why do I think the threat our or democracy on January 6 is so much worse?
During the 1960’s, citizens who had been left out of the promise of America clamored for the opportunity to fully participate—they wanted to get in. On January 6, 2020, already enfranchised citizens climbed the walls of our Capital to obstruct the democratic process—they wanted to keep others out.
“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered…”
We live in a moment of unparalleled confusion; so much data, so much misinformation, so few shared truths. We have little faith in institutions, and less faith in each other.
“…yet we have this consolation…that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
Let us rise in this anniversary moment of a treasonous event and take action to ensure equality and justice for all. Let us acknowledge that despite falling short of our aspirations for nearly 250 years, we will strive, peacefully, to realize our truly remarkable American vision: that each of us will have equal voice in governing our nation.
“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”