"These are the times that try men's soul."
Beginning with these stirring words, the poet goes on to criticize "sunshine patriots," those whose willingness to make personal sacrifices freeze over in the cold. Today, we seem divided as never before. But are we? Have we never before faced such divisions over what we as a nation ought to be doing? Benjamin Franklin and John Adams helped Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence. Adam's son went on to follow in his father's footsteps as president. Franklin, himself nearing retirement, saw his son, then governor of New Jersey, leave the colonies when independence was achieved, having supported colonialism over independence. In their individual ways, each of these three men had their soles, not their patriotism, tried.
Expressing lamentation over what the future might bring, recently Newt Gingrich opined that his grandchildren might live in a land ruled by atheists or Muslim radicals. Did Jefferson, Adams or Franklin ever express worry about such fantasies? Some have estimated that in their day, these men stood out in a group of revolutionaries representing perhaps 15 percent of the total population. Their opponents, the loyalists, represented perhaps another 15 percent. As might be proven by some voter turnouts, today as back then, perhaps 70 percent of the population is not really engaged. Their worries focus more on obtaining their daily bread, then tomorrow's, than on what the next generation might be eating.
We who do worry have common problems and concerns. But we also have unproductive discord between the 30 percent who seem intent on worrying about the future. In the land of freedom and opportunity for all, we fret over those who have snuck in, unconcerned for the reasons why they risk so much to sneak. We fret over rights, not worrying about a lack of responsibility in exercising those rights. We express discord over a minority whose problems and concerns led to a confrontation on 9-11, judging those few as being representative of the vast majority whose concerns were never ours until then.
Wake up, if you will, and smell the roses! Truly "these are the times that try men's souls!" However the trial is not over acts of patriotism, but, as with Adams, Jefferson and Franklin, over the soul. What do we really stand for? Do we really have nothing to fear but fear itself, fear which divides us? As with the revolutionaries of old, we all hang together or we all hang separately, the choice being ours.
Dale Whiting, Chandler