This article originally posted to Viewpointjournal.com on July 21, 2003:
On September 11, 2001, a clear and beautiful day, trying times returned to the shores of these United States. For as long as live I’ll remember the fear of that day, watching in disbelief as thousands of innocent people were ruthlessly slaughtered and two of the best known buildings in the world, the Twin Towers, crumbled to dust in what seemed to be the blink of an eye.
As I watched the carnage unfold on television, one clear thought emerged from all the chaotic thoughts and questions spinning wildly in my brain; “this is war,” I thought. “Someone has just declared war on us.” On that day, the world changed for us all.
As desperate as things were in late 2001, they were equally desperate, if not more so, for Americans living in the trying times of 1776. It was an interesting irony in that, the year which saw the creation of the stirring document called the Declaration of Independence, was the same year the American cause seemed destined to fail. In that year, as in 2001, the people of America were tossed into an uncertain future whose only promise was the certainty of bloodshed.
By late 1776, George Washington’s army was running for its life. His first engagement with the British on Long Island in August was a disaster. Washington’s troops were flanked by the British and thousands were slaughtered in the ensuing route. For the next three months, Washington and his army would not stop running.
Washington had originally hoped to field an army capable of fighting a European-style war, but had quickly learned that he had no hope of doing this with an army made up of inexperienced “citizen soldiers.” It was during this period, in mid-December, that Thomas Paine, who was then traveling with Washington’s troops, wrote “The American Crisis,” in which these words were written:
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 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.
Uttered over 225 years ago, these words again speak to us during this present crisis. The key figure today is George W. Bush, who is laboring to bear the intense burden of this war on terror. The President knows that he will be held directly responsible for any and every failure in this war, and should we fail to win this war, the cost will be unimaginable. Our enemy has pledged to destroy us, and they will do everything in their power to carry out this threat. They will follow us across the globe, attack every democratic government they find, and will, as always, target the weakest and most innocent among us.
Washington and Bush have yet another thing in common; the additional challenges posed by the conflicting loyalties of Americans around them.
For Washington, it was the Tories, those Americans who strongly objected to the notion of parting from their British homeland. They were loyal citizens of the crown and sought to aid the crown against Washington and his upstart rebels. Despite the fact that Washington fought to keep the British from occupying New York City in the first days of the war, the vast majority of New Yorkers were Tories. After the Battle of Long Island and the expulsion of Washington’s troops from New York City, British troops and officers found themselves hoisted on the shoulders of New York citizens and wildly cheered.
Similarly, President Bush is dealing with the conflicting loyalties of political partisans who would rather put the well-being of their party before the well-being of the nation. It’s a conflict that the President has faced since even before his inauguration, after having won the controversially close election against Gore. From that time to this, many DNC leaders have been working to redefine the Democratic Party as the “Anti-Bush Party,” and not even the horrendous events which took place on 9/11 will supercede their desire to undermine the one whom they can never accept as President.
For a short time after 9/11, Democrats did cease their attacks on Bush, but only because it was not politically expedient to do otherwise. Like the Tories, they remained silent when they felt public opinion was not in their favor, but they never forgot their ultimate loyalties.
Now, as the 2004 election cycle looms, a disappointingly large number of Democrats have pulled out every stop in the hopes of undermining the one they see as their real enemy, the President of The United States. Having found few flaws, they work to enhance the ones he has shown and are using President Clinton’s real legacy, American doubt as to the truthfulness and integrity of their Presidents, to full effect.
Unfortunately, these attacks have a ripple effect which extends well beyond the borders of our own nation. Not only is it likely that their actions encouraged Saddam Hussein to remain defiant towards the US when President Bush issued his UN-backed ultimatum, it has certainly helped create international doubt about the integrity of our actions in this war on terror. At a time when, every day, American lives are at stake, these modern-day Tories have consistently placed party before country.
Obviously, no person, including our President, is perfect, which is why it is appropriate to parallel today’s events with the events of late 1776. In December of that year, Washington’s leadership too, was severely in doubt. Worse was the fact that Washington doubted himself. By December, he had grown truly despondent. British commanders were receiving reports that Washington was spending a great deal of time by himself in his quarters and had been observed, at times, in tears.
Washington, whose idealism convinced him to take on the burden of opposing the world’s greatest military power, was, after all, just a human being who had suffered one crushing defeat after another. I can only imagine that the Continental Congress, who had appointed him to lead the army, had the same doubts. It was likely that, if nothing changed before spring, the British army would redeploy and crush the American uprising for good.
In a similar fashion, shortly after 9/11, many in this country wondered if President Bush would have what it takes to lead the nation in a time of crisis. We weren’t left wondering for long, because Bush stepped up to the plate immediately and went to work, encouraging and inspiring the nation, as well as preparing us to take action against those who would see us destroyed.
Yes, President Bush will continue to have modern-day Tories to contend with, but I do believe that his leadership will stand up against these nit-picking partisans, both in this nation and abroad. This President knows the value as well as the cost of liberty, and has chosen to act in courage and not play the role of a “summer soldier” and/or a “sunshine patriot.”
Though the invasion of Iraq and the ouster of Saddam is being intensely questioned, I seldom hear these modern-day Tories utter the most important question of all: Isn’t freedom for the Iraqi people and hope for a safer world a worthy cause? In light of the terror attacks of 9/11, could we truly have continued to ignore Saddam Hussein and the potential threat he posed to the world? Even President Clinton was forced to admit in 1998 that, unless we took action, Saddam would never give up all his weapons. After twelve years of failed attempts to contain a madman, combined with the events of 9/11, no President of this nation could have ignored the threat that he posed.
Freedom has always been an expensive commodity, and Democrats of all people should know this. After all, it was a Democratic President who, in 1998, tried to buy freedom on the cheap for the Iraqi people with the firing of a few missiles. All that was gained was over four uninterrupted years of power for Saddam Hussein, and the deaths of who knows how many more Iraqi citizens. An irony to all this is that, in large part, President Clinton launched his attack on Hussein with the same intelligence that President Bush used to launch the attack which finally did overthrow one of the world’s greatest tyrants. Yet it is President Bush, not Saddam Hussein whom these modern-day Tories label a Nazi.
What would our modern-day Tories say to Thomas Paine, who might well accuse them of playing the role of the sunshine patriot? I think, in Mr. Paine’s stead, those of us who know the cost of liberty should seek to remind partisans that “tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.”
Furthermore, we should remember that “what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.” As Tom Paine appropriately tells us, “it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.” Freedom for the Iraqi people, as well as safety for the American people should never be intentionally underrated, especially by those whose only goal is political gain.
So, I think it is worthwhile to remember that, while this man whom we call President is human and, thus, fallible; he is also worthy of our support. And support him we must. The cause of freedom and liberty are far more important than the ambitions of power emanating from modern-day Tories, many of whom now reside in the city of Washington, rather than the city of New York.
We must also remember that every crisis ever faced by this nation has the effect of showing exactly who among us will rise to the challenge of the day, and who will not, either by lack of conviction, courage, or ability. This crisis, as all others, has separated the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. The best news of all is the fact that the chaff of this nation has never yet stopped true Americans from doing what is right in securing the blessing of liberty for people all over the world.
There is no doubt; we are again living in times that try our souls. The question we now face is this; will you be a sunshine patriot, or will you stand firm in the face of adversity? The world is watching and waiting for the answer, and so is history.