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By Forrest Hershberger
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Reliving History, Reluctantly or by Coercion?

 

April 21, 2021 | View PDF

“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 his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

— Thomas Paine from “The American Crisis.”

These words were written during a time of crisis. The colonists would either be patriots or rebels. According to History.com, Paine wrote this during a time when Gen. Washington was experiencing defeat after defeat, thousands of volunteers were leaving the cause and returning home. The publishing of “Common Sense” was used to inspire the revolution. “American Crisis” was written to return focus, inspire volunteers to stay the course.

Those words couldn’t be more true today, though maybe a slightly different context. We are definitely living in a time that tries men’s souls. Who would have thought!

I wonder how many of the founding fathers would have expected the grand experiment would be on a slide from encouraging people to follow their dreams and work for their needs to gradually the government telling us how we are to live. Does it ever strike anyone how, God and religion put aside, we appear to be thumbing our nose at one of the greatest blessings?

History classes have for generations taught of fights for freedom, of poets and generals sharing the same space in time. The quotes of Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and countless others not as quickly recognized who saw the problems with a heavy-handed government, and chose freedom instead.

Yes, the history classes I had also taught of the misdeeds of the US. We, say our government leaders over time, have made decisions that should embarrass us. Some were laws. Some were accepted social practices. Yet other times, goals based on incomplete or inaccurate information lead to dark chapters.

If anything the “American experiment” as it is called is proof that a person can change geography and not change who they are. The Europeans didn’t arrive on American soil and suddenly hate everyone who isn’t white. History shows American settlement was a melting pot from the beginning. There were those seeking refuge and a new way of life (religiously, socially and politically) those who were enticed by the prospect of exploring a new place, and those who it was kind of a dumping group — prison or settle a new land.

So, generations before the Declaration of Independence was considered, we had occasions where the God-fearing but not following the state church, the appointed administrator of the town, a buckskin-wearing explorer and a convict could have met at the same corner.

In some ways, things haven’t changed much, except we seem to be moving toward a circular firing squad mentality. We are not united, even to say toward a common enemy. We, collectively, came to this land with the intention of telling government to back off, have less control over our personal lives.

In the short time we’ve been a nation, short compared to other places in the globe, we’ve expected the government to this, then that, then another. Before long, “the government that governs least, governs best” became a topic for crumudgeons at coffee shops, not an expectation of voters.

It didn’t take long before Benjamin Franklin’s quote was forgotten. It is said that upon leaving the Constitutional Convention, Franklin was asked what kind of government we have. His response was simple, but very clear of our responsibility. “A republic madam. Now, if we can keep it.”

That challenge will remain as long as we’re ok letting agencies and agendas control our day to day life. The scale is tipped, and in some ways we shouldn’t be surprised. If our hearts won’t change, government has to step in to maintain an ordered society.

People have an innate character flaw of fear; fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of... the afterlife. The list goes on as the expansive list of defined phobias explain. Our current state of affairs implies we are being managed by the most basic of fears — sickness, and death, tied closely to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs. Much of the US has devolved from freedom to succeed or fail, to increasing dependence on the government, a position that motivated many to leave Europe centuries ago.

The remaining question is not why. That can be debated in any watering hole from the corner to the end of civilization. The questions remaining are what is next, and what are we willing to tolerate.

 

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