Monday, August 14, 2006

"These are the times that try men's souls"

One paying some amount of attention has to see the increasing international mayhem enveloping the planet. The mayhem is organized, albeit loosely, by the forces of Militant Islam.

Israel appears on the verge of accepting a "cease fire" while its jihadi enemies are already saying they will keep firing. But who in the real world believes this will bring a "lasting peace"? You can't cease firing while the war rages on.

Case in point: Mark Steyn provides another chilling but brilliant warning of the threat posed by Pan-Islamism to traditional governments.

And this week we saw jihadis seeking to make America and the world forget 9/11 by foisting even greater horrors upon us.

Where is this all going? It depends on who you ask. It depends on what you believe. The ideological divide is great.

An entire American political party has officially made retreating from the war against Islamists its central article of faith.

Still another American political party realizes what is at stake, but it seeks to summon the courage and resolve necessary for the fight.

But Americans who have seen the enemy face-to-face, once again, are finding the courage necessary and are defeating the enemy in every engagement. They will not fail.

But will we fail them? For the central fronts in this war are the mind ... and the heart.

Once again, as Thomas Paine observed nearly 230 years ago when the republic was in great peril, "These are the times that try men's souls."

In looking over Paine's essay, I was struck by the application of certain passages to today's circumstances:
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 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.
Then, as now, challenging times revealed the character of those involved. But freedom then, as now, was worth it. Still, one wonders if we have become so complacent, so lavished with the the comfort and trappings of our modern world as to "esteem too lightly" the blessings given to us. If we do indeed esteem them too lightly, they will be taken from us.
Whether the independence of the continent was declared too soon, or delayed too long, I will not now enter into as an argument; my own simple opinion is, that had it been eight months earlier, it would have been much better. We did not make a proper use of last winter, neither could we, while we were in a dependent state. However, the fault, if it were one, was all our own; we have none to blame but ourselves. But no great deal is lost yet.
The conduct of wars has always been second-guessed, and it was no different in the Revolutionary War. In fact, every war has been filled with mistakes -- by the victors. The point is to dwell on the objective -- defeating the enemy. Paine knew this instinctively because he loved his country. Do today's perpetual critics of America's every move in defending itself love America? If so, then their actions are explained only by either gross incompetence or almost wifull ignorance.
Voltaire has remarked that King William never appeared to full advantage but in difficulties and in action; the same remark may be made on General Washington, for the character fits him. There is a natural firmness in some minds which cannot be unlocked by trifles, but which, when unlocked, discovers a cabinet of fortitude; and I reckon it among those kind of public blessings, which we do not immediately see, that God hath blessed him with uninterrupted health, and given him a mind that can even flourish upon care.
Then, as now, ultimately our success will depend upon the character of those standing against the enemy. One man, George Washington, made a pivotal difference then. The same can happen now.
Why is it that the enemy have left the New England provinces, and made these middle ones the seat of war? The answer is easy: New England is not infested with Tories, and we are. I have been tender in raising the cry against these men, and used numberless arguments to show them their danger, but it will not do to sacrifice a world either to their folly or their baseness. The period is now arrived, in which either they or we must change our sentiments, or one or both must fall. And what is a Tory? Good God! What is he? I should not be afraid to go with a hundred Whigs against a thousand Tories, were they to attempt to get into arms. Every Tory is a coward; for servile, slavish, self-interested fear is the foundation of Toryism; and a man under such influence, though he may be cruel, never can be brave.

But, before the line of irrecoverable separation be drawn between us, let us reason the matter together: Your conduct is an invitation to the enemy, yet not one in a thousand of you has heart enough to join him.
Those who deny the character of the struggle ensure the increased presence of warfare by the comfort given to America's enemies. Paine recognized, as we must, the necessity of changing these "sentiments" in order to prevail.
Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and to repulse it. Say not that thousands are gone, turn out your tens of thousands; throw not the burden of the day upon Providence, but "show your faith by your works," that God may bless you. It matters not where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil or the blessing will reach you all. The far and the near, the home counties and the back, the rich and the poor, will suffer or rejoice alike. The heart that feels not now is dead; the blood of his children will curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole, and made them happy. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.
We who love life and liberty must be able to smile in trouble in order to do what is necessary to preserve our freedom. Can we gather strength from distress? Are there enough free citizens to pursue their principles unto death? If we dig deep to rediscover the source of our character and principles, as our founders did, the answer will be "yes".
There are cases which cannot be overdone by language, and this is one. There are persons, too, who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them; they solace themselves with hopes that the enemy, if he succeed, will be merciful. It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war; the cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf, and we ought to guard equally against both.
The leftist mind today assumes that all are as weak-willed as they are; this projection of self-doubt is potentially fatal. History shows that those seeking to avoid conflict not only fail to do so, but they also draw others into conflict by their inaction and weakness.

By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and submission, the sad choice of a variety of evils — a ravaged country — a depopulated city — habitations without safety, and slavery without hope ...
The choice is simple -- We submit or we fight back. The consequences of either course are evident, if not for us, then for our children.

It's better to struggle to remain free, regardless of the outcome.

But as for me, I agree with Paine: "I thank God, that I fear not."