“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. 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”
(Thomas Paine, The American Crisis. Dec. 19, 1776.)
In the 1700’s a group of angry patriots dared to sparked a revolution. They did all they could by diplomatic standards–going so far as to leave the “civilized” country they were born and raised in, simply wanting to live in peace unencumbered by the insecurities of a ruling class who sought to restrain their dreams. Willing to migrate across treacherous seas, to trade the “comforts of home” for a wilderness setting filled with unknowns, these rebels had a cause; a desire for freedom from tyranny, taxation and the oppressive rule of a king who cared little for his subjects and all for his capital gains.
Freedom doesn’t come easily, nor can it be given. The early American revolutionaries did not rely on the efforts of others; they did not wait for a savior to rescue them from their plight. They saw the futility of holding out for the empty promises of the ruling parties in their fatherland and took matters in their own hands knowing the standards and principles on which they based their actions were worthy of the sacrifice.
Fear struck the hearts of the sophisticated gentry who had been left behind as they came to realize they might have to learn to fend for themselves; to make their beds, clean their yards, tend their children–give up the “good life” for the reality of Life.
As red coated aristocrats stepped across open fields with arrogance befitting the ignorance of those highly pampered elitists who believed their money left them invincible and able to conquer and manipulate a world which must have been created for their pleasure, the carefully laid rebellion began in earnest; lessons of survival adding to the strength of will of those who had tasted freedom for themselves and understood what was needed to remain free.
What the leaders of the lords of London failed to recognize were the character and strength of the rebels whose disrespect to the “king” they had hoped to quell. They could not understand the drive and commitment these rebels held for preserving their individual freedoms. They had little respect for the meaning of those freedoms; their sense of freedom having been bought, not earned. Yet the fear they held for the strength of men they did not understand caused them to raise their weapons to destroy what they feared, and freedom loving revolutionaries were left with no other option but to defend themselves in kind, even as they continued to hope for peace.
“It is easy to perceive that individuals by agreeing to erect forms of government, (for the better security of themselves) must give up some part of their liberty for that purpose; and it is the particular business of a Constitution to mark out how much they shall give up. ”
(Paine, Letter IV, Four Letters of Interesting Subjects, 1776.)
It was not an ill-conceived love of country or nationalist pride that gave these revolutionaries the right to be called patriots. They were patriots for having laid a foundation for the way of life they envisioned, and believed in it enough to be willing to defend it with a commitment only others like them could understand. They worked tirelessly to create a set of laws which would serve as a guideline for their vision, Laws of Humanity incorporated into a Constitution which they believed to be just and fair to all even as the authors admitted to flaws which would only be tempered by time. Each was willing to give up something so that all could live in the greatest freedom possible. They were patriots because they stood their ground for the right to live with their own high standards and principles, and their individual sacrifices were deserving of their expectation that those standards be maintained in the actions of all who chose to live in the new nation founded on their blood.
Where have all the patriots gone?
We have hired defenders for every action under the sun; lobbyists in Congress, advocates in business, in school, in healthcare, and soldiers at war. What was once a new country formed by the vision of independent thinkers is now a nation of followers passing the buck to anyone who craves publicity–although today’s “buck” barely scratches the surface of the price followers pay for someone else to be their voice of “truth.”
The patriots of 1776 were willing to fight with all they had for the freedoms defined in their newly penned Constitution simply because it had been their hands which had done the work to establish the nation whose laws were represented by that constitution; they were their own voice of Truth.
They did the work and earned the right to declare their freedom.
Now, with every day that passes United States citizens lose a little more of their freedom, at least on paper. But did they have that freedom to begin with? Certainly not the freedom they demanded, nor had they earned; not as a nation and not in recent history. United States citizens have been living with the illusion of freedom for generations now. With nothing much more than a slap on the wrist, they allow the administration’s actions of corruption and deception to continue; “sunshine patriots” and “summer soldiers” giving lip-service to the words of the Constitution but little attention to their meaning, willingly conceding more of their freedom to avoid the hard work required to deserve what freedom really means.
Freedom is not free–and United States citizens are losing more of their freedom every day as they freely choose to allow others to make their decisions for them; justifying their actions from the safety of their living rooms saying “it’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we don’t know what else to do.”
What else to do?
STAND UP AND FIGHT!!!!!!
Fight back with a willingness to sacrifice comfort for the principles of law which give us all our freedom.
Fight for what you have earned. Wait. What has been earned? This freedom you speak of has no meaning, no value; it remains illusion–words spoken from the podiums of a thousand different protests and a hundred different congressional caucuses as if giving a dramatic soliloquy from the center of a spotlight on an otherwise dimly lit stage–freedom earned by the sweat of those on the frontlines is only real to those willing to sweat. Oh, how Americans seem to be so afraid to sweat.
Our soldiers are dying, our veterans have suffered the lasting effects of fighting for an unjust, undefined cause. Our country is fading from a once proud new nation of rebels with revolutionary ideas, willing to sacrifice their luxuries for the right to live in freedom, to a land of elitists willing to sacrifice their freedoms for the right to live in luxury.
Where are the revolutionaries? We do not need more self-proclaimed “patriots” re-enacting pages from a history book—we need revolutionaries.
Revolutionaries are determined to maintain high standards, strength of character and demonstrate their respect for others as our Constitution demands, even as they stand for change in a corrupt, increasingly immoral shadow of a country once founded on standards, strength of character and respect for others.
Revolutionaries know they must be, within themselves, all the changes they want to see.
Revolutionaries are willing to fight for their freedom with everything they have, giving up nothing of themselves in the process, earning the right for that freedom by living the cost.
Where are these rebels who understand the depth of the cause?
“Every man who acts beyond the line of private life must expect to pass through two severe examinations. First, as to his motives, secondly, as to his conduct.”
(Paine, Letter I, Four Letters of Interesting Subjects, 1776.)
The conduct of United States citizens clearly defines their commitment to the cause–it is past time for a revolution–the final exam is scheduled to begin. Will our conduct reflect the high standards true freedom demands? Or are our motives simply a cover to hide the fact that we have not yet learned what freedom really means?
MONICA BENDERMAN is the wife of Sgt. Kevin Benderman, a ten-year Army veteran who served a combat tour in Iraq and a year in prison for his public protest of war and the destruction it causes to civilians and to American military personnel. Please visit their website, www.BendermanDefense.org to learn more.
Kevin and Monica may be reached at email@example.com