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Sunday, May 31, 2009

These Are the Times, Mr. Paine

Thomas Paine wrote this on December 23, 1776: "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, the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value." Of course, Paine wrote these lines in the frightful times of the American Revolution. However,don't they still ring just as true today? Little has dimmed the message since its first printing. Patriots still "deserve the love and thanks of man and woman." The terrorism patriots face is indeed "tyranny that is not easily conquered." And, the value of what is obtained in the ongoing struggle still gives "everything its value." Less well known is another Thomas Paine quote: "The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion." Paine believed in the importance of improving conditions of all world inhabitants. Almost prophetic in view, Paine's statement seems more suited to the 21st Century than to his own 18th Century. The United States now finds itself in a world community of very complicated interdependence. Since America's independence, the country has grown increasingly dependent on world trade, world alliances, and better world relations. Most citizens of the United States seem more than willing to reap the benefits of this interdependence, but less of these people are less than willing to face the consequences of dealing with its hardships. The economy is hurting and many blame foreign interests. The armed services are engaged in struggles to insure the safety of its citizenry, yet many are quick to disapprove of military actions. Criticisms upon criticisms seem to daily remind us that these are still "the times that try men's souls." And, unfortunately, "summer soldiers" still shrink as their climate becomes bleaker. Maybe these, indeed, are very trying, hard times in which to live. Many things seem never to change in some people's perspective of living through such trials. And to be honest, how much of this oppression is self-administered? How many negative aspects of these "trying times" are Americans willing to claim come from within their borders? Maybe we should look in the mirror to find a blameworthy individual. People can no longer expect to attain cheaply the guarantees of a happy existence through just wishes or inheritance. All must act and all must play vital roles in the world. In a struggle to maintain certain good qualities and to change other negative aspects of a modern world, people are going to meet stiff resistance. Global tyranny is both bold and elusive. Dealing with visible threats and hidden dangers, patriots are still willing to risk their lives to defend freedom. As Thomas Paine said long ago, "the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph." And, so it goes with "doing good" all over the globe.
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