These are the times that try our souls. Thomas Paine’s words in the Pennsylvania Journal in 1776 apply today. Paine was rallying the country to the danger of apathy in the face of Great Britain’s military might.
We would do well to heed his message now.
“The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country,” Paine wrote. “But he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
While some may question whether today’s test is as severe as revolutionary times, there is no doubt that our national government is in crisis. Since Donald Trump occupied the White House, there has been a constant litany of chaos, corruption and cronyism. All governments have a few examples of malfeasance, but the Trump administration’s parade of plunderers has created a constant narrative of political scandal that is chronic, blatant and widespread.
And now we have learned the truth about the meeting between Trump’s campaign staff and those connected with the Russian government who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump lied about the nature of that meeting when it was first disclosed. Can anyone doubt now that Trump’s people wanted Russian help to win the election?
When all the dots are connected, it becomes clear that Trump’s advisors were willing to work with a hostile foreign power to gain control of our government. An enemy aided in the election of Donald Trump by leaking stolen computer documents from Clinton’s campaign. Trump first concocted a false explanation for the campaign meeting and he has since tried to derail the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian interference. Moreover, he has attacked the free press that is disclosing the extent of his corruption.
Trump was elected by just about 29 percent of the country’s eligible voters. Perhaps more people would have paid attention if they knew the Russians were attempting to meddle in the election.
Meanwhile, the Republicans in power have failed to exercise their constitutional duty of acting as a check on the executive. By their acquiescence, they are responsible for the deteriorating morals in the conduct of the government. Make no mistake, how a government acts filters down into the conduct of its people.
“Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher,” wrote Justice Louis Brandeis. “For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.”
When I was growing up, children were taught that George Washington never told a lie. Now Trump keeps fact checkers permanently engaged, counting the number of lies he tells on a daily basis. What are we supposed to tell our grandchildren now?
It was unthinkable a generation ago that someone like Trump could be the President of the United States. The commander in chief is now the corrupter in chief–a philanderer connected to a porn star, who boasted of groping women, who laughed at the idea of disclosing his taxes, who avoided military service, who giggled when he talked about soldiers who were awarded the Purple Heart, who scoffed at a hero who had been a prisoner of war, who stiffed his contractors, who defrauded students of “Trump University,” and who barred black people from his rental units.
The question that could be asked now of Donald Trump is the same question that was asked during the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s. “Have you no sense of decency?”
Since Trump’s election, thousands of people have taken to the streets in national demonstrations against him and in behalf of other causes. Perhaps more people are now willing to engage in democracy and to exercise their duty as citizens. Will the marchers who have chanted and carried signs show up at the polls to cast ballots?
Maybe more people are paying attention now than before the 2016 general election. Perhaps more voters have been alerted to “The American Crisis.” We can only hope. Turnout during Missouri’s primary election indicates more voters are interested in who controls their government. On Nov. 6 the ranks will be counted. Some will stand with their country while others will be “sunshine soldiers and summer patriots.”