By Charles Moncrief
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 by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. ~Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis” (1776-1777)
Thomas Paine’s context was the American Revolution, a time of incredible hardship. Bear with ol’ Tom; the Enlightenment had not yet matured to gender neutrality. ‘Nuff said. We have many other things to worry about than political correctness.
The debt rating of the United States of America has been lowered, so for the first time in the nation’s history the words “full faith and credit” are in a shadow rather than casting one. Jobs are no longer secure, bank accounts are no longer safe, contracts are no longer iron clad. Stock and currency markets sank in quicksand. The ship of state is listing at angles few thought imaginable.
No talk here about why all of this upheaval is happening. What’s far more important is that all of this upheaval is happening. It’s a powder keg, and the fuse is short. The heat wave and drought are almost enough in themselves to light the fuse.
Let me be clear. The violence I'm writing about here is not about rioting in the streets, with some multinational peacekeeping force brought in to quell an insurrection. Rather, I'm referring to violence in the homes. In the language of terror readiness, every home with more than one resident needs to be on a heightened alert level. Hospital ER staffs around the nation have extended their usual August warning about the Knife and Gun Club meetings from Friday-Saturday nights to 24 x 7. They were already ramped up in some locales due to the record numbers of consecutive 100-degree days. But the ramps became steeper when the United States lost its prestigious debt rating.
Consider this. Dad comes home from work after hearing that the company is going to hold onto cash rather than pay a bonus. Mom comes home from work after hearing that her caseload is going to remain high, as the firm decided not to hire that qualified assistant for her. The teenager comes home after nearly wrecking the car when some adult cuts him off in an act of road rage. Tensions are high, and annoyances are intolerable. Everyone wants to talk about the rotten day it’s been, and nobody wants to listen.
These are the times that try men’s souls.
These are the times that try women’s souls.
These are the times that try teens’ souls.
These are the times that try children’s souls.
Let me offer some more of Thomas Paine’s wisdom. He wrote of “the sunshine patriot” in the time of crisis. Rather than encourage you not to be a sunshine patriot, I'll presume to remind you that you are not any such thing. Believe it or not, you’ve likely been through worse crises already in your lives. Sure, it’s hard to be objective when you’re looking at current conditions from the inside.
Nobody is trying to sugar-coat anything here. Nobody is trying to minimize our nation’s crisis here. (It’s actually a world-scale crisis, but that’s an academic point now.) But take a look around you and just give some thought to ways you can respond most effectively. Starting in your home, can you ramp up your alert level by including additional measures of patience and forbearance? Can you take just one more deep breath, and maybe count to eleven rather than ten before responding in rage to that comment? Can you listen just a little more attentively to what that other person is going through? Can you make some plans for tomorrow afternoon’s homecoming, to make it even slightly more peaceful and supportive than today’s?
It’s been said that charity begins at home. But sometimes it’s tolerance that may need to get some space as well. Remember, husbands and wives, when you took your wedding vows. You didn’t promise to feel love toward the other person; your promise was to act lovingly whether you felt like it or not. Wouldn’t this be a good time to put some of this into practice just a little more than in the fair-weather times?
Wow! Talk about the times that try our souls!
Grace and Peace, Charles+