These are the times that try men’s souls

“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.”

 – Thomas Paine in “The American Crisis”

Thomas Paine (Common Sense) wrote the essays that comprise The American Crisis between 1776 and 1783. We have had many such times between 1783 and this moment and may, in fact, be living during such times today.

Wikipedia Photo

I have always liked the phrase The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot because those terms encapsulate so many of the oftentimes lazy and safe responses to the ideals we revere as a country as well as to the comfortable people one never finds “down in the trenches” when the moment comes to not only make a commitment but to sacrifice one’s time and money to engrave our ideals into the real fabric of everyone’s daily reality.

In Congress, business, the organized church, and other groups the committee is often mocked as a group that talks and ponders but never takes definitive action. If you want to bury a proposal, assign it to a committee. At the same time, committee members (like groups of concerned citizens talking during barbecues and dinner parties) believe talking and pondering is synonymous with action.

If asked, these summer soldiers and the sunshine patriots will say “I’m very involved with cleaning up rivers and lakes. . .saving and restoring-old growth forests. . .stopping human trafficking and female genital mutilation,” etc.

It’s tempting to respond with: “How many riverkeeper/keep-my-county-beautiful treks have you made to haul garbage bags of trash out of rivers, lakes, and shorelines. . .how many trees did you save or did you plant. . .how many mutilations did you stop?” Or, alternatively, are you an active (that is to say, a working) member of any groups or agencies working to improve the status quo of such issues?

It’s wrong to criticize friends, neighbors, and co-workers in this way, so the typical response to “I’m involved with…” is silence, and that’s one of the reasons why these are the times that try men’s souls.












Writing about current issues

During the 1960s, folk songs, poems, and books focused on the stormy issues of the day. They seemed to have a large audience, primarily among high school and college audiences. One primary focus was, of course, the war, followed by such things as the military-industrial complex, credibility gap, conscription, ROTC on campuses, and civil rights.

Protest songs and literature seemed to subside for a while; or maybe not. If they did, they have certainly returned now. Sites like Literary Hub, Arts & Letters Daily, and Poets & Writers that post articles and links claim there are more writers speaking out today than ever. The liberal writers, of course, focus their wrath on Trump; the conservative and moderate writers focus their wrath on the Democrats’ move toward the far left.

I think the anti-war movement during the 1960s did finally influence more people to look at what we were doing in Vietnam and whether or not it was worth it. Maybe I’ve just gotten older, but it seems to me that a lot of today’s protests are preaching to the choir; it’s as though the writers have given up on influencing the opposition.

I try to stay away from most of that. For one thing, I seldom write poetry, so I can’t suddenly come out with a new poem that speaks to an issue. While my Florida Folk Magic series targets Jim Crow attitudes and the KKK in the 1950s, I’m not writing present-day fiction that gives me an opportunity to make snarky or wise comments about today’s issues.

I do have hot-button issues such as China’s brutal and illegal occupation of Tibet, so-called honor killings, and the environment, and from time to time, I say something about one or more of these on Facebook. Most people who see my news feed tend to ignore Tibet and honor killing posts while agreeing that we don’t need to be rolling back conservation gains made in previous years. Sometimes I wish I were a badass poet who could write quickly, for then I could speak more about the issues I care about.

So, for the most part, I am silent. Those who champion many issues say that our silence is the same thing as consent. Perhaps so. I feel bad about that at times. However, I’m a long-time introvert, so I’m not going to be out there like AOC with a daily barrage of complaints and finger-pointing. President Nixon popularized the phrase “silent majority,” implying that outside all the shrill protests, a large number of people (presumably) agreed with him. I didn’t like that phrase then and I don’t like it now because it’s just too darned easy to say that the so-called silent majority supports whatever you want.

I do have a volatile Scots temper, so I’m likely to get into serious trouble online if I say what I really think. Plus, I have a general distrust of political parties, so my views are all over the spectrum rather than dictated by the top brass of one group or another. This means that when I do speak out on Facebook, I tend to get bashed by both Republicans and Democrats. General Chesty Puller once said, “We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.” Yes it does, but it’s not a comfortable place to be online.

So, when anybody asks me what I think about the issues, the Fifth Amendment is my friend. That sounds gutless, I know, but at my age, I can’t beat anyone up or run fast enough to get away from them.





Thugs Masquerading as ‘Honorable Men’

A year ago yesterday, 17-year-old Du’a Khalil Aswad was stoned to death in Bashiqa, Northern Iraq by thugs masquerading as “honorable men.”

The “honorable men” who dropped a concrete block on her face, dragged her body behind a truck and buried her with the corpse of a dog were cheered on by the crowd of equally “honorable men.”

Her closest relatives were among the thugs present that day, and while the video of Du’a’s murder was seen around the world and captured by cell phones for all to watch in the comfort of their quiet consciences, the evidence brought no one to justice, for old-world justice in Northern Iraq—as in many other locations around the world–is being shepherded forward unscathed into the modern world by “honorable men.”

“Honorable men” kill 5,000 women a year, for falling in love as Du’a did, for being raped, for chatting on Facebook, for refusing to marry, for adultery, for wanting to remain single, for speaking with a man, for purportedly dishonoring their “honorable men.”

Women within the world of “honor killings” are bought, sold, traded, like so much chattel by “honorable men” and when such chattel stray or appear to stray, thugs know well the use of guns, knives, kerosene, poison and stones.

We who refuse asylum to women fleeing from murder by “honor” or deport them home to their deaths…we who say “honor killing” is merely a variation on domestic violence…we who do not reform laws that provide commuted sentences for killers claiming the murder they did was honor motivated…we who placate the powerful by turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the cries of the dying and the cheers of the “honorable assassins”…we who saw the graphic CNN report of Du’a’s death and then turned away unfazed to our happy hour friends…we who have not spoken…who are we?

Can it be said that we, too, are honorable men?

To learn more: International Campaign to Against Honor Killings (ICAHK) and especially Diana Nammi’s Call Unheard.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Malcolm R. Campbell