“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.”
In the depths of the Revolutionary War, George Washington’s troops struggled with disease, hunger, and defeat. What Washington needed was a kick-ass speech that would rouse the spirit of his troops, renew their belief in democracy, and continue the fight despite the odds.
British born, American patriot Thomas Paine didn’t deliver a speech but wrote instead an inspiring pamphlet. Widely read, Common Sense was the clarion call to action Washington’s beaten down militia needed to return to the battlefield with a renewed determination.
Today, we live in a different world.
Today’s battlefield is truth vs. lies. And the integrity of the democratic process by which America works is facing its greatest risk.
Today, that integrity is under attack by a Rashōmon-like moral relativism by one side of the country whose elected officials willingly endorse the lies of a blustering charlatan, while others believe in “We the people.”
Addressing her Republican colleagues at the Reagan Library recently, Liz Cheney describes the danger:
“We’re confronting a domestic threat that we have never faced before. And that is a former president who is attempting to unravel the foundations of our constitutional republic, and he is aided by Republican leaders and elected officials who made themselves willing hostages to this dangerous and irrational man. . . .
“We have to choose, because Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution.”
Cheney is the best example of the character and courage of Washington and the voice of reason of Thomas Paine the country has had and needs today, more than ever.
While it may be difficult for some to see their way through the smoke and mirrors of the former president and the unconscionable who aid him, time is running out and reason has left the building.
However, despite the growing disease of distrust and disinformation, there is a hunger for the return of America’s soul, its integrity, its sense of right and wrong; the same morality that the world admired; the character, courage, and rightness that stood up to bullies.
In Washington’s time, Paine made clear that the American Revolution was the right cause for the right reasons, and the people followed.
Today, America is standing “at the edge of an abyss,” Cheney said, “and we must pull back.” But Cheney has become isolated in her own party and stands on the edge of losing her next election.
Nonetheless, Liz Cheney is courageous and determined in standing face to face with “the times that try men’s [and women’s] souls” as Paine described. And she plainly makes clear the difference between right and wrong and the reality we all face if we abandon the determination and courage needed to choose the right path.
America’s democratic integrity, “of the people, by the people and for the people,” as Lincoln said, only works if the people have the trust and confidence that it will work by choosing truth over lies.
This issue is not Republican or Democrat; it’s existential. We either rid ourselves of the clear and present danger before us or pretend it will just go away at our peril.
I’ll be on summer recess returning after Labor Day.