Post 1,049

Thomas Paine

248 years ago the slightly known young patriot and freedom zealot Thomas Paine* penned the first pamphlet of The American Crisis, a series of 13 pieces published periodically over 6 years. This first was written as Washington and his army were retreating across the Delaware River and was published in the Philadelphia Journal on December 19, 1776.** That dispirited army then had to endure a dreadful winter, with many freezing or dying of disease at Valley Forge.

Click me

Paine wrote Crisis because we in the Colonies were at a flex point of either knuckling under to a capricious and abusive king with his greatest army and navy in the world, or standing up and saying, “No more!” That decision looked to be anything but certain.

The American crisis was, indeed, most real. Paine sought to reach the masses with his pen, hoping to inform and inspire. He opened his work with words familiar to us even today.

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 everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.” [caps original]

Of course, Paine was right then – and he’s still right. Today we rebel against no unstable monarch across the sea, yet we are in danger of creating our own home-grown capricious despot, eager to steal our highly revered and celestial FREEDOM.

Here’s how Professor of History Heather Cox Richardson closes her 2023 perspective,  Democracy Awakening – Notes on the State of America:

Click me – and read Note #5 below.

“[Lincoln] called on his neighbors to defend equality before the law and the right of everyone to consent to government under which they live. They must reclaim the history of America so that it would have ‘a new birth of freedom.’

“When Lincoln said those words in 1863, it was not at all clear his vision would prevail. But he had hope because after decades in which they had not noticed what the powerful were doing to destroy democracy, Americans had woken up. They realized that the very nature of America was under attack. They were divided among themselves and at first they didn’t really know how to fight back, but ordinary people quickly came to pitch in however they could, using the tools they had. ‘We rose each fighting, grasping whatever he could first reach – a scythe – a pitchfork – a chopping axe, or a butcher’s cleaver,’ Lincoln recalled. Once awake, they found the strength of their majority.

“In Lincoln’s era, democracy appeared to have won. But the Americans of Lincoln’s time did not root out the hierarchical strand of our history, leaving it there for other rising autocrats in the future to exploit with their rhetoric and the fears of their followers.

“So far, the hopes of our Founders have never been proven fully right. And yet they have not been proven entirely wrong.

“Once again, we are at a time of testing.

“How it comes out rests, as it always has, in our own hands.”

I’m grateful for the optimism in Richardson’s title, Democracy Awakening, and hope beyond reason that her optimism is well founded. But, as many have said, hope is not a strategy. Hope by itself is allowing inertia or others take over direction and, ultimately, inertia concedes the battle. Hope needs action and awakening requires effort. That’s where we find ourselves today.

The current assault on our democracy isn’t a sudden event. It was concocted through decades of scheming and incremental undermining of our institutions and our culture to make it possible to take away our rights and FREEDOM. The schemers learned how to inflame Americans to fight against America with false claims unmoored to facts. Nevertheless, the usurpers didn’t just sit with their hope of conquest. They took action and oddly, in that way, they offer us a message, a road map for stopping them, for holding fast to our values and promoting our true American hopes and dreams.

Our task as patriots is to hear the call, that these are, indeed, the times that try men’s and women’s souls. Ours is not to grab “a scythe – a pitchfork – a chopping axe, or a butcher’s cleaver.” It is to awaken and to stand a post with a voter registration clipboard to register new voters. It is to canvass and make phone calls and send postcards to voters in battleground states, reminding them that their FREEDOM is on the line, that their American dream is at stake, that their children’s future is in peril of collapsing beneath them before they’ve even started. It is to show our people that they and we can win the days to come by standing for the America that Lincoln taught us we are meant to be.

As Richardson makes clear, “How it comes out rests, as it always has, in our own hands.” It’s time for us to put our hands to work, to stand and say to those who would crush our democracy, “No more!” Then we will have put hope to work and we will be worthy of it.

Speaking Of Hope

Photo credit: Al Jazeera

Hey Bibi!

We know that you feel like you can’t make peace in Gaza because there would immediately be an election in the Knesset which will throw you out of office and into court to stand trial. And we know there is validity to wanting to demolish Hamas before it demolishes Israel, as it has promised to do. But you cannot kill an idea.

Really, Bibi, does this little kid look like a threat to you? Or does the bubbe standing behind him? Or any of the people in any of the Al Jezeera photos here?

Shocking truth #1: Regardless of the destruction you rain down on Gaza, Hamas will not surrender. Ever. And they will only release the hostages when they feel they no longer need them. Bombs won’t set the hostages free or protect Israel for more than just a short time.

Shocking truth #2: This is not all about you. You’re not the center of the universe. You’re just a guy bombing helpless people. The world needs you to wake up. Step over to the right side. Call yourself a mensch if it helps you to do so. Regardless, turn off the attacks. You know: like a statesman. Or a mensch.

You liked Ronald Reagan, right? To paraphrase him,

Mr. Netanyahu, tear down your attacks.


* For a glimpse into the world in which Paine wrote his charged missives, read this fine piece on that history by Steve Schmidt.

** The first pamphlet of The American Crisis was, by order of the Commander – Washington – read to his troops at Valley Forge. It provided sufficient inspiration so that shortly thereafter Washington and his little army re-took Trenton.

The final pamphlet of The American Crisis was published on April 19, 1783 on the 8th anniversary of the first shot of the war, the one “heard ’round the world” from Lexington and Concord. I invite you to link through and read Emerson’s short poem out loud. In a surprising and metaphorical way, we today are required to be the embattled farmers standing by that stream.

Today is a good day to be the light

  • _____________________________
  • Our governance and electoral corruption and dysfunction and our ongoing mass murders are all of a piece, all the same problem with the same solution:
  • Fire the bastards!
  • The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

  • Did someone forward this post to you? Welcome! Please subscribe – use the simple form above on the right. And pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) It’s going to take ALL OF US to get the job done.

    And add your comments below to help us all to be better informed.


    The Fine Print:

    1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings.
    2. There are lots of smart, well-informed people. Sometimes we agree; sometimes we don’t. Search for others’ views and decide for yourself.
    3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
    4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.
    5. Book links to Amazon are provided for reference only. Please purchase your books through your local mom & pop bookstore. Keep them and your town or neighborhood vibrant.

    Click me


Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What do you think?

Your name and e-mail address are required, but your e-mail will not be disclosed.

Keep the conversation going by both adding your comments and by passing this along to three friends.
That´s how things get better.

3 Responses to Hope
  1. Chervony Reply

    Best piece ever, Jack. Send it to media outlets. This needs to be blasted anyhow, everywhere.

  2. Kirk Landers Reply

    Jack, your comments on Netanyahu and Israel are especially interesting to me. I share your low regard for Netanyahu but I find myself justifying his actions in Gaza, as horrid as they are. When Gazans and Arabs and sympathetic Westerners assail Israel for the inhuman suffering in Gaza, no one ever mentions that the Gazan’s government initiated the war, and that the gruesome deaths of their own citizens was a primary strategy. A few people remember that Hamas’ only stated goal is the destruction of Israel, but no one mentions that the tens of billions of dollars of aid that flowed into Gaza for the past decade went to build miles and miles of tunnels and acquire rockets and missiles and assorted other weaponry. Had those billions been invested in infrastructure and enterprise, Gazans might well have been among the wealthiest nations in the world instead and this war would never have occurred.

    The dour, self-centered, and bitter Netanyahu is the worst possible spokesman for Israel at this time, and it’s fair to wonder if a more empathetic leader could find a better way to finish this conflict, but I don’t think all criticism of him and of Israel needs to start with the disclaimer that this was started by Gaza’s own government and it is reasonable and just that Israel defends itself.

    How far to go with the response? I don’t know, but the correct answer needs to be based on pragmatism, not some kind of moral judgement.

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      Agree all. And the continuing bombardment provokes ever more harsh condemnation of Israel and Jews with now unknown, but likely bad consequences.