I woke up this morning, inauguration day 2017, with “It’s the End Of The World As We Know It” by REM going through my head. No kidding. My first thought was that the parenthetical part of the title (and second line of the chorus) “(And I Feel Fine)”, of course, didn’t apply, but as I showered and dressed I realized that it did. I do feel fine. I feel strong and determined. Today is not the day for distress and mourning. We’ve had months since the election for that. Today the fight for the future of our great nation begins. We cannot afford to shrink away from the political conflict, to hide our heads in the sand, or — despairing — duck our heads, do nothing, and try to get on with our lives as best we can. It’s all very well to wave banners for our political candidates and ideals, but no good can come if, having lost the initial fight, we then pack our banners and ideals away to passively wait four years to engage the enemy again. Our country needs us now more than ever to be citizens in participatory democracy to stand firm for what is good, right, and just.
“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 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. 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.”
Thomas Paine, The Crisis No. I (December 23, 1776)
We admire people who have stood up against tyranny and fascism, both historically — and also in popular culture. Our books and movies are filled with characters we identify with who band together and engage in the struggle against big powerful people, organizations, corporations, and oppressive and destructive governments. They oppose them at every turn and we cheer. We cannot afford to be merely spectators to our political situation; we cannot afford to be bystanders. Think about it for a moment, think about all those books and movies you love. Bystanders are victims. Only those who take action can have any hope of escaping unscathed.
Now is the time for us to band together and be heroes. I never in my life ever considered that I might someday live under a fascist regime — and I won’t because I will oppose it. If, four years from now, you can say, “it wasn’t that bad” it will be because people of goodwill banded together and did everything they could to protect this great nation from those who would tear it down from within the government for their own egocentric gratification and personal financial gain. This is still a democracy. We, the people, still have power to prevent the worst excesses of an intemperate government. It won’t be easy. As Thomas Paine said, “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.” We can do it if we work together. So much that is truly good about this country will be under attack by the new administration; it can be overwhelming to think of all that could be systematically destroyed from within the highest echelons of government. Pick something that worries you most, something that will affect you the most, something that you believe in passionately, and work for that cause. This is our time. This is it. America needs defenders, citizen heroes, who will not stand idly by complaining and cringing, but who will step forward shoulder to shoulder, supporting each other and working for the good of the nation. Don’t be a bystander, a spectator and commenter on political mayhem, a “sunshine patriot” who comes out every four years like some sort of belated groundhog; don’t be a victim. Get involved and do something. Be a hero.