For the past week I have been traveling across New England with my kids, hitting historical sites and sacred ground. We have viewed the Atlantic from four states, walked in the footsteps of the Pilgrims and the Sons of Liberty, and today crossed the stream by the Old Manse over the recreated Old North Bridge. Call it my Palin tour – without the chase cars and the spectacle.
I have walked these paths many times before, but each time I find something new – a fact that is enhanced by the experience of seeing my children embrace and interact with history. After all, my boys are the ones who took us to the grave of Samuel Whittemore, a hero of April 19, 1775.
Sam wasn’t a minuteman or a son of liberty in the formal sense – he was an 80-year-old vet who defended his house. When the redcoats approached his house on their retreat, burning property in their wake, the octogenarian sprang into action. Outnumbered by whatever was in front of him to one, he grabbed his musket from the mantle, found a spot in the path of the approaching vanguard, and proceeded to kill three of them before he was shot in the head, bayonetted multiple times, beaten and left to die in a pool of his own blood. When they found him he was struggling – to load his musket. He was written off as a goner, but managed to recover from his wounds and died some 18 years later at the tender age of 98.
Standing there it occurred to me: my God we used to be made of sterner stuff. The men and women who carved this nation out of wilderness, who endured hardships unlike anything most of us will ever be able to imagine, and who stood their ground against the greatest military superpower on earth had something in their backbone – in their character – that we may have lost along the way.
Let me rephrase that – perhaps our politicians have lost that nerve, that will, to risk their lives and their fortunes for the greater good. We used to have men who understood the duty – even when it contradicted their passion – men like Madison, who, with Hamilton and Jefferson, created the foundation for the greatest economic power the world has yet seen. Or like Lincoln, who knew that there were times when it was his will alone – in the face of defeat, death, and disaster – that could keep the Union together.
These giants of the past have long since departed the stage, leaving us with the modern calculated political hackery that now occupies it. This reflection that hit me last night when I read about the most recent act of political flim flammery – cowardice might be a better term – perpetrated by Sen. Casey and his position (contradicted by his vote) on ending ethanol subsidies.
Sen. Casey is no fool. Earlier this week, seeking to ingratiate himself to supporters both D and R, he issued a statement in support of ending the subsidy. Then yesterday he voted to keep it. In a space of less than 48 hours.
Now I know – of course – there will be a changed comma or an added word in the bill actually voted on, and that will serve as Sen. Casey’s lame excuse. But the fact is Sam Whittemore (and Pennsylvania) deserved more. We deserve to know what you really believe. If you can’t defend that belief, it wasn’t worth having. Regardless, please engage honestly – don’t issue a statement saying one thing then reverse it. And did I mention that this flip flop took all of 48 hours?
Perhaps Sen. Casey is entertaining thoughts of 2016, and knows he will need Iowa. Perhaps he had a bad taco at lunch after issuing the release and realized we need to get the corn out of food and back into fuel. It could be anything – but, like occum’s razor, the most likely answer is the obvious one: Bob Casey is nothing but a calculating politician seeking his own advantage.
That is a shame, because the men and women who came before us deserve better. Put another way, stand for something, whatever that is. I don’t care if Sen. Casey wants to fund mushroom ethanol – he is free to hold what positions he wants in this great land, thanks to those who were willing to stand on principle, to the death if need be.
But he owes it to all of us – past, present and future – to be honest and principled, not calculating and manipulative.
We are a nation that started our journey to greatness with the blood of patriots wiling to stand on a line.
On an April morning, 80 men at Lexington – farmers, shoemakers, carpenters – stood on a line and said that they would not yield their principles. Faced on the field by the greatest military power the world had never known, the commanding officer Capt. John Parker said:
“Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
Stand your ground. 236 years later and it is the least we should expect from those who would lead us.
Photo by Liz West
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