Sunshine Patriots

Thomas Paine once wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” This was the first line in the initial volume of a series of pamphlets he authored during the time of the American Revolution. He knew the colonists would never support a revolution without some good, underlying reasons to gird them. Hence, his sixteen pamphlets simply titled, The American Crisis.

Although he was already a well-known author, he signed these works with the pseudonym, Common Sense.” It was a thinly veiled reference to a tract that had given him previous notoriety published in 1776 under the title, Common Sense.

Copies of The Crisis (as it was nicknamed) sold by the hundreds of thousands, but Paine refused to accept any royalties. He wanted them to be sold as cheaply as possible so the common farmer could afford to purchase and read them. 

Put Your Money Here

This is a good example of someone putting their money where their mouth happens to be. By the end of the war, he was penniless and poverty-stricken. He had to accept charity from the states of Pennsylvania and New York to make a new start. PA provided him £500 while NY gave him land to farm near New Rochelle—probably meager recompense for the stalwart efforts and risk he had proffered for the Revolution.

His famous line about trying men’s souls is indicative of the spiritual component contained in The Crisis. Many of his arguments were based on an appeal to his countrymen that revolution was the godly thing to do, and that England was attempting to usurp powers that belonged to the Almighty alone. This, of course, is gold that politicians mine to this day. When all else fails, blame it on God.

Following his statement about times that try souls, he made reference to “sunshine patriots.” His definition of such folks seems to have been that there are those who are loyalists when things are going well. When the sledding gets tough, they fade back into the woodwork. He also called them “summer soldiers.” These are two apt monikers for enthusiasts who are eager to vocalize their feelings but refuse to back up their statements.

At Their Worst

In an era of easily accessed social media, our world is full of these sunshine patriots. Their memes are clever, their quips are cutting, and their sound bites are often ingenious. Sometimes I find myself getting caught up in such theatrics. Bumper sticker politics, like bumper sticker theology, is fun. Unfortunately, it’s also cheap and short-lived. Still, the way our society operates lends itself to such triviality. Even worse, many seem to buy into the brief platitudes that they glean on Facebook or the back of an SUV. 

Some of the most successful politicians of our day are the ones who have learned to harness such tactics. They say things that draw people into their camp, get elected, make a bundle, and suck us dry. These are sunshine patriots at their worst. Do you think maybe we could vote them out?

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Boris and Monty

A few days ago, I flipped on the TV just in time to see a live feed of Boris Johnson’s acceptance speech. In case you don’t follow such things, Boris is the newly elected Prime Minister of England. I don’t usually keep up with the politics of other countries either, but this one just fell into my lap.

In fact, I would normally have changed channels immediately upon seeing what it was. In this instance, however, I was drawn to the tube (well, I guess they aren’t tubes anymore, but I was drawn nonetheless). There’s just something about a British accent. I’ve always loved the way those folks speak.

No Exception, He

Boris was no exception to my rule of Celt, so I listened for a while. The while turned into his entire speech (which, as it so happened, wasn’t all that long for a politician). Not only did he sport a wonderful accent, but he was also given to humor—another unexpected aspect from a political type. I don’t know anything about him, but I immediately liked him.

Of course, it’s much easier to like politicians that don’t directly affect my own interests. I can actually enjoy them for the person they are rather than the political slant they spew. So (at least for the time being), Boris is a newfound fascination for me. I suppose that will quickly fade when his partisan colors are flown on the nightly news. For now, however, I’m a fan.

Because of his accent and humorous remarks, I got the feeling I was watching an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Since I was a young fan of that show (many moons ago), it was easy to transfer my interest. In my mind, he could have easily slipped into one of their inane, comedy sketches. I don’t know if he would appreciate my mental association of him and the farcical British act, but I just can’t help myself. It’s who I am.

A Russian Spy?

Then, of course, there’s his name—Boris Johnson. It’s about as unlikely a name as any politician I can conjure up. With a name like that, he’s bound to be accused of being a Russian spy (maybe even colluding with the Russian authorities to secure his election). In today’s atmosphere, who knows? I just hope his spouse’s name is not Natasha.

Now I’ve really gone and done it. I’ve not only put Boris into a comedic box, I’ve just inadvertently him paired with a cartoon—Rocky and Bullwinkle. Minds like mine should undoubtedly be locked away somewhere until we can get our thoughts untwisted—to someplace where we can’t infect the thought processes of the young and impressionable. Alas and alack, I live in a country so free that I can express these inanities without reprisal. Ain’t it grand?

So, for now, Boris and Monty will reside, side by side, on a pedestal in my mind’s eye. It’s a lofty perch, Boris, so don’t blow it. I need all the heroes I can get.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]