We can never give up on the political process. No matter how hopeless it seems, no matter how obnoxious and unqualified the candidates, no matter how frustrated we become.
Every member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars has placed himself or herself at risk for the United States. Many of us have known friends who did not return, have seen our fellows hit and some killed. We – among all citizens – know and must not forget the sacrifices over these past 239 years to gain and keep the right to self-government. We, whether the duty was proffered by conscription or assumed voluntarily, honorably wore the uniform of the United States. The United States is not a tangible thing or a legal entity corporation. The United States is us – we the people. We are among a special subgroup of those people and we, like it or not, carry that burden of leadership. We must continue to carry the torch of freedom.
You may recall Winston Churchill’s 1941 speech to the students about to graduate from the same school, Harrow, which he attended decades before. The theme of that speech was, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
It appears ‘the enemy’ is now a legion and the worst, the most insidious, of these threats are from within. They are those who value personal power and financial gain – and those two goals look increasingly the same – over the collective interests of the other citizens of the United States. They run large corporations, have massive fortunes, own the media, and fund super political action committees. They select milk-toast political candidates who never considered military service, look good, and compete to sound the most aggressive – competing for the title of ‘most likely to risk other peoples’ lives overseas’ – but who are already bought and paid for. But Churchill’s words still echo if we will but listen, urging us to never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
You can hardly avoid the bluster on television and radio and in the newspapers. Not so long ago you had the guts to hold up your right hand and swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Do not yield. Continue that strength of character and dedication. Think for yourself. Do not be swayed by others. Do not sell your vote, paid in the seductive currency of television minutes and radio voices. Do your own research, considering – however initially unpleasant it may seem – the points of view of those ‘on the other side’. Check the supposed facts claimed by the candidates and remember those who play fast and loose with those ‘facts’ and those who value truth. Assess your sources of information as we did in military intelligence: Who is the author, speaker, media producer? What is that source’s personal agenda? Who are they addressing and what do they want that target audience to think and do? How do they assess the intelligence level of that audience? What is their track record for accuracy? Are they a member of a particular movement or group? If so, are they pursuing the interests of that group? Who pays them? Watch and read and listen, but filter every bit of information you get from that source with the results from your research as to their background, motivations, and record.
Be sure to vote, but do your own research first. Maintain your situational awareness of domestic and international affairs, economics, and social issues. Determine what you think is important to the United States rather than what you are told to think. Share your findings and sources with others. Join in the debate, but do so courteously as befits your stature. Be involved no matter how hopeless it may seem. Never quit.
The students of Harrow who grew up so quickly and the men and women of the United Kingdom did not give in to the Nazis. They held out alone through their darkest hours, were joined by the United States (including the over ten million VFW eligible veterans who survived) and won. Freedom was preserved – but only for a time. If we quit now, Lincoln’s government ‘for the people’ and ‘by the people’ will have died. Only a government ‘of the people’ will remain. We did not fight for that in the past and we must not accept it now. With but one change a few more of Churchill’s words also speak to us: “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the United States lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”