• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

Patriots’ Day, 2009

“Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere”

As the sun was rising on the morning of April 19, 1775, 700 British soldiers met up with 77 Massachusetts minutemen on the village green in Lexington. The British had come from Boston on a secret mission to seize munitions stored by the minutemen at nearby Concord. The minutemen were waiting, having been warned by Paul Revere and other American Patriots. The shot heard ‘round the world was fired. America’s war for independence had begun. And now, 234 years later, the spirit of liberty that was born that day continues to shine on us — you and me and the people we love — their descendants.

America’s story — the story of liberty — almost ended as it was getting started.

In April, 1775 there was no United States. There were 13 separate British colonies, each with its own history, its own economic structure, its own ties back to Britain and Europe, and its own culture. Six states believed God had given them the right to own slaves; Seven states believed otherwise.

When the Colonies began meeting as the 2nd Continental Congress, in Philadelphia in May, 1775, three weeks after Lexington, they debated about what to do. Some wanted war with England. Others sought to beseech the King one last time. They disagreed, they argued but they kept talking and in doing so they put into motion the forces that were to lead to independence eight years later.

In mid-June the 2nd Continental Congress made the first of two brilliant compromises. In creating the Continental Army to protect the colonies they balanced off the competing interests of North and South. The army consisted entirely of the militia in Massachusetts — where defense was most needed — while a Virginian — George Washington — was put at its head.

Having created the Continental Army in support of those wanting to take a more militant stand towards England, the Continental Congress next sent King George the Olive Branch Petition as a final attempt at reconciliation. The petition, the second compromise, balanced off those wanting independence from England with those wanting to try for peace.

We must hang together…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.
Benjamin Franklin

The first American Revolution succeeded because America’s founders understood that different as they were, the cause of freedom demanded that they find ways to cooperate, that they work together and find the hard compromises that cooperation requires. To them it was simple: cooperate as a free people or be tyrannized by the King. America was founded in the crucible of cooperation.

These are the times that try men’s soul.
Thomas Paine

Fast forward 234 years. We, the people, seem to have gotten ourselves into something of a pickle. Nobody seems to be quite sure what we stepped in, but it sure is messy. The earth is warming up. The Middle East is hot. The economy has turned cold. And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Il Jung need to understand that it will be a cold day in hell before the world allows them to terrorize us with nuclear weapons.

And while we’re struggling with these global problems, we have to solve our own growing health care challenges, strengthen our economy, finally get serious about energy independence, and find new ways for our children to get the world class education that a world-class economic power needs for tomorrow’s work force, not to mention doing all of this while confronting the largest budget deficits in our history.

Rule one: Never allow a crisis to go to waste.
Rahm Emanuel

The early Patriot’s understood one of the most important duties freedom imposes: if you want to live free, you must cooperate, you must compromise.

If our generation is to succeed in bequeathing the blessings of liberty to our posterity, it will be because we have learned again to cooperate, just like the early Patriots: to seek opportunities to cooperate here in the United States and in our relationships around the globe.

This is our opportunity, our chance to make the most of this crisis.

Abraham Lincoln, taking office at the very moment when America’s commitment to cooperation had fallen apart, understood that the path to cooperation is friendship.

If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which is the high road to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause be a just one.

I was delighted when the front page of yesterday’s newspaper showed a smiling President Obama shaking hands with a smiling President Chávez of Venezuela at this weekend’s Summit of the Americas. Obama’s words to the summit — “I didn’t come here to debate the past. I came here to deal with the future.” — reflect the same American pragmatism that allowed the original Patriots to set aside their differences and work together for the common cause of freedom.

It is easy to dictate to others how they should live. It is even easier to sit on the sidelines and oppose. The hard work lies in living the commitment to cooperate. This is what the Patriots did throughout our war of independence. This is the legacy they have left us. The blessings of liberty flow from cooperation.

Change will not happen overnight and it will not be easy. North Korea and Iran’s most recent actions continue to demonstrate just how hard the path of cooperation, the path of peace, will be. As we pursue the path of cooperation, we must follow President’s Reagan’s sound advice: Trust. But Verify. We cannot be naïve. But we must also follow Lao Tzu who taught us 2500 years ago that the longest journey begins with a single step.

It takes great faith to seek cooperation. Our faith in freedom, in the blessings of liberty, must be every bit as strong as the faith of those early Patriots, 234 years ago.

But we have every reason to believe our faith is warranted. For as Lincoln might have said: “Our cause is just. If we are their sincere friends, then we will have little trouble finding opportunities to cooperate.”

Let Freedom Ring.

Copyright © 2009. Stan Stahl. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay in its entirety provided its source is identified asThe Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org and this copyright is included.

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