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EDITORIAL: ‘We have it in our power to begin the world all over again’

July 1, 2022
By Marcy Shortuse

As we sit perched on the brink of a Fourth of July three-day weekend, it might be a good time to talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the room. For a small local newspaper, trying to keep things light is a good idea … most of the time … but there comes a time when the truth isn’t always a shining beacon, so to speak. Independence Day 2022 seems like a good time to talk about something else for a moment.

While opinions are mixed about the private lives and political and religious views of some of our Founding Fathers, their commonality came from the day and time they were living in and the journey they were about to embark on. A new beginning was at their fingertips, and as they put pen to paper they created a document that brought this country into being as a nation of free men. 

People who no longer served the Crown. People against taxation without representation. People who wanted to worship as they pleased, to have the voice to speak what they believed in public, to have the option to do whatever they wanted to do with their lives as long as it hurt no one else, and the right to arm themselves against aggressors – be those aggressors bears, thieves or others who tried to take their rights away from them.

Things were simpler then. If our Founding Fathers could have stepped into a time machine and transported themselves to the year 2022, for all we know they would have taken the first ship right back to Britain.

We have some scary stuff going on right now. What started as a virus that put the entire world out of order has evolved into a machine that has taken over much of our lives. The cost of almost each individual product, as well as the cost of living in general, has been increasing to the point that many who were considered middle class in 2019 are now riding the cusp of lower class. The general consensus is that prices will continue to climb, potentially bringing about a need for Americans to experience daily lifestyle changes that could include the necessity of owning chickens or entering into the sale and butchering of their own beef cows. $25 a pound beef? Those words have been spoken, as every step in the process of the production of meat is costing more and more. Victory gardens could very well become more commonplace, and people might return to their kitchens to bake, to cook nightly dinners and to sit around a table with their family to consume those meals. There’s nowhere to go when you can’t afford gas anyway, right?

Even with that potentially positive spin on the impending economic bogeyman that lives in our closet, the sinister implications of how thin the high wire America was walking for so long are staring us right in our faces. Just as it is in many American households right now, one false step and disaster can occur far too easily.

The money that the government gave many U.S. households in the last couple of years appeased the general public enough to put blinders on to what was to come. Now, here we sit in 2022 and that money is all gone. Our tax returns were far smaller than most years because we had already received that money … and now those households need money more than ever due to the ever-increasing cost of living.

Still, the word “recession” is met with a “shush,” as if we can’t see what is happening. When wages can’t increase because of inflation and the cost of living (which was already far outpricing the average wage earner’s budget) keeps increasing, more and more people may lose their homes and their cars – which is their way to get to work. It is far easier right now to quit your job and apply for assistance than it is to brainstorm to get out of this economic trap, I can tell you that. My brain has been storming for quite some time, and while I will continue to persevere for as long as I can, I and many of my brethren have exhausted most resources that would provide us with additional income.

Still we bide. Still we sit and watch our shows, argue about the same politics (rescinding a bubbling tempest in a teapot like Roe v. Wade and making it whistle right at this very moment in time is quite the distraction, don’t you think?) And while they argue with each other on social media about who is right and who is wrong, the general population in America is still trying to get their weekend recreational activity in, still making vacation plans, still scraping by and hoping they’ll wake up tomorrow and prices will have decreased. 

There are other Americans, though, who see this time for what it is … and they are sharpening their swords (literally and metaphorically) and waiting to see what madness will be paraded before us next. They know the priority first and foremost on the minds of those who really run things is to keep us arguing with each other, so we don’t realize what’s going on and turn on them. These Americans are looking at one another each time a new grotesquery is brought forth, a new parody in this American way of life we are supposed to just mildly accept and bleat “thank you,” and the looks they are exchanging say, “What about now? Have we had enough now? Is this the straw that will break the camel’s back?”

These people are not called Conservatives or Liberals … they are called Patriots. The love of free living and the independent nature of our ancestors still lives in them, and it makes them question whether many things we are going through right now aren’t outright acts of treason. 

Thomas Paine, our Founding Father whom no one talks about, was in Fort Lee with Generals Washington and Greene in the summer of 1776, and he witnessed the fall of New York. As he retreated with Washington’s men through New Bridge Landing in River Edge, he started writing what is now known as “The American Crisis.” The first words of that narrative were, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”  

I think we can feel that pain, written by Paine, today. Keep your ear to the ground and listen to common sense experts and sages, keep your mind open, listen more to those who oppose your point of view than to those who stroke it, play the devil’s advocate, try to see things from different perspectives. Keep your pantry full, keep your family close, and keep love and understanding for your brethren in your heart.

Save your hate and intolerance for those who truly threaten your freedoms, not for those who merely annoy you online. 

I leave you with a few Thomas Paine quotes that I hope you take a moment to read and absorb. All were written hundreds of years ago, yet all apply today.

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.” 

“Common sense will tell us that the power which hath endeavored to subdue us, is of all others, the most improper to defend us.” 

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”

We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”