THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered
That quote from Thomas Paine was originally delivered to an audience of American patriots on December 23, 1776. I might remind you that December of 1776 was not a happy time for the American Revolution. Washington’s Army had narrowly escaped total destruction not once, but twice, during the Battles of New York (Long Island) and White Plains.
The fervor over the attacks at Lexington and Concord and the elation felt after the British troops were driven out of Boston had begun to fade. December of 1776 was a time of great trepidation for those who supported independence from England and a country called the United States of America. In other words, it was not cool or hip to be a revolutionary. Quite the opposite, to many on the outside looking in it appeared as though the upstarts and rebels living in the British Colonies of the Americas would soon be brought to heel.
In the centuries that followed that bold speech, Paine’s quote has been referred to often by those whose desire is to inspire their fellow Americans. But what was Thomas Paine trying to tell the Americans at that time and offer to their posterity?
Using modern vernacular, Tom Paine was saying that it is easy to be a patriot when it is cool or popular to be so. When the majority or the mob seems to be supporting this cause or that, it is easy to join along. Everyone wants to be a part of the popular crowd.
But, what happens when the cause celeb is no longer popular or when outside forces attack the ideas and purpose of your cause? What happens when the winds of popularity turn cold and you become uncomfortable?
Sun Tzu’s Advice
In his book, The Art of War, Sun Tzu understood the concept of the summer soldier and sunshine patriot. In Book One of the Stephen F. Kaufman translation of the ancient Chinese work, Tzu states:
“War does not permit faltering of personal belief. Never seek to assuage the non-sympathetic in an attempt to convert them to your way of thinking.”
He goes on to advise regarding the ‘non-sympathetic’ “They serve no purpose other than to use up valuable resources and create dissension. Dispose of them.” Lastly on the subject of attempting to assuage or appease the non-believers, Tzu offered the following admonition.
“Never try to win someone over by changing your strategy in hopes of befriending them…False friends are worse than true enemies.“
Rights for the Majority
My question for those reading this piece is; do you have to be in the majority to have rights? Do the Rights, enumerated and explained (not granted) in the Bill of Rights apply to those who may be in the numerical or popular minority? Before you dismiss the inquiry as rhetorical or sophomoric, take a moment to reconsider. In the United States of America, governed by the U.S. Constitution, do rights only extend to those who happen to be in the popular majority at the time? If your cause or way of thinking is considered to be a minority are you afforded the same protections described in the First Ten Amendments as is the majority?
Before you turn away with disgust that I have offered such a simplistic and ridiculous question, consider the following. Have you heard the conventional wisdom from the shooting sports community that we need to do more to reach out to women, gays, blacks, etc.? Have you yourself said something similar? No, before you go off half-cocked, I do not wish to exclude anyone from exercising the Natural God-Given Right to self-protection as codified by the 2nd Amendment.
Obviously, if you are a manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer, the idea of expanding your customer base is always attractive; more customers equal more money, revenue you can invest in your business. That situation is fortuitous and we have seen it play out during the last few years as first time and female gun buyers flocked to gun stores nationwide.
Why did all these first time gun owners flood gun shops and buy up all the concealed carry handguns they could find? Was it due to the shooting industry’s recruiting efforts or was it due to the political and economic climate?
Recruiting Summer Soldiers
When pro-gun organizations strategize that they need to devise campaigns to recruit this class of people or that minority group are they doing so by remaining true to the genuine message or are they altering the message? I have heard it said that we (gun people) need to “tone down” our stance. It has been suggested that we need to stay away from absolutes. “Women don’t like absolutes” one man told me “they are turned-off by our rigid and inflexible stance on guns.”
Tens of thousands of dollars have been invested with professional marketing companies to create inclusive ad campaigns. We alter and modify the message in order to seem more friendly and open to everyone. We voluntarily change the verbiage we use and the words we print in ads or speak in commercials. Our “hard line” is couched and replaced with a reasonable stance, one that won’t “scare off” new members.
Are all these new members dedicated to the cause of liberty and freedom or are they now on the team because we did such a good job “selling” them something for which they were not in the market? Are we recruiting customers for our gun products company or training them to be true patriots?
Consider your own life. After the Sandy Hook event, or any other big media shame campaign, how many of your gun owning acquaintances quickly fell silent about gun ownership or the 2nd Amendment? How many people that were supposed to be on side of liberty began to spout “reasonable restrictions” rhetoric (Zumbo, Metcalf et al)? How many of your friends who claim to be “hunters” or “sportsmen” started openly supporting universal background checks and other reasonable measures? The moment the winds turned cold and it became uncomfortable they folded like a house of cards.
Recruiting is Not Fighting
The United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights were not put in place so you could enjoy your favorite sport or recreational activity. The Bill of Rights is not about hunting, skeet shooting, or whatever gun game you enjoy; it is about the protection of individual liberty. If you cannot sign on to the idea of individual liberty and personal responsibility, I don’t want you on my team.
Thomas Paine reminded us that such people would “shrink from the service of their country.” Hundreds of years before Paine, Sun Tzu advised against changing your strategy to please the non-sympathetic, he reminded us that they are a waste of valuable resources and a cause of dissension.
If you want to recruit people to “our side” do it through passion, inspiration, and education. Using marketing tricks and schemes, softening, or altering the message to make it more attractive does nothing more than court the weak-willed and dispassionate. Your time and efforts are a waste, for as soon as it becomes unpopular or uncomfortable to be a gun person they will fall mute and drift away like chaff in the wind.
If you still believe that we are “losing the battle” because we don’t have a “majority” of Americans on our side, I would offer that you really do not have a concept of God-Given Rights. On the subject of man’s Natural Rights and Liberties, it does not matter if you are the only person in ten thousand who holds your belief. If it is your Natural Right to do so, no man has the authority to take that Right from you. Perhaps it is time to stop worrying so much about recruiting and winning a popularity contest, but instead to start actually fighting for the defense of the Inalienable Rights that our forefathers fought and died to preserve for us.