The iconic picture of Washington crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze – while fraught with inaccuracies the image is a powerful reminder of the total commitment the rebels had – pledging their fortunes, lives and sacred honor to the cause.
Now used as a parody of saccharine inspirational posters – it translates the 18th century ideology to current parlance – a simplified version of commitment.
Washington defeating the Hessians at Trenton proved that the rebel army could defeat professionals. It was a challenging battle plan – a night crossing in the middle of a very cold winter to surprise the sleeping Hessians – it required three separate timing landings. Only the men in Washington’s command were able to execute the plan, but they were sufficient and the American’s won the battle.
It is far too easy to forget what total commitment meant to these patriots. Paine’s words chided the sunshine patriots who only fought during their enlistment because they were not truly committed. Washington, however, risked everything. If captured he would have been hanged as a traitor. He pledged his family fortune – spending his own capital to support the war effort. The raw physical endurance – years of cold, fighting for supplies, battling discipline, the infighting among his generals, and the lack of support by the Congress – Washington exhibited the power of will and a steadfast commitment to character to endure it all.
Of course even the great among us have their flaws and we love to parade their lesser moments in order to feel closer to par but the sad truth is we are not.
Imagine carrying the courage of your convictions through the winter encampments, the long years of toil… In an age where entitlement is the norm, the value of sacrifice is unknown. With one-day shipping even delayed gratification is a quaint concept.
I spent July 4 watching my boys celebrate with fireworks. Oregon regulates the sale (thank you Nanny State!) to sparklers and snap caps so I did not overly worry about the explosives. I do worry however for their future. Try as I might to instill the importance of history, discipline, patience, and gratitude – I fear that the inept and sanctimonious narrative that is the current zeitgeist will poison them, make them believe that they are owed something.
The 4th of July should celebrate the determined spirit of independence and reminds us of the high price that was and must be paid for it.* I only hope that my children at least learn that lesson.
I also hope that you all find a greater degree of self-reliance and independence through your training. Martial arts should inculcate more than physical skill. Training should forge the spirit. No one gave you the skills you are acquiring – your skills are yours by your efforts alone and you are setting yourself on a higher path. A path that requires dedication, perseverance, and leads to greater independence.
* Only now (in 2017) did I learn of the sacrifices I could never have understood as a teenager in high school. I remember learning that our new principal was coming to our small regional high school from New York. I have a vague memory of his introductory speech which seemed overly harsh – bringing big city draconian discipline to our small (graduating class of 60) school. I vaguely recall he had been in the military. A reminder that we may never know the true endurance and spirit that lives in others.