"...panics, in some cases, have their uses; they produce as much good as hurt. Their duration is always short; the mind soon grows through them, and acquires a firmer habit than before. But their peculiar advantage is, that they are the touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered." Thomas Paine, The Crisis, December 23, 1776
When Tom Paine said the times of 1776 would "try" men's souls, he meant that souls would be tested. Some would stand the test and others would be found wanting. Some, like the heroes who froze at Valley Forge, would pay the price; others would prove to be summer soldiers and sunshine patriots, willing to join the fight only with the sky clear and victory in sight.
The times we are in test souls in similar fashion. We are discovering, day by day, those who are really with us and those who are with us only when money or votes are there for easy collection.
The real character of men or institutions is vividly displayed when the lynch mob is howling, and make no mistake: what you are seeing these days is the mob in full howl.
Politicians who flip-flop, companies that tiptoe away from suddenly controversial products, TV personalities who say "this time is different," networks that cancel shows: this crisis has shown us their true colors. We will remember.
Others are sticking with us, even in the full gale of hatred that is currently buffeting us. Those who stand with us in this moment are true friends. We will remember.
We've been lucky to have had many relatively quiet years. A whole generation of gun owners has never known a crisis like the one we face. This one will test their souls. Sheep and goats, wheat and chaff, will be separated. Core principles will be fought for or abandoned.
"Which side are you on?" was the refrain of an old union song, and it's a question we will be asking often in the days to follow. The answers will determine who gets our dollars and our votes for years to come.