David Stokes

In the aftermath of the horrific events of September 11, 2001, our government, in its infinite wisdom, formed a new entity. It would be an agency designed to protect us all – The Department of Homeland Security. I happen to know many wonderful people who work under its aegis, and I think it by and large serves a necessary purpose in these perilous times. But in the wrong hands, even good things can become bad.

The phrase “know your enemy” hearkens back to Sun Tzu’s classic work The Art of War, and represents self-evident wisdom. Everyone has enemies, as does every nation. You can tell a lot about people and peoples by their enemies. You can also tell a lot about them by those they describe and define as enemies.

The presidential oath, taken twice by President Obama due to a miscue from Chief Justice Roberts on Inauguration Day, simply talks about preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution of the United States. All other similar oaths affirmed by members of Congress, the Cabinet, or even the Military, include the meatier phrase, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

“Against all enemies…”

Every culture contains a measure of “us” versus “them.” But what happens when the lines between “us” and “them” is blurred. Or worse – what about when “us” morphs into “them?”

My father in law passed away a little over a year ago after a long fight with cancer at the end of his valiant 81-year life. He was a good man – a decent man – someone who loved his family and paid his bills and went to church and owned a gun or two or three.

After I had the audacity to marry his daughter in May of 1976, Bob Holland and I settled quickly into to an awkward relationship with occasional tense moments. I was the Young Turk, he the sage advisor, though I did not always welcome his advice.

OK, in fairness, I never welcomed it.

We actually had similar values, even common faith. It was just in how we articulated things that the sparks sometimes flew. I was never a liberal in any sense of the word, but there was a way the old man had – an attitude about him – deep seated cultural and political opinions, that made me at times want to argue the “other view” even if absurd and not actually believed.

Think Archie Bunker and Meathead.


David Stokes

David R. Stokes is a best-selling author, pastor, columnist, and broadcaster. His latest book is a novel: CAPITOL LIMITED: A Story about John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Based on a true story, it's about a unique moment in 1947, when Kennedy and Nixon shared