Americans have always been uncomfortable with conspiracy theories.
Nevertheless, the specter of Fifth Columnists, groups of organized traitors in America, has been a real and haunting shadow. Its origins come from the 1936 Spanish Civil War, when a rebel general spoke of his four columns advancing on Madrid, and that he also had a "fifth column" of covert collaborators in the city.
Thereafter, Nazi spies and sympathizers were commonly referred to as Fifth Columnists.
At the start of the Cold War, Winston Churchill warned that Communist Fifth Columnists would seek to weaken democracies by sowing dissent among their citizens. Though widely discredited for his conduct and abuse of power, many of the charges made by Senator Joseph McCarthy concerning Communist infiltration of government would prove to be true when Kremlin files were released after the Soviet Union collapsed.
Political correctness prevails, and many Americans are wary of the term Fifth Columnists and its implications. It is the reason former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was roundly attacked by critics when he questioned whether U.S. President Barack Obama actually loves his country. It raised for public debate what a number of our citizenry quietly wonder, which is not whether Obama loves America, but does he actually like who we are as a society and what are the origins of his agenda to profoundly change America through social engineering.
Putting aside the President's possible troubled relationship with our heritage, the issue of Fifth Columnists in America has been explored by any number of historians, scholars and commentators who often redefine the phrase.
For example, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt coined the term "Sixth Columnist" on the eve of World War II, referring to the gossip mongers and defeatists who sought to appease a growing Nazi Germany.
In 1941, author Ayn Rand wrote of "Innocent Fifth Columnists," who, by their ignorance of the looming Nazi threat, were participating in the defeat of America as surely as those who would take up arms or plant explosives in the Capitol.
Rand's open letter to "Innocent Fifth Columnists" asked Americans,
"Are you the kind who sits at home and moans over the state of the world — but does nothing about it? Are you the kind who says that the future is predestined by something or other, something he can't quite name or explain and isn't very clear about, but the world is doomed to dictatorship and there's nothing anyone can do about it? Are you the kind who says that he wishes he could do something, he'd be so eager to do something — but what can one man do? Are you the kind who are so devoted to your own career, your family, your home or your children that you will let the most unspeakable horrors be brought about to destroy your career, your family, your home and your children — because you are too busy now to prevent them?"
Through her pointed prose, Rand sought to puncture the indifference of many and the paralysis of the individual who refused to acknowledge the danger to our collective freedoms.
Presently, it is apparent that the fascist Fifth Columnists of Ayn Rand's era have been replaced by the jihadists of today -- as a steady stream of Islamic radicals holding American passports make their way to the bloody banner of ISIS.
The masked man on the far left, in this ISIS propaganda video from the fall of 2014, was suspected by U.S. authorities to be an American ISIS jihadi. In the video, he is preparing to execute the captured Syrian soldiers on the right, who are kneeling at the edge of a mass grave.
Evidence would also suggest that we are in fact experiencing the "Clash of Civilizations," written about by scholars Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington, who warned that religion would be the spark for future conflict in a post-Cold War era. Both scholars set out parallel trains of thought that noted economic models and political ideology would be replaced by religion as "fault lines" for conflict. Their prediction has not been refuted by the facts.
Of critical importance is our current inability or political unwillingness to adequately address the threat of radical Islam with nuclear arsenal capabilities -- yet those who have sought to call attention to these threats are often criticized, or worse.
Consider: Attempts by Senator Robert Menendez to support Congressional oversight and sanctions against a nuclear-capable Iran are met with allegations of impropriety relating to distant accusations. Few in Washington believe his actions on the floor of the Senate and recent "noise" about a possible indictment were a simple coincidence. Seasoned political operatives call this kind of calculated diversion from crucial issues, "stray voltage."
Today we face challenges from present day Fifth Columnists who seek to undermine our democracy. Our nation has endured many other challenges, and as history tends to repeat itself, let us look to the past.
The wisdom of our nation's founding fathers, as displayed in their brilliant and inspiring writings and speeches, may help us better respond to the serious threats facing our nation today, and also to our own patriotic responsibilities.
Thomas Paine, author of "The American Crisis" wrote, "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."
Consider Revolutionary War hero Patrick Henry's powerful cautionary advice to his colleagues:
"Mr. President, no man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism of the worthy gentlemen who have addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; it is natural for man to indulge in the illusions of hope. I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it. I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past, and judging by the past ..."
Small wonder we built a nation on the words of such men. Now it is a question of whether we can defend America.