The sound of silence
by Hank Martin

According to historians, the personal journal of England’s King George III, the entry for July 4, 1776 is recorded as “Nothing of any significance transpired this day.” From his perspective, perhaps nothing did, but from our perspective, nothing could be further from the truth. Of course, it took some time for our foundational document of freedom, declaring our independence to make it across the ocean. It took time for the pebble, that our fifty-six founding fathers had just dropped into the currents of history, to ripple through time. I fear that a new pebble has just been dropped, yet, drowned out by the headlines of other world and national events, I can not help but inquire, did anyone else hear the splash?

The event, to which I refer, is the announcement by local patriot, businessman, and citizen, Tom Slonaker. It was announced recently, that Mr. Slonaker has sold his business, Patriot’s Place (formerly known as Arby’s of Forrest Lakes), to another business operator. That owner, to return the business back to an Arby’s franchise. In the annals of time, given all that is currently occupying our attention, this may not seem to matter. It may not seem significant, and many may be glad to be able to purchase a roast beef sandwich without having to go down to Barracks Road. No doubt, there will be some citizens who will be relieved, not having to hear about whatever new controversy is taking place in regards to sign ordinances, etc. To those who only relish fast food availability, or a quieter news cycle, I would respectfully inquire; do you not see the larger picture? Do you appreciate the significance of that silenced voice?

In 1835, Lyman Beecher wrote in his Plea for the West: “If this nation is, in the providence of God, destined to lead the way in the moral and political emancipation of the world, it is time she understood her high calling, and were harnessed for the work. For mighty causes, like floods from distant mountains, are rushing with accumulating power to their consummation of good or evil, and

soon our character and destiny will be stereotyped forever.” With the announcement of Mr. Slonaker’s decision to sell, we are witnessing the floods of tyranny washing away the bedrock of freedom. His is just one more voice that has been silenced. Will it make any difference? Maybe not today or tomorrow. Maybe not to us, or even our children. But what about our grandchildren? Tyranny never appears in an instant. It grows like a weed; silently encroaching and taking root, then, it seemingly is everywhere, requiring far more energy and diligence to control it. Likewise, we can lose our rights, either by being deceived into laying them down willingly, or through coercive legislation and practices. We may not even notice their loss or lack today, but it will take a thousand years to get them back.

I want to extend my appreciation to Mr. Slonaker for the contributions he has made to this community. As a businessman, generating tax revenue. As a citizen, contributing to various causes and assisting with fundraisers for different organizations. Most especially, for his patriotic support of and fight for-freedom. He has provided a living example of everything that our founding fathers embodied in their “Spirit of 76.” At great personal expense, he stood for the principals of freedom, in hopes that he would leave a legacy for those generations that will follow. In that endeavor, he has unarguably been successful, for those whose perceptions are clear and sagacious enough to recognize it. My family and I have eaten plenty of roast beef and drank enough revolutionary coffee, to lend aid to the cause. No doubt, the delicacies that will be subsequently served in that location will never taste quite as sweet to me.

Needless to say, life goes on, but it will be just a little less free. The floodwaters of tyranny will now wash upon shores of new business owners or others that desired to live the dream. Just as trees that have stood for years, fall victim to storms, when the larger, more deeply rooted trees are removed and no longer afford protection, so too will we see the pressure of coercion find new targets to replace the old. The old story about not caring when the foes of freedom came for this person or that group, but are suddenly manifest when you are the one called to stand, and there is no one there to stand with you, is poignantly remembered here. Thank you Tom Slonaker. In the truest sense of being a Virginian, you’ve done us proud.


  1. Great editorial, and one that should make people think. No doubt, there will be the detractors who believe that Slonaker was an arrogant blowhard, etting his just desserts, no pun intended. Others will simply lay blame to the legal wranglings of contratcs, etc. Oh well, I seem to recall many who blamed our revoulution on a bunch of rich white guys who were simply causing a fuss to avoid paying their fair share of the French/Indian War. So, that spin has been around the block, rode hard and put up wet.

    Slonaker was singled out for selective enforcement by the county officials, who desired to punish him for the alleged french fry oil debacle some years ago. Nevermind that Slonaker, at his own initiative and expense, took measures above and beyond what was required, to rectify the situation. Martin is right.With Slonaker gone, who gets to be targted next? And when that happens, who, if any, will stand with them? I guess we will see in the ensuing weeks, months and years to come. There is a big picture here, but sadly, many will miss it.

  2. This is terrible news. It’s unfortunate that I never had the chance to eat at Slonaker’s Arby’s or at Patriot Place. I hope Tom will consider getting back into the restaurant business after a sabbatical.

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