Who Was Thomas Paine?
According to Wikipedia, Thomas Paine was an English-American political activist, philosopher, author, political theorist and revolutionary. As the author of two highly influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution, he inspired the patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Britain. His ideas reflected the Enlightenment-era rhetoric of transnational human rights. He has been called “a corset-maker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination.” Moreover, he promoted reason and freethinking and argued against institutionalized religion in general, and Christian doctrine in particular.?What would Thomas Paine say if he were alive today? What would his views be on corporations as people, and money equaling free speech? Would he approve or is he turning over in his grave?
Would the recent Hobby Lobby case cause him to take the stump and put pen to paper, or would he affirm the decision? Based on this writer’s research the answer to these questions would be an emphatic, no. Paine’s early activism caught the eye of then statesmen Benjamin Franklin. Ironically, Paine’s early activism centered around better pay for the working class in his home country of Britain. Thomas Paine moved to America mainly because he was a failure in many of his endeavors in Britain and America offered him a fresh start. Once in America, he began working as a journalist. The breakout of the American Revolutionary War gave Paine the chance to define in print the purpose of the war that to many had remained ambiguous. This condition of not knowing what the American colonies were fighting for inspired his most famous literary work entitled “Common Sense.”
In this writer’s view, “Common Sense” was the first litmus test on how political activism and journalism could co-mingle themselves not only to educate the unknowing masses, but to actuate change in public thinking which resulted in changing public policy that in this case, led to the American Revolutionary War. What to this day is a little-known fact is that only a third of the organizers of the rebellion in America were for total independence. It was not until the publishing of Common Sense that the tide swung and what resulted was the Declaration of Independence.
I offered nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and Common Sense. [Thomas Paine, 1776]
It was this pamphlet that stirred the public discourse to such a point that it brought about the desired recourse for We The People.
“The American people owe their liberty to Thomas Paine more than any other man.” [George Washington]
One of Thomas Paine’s most famous quotes:
“There are times that try men’s souls.”?
Are we not living in such times today? We have a high court that places more regulations on a female’s vagina than on weapons of mass destruction in the hands of mental incompetents. Also, we have a high court through judicial over-reach entirely ignoring the separation of church and state doctrine in our constitution. In fact, the behavior of the U.S. Supreme Court mirrors the actions of the British monarchy of Paine’s time. We have an attack of the rights of workers in this country that was the genesis of Paine becoming politically active in the first place. What was a British monarchy in 1776 has become a corporate monarchy in 2015. With everyday citizens losing rights on a daily basis to corporate -bought legislative tactics, such as “right to work,” “voter ID laws,” and gerrymandering just to name a few, these are truly times that can try a man’s soul.
Just like today, conservative thinkers of Paine’s time found him bothersome. John Adams called Thomas Paine a mongrel. Just like today, when you have politicians like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Christian zealots applauding the Hobby Lobby decision for upholding so-called religious liberty at the expense of everyone else, we see our present condition here in America reverting to a truism this writer holds dear, “history does repeat itself.” Conservatives of Thomas Paine’s times are no different than modern-day conservatives. They fear change.
In closing, the important thing and example that Thomas Paine’s story teaches us is that we must, as individuals, make a mark for ourselves on what we stand for and believe. No matter how insignificant you may feel your voice crying in the wilderness might be, its the collective voices crying together that can become a roar and affect change. What would Thomas Paine say if he were alive today? Rise America, participate in the voting process; these are times that try men’s souls. Use your common sense with reason.