Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, History, Human Rights
Note: This post meant for Friday was delayed by a crashing hard drive. I now have a brand NEW solid state version thanks to Best Buy and the Geek Squad (shameless plug). I now have the dubious and quaint job of finding all of my files on this newer, faster drive.
At a time when statues that honor our past often whitewash that history or honor traitors, Paine’s is a legacy all Americans can be proud of today and which our nation should honor. Paine was a thinker far ahead of his time. Almost uniquely among the Founding Fathers he opposed slavery and favored abolition, called for a progressive income tax to pay for universal education (including for both sexes), a welfare system for poor relief, pensions, women’s rights, and more. He was an eloquent advocate for equality and representative government, writing, “The true and only true basis of representative government is equality of rights.” He added, “the danger arises from exclusions.”
Thomas Paine was one the greatest political writers and philosophers of his time; his best-selling works, Common Sense, The American Crisis, Rights of Man, and The Age of Reason fundamentally altered the political and social landscape of the 18th and 19th centuries and helped forge the United States of America.
Thomas Paine embodies the American Dream in a selfless way, rising from humble origins and penury to become a foremost political figure of his time, a friend to humanity and a foe to tyrants. He never sought personal power or wealth; instead, he championed the rights of the “common” people and believed emphatically in the dignity and rights of humans, which drove him to challenge the traditional authority of kings and dogmas of established churches, forever changing the course of human history.
Thomas Paine helped create America. It’s time America honored his legacy.
We saw to our horror a modern insurrection on January 6, 2021. As the battle ensign of Robert E. Lee's North Virginia Regiment paraded the halls of the Capitol during the siege, we discovered later the number of confederate figures venerated at the "Temple of Democracy" as well as state Capitols and cities that were guilty of the first insurrection.
Thomas Paine was as much a Founding Father to the United States of America as any other whose histories have been whitewashed, and mythologized to the point of unrealistic apotheosis. He apparently named the United States (lately, an oxymoron), and penned the lines you've probably heard in one form, or another:
“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; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. When we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price on its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”
He was a scientist, poet, philosopher, scholar, and best-selling author. He was a deist, as were most of the Founding Fathers, meaning they believed in a God, just not a sovereign one intimately tied into, or interested in human affairs. There is such a thing as the Jeffersonian Bible, where Thomas Jefferson took scissors to every miraculous occurrence in the tome. Yet like the Tulsa Massacre and other vile atrocities masked by state propaganda, Paine’s history is deliberately hidden: unknown except to atheists, agnostics, freethinking societies, historians and theologians who study him, and humanists who revere him.
Despite the artistic flow of his prose that inspired a revolution against the British Empire and birth of its American analogue, there are no statues of him at our Capitol, the seat of our power. It is ironic the vitriol against the District of Columbia becoming the 51st state, existing as the last visible example of literal taxation without representation. “It would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”
History is best defined as a study of past events, particularly human events, to learn important lessons from them. History gains insights from the past; science make hypotheses, design experiments, looking for patterns to make predictions that can hopefully improve our futures, extend our lives, and maybe, our civilization.
Thomas Paine, and the Tulsa Massacre: both are sins of omission, both leave a citizenry of a federal republic uninformed. Uninformed citizens don't make decisions using faculties of critical thinking skills, since that part of the brain is unused, if not atrophied. Uninformed citizens cannot manage the responsibilities of a democratic republic. Uninformed citizens are anathema to a democracy. Such citizens are open to conspiracy theories, as nature abhors a vacuum. What would our country be if we faced our past, and planned logically for our futures? Gaslighting history and ignoring science is a disastrous combination that limits our survival runway as a species. Without global cooperation, management of resources, addressing income inequality that exacerbated our response to the pandemic, systemic racism that impoverishes not just BIPOC, but nations, we will crumble, as other empires have. The Mayas sacrificed fellow tribesmen and women to a water god to eliminate drought. New flash: it didn't work out too well for them.
Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. When we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.
It is not the time to tire. We must defeat this evil, or witness the death of democracy.
Our next actions will either save, or doom the republic.
Our next actions will be guided either by apathy, or common sense.