Thomas Paine in Today’s World
“Character is to us, in our present circumstances, of more importance than interest.”
-Thomas Paine, the American Crisis
If our reasons for going to war are to protect and extend freedom and the ideals of our own founding, then it is in our interest to preserve the character of our nation.
Radical attempts to alter that character in the name of “national interest”, whether through executive fiat or public apathy, it is all but ceding victory – winning the battle but losing the war.
A war for oil is one of interest. A war for the ideal of human freedom is one of character. Lest we get confused which is which.
“If I do not believe as you believe, it proves that you do not believe as I believe, and this is all that it proves.”
Despite all wars, hatreds, antagonisms, intolerance and abuse engendered to cure the “non-believers”, such action only serves to weaken the belief for which it is purported to serve.
“Why do men continue to practise on themselves the absurdities they despise in others?”
Or perhaps “me thinks thou doth protest too much”.
There are many ways to look at the same idea.
Often, what we despise the most in others is what we despise the most in ourselves.
“Could the wolf bleat like the lamb the flock would soon be enticed into ruin.”
If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, take a closer look. It might not be a duck.
Wit and diligence are not the sole domain of the wolf.
“A narrow system of politics, like a narrow system of religion, is calculated only to sour the temper, and be at variance with mankind.”
-Thomas Paine, The Crisis
For all that might separate and divide us, politics and religion can be the most insidious when, on their face, they claim inclusion and in reality they sow fear, hatred, and discord.
The superior race and the one true religion.
“Among ridiculous things nothing is more ridiculous than ridiculous rage”
Bluster and swagger, such as the type practiced daily by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, are not the domain of any prescient wisdom or truly moral indignation.
It merely calls attention to itself and, more often than not, shows itself for what it is: a cheap and cynical plea for attention. The value of Rush Limbaugh’s words go up in the same cigar smoke that waft up from his “golden” microphone as he goes on and on in his “ridiculous rage”, all of it diminishing into nothingness.
To give such pointless rage any credence is to give it much more than it deserves.
“A Constitution is the property of a Nation, and not those who exercise the Government.”
-Thomas Paine, the Rights of Man
George Bush barely hides his near contempt for the Constitution, apparently seeing it as something of an obstacle to his total grip on power.
Several sources have confirmed his angry retort at a staff meeting in 2005 that certain provisions of the Patriot Act may be unconstitutional:
“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face, it’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”
Unfortunately for Bush, the Constitution must continually be thrown in his face – in the face of every president – as often as is required to insure that he remain subject to the fundamental law in a nation governed by laws.
The Constitution is more than a “goddamned piece of paper”; and Mr. Bush does the nation no service to attempt to rise above it.
Perhaps it is even an impeachable offense?
“Those who abuse liberty when they possess it would abuse power could they obtain it”
The genius of the Constitution is in the assurance of liberty for the many and balance of power away from the one, or the few. In theory at least.
How does that theory hold up in 2007?