Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, March 7, 2011

Have people forgotten the lessons of history, or did they ever learn in the first place?

In December, 1776, Thomas Paine wrote, "These are the times that try men's souls," at the beginning of his essay on the American Crisis.   

Was that the first time that tried men's souls?  Or the last?

Not only did Paine foment the American Revolution, he rebutted, in the Rights of Man, Edmund Burke's attack on those responsible for the French Revolution.   Burke wrote Reflections on the Revolution in France to dissuade Brits from getting any idea about doing the same thing.


When The Rights of Man was printed in America, it created a new sensation. Not because of the principles outlining American Jeffersonian democracy, but because the publisher had printed in the front of the book remarks from a letter from Thomas Jefferson, in which Jefferson pointed a finger at Vice-president Adams.

In England The Rights of Man encountered a response like no other in English publishing history. The poor pooled their pennies, supplementing it with meager savings to buy the book. The Rights of Man became an underground manifesto, passed from hand to hand, even when it became a crime to be found with it in one's possession.

The book became a bible to thousands of citizens who dreamed of a free England. Time after time, when men were tried for treason, invariably the Crown offered as evidence to the jury the fact that these men possessed a copy of The Rights of Man.

Outlawed for treason, Paine fled to France in 1792, never to return to England again.

And what of the revolution that Paine had started in England? Three generations would pass before even a small part of the things Paine pleaded for in his book would see fruition. Observed biographer Howard Fast: "Yet one cannot say that the book had no effect. It shook the government; it set thousands of people to thinking. It stirred the currents in what had been placid water, and once stirred, those currents never stilled themselves. And not only in England, but everywhere men longed for freedom, Rights of Man became an inspiration and a hope."

All of Paine's works reflected his belief in natural reason and natural rights, political equality, tolerance, civil liberties, and the dignity of man. (emphasis mine)
Can there be any question that Paine would have enthusiastically approved of what has taken place recently in Egypt and Tunisia?

But we are not England or France.  We are not in a repressive regime in Northern Africa.

Are these times, here in Arizona, that try men's souls?  Or women's or children's?

In the name of God, politicians at the state capitol in Arizona and Congress in DC are working to deprive women of fundamental rights to decisions that each woman must make between herself and her God.  In the name of God, those politicians declare that freedom is only for the privileged, not for all Americans. And that is but two of many issues whereby modern day theocrats are causing frustration and controversy.

Paine, "had a grand vision for society: he was staunchly anti-slavery, and he was one of the first to advocate a world peace organization and social security for the poor and elderly." (from a link provided above).

Perhaps it's time for a refresher course on the philosophical foundation of our great nation.  And the writings of Thomas Paine would be a very good place to start.

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