Monday, July 8, 2013

Thomas Paine: Common Sense

Thomas Paine's Common Sense is an exhilarating read in our troubled times: 

[L]et a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter . . . by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King and there ought to be no other. . . . A government of our own is our natural right: And when a man seriously reflects on the precariousness of human affairs, he will become convinced, that it is infinitely wiser and safer to form a constitution of our own in a cool deliberate manner, while we have it in our power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and chance . . . 

In law school I studied moments of Constitutional crisis. I didn't dream I would live in one and yet one is upon us. There is no recourse for the common person in Washington. There is recourse only for lobbyists and money. There is an acceptance of perpetual war - including the criminalization of speech and assembly - war against the citizens. There is a lockdown on the system where the Rs and the Ds divvy up power at the expense of us all. 

I celebrated the 4th of July with tears in my eyes. How can it be true that I live in a time when my country had lost its very soul to mammon, our new monarch? How can it be that I find inspiration in the same place as George Washington: the words of Thomas Paine. I mean, I wanted to just go off and write plays and get Champagne money.  Not read the words of old sexist white men railing against a King. But there you go. My heart burns. 

When my country,
into which I had just set my foot,
was set on fire about my ears,
it was time to stir.
It was time for every man to stir.  - Thomas Paine

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