Editor’s note: Last Sunday the Opinion Page political cartoon jokingly mocked that “Common Sense” is not only no longer welcome, but also emphatically rejected. In the following op-ed, originally published Jan. 10, 2010, Thomas Lee Meade makes the case for Common Sense, offers a reminder of what inspired the colonies to declare their independence and pays tribute to Thomas Paine on this important day in American history.
Jan. 10 may seem like an ordinary winter day, but that wasn’t the case in 1776. For it was on that very day that a young Quaker, having only set foot in this New World from his home in England 13 months before, printed a pamphlet that immediately became the seminal publication of the century, our nation’s very first best-seller.
That pamphlet, of course, is “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine. And never in the history of the world did 48 pages have so much impact. A little book that literally, with nothing more than common sense and reason, laid the foundation for the greatest nation of free people the world has ever known.
One man, one pen, one vision — and the world was forever changed. The pen truly is mightier than the sword, and the book earned Paine the title “father of the American Revolution.”
“Go forth little book, to bring consolation to the distressed — knowledge and wisdom to all who read — and peace and happiness to all mankind.”
“Common Sense” was published to, well, bring some common sense to the populace bewildered in the complexities, lies and mistruths of the day. Paine vividly recaptured his intense emotions upon arriving in Philadelphia: “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.”
The plain truths of “Common Sense” changed the consciousness of the people by clearly articulating a new identity for America, one of exceptional purpose and promise. So today, after decades of corruption, war-mongering and malfeasance that have nearly slaughtered the four sisters of democracy — liberty, freedom, justice and equality — here and abroad, we must do the same.
America has not only lost its moral compass, but it is also adrift far from the safe haven of the virtues on which it was founded. So it is time again for some “common sense” for all Americans, in fact the world.
For as Paine so prophetically claimed on that winter day, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” Now that is a vision for change we can all believe in.
These immortal words inspired the colonists to declare independence from that which they should not be dependent. To pursue liberty, freedom and justice for all people. That inalienable rights can only be granted by God, that we all live under the same heaven, regardless of race, class or creed, and that no government, no group of all powerful men, should ever have the right to decide otherwise.
I believe we will soon be at the daybreak of a new awakening, to forgotten truths. The spirit that originally defined America is slowly re-emerging, manifesting itself in so many ways.
But only if we commit ourselves to understanding the true purpose of our country, under the divine providence of our creator, as so vividly illustrated by our founding fathers. Only when we begin to use some common sense to discern truth from fiction.
It is always darkest before the dawn, as were those days, and it is still in the dead of night now. But if we espouse our virtues and despise our vices while pursuing our ideals with ceaseless passion, the future will once again be illuminated by the light of our souls.
Jan. 10 should always be remembered as “Common Sense” Day — lest we forget.
Thomas Lee Meade, of State College, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org