Monday, July 30, 2007

Thomas Paine and OUR crisis

At the top of one of last week's Information Clearing House newsletter is this quote from Thomas Paine's "Common Sense."

Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason. As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means of calling the right of it in question (and in Matters too which might never have been thought of, had not the Sufferers been aggravated into the inquiry) and as the King of England hath undertaken in his OWN RIGHT, to support the Parliament in what he calls THEIRS, and as the good people of this country are grievously oppressed by the combination, they have an undoubted privilege to inquire into the pretensions of both, and equally to reject the usurpation of either.

If there was ever a time to dust off the reasons for the Declaration of Independence it is now.

The greatest voice of the American Revolution was Thomas Paine. He spoke plainly in the universal language of all humanity. There is no question that what we face today is no less than the offenses of an empire against a colony, and considerably more than a mere bad bump in our Constitutional existence as a nation of free and self-governing people.

There can be no doubt that there has been a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same object of reducing the people under absolute despotism. This is what led the forefathers to declare their independence from England. This is what led the French to turn their streets into rivers flowing with the blood of the aristocracy. The suffering of the French peasants (as it was 100 years ago in America and as it is now) was such that living was dying and it mattered not which one they did. And so they gave their lives to establish liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Of these words, liberty, equality, and fraternity, the last is the most important. It is the root of what touches off all movements against oppression. For it is only in our fellowship with others that our own survival depends and that where there is "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

It is in fraternity that equality is derived. For when we are all thought of as brother and sisters of the human family, then, when anyone deems themselves superior to another and is indifferent to the suffering they cause, they have abdicated their own humanity. How much worse if such indifference is in the pursuit of personal gain or glory, and most particularly, if it is pursued with the lives and deaths of others.

Liberty is the desire of all people to live unmolested by the pettinesses and superficial morality of those with tiny minds and even tinier hearts. It is the desire to not be under constant assault by the whims of others or their rapacious greed to take from you all that you have or will ever have and ensure that your living and dying will have served no purpose except to make them rich.

The arbitrariness of a heartless government and the crushing despair it engenders is creating horrific suffering not only in the lives of Americans, but around the world. Policies kill as surely as bullets and bombs. I have yet to discover the reason why such policies are pursued, and yet I cannot nor shall I ever know, for I am not one of their kind.

As Thomas Paine expressed in all his writings and as the forefathers attested to in the Declaration of Independence, everyone has the desire and the right to be free from enslaved bondage to another, for their lives never to be forfeit for the petty pleasures of the powerful, to be treated as a sovereign equal to all others, and to find what modest happinesses life allows us to enjoy between our birth and death.

We the People are sovereign. We have not only the right, but the duty to assert that sovereignty when in the course of human events not only our country, but our very lives depend on it. Do not be fooled into, or be foolish about, thinking we are not at risk. We stand at the very edge of oblivion. We have stood at this edge since that day Oppenheimer saw the first nuclear explosion in the history of humankind and uttered the words, "I am become death."

But unlike John F. Kennedy who, having a healthy respect for the opinions of mankind and cared about the lives of everyday people and therefore stood down from nuclear annihilation, we have people running our country today who exhibit the height of arrogance and an absolute indifference to the sentiments proper to human beings. The illegitimacy of this administration and the illegality by which it rules is matched only by the depth of ignorance gripping our congress and the general public as to the crisis we face.

This ignorance extends also to ignorance of their own sovereignty and their duty to put a stop to the despotism and tyranny that spreads like a cancer across the nation and around the world.

By the time enough people realize the true danger we are in it will be far too late to do anything about it. By that time the only thing that will matter is whether death comes today or tomorrow. Do not think this too far fetched. History is rife with despotism, tryranny, war, holocaust, and genocide. Do NOT forget there was a time when underground shelters were built in the hope of surviving what might come. We thought we had backed off from that precipice. But those who were prevented from crossing that line during the 1960s are now in possession of the greatest annihilative arsenal the world has ever known.

Just as our forefathers knew that those with unfettered power are not to be trusted, this administration has shown itself to exercise its power cruelly, recklessly, with egregious malice aforethought, and a truly depraved indifference to the suffering and death they cause. As for congress doing business as usual as if we are only dealing with a minor inconvenience that will soon blow over, they show themselves as abdicators of their solemn oath to protect the people, to protect our country, and to protect the very principles that brought forth this nation. A pox on them all.

Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war, for I think it murder; but if a thief breaks into my house, burns and destroys my property, and kills or threatens to kill me, or those that are in it, and to "bind me in all cases whatsoever" to his absolute will, am I to suffer it? What signifies it to me, whether he who does it is a king or a common man; my countryman or not my countryman; whether it be done by an individual villain, or an army of them? If we reason to the root of things we shall find no difference; neither can any just cause be assigned why we should punish in the one case and pardon in the other. Let them call me rebel and welcome, I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man. I conceive likewise a horrid idea in receiving mercy from a being, who at the last day shall be shrieking to the rocks and mountains to cover him, and fleeing with terror from the orphan, the widow, and the slain of America.

There are cases which cannot be overdone by language, and this is one. There are persons, too, who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them; they solace themselves with hopes that the enemy, if he succeed, will be merciful. It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war; the cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf, and we ought to guard equally against both. (The Crisis, Thomas Paine)

The line is drawn where it has always been drawn. Thomas Paine re-drew it over 200 years ago as did the authors of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Forget about party or ideology or any of the petty issues of the day. This is about whether people stand on the side of humanity and fellowship and mutual survival, or, if they would sell their soul for a few dollars more. It is time to choose.

PS: to see how Paine's words have been twisted to support a failed policy, read
Airmen should stand proud and be ready