I have often written about Thomas Paine. Out of all the patriots that sacrificed so much for our country, he may be my favorite. He was unabashedly outspoken with his love of country, and he passionately pleaded with his countrymen to “lay their shoulders to the wheel” and help push for the independence that he felt would change the fortunes of the New World and its citizens.
He could not have been more right.
Paine’s writings on the need for the United States to separate from the brutal umbrella of the British are replete with phrases that stir the spirit:
“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
“An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot."
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
I think of Paine today as we go through the election process. The candidates and their qualifications, and lack thereof, have deeply divided our country. The campaigns they have both conducted have only served to further deepen the wound. Does anyone truly believe that either of these people will unite our country? If you are a Hillary supporter are you going to firmly unite behind President Trump? If you are a Trump supporter are you going to boldly support President Clinton? I doubt it.
Few things are certain, but more than likely November 9th will roll around in the morning and the sun will come up. And we will know who our new president is going to be. What will you do? Flee the country? Throw a party? Stay in bed?
I think at some point, no matter the outcome, there will be large sections of the country that will need to reconcile themselves to the fact that there is a new president. The process of reconciliation will be short for some and long for others. And non-existent for a few. However flawed the next commander-in-chief will no doubt be, this is our country and our lives have been, and will be, shaped here.
Thomas Paine wasn’t writing letters to George Washington and other leaders of the time. He was writing to farmers, to blacksmiths, the unemployed, etc. In short, he was writing to the PEOPLE. He knew that real change, and taking it even further the mindset of the country, is largely determined by the people and their spirit. The PEOPLE make up the country, not the politicians.
So I ask you to cast another vote on November 9th. It is a vote to be taken after the election is over and the body has cooled so to speak. It is a vote to avoid bitterness and divisiveness. A vote to do your part to unite our country and not to tear it down. A vote to understand that even though you differ with your neighbor on politics, that you are both still neighbors – and that you are stronger together than apart.
I will close with something completely fictitious, but how I hope it “would go down” if Thomas Paine were here today. I think he would say something like this….
”I know you’re angry your candidate didn’t win. I know the winner has all kinds of flaws. But this is YOUR country not his/hers. It is what you and your neighbors make it. Don’t let an election change who you are and how you love your family, friends, and this country. Stay true to them. And by God, don’t you dare take your shoulder off that damn wheel! Too many of my friends fought and died for this country for you to up and abandon it now. These are the times when this great country needs you more than ever. Don’t ever forget that.”
- Thomas Paine (posthumously, possibly, maybe….hopefully)
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