In any era, great Americans inspire us to reach our full potential. They know with conviction what they believe within themselves. They understand that all actions have consequences. And they find commonsense solutions to the nation’s problems.
One such American, Thomas Paine, was an ordinary man who changed the course of history by penning Common Sense, the concise 1776 masterpiece in which, through extraordinarily straightforward and indisputable arguments, he encouraged his fellow citizens to take control of America’s future—and, ultimately, her freedom.
Nearly two and a half centuries later, those very freedoms once again hang in the balance. And now, Glenn Beck revisits Paine’s powerful treatise with one purpose: to galvanize Americans to see past government’s easy solutions, two-party monopoly, and illogical methods and take back our great country.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I think I know who you are.
After September 11, 2001, you thought our country had changed for the better. But the months that followed proved otherwise. We began to divide ourselves and the partisan bickering that had been absent from blood donor lines and church services started all over again.
You sometimes argue with friends about politics, not because you are a political activist, but because you think the issues are actually important. You have strong beliefs, but you also have an open mind and a warm heart.
You try to do the right thing every day. You work hard, you always try to do your best, and you play by the rules.
You have credit cards, but you can make the payments. You have a home, but with a loan you can afford. Maybe you bought a flat-screen television that wasn't exactly a necessity, but you've never been reckless.
You don't have much in savings and your retirement plans have lost a significant amount of money.
You may go to church, but most weekends, you don't really want to you'd rather sleep in or play with your kids. Besides, it bothers you that people cut each other off in the parking lot right after the service.
You have children and, like all families, you also have your share of problems but you're making it. You constantly hope that your kids don't notice you're bluffing as a parent most of the time.
You feel like there's not enough time in the day anymore to just be a family. Everyone is always going in six different directions. You know material things don't matter, but you wonder why it makes you feel like a bad parent if your kids don't have certain shoes, the newest video games, or aren't signed up for five different sports teams.
You didn't have anywhere near the kind of stuff that today's kids have and yet you look back on your childhood with a sense of nostalgia and pride. If your family was poor, you didn't know it.
You turn on the television at the end of a long, tiring day and watch as endless analysts in left/right boxes argue about things done by bankers that, in retrospect, now seem implausible. You're worried about what's happening to our economy, but you're more worried about what it means for your family and you're not sure what to do.
You try to tune out the bickering by watching an entertainment show but there are times when you're uncomfortable watching them with your kids. You're not a prude, but you happen to think that a three-year-old shouldn't be watching shows that treat sex lightly and mock mothers and fathers. But what can you do? The other shows are worse.
You've taught your children the difference between right and wrong, yet they come home with language and habits that they didn't learn from you. You're shocked to hear what they're learning in school but you don't make a fuss because they're the "professionals" and you don't want to be one of "those people" anyway. You don't cherish conflict; you just want everyone to get along.
You don't hate people who are different than you, but you stopped expressing opinions on sensitive issues a long time ago because you don't want to be called a racist, bigot, or homophobe if you stand by your values and principles.
You believe in treating people justly and honestly but there is a difference between right and wrong.
You go to bed exhausted almost every night, knowing you have to get up the next day and do it all over again.
You thought that the politicians you supported and defended cared about the issues you do. Then you began to realize that you were wrong they only care about themselves and their careers. You feel used and betrayed.
You don't think it's right that while you worked hard, lived prudently, and spent wisely, those who did the opposite are now being bailed out at your expense. You realize now that self-serving politicians and bankers built our financial system on a house of cards that, despite the cheery promises and rosy forecasts, is now collapsing.
Now our government, the instigator of our problems, is telling everyone that they have to start sacrificing. Don't they understand that I already have been, you think. You weren't the one spending too much or living on money you didn't have. You made decisions rooted in logic while others made decisions rooted in greed yet now everyone must pay equally?
Yet, despite all of that, you're still willing to sacrifice more because you want America to succeed. But you demand a plan that's based on common sense and that actually has a chance to work.
You've called your congressman a few times in the past, but they don't listen. Now you just scream at the television. It's about as effective as the phone calls.
The light from the television flickers on the darkened room walls people at tea parties across the nation fill the screen. You don't know how to feel. You want to do something, but that isn't you. You're not an activist. You don't make signs or chant: "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" So, you turn off your light and go to sleep.
Every night it seems you are faced with a choice: Do you unplug or do you speak out? Both of those options make you uncomfortable so you do neither...and your frustration continues to grow.
The First Step out of Our Comfort Zone
The fastest way to be branded a danger, a militia member, or just plain crazy is to quote the words of our Founding Fathers. I imagine that this is because words have consequences and the words and ideas that those men shared were revolutionary:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
It is not time to dissolve the bands that connect us to one another, but it is time to dissolve the "political" bands that separate us from one another. Even if we disagree on politics, the phrase "I am an American" is not just a collection of words, it is the embodiment of an idea, one that has power only because "We the People" give it power. But somewhere along the way we've forgotten that, so we feel small and helpless as our country drifts away.
Perhaps what we need is a reminder. A reminder of who we are, who is really in control, and, most important, a reminder of how we got to a place that bears less and less resemblance to the America we remember from our childhoods. Let us start by doing what we've been trained for so long not to: let us declare the causes that unite us. Supplementary materials copyright © 2009 by Mercury Radio Arts, Inc.
A Note from the Author
Two hundred and thirty-five years ago, a British citizen with only a basic education set off to make a new life for himself in the British colonies. For two years he worked hard and watched as his fellow colonists grew tired of British oppression. Then he decided to act. Using his contacts in the publishing industry, Thomas Paine anonymously released a pamphlet that made the case for revolution using extraordinarily logical, straightforward, indisputable arguments.
He called it Common Sense.
Once Paine put his feelings into words, he realized that he wasn't alone. Only seven months passed between the release of Common Sense in January 1776 and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Seven months a pinpoint in the history of time, but a moment that put the colonies on an irreversible track toward revolution and, ultimately, freedom.
Seven months that changed the world, forever.
Today we find ourselves back in 1776 but this time our path forward isn't so clear-cut. The abuses being perpetrated by our government are just as obvious now as they were then, but instead of rising up with a collective voice, we sit idly by and watch as our hard-won freedoms slowly dissolve into a puddle of apathy, political correctness, and outright corruption.
We feel helpless and alone as we hear confusing debates over obscure issues play out on the airwaves daily. But that's the lie. The infighting and the purposeful division promoted by our political parties is a simple ploy to keep us from uniting. After all, a citizenry that fights among itself over petty differences is too busy to notice the real cause of its problems.
As you read the details of the immense harm that both parties have done to our country, you might find yourself wondering what can be done to change our course. I lay out several options, but I want to be clear that none of them includes violence. Thomas Paine and his fellow revolutionaries shed their blood so that future generations would have access to weapons immeasurably stronger than muskets or bayonets: the weapons of democracy. Those are the tools that we will use to usher in a second American revolution, a revolution that won't be fought on battlefields, but in the hearts and minds of the three hundred million people lucky enough to call America home.
Over the years, many revolutionaries have used sharp tongues instead of sharp knives and the results have been extraordinary. Martin Luther King, Jr., for instance, once said to his supporters: "The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be...The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists."
It was inflammatory language, but he meant that it is much easier to simply die for a cause than it is to find inventive, effective means to fight for it. Violence is the easy way out but it's also a sure path to discrediting everything you stand for, something that those opposed to him found out the hard way.
"Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time," King said while accepting the Nobel Prize. He continued, "...[man must] overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."
History has proven that King was right and so our new revolution of thought begins right now...with you.
Thomas Paine was an unremarkable man living in a remarkable time. He proved that it doesn't take celebrity, stature, or wealth to make a difference it only takes someone willing to say the things that need to be said. Well, I am no Thomas Paine he was an extraordinary writer, a renowned motivator, and a heroic patriot but the words that follow also need to be said, if for no other reason than to ease my own conscience.
If you believe that it's time to put principles above parties, character above campaign promises, and Common Sense above all then I ask you to read this book, declare yourself a creative extremist, and then pass these words along to others who may agree with something else that Martin Luther King, Jr., once said:
The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.
Do not remain neutral. Do not sit idly by. Do not let others speak for you. Silence has gotten us nowhere so it's once again time for our collective voice to make a simple yet powerful demand...
Don't Tread on Me.
Supplementary materials copyright © 2009 by Mercury Radio Arts, Inc.