Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” was written in order to rile up the American public that was struggling with the fear of conceding. The greatest fear that Americans faced was that of needing to protect their homes and livelihood from British attack and what would happen if they lost the war. Were freedom and their belief that America was morally right to fight, worth the ramifications of fighting against England?
As Paine admits, one of the biggest assets America had was youth. The longer Americans waited and developed under British rule the more fearful they would become. As Americans grew stronger financially, they also began to have more to lose and resolve to fight for their personal liberties would be washed away as prosperity flourished. Complacency would set it, and the likelihood of America’s own nation would dwindle.
Fast-forward more than 200 years, America is no longer a sleeping giant under British rule. The U.S. is now at the forefront of every political and economic issue in the world. As other parts of the globe are just beginning to develop both politically and economically, America has grown old, begging 2 significant questions.
- Where does America stand in the modern world as compared to when Common Sense came out? Have the roles reversed, with America now in the role of the old bad guys trying to keep the young upstarts from encroaching on their business? Have they become the Evil Empire?
Some of Paine’s main gripes with England’s rule over the United States were the distance between the two lands, the fact that America was not a “British” land and was completely different culturally, and most importantly that America was being held back economically and kept from international commerce and expansion because of British selfishness.
While there are obvious differences in the situations, currently the United States is fighting 2 different wars in 2 completely culturally different countries across the world, trying to put together a functioning government with economies largely supported by the oil industry. The oil from these countries is arguably benefitting U.S. interests and even benefitting specific politicians such as Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who’s net worth is mostly due to Halliburton stock, which benefitted a great deal from the increased oil supply following the wars.
Has America become what Paine hated so much about England? Have the roles now reversed with America holding others back?
Perhaps just as importantly, this brings up a second question.
2. Has America lost the youth that Paine believed gave us the strength to fight for what we believed was right and allowed us to risk so much? Or do we all have too much to lose now, that we cannot risk our well-being and are stuck protecting what we already have?
Hopefully the answer to all these questions is no. In an age of incredible technology and information sharing, where we are discovering particles that travel faster than the speed of light, there is no reason to believe that America can’t avoid becoming a selfish superpower like Paine seems to describe Old England. We don’t have to keep fighting off/with other countries but hopefully find a mutual ground that is both morally sound as well as fiscally sound, working to preserve what we have without having to screw anybody else over to get it. However, this is lot easier said than done.