Paine and Exclusion

The exclusions that Paine includes in Common Sense are undoubtedly still with us today. Religious intolerance, while not as explicit today, is still a very real problem in America. In Common Sense, Paine excluded Quakers and Jewish people explicitly and Catholics implicitly from his vision of a unified American people. In modern America, when it comes to exclusions for religious reasons non-Christians and Atheists are those most commonly left out of “the people.” After September 11th, it became abundantly clear how religiously intolerant some Americans could/can be. One unambiguous example of this intolerance is the debate over the Islamic center near Ground Zero. Few would question that Islamophobia in America has been on the rise since September 11th.

Atheists and non-Christians are excluded from “the people” by the assertion of many that the United States is “a Christian nation.” It is interesting to speculate what the speakers of this phrase really mean. All Americans are Christian? Clearly this is not true. All Americans should be forced to become Christian? The first amendment speaks pretty clearly on that issue. Those who are Christian deserve more rights than those that are not? This certainly does not sound very American. Many equate secularization with “letting the terrorists win,” not so subtly equating atheists with terrorists. A recent Daily Show segment pokes fun at the inability of Americans to stay united even after such focusing events as September 11th.  (Sorry, I could not embed it properly because it’s not on youtube, but it’s great and you should still check it out!)—the-daily-show-remembers-9-13-2001

Paine also implicitly excluded slaves and anyone else that was not white from his vision of American society. Today people who are not white are excluded from society. Evidence of this can be found in the many racist attitudes of some Americans. Groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis and anti-immigration organizations all demonstrate that racism is still alive and well in the United States. Racism and the accumulation of privilege help to explain why most credible reports still show a significant income gap between those belonging to different races. A Pew Research Center analysis of government data from 2009 provides evidence that “the median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black household and 18 times that of Hispanic households.” efforts of some individuals to exclude others leads to inequalities and disparities between those of different groups.

Paine does not specifically mention women as being excluded, but he might as well have. With the exception of calling on a Jersey Joan of Arc to rescue the Americans Paine apparently did not feel that women were important enough to reference specifically or to hypothesis about how the Revolution would affect them. Given the period in which it was written, it is not surprising that Paine would neglect to give women much ink in Common Sense. Women today still experience exclusion today. By most data research, women still make only $.77 per $1 that men make. This is attributed to many women being pigeonholed into pink-collar jobs with little chance of advancement and jobs that simply are not paid as well as jobs that are traditionally held by men.

Exclusion and inequality are still very much with us today.

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5 Responses to Paine and Exclusion

  1. bradenburgess says:

    I agree that disparities exist within our country today. I do not, however, think that today’s America is in any way as exclusionary as the blog author would argue. Our laws have done much to correct America’s past misdeeds. In particular, I think that it is wrong to say that women “are pigeonholed into pink collar jobs with little chance of advancement.” Many women today enjoy very respectable and high paying jobs in business and politics. Powerful women such as Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice are prime examples of how modern women have broken the proverbial glass ceiling.

  2. jwpeace88 says:

    You pointed out that religious intolerance is a problem in America. It is true and I agree with you on this. The notion of the United States being “a Christian nation” is still widespread and many people believe christian values should be upheld throughout society.

    However, I think you are overstretching when non-whites and women are excluded in America today. You should keep in mind that groups like KKK, Neo-Nazis and other hardcore anti-immigration organizations do not represent what most people think. Rather, these days they themselves are excluded from society for harboring such dangerous thoughts against other races.

    You also mentioned the significant income gap between those belonging to different races. I think you are going a little bit too far when you say “the efforts of some individuals to exclude others lead to inequalities and disparities”. What do you mean by this? Are you implying that those at the top of income bracket are purposely excluding those at the bottom by simply making a lot of money? I see you were trying to make a connection between political/social exclusion and economic inequality, but in order to do that you should elaborate more and provide more concrete, specific examples and data sets.

    It is hard to deny that exclusions still exist within our society. However, people, governments and other various institutions have been working very hard to remove these barriers for the last several decades. In my opinion the level of exclusion/inequality in today’s America is not as high as you would argue here.

  3. megsavel says:

    Upon careful reading, I did say “many women are pigeonholed into pink-collared jobs” not all. Saying that some women have broken the glass ceiling, and so it no longer exists is similar to saying that Barack Obama was able to become president so racism is no longer in issue in this country. I don’t mean to say that sexism and racism are the same thing, they are clearly separate oppressions, but both are systems of oppression none the less. Just because some individuals are able to overcome barriers does not mean that those barriers no longer exist. Also Hillary Clinton is an excellent example of the manner in which women can be excluded from society. When she was running against Obama there was barely a news story about her that did not comment on her clothes, whether or not she cried, how she was a “ball-buster,” how men crossed their legs whenever she walked into a room, etc.

  4. arullis says:

    When this question was presented in class it stood out to me the most. I am currently taking a Race and Ethnicity class which deals with race and injustice in America today. When Paine talked about exclusion I realized immediately how this still exists today and how there are various cases. Many minorities are excluded today. While it may not be explicit in the government there are still many social injustices in this country. Race still plays a major role in the United States. Many times exclusion isn’t as blatant as it used to be but I believe that there is no way you can argue that it doesn’t still exist.

  5. brianoconnor16 says:

    I found your post to be extremely insightful because of the honesty with which you speak. Today, just as in the past, groups of people are excluded from being considered ‘American’. Unfortunately Paine makes a similar mistake to the one that many people are making in the modern day. People often condense all people of a certain race, ethnicity, religion, etc. into one large block of people who cannot be accepted as true “Americans.” Following 9/11 people across the country were quick to racially profile people who looked like terrorists. But who is to say what a terrorist looks like? Were all white people under suspicion following the Oklahoma City bombing attacks done by Timothy Mcveigh in 1995? It seems to me that a notable correlation between Paine’s era and the modern day is that the majority group of people fail to abide by the doctrine in which our country is based (constitution) and exclude other groups of people. I know that Paine’s writing came before the constitution, but emphasizes throughout his writing the necessity of a government respecting the people’s rights. But Paine failed to include all people in his group he wished that a new American government would protect. It seems that in the democracy in which we live, the majority group is likely to be quick to point fingers at other groups of people in times of political instability. If Americans are indeed still excluding groups of people, then my question is how do we change in order to create a society in which people judge individuals based on character rather than the labels that they are associated with? Clearly most all Muslims are not terrorists. Is it the government’s role to control the exclusionary thoughts of its citizens during problematic times such as 9/11 and its aftermath? Is this even possible?

    As you note, Paine clearly excluded groups of people from what began to turn into “Americans” such as the Quakers and non-Christians among others. Paine explicitly left out groups of people who disagreed with the cause of Independence of Britain, or who were simply considered to be unworthy of being mentioned because of their status with in the colonies (slaves). On the premise that there is still exclusion in modern day American society, I think it is necessary to ask the question if there will ever be a society in which people can be safe from exclusion. If so, would government be too overbearing in a society that ensures this protection? Paine said himself that, “government even in its best state is but a necessary evil.” (5) I think these are all questions that all Americans must consider when thinking about the optimal role for government in society.

    Also, I found this website shedding light upon the increased intolerance towards Muslim Americans following 9/11. This is a sad reality of exclusionary acts in modern day American society.

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