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Tom Paine: What a Guy!

Jim Hightower on

In my view, the greatest of America's "Founding Fathers" was not George Washington or Thomas Jefferson -- nor, technically, he wasn't even an American. Rather, he was a British immigrant and itinerate agitator for real democracy, enlightenment and universal human rights.

He was Thomas Paine, a prolific, profound, persuasive and widely popular pamphleteer in the movement for American Independence. With plain language and genuine passion for the cause, Paine's 47-page pamphlet, "Common Sense," was so compelling in its support of the Revolution that it was passed around from person to person -- and even read aloud in taverns! But Paine wasn't content with democratic rhetoric; he actually believed in an egalitarian society, and his post-revolution writings (including "The Age of Reason" and "Agrarian Justice") unabashedly demanded that the new hierarchy of U.S. leaders fulfill the promise of democracy.

Even before the War for Independence, Paine called for slaves to be freed and slavery prohibited. After the war, he terrified most of the gentlemen of means who'd signed the Declaration of Independence by insisting that non-landowners be eligible to vote and hold office (John Adams was so appalled by this that he decried "Common Sense" as a "crapulous mess"). But Paine just kept pushing, calling for women's suffrage, progressive taxation, state-funded child care, a guaranteed minimum income, universal public education, strict separation of church and state, and adoption of some of the democratic principles of the Iroquois Nation.

This is Jim Hightower saying, Don't tell small-minded, right-wing demagogues like Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott -- but Thomas Paine was WOKE! Some 250 years before their push to impose autocracy, plutocracy and theocracy over us, this revolutionary founder championed social justice and economic fairness. As one historian noted, "We are today all Paine's children," for he imbued America's destiny with democratic impulse and aspiration.

GUESS WHAT? AMERICANS WANT TO BE WOKE!

Well, well, well -- look who's waking up and raring to go: Mr. and Ms. WOKE!

We so-called "woke" people have been the target of far-right politicos and front groups that are frantically trying to ban us and our ideas from America's political discourse. In the past few years, such thuggish gubernatorial demagogues as Ron DeSantis have perverted the power of Big Government to attack teachers, librarians, public agencies and even beer. Beer!

 

Why? Because such people and organizations make educational efforts to reduce bigotry, hatred and exclusiveness in our society. "That's woke," screech the ultra-rightists, demanding that any talk about racism, sexism, gender discrimination or other ugly realities in America must be suppressed.

Like the witch hunters of old, today's pious puritans of ideological conformity have demonized such basic values as diversity and equity, calling them "toxic." DeSantis outlawed any teaching of them in Florida universities, and then he cut sociology from the core curriculum of the state's educational system -- essentially cutting out "us," the study of humanity.

If ignorance is bliss, the DeSantis clique must be ecstatic, for they are eliminating crucial lessons in the art of tolerance, community, sharing, collaboration ... and getting along together. You can have a society that works for the benefit of all -- or a DeSantisWorld, where the few rule, and everyone else is forced to conform to their biases.

This is Jim Hightower saying, But wait -- the great majority of Americans are rebelling and saying: "We are woke!" Even Republicans flatly rejected DeSantis' presidential campaign that promised to "Floridize" America with anti-WOKE nonsense. And far from wanting to reverse efforts to increase diversity and inclusiveness, a recent poll found that 70% of Americans (including half of Republicans) say our country "needs to do more to increase social justice."

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

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