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Founding father Thomas Paine knew a crisis when he saw one.

When America’s Revolutionary War was sputtering he wrote a powerful essay that spoke directly to the men being asked to shoulder their muskets against the British Empire and the most powerful army in the world, giving them the spirit to sustain the fight.


In his Common Sense pamphlet, “American Crisis No.1, 1776,” he shared, “These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

With these inspiring words Thomas Paine dismissed the Loyalists, Tories, and traitors who were against the patriots and would throw aside the demand for independence and freedom. He would scathingly ask, “And what is a Tory? GOOD GOD! what is he? I should not be afraid to go with a hundred Whigs [Patriots] against a thousand Tories, were they to attempt to get into arms. Every Tory is a coward, for servile, slavish, self-interested fear is the foundation of Toryism; and a man under such influence, though he may be cruel, never can be brave.”

What would Paine make of today’s American “Tories” – those against American patriotism, no longer patriots loyal to America; these might be the Americans whose enormous wealth has so altered their perception of self that they may not even view themselves as citizens of our threatened democracy? Rather, their self-concept may be that of a sovereign entity answerable only to themselves and their stockholders.

One who has expressed deep concerns about these “Profit Partisans” is Ken Burns, the award winning documentary director who has chronicled many of America’s leaders and historic events. As far back as August of 2021, Burns told a New York Times reporter that he felt Facebook’s multibillionaire Mark Zuckerberg was a danger to the future of the United States and should be in jail, for allowing Facebook to be used as a tool for “misinformation” and “In the same interview, he spoke about ‘Soviet style disinformation.'”

In a previous era we might have viewed Zuckerberg and others as passing anomalies in America’s history. But Paine’s insightful observation still rings true: “These are the times that try men’s souls…” We are faced with domestic threats that range from cynical ballot harvesting and congressional gerrymandering to destabilizing debt and runaway inflation. Overseas, Russia has challenged the world to stop its bloody takeover of Ukraine while China pursues a strategy of global economic dominance at our expense.

In Paine’s “Common Sense” we hear a call to arms to the Patriots of 1776, a rallying cry to face the foes of freedom and even a call for Tories to recognize and reverse their sorry loyalties. Paine successfully recharged the patriotism of America’s first freedom fighters, using clear, concise language to remind them what was at stake and why they needed to stand firm before the might of the Redcoats.

While the threat has changed, Paine’s instructions to the citizens of America remain very much relevant and crucial to our nation. America is under assault both from within and beyond its borders. Now is the time to recognize these threats and respond with a renewed and urgent sense of patriotism or we will be failing our heritage and abandoning our future.

{Reposted from the Gatestone Institute website}


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Lawrence Kadish, a Long Island real estate investor, is a trustee of the Gatestone Institute.