I've been gobsmacked to see references to and (apparently) readings from Thomas Paine as part of the wingnut freakout du jour.
Many of Thomas Paine's ideas were not just radical for his time, but would be scandalously radical now.
For instance, Paine was a proponent of a guaranteed minimum income (note, this is NOT the minimum wage, but a guaranteed minimum income.
He was a scabrously anti-religious deist ("The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum." and "What is it the New Testament teaches us? To believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married; and the belief of this debauchery is called faith.")
Those comments couldn't be uttered without corporate apology on Fox News today, 200 years after Thomas Paine's death.
Chris Kelly has a short rundown of Paine clashing with the Republican Party ethos.
I'm amazed that self-professed conservatives would evoke the radical spirit of Thomas Paine, given how his spirit would knock out their underpinnings.
While Obama isn't a radical, it's less surprising that he would evoke Thomas Paine, as he did in his inaugural address.
As some of you may note, I enjoy UK radio, and there's a nice current series called "Mark Steel's in Town," where Mark Steel goes to various smaller places in Britain and does a standup routine written for that locale. I enjoy Steel quite a bit (he did a wonderful series called "The Mark Steel Lectures" for both radio and television, one episode of which, in each medium, focused on Paine). [These Lectures also gave Emma Kennedy a chance to perform for the public, and Steel is sainted in that regard.]
One of the towns he visited for "Mark Steel's in Town" was Lewes (pop. 16,222), where Paine spent some years. I've put it up for those who may be interested. The section about Paine begins around 8:30 in, but the whole episode is quite ably handled and funny.
Mark Steel's in Town: Episode 3 - Lewis. Broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on April 1, 2009.
Finally, one more Paine quotation that reminds me of Obama:
"Moderation in temper is always a virtue, but moderation in principle is always a vice."