Paine's pamphlet is portable and jam-packed with potent messages.
Need refreshment from the summer heat? A respite from the debt ceiling debacle? A break from the sense that all the hope was for naught? Read the book that turned America's colonial rebellion into a revolution, the work that transformed British subjects into American citizens, the pamphlet that imbued American life with democratic imperative and impulse. Read Thomas Paine's Common Sense.
Paine's first great work not only inspired the founding generation to make history. It also encouraged generations of progressives, from freethinkers, abolitionists and suffragists to labor unionists, populists and socialists to redeem America's exceptional purpose and promise and carry on the fight to extend and deepen freedom, equality and democracy.
Common Sense will remind you of what it means to be an American. Lines such as "The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth," and "We have it in our power to begin the world over again" will give you the strength to deal with both right wing rants and "creeping cynicism." Plus, at just under fifty pages it is not only guaranteed to be low priced in these trying economic times, it is also easy to take along to the beach...
Of course, then you'll want to read more of Paine's words. So, you might want to pick up an anthology of his writings. That way you can also read:
The Crisis: "These are the times that try men's souls... "
Rights of Man: Paine's attack on Britain's political and social order that outlines a pioneering plan for a social security system.
The Age of Reason: A devastating critique of the power of clerics and organized religion.
Agrarian Justice: A visionary plan for taxing the propertied rich to provide stakes for young people starting out and pensions for the elderly.
The more you think about it, Paine's work should be read not only by vacationers and beach-goers, but year-round by citizens, students and especially the folks in the White House and up on Capitol Hill.
Harvey J. Kaye is the Ben & Joyce Rosenberg Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and the author of Thomas Paine and the Promise of America. He is currently writing The Four Freedoms and the Promise of America: FDR, the Greatest Generation, and Us. Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HarveyJKaye.