Bring the Paine!
Screw fat old Ben Franklin and his 300th birthday. This city should be celebrating a
real revolutionary, the man without whom there'd be no America.
In Philadelphia," babbles the radio, "everyone is reading about
Benjamin Franklin .
The madness has been going on for months already, since the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing
Corporation first started shilling Franklin's 300th-birthday festivities last year.
The greatest event in this nation's history has been reduced to a yearlong birthday party for a jolly,
jocular cartoon Unka Ben. A kinda insurrectionary Kris Kringle. An avuncular saint, inventor and
bootstrap capitalist-a PG-friendly, George Bush-approved, sanitized, shrink-wrapped, deboned and
prechewed establishment revolutionary for the whole family to enjoy.
We say bollocks to that. It's time for some
. It's time this city celebrated working-class
Thomas Paine was a founder of both the U.S.A. and the French Republic, the ideological father of
democracy, the coiner of the phrase "United States of America," the author of not one but two
pamphlets that saved the United States,
the original author of the Declaration of
Independence and-on top of that-he was the original zinester, the first blogger and (according to
magazine) the moral father of the Internet.
Paine was Philadelphia's first and greatest hero. Rocky in a periwig. His life was a swashbuckling
Hollywood epic that makes
Pirates of the Caribbean
On Golden Pond
on Valium. As a
teenager Paine narrowly avoided sailing on a ship called
with a Capt. William Death, who was
promptly slaughtered along with 150 of his crew. He did, however, serve on a privateer (a state-
sanctioned pirate ship) called (you won't believe this)
The King of Prussia
In 1781-after he, according to George Washington,
singlehandedly saved the American
revolution-Paine even had an Errol Flynn-style sword duel with a British naval captain. Later, when he
was imprisoned during the French revolution, he escaped the guillotine only because an X was
scrawled on the wrong side of his death-cell door.
It's Paine we should be celebrating when we name our schools, bridges and roads. Benjamin Franklin
might have invented the lightning rod and the frigging glass armonica, but Tom Paine invented
It's no contest. Without Tom Paine there would've been no American revolution-and no America. Yet
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