We Must Begin America Again


“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” – Thomas Paine 

“Not everything is lost. Responsibility cannot be lost, it can only be abdicated. If one refuses abdication, one begins again.” – James Baldwin 

I was reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine, the little book that started the Revolutionary War. The book is famous for the phrase, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” However, the sentence that strikes me most is the sentence at the top of this article. Paine is obviously referencing the thirteen colonies, but I believe it to be true of every election. Every election brings about an entirely new House of Representatives, a new 33 or 34 senators, entirely new state legislatures, and governors. Every two to four years, the face of America can be altered completely. Every two to four years, we can begin America over again. You have that power. 

About two hundred years later, James Baldwin said “if one refuses abdication, one begins again.” Baldwin was talking about justice, and Paine was talking about liberty, but you can’t really have one without the other. So, it is profound to me that both thinkers struck on the phrase “begin again.” That’s what we’ve been presented on November 8th, 2022. We can begin again. 

We can begin the process of protecting women. A woman should not have to wait until she is dying of sepsis before her doctor is legally allowed to treat her – that’s barbaric. A 10-year old should not be forced to carry a pregnancy to term – that is barbaric. But, we can begin again. 

A trans child should not be driven to suicide so that someone can get a few more votes in an election – that is child abuse. 

When someone has a sick or vulnerable family member and they have to leave that loved one alone in the hospital because they cannot afford to take time off work, that is a tragedy. But we can begin again. 

When someone attempts to exercise the right that Thomas Paine talked about, that James Baldwin talked about, that Martin Luther King talked about, that people died for on battlefields in Lexington and Concord, on battlefields in Normandy, on streets in Selma and Birmingham, the right to vote but they can’t because they can’t afford to take off work – that is an abdication of the American promise. That is a betrayal. 

We were promised life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We were promised the right to vote, the right to petition our government, the right to assemble. And we are being denied. But it doesn’t have to stay this way. On November 8th, 2022, we can begin again. 

Let’s get started.