Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, whose persona is played by Bob Basso in numerous YouTube videos. He also appears at tea party rallies across the country. Our 21st-century "Thomas Paine" has kept the fire under our feet, and continues to inspire us into action. Like Thomas Paine, Mr. Basso's beautifully modulated voice speaks plainly yet powerfully about the problems we face today and how we must defend our values and our Constitution. Indeed, Mr. Basso's acting is so convincing that you imagine the real Thomas Paine stands before you. In a sense, he does, because Bob Basso lives and breathes the very essence of Thomas Paine.
In the real world, Bob Basso is an actor, writer, entertainer and motivational speaker.
Recently I posted his video titled "Open Letter To President Obama." Afterwards, I found Mr. Basso's personal website and sent him a simple question. I asked him if he truly believed the words he spoke in those videos. To my surprise, he responded with a thoughtful letter assuring me he does. He also explained how he learned about Thomas Paine, and why Paine's message resonates.
With Mr. Basso's permission, I am reprinting his letter to me so that you, too, may know him better.
I welcome your question, my friend. It's a penetrating one. Direct and unpretentious. It deserves nothing less than a direct response.
I write and I speak what I mean about our country. I do so through the persona of a very old hero of mine I first met in the second grade of Catholic school when Sister Mary Allen held up a picture of an aging colonial and announced: "This is Thomas Paine, the forgotten founding father who wrote the pamphlet Common Sense and convinced our forefathers and foremothers to fight for freedom.."
I raised my hand and asked her," Why, Sister, is he forgotten?"
She said,"Because he always wrote what he believed and wasn't afraid of speaking out and some people didn't like that, particularly what he said about religion."
When you're eight years old it's hard to say why all that impresses you. Maybe it was because he was like all the men in my family, unafraid to say what they meant no matter the consequences or maybe it was just because I liked his name.
As I grew older, I read every essay, every letter, every book ever written by or about Mr. Paine. Like all men he was complex on many things but devoted his will and his talent to put difficult concepts into simple language the average person could grasp. While he was born in Theford, England, he quickly became as red,white and blue an American as the man who first convinced him to bring his thinking to the colonies. The man who gave him his first job, Benjamin Franklin.
He was an American in fact, not just words. He took every penny he earned from his writings and donated it to the freezing, ill-fed Continental Army forsaken by their own government in the ice fields of Valley Forge. He packed up several wagons and brought them badly needed shoes and socks and stayed through the winter as a recruit and aide to General Washington.
He was the first to advocate the abolition of slavery in America.
The first to speak out for women's rights.
The first to fully explain the phrase that would be the foundation of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, "the common good".
He was the first to name our country, The United States of America.
He was always blunt, direct and very passionate about God-given rights and Natural Law.
His downfall came when against the advice of his old boss, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin, he published "The Age of Reason" where he condemned organized religion as capturing minds and paralyzing them from thinking on their own.
He was branded an atheist, which he was not. He was a Deist and firmly believed in a supreme being. The children of upstate New York spit upon him, ransacked his home and gave him no peace.
He died in poverty, forgotten and alone at age 73 and his bones were dug up and lost for all time.
I don't pretend to have the brilliance of Thomas Paine's incisive thinking and encyclopedic recall of philosophy, the Bible and world history, but deep down I always felt I knew his passion for a country he believed was very special and blessed: "We have it in our power (in America)
to begin the world over again...."
Yes, Erica, I believe with all my heart what I say on the Youtube videos and at the over 400 rallies Mr. Paine has spoken to all over this country in the last 15 months.
I may not succeed all the time, but I try to stay focused on what my old hero would say if he did come back to modern America, and made a contribution to return this great country back to common sense, reason and respect for our Constitution.
Thank you for your question... I hope you are an involved citizen, no matter what your political or philosophical views may be... we never earned the right to be an American, we were never entitled to it, it wasn't a destiny.... it was a gift and some gifts are worth fighting for.
Much sunshine, and may you find joy in your own way of saying "thank you" to America.
Bob Basso for Thomas Paine
P.S. Stay in the fight, the earth is moving, the tide is changing. America is a second-chance land
of opportunity and now all of us who gave up being citizens to become consumers have a second chance to finish the work of the first American Revolution by becoming citizens and patriots again with a non-violent Second One to return our country to our core values...and we will not be defeated. Much good fortune in your grass roots movement.