Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the month “August, 2014”

For Your Consideration, I Give You…….Tom Paine

The U.S. Presidential election of 2012 was believed to be won by the candidate receiving the greater amount of money, not by the candidate better qualified to be the next President. A price has been placed upon public office. One political party blatantly tries to reduce the number of voters, not expand it. Part of that same group has usurped the good title of the Boston Tea Party and besmirched that good name by behaving like the British political merchants against whom the historical Party was held; instead of champions of freedom and liberty, they are champions of limited citizenry and of disfranchisement, especially of those of differing skin color and/or culture.

Most of our Founding Fathers must be “spinning in their graves.” One such “spinner” is not commonly recognized in the illustrious group that includes George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. This is a call to add the name of Thomas Paine to the list of Founding Fathers in our common discourse.  He has been needed as an addition since the beginning of our marvelous republic.

Tom Paine is the author of Common Sense, the pamphlet whose reading, according to Washington “worked a powerful change in the minds of many men” during the dark days for the colonists in the American Revolution.  During America’s struggle for independence, he was a volunteer aide-de-camp for Gen. Nathanael Greene.  From The Crisis, a series of inspiring tracts by Paine, came the immortal words, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”  For his service in the American Revolution he was awarded a 300-acre farm in New Rochelle, New York.  He was one of the first to call for a national convention to remedy the ineffectual Articles of Confederation.  Unlike his friend Thomas Jefferson, Paine leaned in his later political philosophy toward a strong union rather than the primacy of states’ rights.  But he was no Alexander Hamilton; his views evolved from advocating minimal government to government mandated as a beneficent agent to the people executing a program of positive humanitarianism.  He helped pioneer political ideas such as a progressive income tax and provisions for the helpless and the aged.

His human foibles were no worse than those of the other Founding Fathers, in fact to me more forgivable than the indiscretions of Ben Franklin, George Washington, or Alexander Hamilton.  Paine’s ideals were as lofty as those of Franklin’s and Jefferson’s, but he was not as patient as he probably should have been dealing these ideals to his fellow human beings; he spoke and wrote out when Franklin and Jefferson held their tongues and pens in discretion.  He was not willing to “fight another day.”

He was a missionary in the best tradition of the Apostle Paul.  In 1787 he went to England, and then to France, to work toward both places becoming a United States-like republic!  He was an apostle of liberty, freedom, human dignity, and humanitarianism — a true child of the Enlightenment.  His “missionary journey” is the stuff of legend; it transcends the legendary stories of the other Founding Fathers, in that it is one of lethal adventure as well as of penning great words, and, apparently, all true.  At the very least, it is “right up there” with Founding Father stories such as chopping down the cherry tree, throwing a dollar across the Potomac, or flying a kite-with-key during a thunderstorm.

In England he wrote Rights of Man, a hard-hitting rebuttal of Edmund Burke’s critique of the French Revolution, Reflections on the Revolution in France.  Paine not only defended the early events of the French Revolution, he promoted the principles of republicanism so well Pitt’s government had him indicted for treason against England, fearing French-style rebellion erupting there.  Paine fled to France to a hero’s welcome — Rights of Man was a natural big “hit” among the French revolutionaries — and was immediately elected to the French revolutionary Convention.  But, he gravitated toward the more moderate revolutionaries, the Girondins, rather than to the more radical revolutionaries, Robespierre’s Jacobins.  He was among those who advocated not executing King Louis XVI; he favored exile instead.  This put him at odds with the Jacobins, and when the Terror ensued, he was imprisoned and scheduled for execution via “Madame Guillotine.”  Those to be guillotined for a given day had notices nailed to or marked upon their cell doors the night before.  On Paine’s scheduled day of execution, he was ill with typhoid and a physician was summoned to attend him in his cell, whose door was left open, hiding the deadly notice against the wall of the hall of cells, or hiding the deadly mark on the door facing when the door was closed for the night.  Those who gathered the unfortunates with a notice or mark on the door to the carts for the public be-headings the next day passed by Paine’s cell, whose notice was hidden from them either by an open or a closed door.  The bureaucracy of the Terror apparently was such that if you missed your day of execution, it was a long time until your re-processing cycle was completed.  A few days later,  when Paine’s cycle was completed, if it ever was, Robespierre was out of power, and Paine was released and readmitted to the Convention.  However Tom Paine’s notice of death was hidden (He was so sick he knew no details of how he was overlooked.), his head was salvaged by a doctor’s “house call!”

Why, then, is there any need for my appeal?  Why, by the time he died back in America in 1809 was he not “ushered into the ranks” alongside Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams?  I think the answer is linked with the problems of our nation today, with the reasons he is sorely needed today in the ranks of the Founding Fathers (FF).  And the link is summed up in one word — religion.

Born in England (Country of birth no barrier to being listed with the FF; Hamilton was born in the British West Indies.) a Quaker, Tom Paine became, like Gen. Greene, a patriot who renounced his pacifism, a “fallen Quaker,” if you will.  Like so many of the FF, he was a deist and falsely accused, especially by the clergy and by the Federalist political party, of being an atheist (The atheist charge was a political action executed as part of a similar attack by the Federalists on his friend Thomas Jefferson).  Only decades after his death, many of his religious principles and beliefs had profoundly changed the religious landscape of the United States, in the form of the Unitarian movement.  A major part of his enlightened humanitarianism was and is individual freedom from political and religious bigotry.  Such freedom as it exists today is indebted in no small measure to Tom Paine. Yet, ironically, what set him at cross purposes with the orthodox Christian Church at large proved he was more familiar with Christian Scripture than most believers!

About the time he was going into prison at the hands of the Jacobins, he wrote Part i of Age of Reason, a scathing critique of Christian theology and of the Church in general, using the Scriptures themselves as his argumentative tool.  The accuracy of Part i referencing the Bible is nothing short of remarkable; not many had the familiarity of God’s Word to write Part i.  Two years later, after he was released, he wrote Part ii of Age of Reason.  Part ii was a wonderful continuation and supplement to Part i.  Together, both parts make up what I would call a “must read” for every believer and non-believer alike.  Age of Reason and Thomas Jefferson’s The Jefferson Bible together make the most disturbing case by Americans against Christianity as passed down to us by the Apostle Paul as I’ve ever run across.  If it were up to me, I would make these two publications required reading for every public, parochial, and private high school graduate in the nation.  (Also, see my Sorting Out the Apostle Paul [April, 2012] and The United States of America — A Christian Nation? [June, 2012] on this website Beyond Good and Evil, .)

Through politics, then, the same kind of religiously-motivated power struggles we see today in big-moneyed, Tea Party, fundamentalist conservatism, Tom Paine was made an anathema and died in obscurity in New York City, his enormous contributions to the birth of our nation conveniently forgotten by most of the nation.  He was not helped by the fact he ad hominum criticized George Washington for not doing more for him while he was in the French prison, admittedly, but that seems small potatoes compared to Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Age of Reason.  Nor was he helped by his tactlessness and drunkenness during bouts with depression in the last seven years of his life, but these foibles seem forgivable in light of how he stirred the hearts and minds of the American cause during the dark days of Valley Forge.

On MSNBC Chris Matthews quotes Tom Paine regarding a people’s power to “change the world” by changing their government, and President Obama quoted Tom Paine in his first inaugural address.  Paine’s words still stir what Jefferson and Adams called the “spirit of 1776.”  We need his words again in our hearts and minds; we need Tom Paine’s courage to stand up for the revolutionary principles upon which our country was founded.

Moreover, we need Tom Paine to remind us of Franklin’s observation — if the Founding Fathers had lost, they would have been hung as treasonous criminals.  We need Tom Paine to remind us that in the day of the Founding Fathers, the group to which he rightfully belongs, the conservatives of the day wore red military coats and spoke with a British accent.  We need a Paine Memorial comparable to that of Jefferson’s.



Fun Read

As I have introduced during the summer of 2014 my self-published book, there seems to be (perhaps understandably) a “knee-jerk” reaction — oh, no! Not another stupid, nostalgic writing of high school memoirs!

Its title is long and twisted, but the book is “just right” in length, yet also twisted. I named it Some X-Y Type Members of the Cisco High School Class of 1964, The M-4, (Or, Funny Things Happened On Our Way to HS Graduation & Matriculation Beyond — Such As Expulsion & Impish Pranks Galore,) and More, or SXYMCHSC1964M4M, “for short.”  It may be one of the few books whose shortened title on the spine is unpronounceable!  Unpronounceable, after all, as it is an acronym.

Self-publishing is a path which very well may be one of those where “wise men and women fear to tread.”  The risk I took in self-publishing was mitigated by having it made print-ready and printed at a local company, College Street Printing, here in Waxahachie, Texas.  Despite knee-jerk reactions and despite unpronounceable titles, early responses hint the risk might turn out worth it.  Physically, the book is an easy read, 8.5 x 11 inch in format, around 240 double-spaced pages in length and paper-backed in “perfect binding.”  Whatever the risks, however, I was compelled to write this book, just as I was compelled to write my memoirs back in the early 1970’s.

So many years ago, strangers from my generation urged me to write down the high school stories of my friends and me before I forgot all the details.  In the second decade of the 21st century, I was urged by self-compulsion to pay tribute to the three “stars” of those stories — 3 of the 4 pictured on the book’s cover, Bill Adling, Bob Berry, and Robert Cole.  Those three made for me not only a self-made world of youthful, exuberant pranks by the time we were 18, together as a quartet (The M-4) we bonded beyond the normal levels of brotherhood; we became friends of a “higher order;” as I said in Facebook, think of a Ferris Bueller-type high school student academically near the top of his class and a student body leader, and then multiply that by 4!  We became class clowns transcendent of the genre of those who make the class disruptively snicker.  We forged a legacy shown in our college years to be unequaled in uniqueness; the legacy of the M-4 gave us an unfair advantage over others’ high school experiences; in the game of “what-did-you-do-in-high-school” the legacy of the M-4 gave us multiple “aces-up-the-sleeve” to play when the cards were laid down on the table.  That alone was justification of my compulsion to write this book, in my opinion, but that is just the “tip of the iceberg.”

I was also compelled to document the “perfect storm” of circumstances that gave birth to the M-4.  Our unbelievably strong friendships were cast within a maelstrom of community disagreement, school administrative and faculty personality confrontations, and school district facility crisis.  This maelstrom was local, yet reflective of the social revolutionary years in the United States defined by the 1960’s.  This maelstrom refocused the school and community of Cisco, Texas, away from the fact that one of the most outstanding classes ever was about to graduate in 1964.  Fatally, our class was not considered as part of the solutions dealing with the disagreements, confrontations, and crisis.  These circumstances are the reason I dedicate the book to the Cisco High School Class of 1964; we did not deserve to be marginalized.

Our four special friendships midst the “perfect storm” of potentially unpleasant and condescending circumstances for our Class of 1964 sparked the defining prank that spawned the M-4.  That defining prank is a major portion of the book, revealing “blow-by-blow” detail much beyond what I had documented in my memoirs.  The book covers all our “career,” a prank-filled history that extended into our college years, when we returned to Cisco for the summers from campuses of higher learning.

Among the many ironies of the M-4 is the fact we were never caught during our “acts,” yet we were always, almost, found out.  The reader is invited to see the other ironies of our “career.”  The book lays out the evidence that divided the community and surrounding area over which opinion was divided concerning the M-4.  Were we treated fairly?  Were our “punishments fitting” for what we had done?  What were our motives?  Why did we behave the way we did?  The reader is invited to answer these questions for his/herself.

I believe the story of the M-4 is transcendent of most high school memoirs.  Nostalgia is part of this book, for sure, but only as a background, in my opinion.  Issues that are considered at one time or another by anyone who attends or attended high school are laid bare by these stories of four class clowns in a small high school in a small west-central town in Texas:  What is the preferred relationship between a community and its public school system?  What is the preferred relationship between the faculty and the administration of a public school district?  What is the ideal relationship between the administration and the community?  Between the faculty and the community?  How should authority of all types be presented to students?  What should students do, if anything, when the foibles of those in authority are exposed?  Are academic and social success for students commensurate with questionable student behavior?  What price do students pay for pulling school pranks?  Is that price worth it?  Some might ask “What does the ‘M’ stand for in M-4?”  Who did we “protect” by our silence; who were non-M-4 and compliant with our pranks?  Or, as the M-4 would ask in the wake of taking physics when they were Juniors, what is matter here?  What is Archimedes Principle do?


SXYTMCHSC1964M4M at first glance appears to be a compilation of posts from my website as constructed by WordPress.  Some readers might be tempted to read just those posts on the site and think they have read the book for free.  That would be a mistake.  Here is a list of reasons to supplement any reading of my site with the purchase of my book:

The book….

>>>>    is a compilation of edited posts from my site.

>>>>    places the posts in “proper” order, so that the stories flow somewhat chronologically.

>>>>    contains a dedication to, a chronology of, and a listing of the Cisco High School Class of 1964.

>>>>    features a name index in the back, whereby any name of interest can be followed on the appropriate pages; find your name, and see what I said about you!

>>>>    includes an author’s page in the back; some of you who think you know me might be surprised!

>>>>    also includes in the back a handy mail order form to obtain additional copies.

>>>>    features an exclusive map of the prank site of the night of February, 11, 1964 — the site in Cisco today bears little or no resemblance to the way it was back then.

>>>>    has a front cover of an unprecedented set of photos.

>>>>    has a back cover of unprecedented endorsements, both from the living and the dead!

>>>>    has a front and back cover displaying either the most famous, or the most infamous, example of Bill Adling’s extensive and excellent portfolio of artwork.


SXYTMCHSC1964M4M is presently on sale in two Texas cities, Cisco and Waxahachie, at $20 per copy, tax included.  In downtown Cisco, it can be found at Waverly’s Coffee Shop, Log Cabin Collectibles and Custom Framing, or The Cisco Chamber of Commerce.  In Waxahachie, copies may be purchased at The Ellis County Museum, The College Street Pub, or the newspaper offices of The Waxahachie Daily Light.  A nice write-up on the book was done by the editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light, Neal White, in a “Behind The Pages” article in the 7.20.2014 edition entitled “‘Doc’ Hastings and high school bonds.”  The article can be read on my Facebook site or by going to and looking up back articles.  Any additional selling sites will be added to the lists in this post.

For those wanting to order by mail, postage has to be included.  Send your mailing address, along with a check or money order made out to Ronnie J. Hastings to:

Ronnie J. Hastings

114 San Jacinto Ct.

Waxahachie, TX  75165

Additional postage to the copy price of $20 is $5 for the first copy and $3/copy for the second, third, etc.  (For all you math-philes out there, an easy way to get the amount correct for the check or money order for x copies is the formula 23x + 2  — $25 for 1 copy, $48 for 2 copies, $71 for 3 copies, $94 for 4, etc.)  Books shipped promptly for money orders; as soon as check clears for checks.


More than once a purchaser of SXYTMCHSC1964M4M has thumbed through his/her purchase and asked, “Why are there no photos inside like on the cover or on the author’s biography page?”  Those who read at least half-way never ask that question again, for they suddenly understand my answer — “Think of the incriminating evidence!”  This book is NOT my memoirs!

My experience writing this book hints at the best reason to purchase and read it; it is a fun read!  When I need a good laugh, or when, after a tough day, I need a “pick-me-up” mental smile, I remember penning the words of this book, or, now, actually reread whatever section appeals to me at the moment.  This book never lets me down; these are stories of those who for most of my life have compelled my mind to smile.  I both believe and think they will make most minds smile.  This is no book of inspiration, documentation, or high-minded lessons of life.  This is no book of boring, meaningless tales of “how we used to be.”  It is not a police novel or who-done-it mystery.  It is a true-life farce; it is a never-told-before-in-its-completeness comedy of youthful, raucous adventures; it is funny, unusual, and, for many, unbelievable.

Join in on this fun read!




Post Navigation