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Common sense is very uncommon

One certainty is clear from the recent political campaign: Based on 100 percent of campaign ads observed, all candidates have common sense. That's right, no matter what else they promised or told us, from the farthest right conservative to the farthest left liberal, each one assured us that, if elected, he or she would bring common sense to the office.

If common sense were as common as all that we wouldn't be in the pickle we're in. As Horace Greeley has pointed out, common sense is very uncommon.

Thomas Paine was born in England, where he grew up poor and unschooled, but he became acquainted with Benjamin Franklin, who urged him to come to America. Two years after arriving in this country, he was a fervent patriot. In 1776, he wrote the pamphlet, "Common Sense," a brilliant statement demanding freedom from England and the establishment of a strong independent union. That pamphlet was an inspiration to the colonial revolutionary leaders, including Washington and Jefferson. Another Paine pamphlet, "The Crisis," followed and opened with these words: "These are the times that try men's souls...Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered." Paine's bold words motivated the Continental Army during the darkest hours of the Revolutionary War. Did Paine himself have common sense? Probably not, because his bluntly expressed opinions often got him into trouble.

The reason common sense is so uncommon is that it is surrounded by enemies, which are in constant attack. In Paine's case, for example, his zeal overcame his common sense. Common sense tells you it is unnecessary and often unwise to bluntly and rudely express all your opinions. But zeal is stronger than common sense, and what followed (in Paine's case) is history.

Love can certainly overwhelm common sense -- usually no contest. Love says, "I love him -- I can change him." Common sense says, "Are you kidding -- the first three didn't change him. You can't make a silk purse out of that stuff. You're steaming down the track full speed for a train wreck."

Desperation can be more persuasive then common sense. Desperation says, "I need $3,000 fast for rent, car payments, alimony and pocket change. I can just do a quick heist of a convenience store." Common sense screams, "Don't even think about it -- those places have security cameras all over. You'll be easy to identify with the dragon tattoo on your cheek, your size 14 shoes and that missing ear."

Lust KO's common sense every day (and every night). Lust says, "A one night stand out of town can't hurt, why not?" Common sense says, "It's not right, it's not smart, somebody's going to get hurt and you'll never get away with it."

Competition often trumps common sense. The voice of competition shouted to the Minnesota Vikings: "Things are not going well for Brett Favre because his top receiver is injured. Let's get back our old superstar, Randy Moss, to turn the season around." Common sense whispered, but was not heard, saying: "Moss has been a jerk and a troublemaker as a teen, a college player, and as a pro -- if he's so valuable, why would New England let him go? Besides, if it doesn't work out, he has a $6.4 million contract, and if you fire him, you may still owe him $3.888 million." (Footnote: Moss didn't change -- he was still Randy Moss, he was a loud and conspicuous disaster and after only four games and 27 days, he had to be fired.)

The combination of youth and alcohol can swamp common sense's boat on any college campus. Youth and alcohol say: "Binge drinking is cool on your 21st birthday and almost any other special occasion. Besides, 24 hours later the hangover is gone." Common sense says: "How stupid are you anyway? Binge drinking is a perfect way to prove you're an absolute fool. Don't you know it can kill you, or worse yet, not kill you but leave you with half a brain for the rest of your life? Don't do it."

Think about all the enemies of common sense in addition to the ones listed above: greed, jealousy, gluttony, politics, "sexting," bullying and six more you can name. Now we can all agree that common sense is most uncommon. I'm still searching for just a little bit.