Thomas Paine was by all accounts a prickly and intransigent bastard. But as a revolutionary, radical, inventor, intellectual and one of the most important characters in the history of the United States, Tom Paine killed.
Common Sense jump started and fueled the shaky American Revolution, his Rights of Man cemented the notion that democratic political ideals were worth fighting for and the Age of Reason's call to arms against organized religion planted the enlightened seed of deism in generations of free-thinkers. As you see, by all accounts, he was also a bad ass.
Paine died in New York City 200 years ago today and remains to my mind a neglected hero. He was not into people telling him what to do, neither governments nor churchmen nor slave owners. He endlessly harangued contemporaries to end unquestioning adherence to feudal gentry and monarchical bullshit. In turn, they threatened to hang him. Though he was bounced from country to country and burned in effigy by his enemies, the little guy remained a shit stirrer on a mission till the end. Tom Paine, not John McCain, was the inventor of straight talk. So pour a libation to a fallen hero and spend the day stirring pots and smiting fascists in his honor. I assure you I will.