A central thesis of mine and a reason for this blog to exist is that most of America is entirely clueless as to why the 20% are making war on them. The daily assaults on the Four Olds by the Cult of Modern Liberalism is like a swarm of bees attacking from all directions. Logically, you know the numbers are small, but it feels like there are so many of them.
Jonah Goldberg wrote a book called Liberal Fascism a few years back. In it he documents how both American Liberalism and European Fascism share intellectual roots and how early Progressives borrowed from the Italian Fascists. There’s nothing new in the book, but it is a nice summary of the topic. Goldberg had to pull his punches, of course, given his career choice. Calling your employers fascists is never a good idea.
The trouble with so much of the analysis of the Left by the so-called Right is that it starts when their people arrived in America. It is a default assumption of “immigrant America” that the wave of Europeans that arrived at the end of the 19th and early 20 century forever reconfigured American culture. The story of America for them begins in the Jewish, Italian and Irish ghettos of New York, cutting off the 200-plus years of history that still defines the country.
If you read the Dissident Right, a common theme is the Cold Civil War between one group of whites (Progressives) and the other group of whites (Traditionalists). The assumption, and probably an accurate one, is that this term refers to the American Civil War. My guess is most people who think of the culture war this way are referring to the American Civil War. That event looms so large in the imaginations of the political elites, it is a reasonable way to start.
I would contend that the better place to start is the English Civil War, the fight between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers, the Parliamentarians versus the Royalists. The people that settled New England were English, who were on the side of the Roundheads. Some actually fought in Cromwell’s army. They also came from specific areas of England, thus having customs particular to that area, which they brought with them to the New World.
The other big colony founded at the time was the Tidewater area around the Chesapeake. The men who founded and developed Virginia and North Carolina were men of high birth and they created the sort of society you would expect from such men. The colonies of the Deep South were founded by plantation owners from Barbados. They not only shared the same sensibilities as the Tidewater gentry, they were also Royalists.
Just as the two sides of the English Civil War had a different political and religious vision, they had a different social vision. This was true of the American colonies. The Yankee world was one that was highly egalitarian and defined political liberty in terms of community freedom. The South was hierarchical, defining liberty as that of the gentry and their freedom as a ruling class.
The bigger divide was in their social views. Males in a Cavalier society were going to be what you imagine. Status was conferred on those who showed courage, daring and risk taking. In a Puritan society, males attained status through the sorts of things a highly egalitarian and fanatically religious people value. Instead of flamboyance, it was competence and community spirit that were the key to status.
This standoff between the New Model Army and the high risk cavalry charge is with us today. The assault on white males is not about race as much as it is about the concept of masculinity. This insane article from Salon gets at what I mean.
Toxic white masculinity defaults to violence as a means of maintaining social and political control. It clings to guns as a symbol of “real” male identity. It fears women as equals; it lashes out at non-whites who are somehow “stealing” white men’s jobs and power. Toxic white masculinity sees “liberals,” “progressives,” “social justice,” and “feminism” as enemies — out of a fear that “white masculinity” will somehow be made obsolete or extinct. The dream worlds and paranoid fantasies of angry white men are distractions that look to some type of Other as the preeminent threat to America’s safety and security. The reality is of course, very different.
There’s the old Roundhead versus Cavalier fight. The Progressive crazies making war on white males today are the spiritual descendents of those Roundheads, who executed King Charles. It’s not a political or cultural issue as much as it is a spiritual issue. The modern Progressive sees the flamboyant brash male as a threat to the spiritual well being of the community. In the Puritan tradition, men are humble, competent and risk adverse, as God expects from the elect.
Another Puritan attribute comes into play here and that’s a fanatic’s sense of obligation to enforce their ways on everyone else. The Puritans believed they were chosen by God to protect the common good through maintaining internal conformity and unity. When John Adams won the Presidency after Washington retired, he immediately set about enforcing Puritan culture on the rest of the country.
The Alien and Sedition Acts are exactly the sorts of laws you expect from religious fanatics. Modern Iranians or Saudis would perfectly understand the point. On the one hand Puritans wanted to keep foreigners from bringing foreign ideas, by forcing them to assimilate – or else. On the other hand, they wanted to stamp out dissent, particularly from those Cavalier males to their south.