Search Results For: puritanism

By Tracy R. Walsh

Keith Humphreys thinks the phrase “progressive Puritans” is unfair to both progressives and Puritans:

A Puritan would be delighted to meet a fellow member of the faithful, but that is not what I see in these parents. If they are vegetarian and meet another vegetarian, they are unhappy and commit to becoming a vegan. If they then meet another vegan, they become unhappy and commit to becoming an ovo-lactic vegan. They don’t want other people to share faith in a community of peers; they want to outrank their lessers within a hierarchy. This is also why they are not truly liberal or progressive. They are not trying to save the world, they are trying to get an edge in life for themselves and for little Hayden and Sawyer too.

Rather than surrender the terms liberal or progressive so easily to the domain of lifestyle and shallow issues of personal identity, I suggest we let those terms retain their political meaning by not describing panicky, entitled, hierarchy-obsessed, materialistic strivers as “liberals.” Likewise, let’s not throw theology and history to the side and call them “Puritans” either. If we need a shorthand term for them, I suggest that someone with literary skill invent an entirely new one, as long it isn’t very polite.

Any ideas? More of the popular thread here.

Punctuality Puritanism

Aug 18 2013 @ 4:52pm

Kevin Williamson declares that “[w]asting somebody else’s time is a great sin”:

New Yorkers, contrary to the popular belief, are not on the whole rude people. But their characteristic pedestrian habits — avoiding eye contact, marching through scenes of pathos or comedy as though they had seen nothing at all — give that impression. That impression is belied when a tourist stops to ask for directions, at which point New Yorkers become as briskly helpful as Americans of any other city, explaining for the eleventh time this year that the Lexington Avenue subway line does not follow Lexington Avenue below Grand Central, its entrances being found on Park Avenue, that, yes, Saks is in fact on Fifth Avenue, that the Statue of Liberty is not within easy walking distance of Times Square, etc. The no-eye-contact thing is not about denying the fundamental humanity of fellow pedestrians — it is about not wasting their time. Ignoring you is a New Yorker’s way of being considerate.

If you happened to be walking down the street some afternoon in downtown Amarillo, Texas, you might very well make eye contact with a passing pedestrian, perhaps even offering a nod, simply because passing a pedestrian is an unusual occurrence. Likewise, the single-finger wave (no, not that finger) that Texas drivers offer each other on country back roads is an acknowledgment that there are, after all, not a hell of a lot of people out there. Doing that in Manhattan would make you crazy, and make everybody else crazy, too. There is a reason that doffing one’s hat to ladies went out of style.

Jul 21, 2013 @ 7:26pm

Spurred by voters in Portland, Oregon who defeated a bill that would have provided for the fluoridation of their drinking water, Mark Oppenheimer decries the trend of “left-wing Puritanism”. He relays this telling anecdote:

Last month, at a birthday party for a three-year-old, I was hit with the realization that most of the parents around me were in the grip of moral panic, the kind of fear of contamination dramatized so well in The Crucible. One mother was trying to keep her daughter from eating a cupcake, because of all the sugar in cupcakes. Another was trying to limit her son to one juice box, because of all the sugar in juice. A father was panicking because there was no place, in this outdoor barn-like space at some nature center or farm or wildlife preserve, where his daughter could wash her hands before eating. And while I did not hear any parent fretting about the organic status of the veggie dip, I became certain there were such whispers all around me.

His broader argument about the meaning of liberalism:

I am only suggesting that we resist thinking of Puritanism as the only, or optimal, parenting style for liberals, for two reasons. First, thinking that Puritanism—whether a preference for organic foods or natural fibers or home-birthing—is somehow constitutive of a liberal politics is rather insulting to liberalism. Most of the middle-class “liberal” parents I know have allowed lifestyle decisions about what they wear, eat, and drive to entirely replace a more ambitious program for bettering society; they have no particular beliefs about how to end poverty or strengthen the labor movement, and they don’t understand Obamacare, or really want to. It’s enough that they make their midwife-birthed children substitute guava nectar for sugar.

But more important, realizing that Puritanism does not equal liberalism liberates us to think of another way to be liberal: by rejecting the kind of stress that comes from Puritanism. They say hygienic reform; I say the 30-hour work week and not stressing if my children eat Kix. Liberalism, as the political philosopher Corey Robin has recently argued, should be above all about freedom. The best reasons to want a labor union, or universal health care, or Social Security are to be free of worry, want, and privation, and to be out from under the hand of the boss. It makes no sense to re-enslave ourselves with fear, worry, and stress. That is not liberal but reactionary.

Arit John adds a point of contrast:

[C]onservative parents have generally become relatively more open-minded. Lenore Skenazy was famously called the worst mom in America after admitting that she let her 9-year-old ride New York’s subway home alone. But really, she’s just instilling her kids with self reliance and pull-yourself-up- by-your-bootstraps-grit. Skenazy’s Free Range Kids movement supports events like “Take Our Children to the Park and Leave Them There Day,” which is both self-explanatory and (potentially) horrifying. And yet none of her children has gone missing or been taken away by the authorities.

All those liberal worries about about obesity, high blood pressure, germs, autism and industrial chemicals, is leading to a lot of stress, which may in the end be more harmful than anything. Your bickering about the virtues of antibacterial hand lotion might give your kid a complex.


Jul 25, 2013 @ 10:44am

Ctd …

A reader writes:

I’ll leave readers to decide how convincingly Mark Oppenheimer made his case about liberal puritanism, but as a proud Stumptowner, I gotta call BS on dragging Portland into it.  Like so many local issues, when an essayist just grabs a headline and lazily uses it as a metaphor for some larger theme, his whole premise is undermined by misunderstanding what actually happened.

So here’s what actually happened. Flouridation has gone down at the ballot three times here - 1956, 1962, and 1978.  Oregon, like other Western states, was red until the Clinton years.  The voters who defeated these measures through the decades were not the hipster stereotypes you see on Portlandia.  In this year’s election, the proponents outspent opponents 3 to 1 and represented a lot of the bedrock liberal interests that fuel Portland’s liberalism.

The reason voters rejected it is the same reason they always do: they have a romantic love of the natural beauty of Oregon and are enormously proud that their water comes straight from the Bull Run Reservoir in the Mt Hood wilderness.  It arrives completely untouched and untreated – pure Cascade spring water.  Most Oregonians are immigrants who were attracted to this region for the natural bounty, and Bull Run water is a powerful testament and metaphor for that purity.  The measure failed by 20 points, not because radical lefties were afraid of fluoride (even in Portland, you don’t get 60% on far-left votes), but because of the idiosyncrasies of tap water.  Lots of random Oregonians voted to save the water in its natural state.  That’s how we roll.

(For the record, I voted for fluoride.)

Update from a few readers:

“It arrives completely untouched and untreated – pure Cascade spring water.” Bullshit. All tap water in the country is treated. One hiker with giardia taking a dump in the watershed and the whole city, well, you get the idea. (The watershed is generally off-limits, but still.) From the City’s website:

Read On

The thread continues:

Thanks so much for posting my response.  It’s one of the many things I truly appreciate about your site, the airing of both sides. You posted an update from another reader immediately Fourpetal_St._Johns-wort_(Hypericum_tetrapetalum)_(8460154764)after mine:

True, some herbs have medicinal properties, but unless one has run a double-blind test, then you truly don’t know if the herbs do anything beyond the placebo effect. The US government has spent over a billion dollars trying to prove non-Western medical claims, and guess what? The herbs and other items very rarely do anything positive, occasionally show mild effects, and often have undocumented side effects.

I have to take issue with this comment as well.  I happen to work in the dietary supplement industry, specifically selling botanical extracts in raw material form to dietary supplement manufacturers and contract manufacturers.  I’ve worked for some of the largest German Botanical Extract companies that are at the forefront of research for botanical medicines.

I’m all for running double-blind tests, but the design of the study is incredibly important.  I’ll give you an example: St. John’s Wort.

Read On

A reader writes:

As a former resident of Portland, I’ve followed the fluoridation debate lightly without much of an opinion, but have dug into it some more with the unfurling of this thread. I tip my cap to the reader who linked to the anti-fluoride site. I, for one, have been trying to figure out what’s wrong with my teeth for some time, with no leads (even from dentists) until I saw the pictures of dental fluorosis:

teeth2

I grew up in Lawrence, KS which had fluoridated water, and my teeth look like those with mild dental fluorosis. (But I also had no cavities while growing up.)

Overall, I thought that some of the arguments made on the site were compelling, some less so. But the reflexive cries of “whack-job” by readers in the following post made me cringe. In addition to providing zero links to their claims of pseudo-science for others to evaluate, there’s a rich irony lost on the responders.

Oppenheimer’s article wasn’t about fluoridation or organic food; it was about the aggressive purification of the left betraying the fundamental values of classic liberalism and subverting its societal priorities. That those readers imagine that they’re proving Oppenheimer’s point by citing Western medicine is laughable. There is perhaps no better example of “liberal” ideological purity and certainty than mainstream Western medicine, which dismisses all forms of knowing that can’t been “proven” in a lab.

A reader with a long-term illness writes:

I couldn’t resist responding to this statement: “Ignorance of science and medicine is a luxury that is great so long as you’re basically healthy. When you’re really sick, however, you’d better toss all that alternative crap out the window.” What upsets me most is the either/or attitude the reader advocates. I think this mindset permeates our culture.  I think it’s completely unproductive and does nothing but produce self-righteous justification for one’s current beliefs.

I was raised holistically by both my parents.

Read On

A reader quotes the previous one:

To me the idea of adding medicines to drinking water seems to be the nanny state operating at its finest (there is no other reason for adding fluoride to water beyond the prevention of tooth decay).  If I want to use fluoride, then it’s super simple for me to just buy a fluoridated toothpaste, giving me a degree of choice and control over what I put into my body that federally-mandated fluoridation just doesn’t give me.

This statement is so full of naivety that I barely know where to start. Does the reader also oppose all other federally-mandated water requirements? Does she realize how many chemicals (or medicines) are required to get water treated and safe? Why are they not nanny-state? Why not abolish those? People are perfectly able to buy bottled water in the supermarket, no? Or would that not be possible because most bottled water is just tap-water from elsewhere, and you need some standards to keep that safe?

Another reader:

The post from your Seattle correspondent could have been drafted by my lesbian sister and her naturopath wife. Nothing that wasn’t organic ever crossed their daughter’s lips and she was never sick. Until she had nine cavities. And until she was diagnosed with leukemia. It nearly killed her parents to subject my niece to general anesthesia for dentistry and chemotherapy for cancer, but now she is healthy and thriving.

Ignorance of science and medicine is a luxury that is great so long as you’re basically healthy. When you’re really sick, however, you’d better toss all that alternative crap out the window.

Another:

It never ceases to amaze me how oblivious self-identified “progressive liberals” are to the defining characteristic they share with the Tea Party: nostalgia for a world that never existed.

Read On

A reader writes:

As a progressive liberal parent, parenting in progressive liberal Seattle, I’m finding the lopsided caricature of liberal parenting presented recently on the blog to be rather unfair. In the specific case of fluoridation, it is by no means proven that fluoride is harmless –  some studies have linked fluoride to disruption of the endocrine system, leading to metabolic disorders and thyroid problems.  Could America’s obesity rates be somehow linked to its obsession with fluoridating its water?  The case against fluoridation is given here.

But in general, I would consider being against fluoridation to be a somewhat conservative stance. To me the idea of adding medicines to drinking water seems to be the nanny state operating at its finest (there is no other reason for adding fluoride to water beyond the prevention of tooth decay).  If I want to use fluoride, then it’s super simple for me to just buy a fluoridated toothpaste, giving me a degree of choice and control over what I put into my body that federally-mandated fluoridation just doesn’t give me.

On a more general note, I’m a firm believer in “you are what you eat”. I don’t think it’s an accident that my daughter is very rarely sick.

Read On

A reader writes:

I’ll leave readers to decide how convincingly Mark Oppenheimer made his case about liberal puritanism, but as a proud Stumptowner, I gotta call BS on dragging Portland into it.  Like so many local issues, when an essayist just grabs a headline and lazily uses it as a metaphor for some larger theme, his whole premise is undermined by misunderstanding what actually happened.

So here’s what actually happened. Flouridation has gone down at the ballot three times here - 1956, 1962, and 1978.  Oregon, like other Western states, was red until the Clinton years.  The voters who defeated these measures through the decades were not the hipster stereotypes you see on Portlandia.  In this year’s election, the proponents outspent opponents 3 to 1 and represented a lot of the bedrock liberal interests that fuel Portland’s liberalism.

The reason voters rejected it is the same reason they always do: they have a romantic love of the natural beauty of Oregon and are enormously proud that their water comes straight from the Bull Run Reservoir in the Mt Hood wilderness.  It arrives completely untouched and untreated – pure Cascade spring water.  Most Oregonians are immigrants who were attracted to this region for the natural bounty, and Bull Run water is a powerful testament and metaphor for that purity.  The measure failed by 20 points, not because radical lefties were afraid of fluoride (even in Portland, you don’t get 60% on far-left votes), but because of the idiosyncrasies of tap water.  Lots of random Oregonians voted to save the water in its natural state.  That’s how we roll.

(For the record, I voted for fluoride.)

Update from a few readers:

“It arrives completely untouched and untreated – pure Cascade spring water.” Bullshit. All tap water in the country is treated. One hiker with giardia taking a dump in the watershed and the whole city, well, you get the idea. (The watershed is generally off-limits, but still.) From the City’s website:

Read On

Spurred by voters in Portland, Oregon who defeated a bill that would have provided for the fluoridation of their drinking water, Mark Oppenheimer decries the trend of “left-wing Puritanism”. He relays this telling anecdote:

Last month, at a birthday party for a three-year-old, I was hit with the realization that most of the parents around me were in the grip of moral panic, the kind of fear of contamination dramatized so well in The Crucible. One mother was trying to keep her daughter from eating a cupcake, because of all the sugar in cupcakes. Another was trying to limit her son to one juice box, because of all the sugar in juice. A father was panicking because there was no place, in this outdoor barn-like space at some nature center or farm or wildlife preserve, where his daughter could wash her hands before eating. And while I did not hear any parent fretting about the organic status of the veggie dip, I became certain there were such whispers all around me.

His broader argument about the meaning of liberalism:

I am only suggesting that we resist thinking of Puritanism as the only, or optimal, parenting style for liberals, for two reasons.

Read On

MORE SNOWY PURITANISM

Feb 24 2003 @ 4:25pm

Now they want to cut off a snow-woman’s boobies!

PURITANISM ALERT

Apr 11 2001 @ 12:25am

Marjorie Williams comes out bravely against women smoking in today’s Washington Post. Or, more accurately, she berates feminist organizations for not joining the war against tobacco companies. But why on earth should they? No-one alive today is unaware of the risks of smoking. If women want to smoke, why should feminist organizations try to stop them? Isn’t feminism about choice and isn’t smoking a choice? Williams even berates the cigarette companies for helping finance a whole array of feminist groups and mocks Philip Morris for funding programs to help battered women. That’ll teach them to do something that actually, tangibly benefits women. As usual with nanny-liberals (and some nanny-conservatives), Williams’ main worry is that women cannot resist the lures of advertizing. But this argument infantilizes women and teenage girls even further. They’re not pawns of ads. They’re women deciding to take their own risks and live their own lives. It says something about what has happened to feminism that this is something we’re now supposed to regret rather than celebrate.

In Defense Of The Puritans

Nov 28 2013 @ 3:02pm

Embarkation_of_the_Pilgrims

Marilynne Robinson has long argued against the stereotypical understanding of the Puritans as brooding killjoys who dressed in black. Here’s a passage from Robinson’s great essay, “Puritans and Prigs,” from her book The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought:

My reading of Puritan texts is neither inconsiderable nor exhaustive, so while I cannot say they yield no evidence of Puritanism as we understand the word, I can say they are by no means characterized by, for example, fear or hatred of the body, anxiety about sex, or denigration of women. This cannot by said of Christian tradition in general, yet for some reason Puritanism is uniquely regarded as synonymous with these preoccupations. Puritans are thought to have taken a lurid pleasure in the notion of hell, and certainly hell seems to have been much in their thoughts, though not more than it was in the thoughts of Dante, for example. We speak as though John Calvin invented the Fall of Man, when that was an article of faith universal in Christian culture…

Yet the way we speak and think about the Puritans seems to me a serviceable model for important aspects of the phenomenon we call Puritanism.

Read On

An Emblem Of The End

Nov 17 2013 @ 8:05pm

dish_gravestoneangel

In Russell Banks’s office is the plaster cast of a gravestone angel, its only inscription “Remember Death.” He discusses its significance:

It was a memento mori. I don’t think I even knew what a memento mori was exactly, although growing up in New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts, I’d certainly seen plenty of them in old cemeteries and churchyards. Mostly, they struck me as unpleasant reminders of Puritanism, the wages of sin and the flames of hell, more creepy than religious. This was 1963. I was pointedly irreligious and whatever the opposite of puritanical is. But something about this particular reminder got through to me, as if I had never linked the two words together before, had never probed the meaning of either one alone or truly considered the imperative mood, and I had to own it, had to bring it home to our little apartment and hang it above my writing table, so that every time I looked up from my struggle to write my first poems and stories, I would see it, and I would remember death. Which is not all that easy to do when you are still in your early 20s, in excellent health, have not been to war, and have not yet lost to death anyone close to you. Even Jack Kennedy was still alive and well in Washington, D.C. …

For half a century I have carried that memento mori with me—from New Hampshire to North Carolina in the mid- and late-’60s, back to New Hampshire, to Jamaica in the mid-1970s, to New York City and Princeton, New Jersey, to upstate New York where I have lived in recent years, and now to Miami where I spend winters. Wherever I have set up my desk and sat myself down to write, my angel has looked down and murmured, Remember Death.

(Photo by Mel B.)

“Mountain Dew Mouth”

Sep 26 2013 @ 9:54am

A reader explains:

Both parties are at fault in this push and pull on food stamps: the GOP is at fault for using a cudgel when real policy is needed and Democrats are guilty of continuing the shameful status quo. I am not talking about giving handouts to blacks in the South, as your readers discussed, but the blind enabling of a true public health crisis: Mountain Dew Mouth. NPR recently did a piece on the issue. Money quote:

“We are using taxpayer dollars to buy soda for the SNAP program, and we are using taxpayer dollars to rip teeth out of people’s heads who can’t afford dental care and are on Medicaid,” says Dana Singer, a research analyst at the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department in Parkersburg, W.Va., who wants to see stricter regulations on sales of all sugary beverages in the region. “It makes no sense to be paying for these things twice.”

As someone who was raised in the Appalachian Mountains, this is a glaring issue neglected by sodacariesfifteenyearold01_smallboth sides for a long time. The right is tone-deaf to the issues affecting its base – Southern and rural working-class whites – while the left seems to think any infringement on someone’s ability to use government benefits is unacceptable.

My mother, a dental hygienist, has volunteered in these dental clinics to the point of fatigue. These people have no lobby, no caucus, no real representatives to step forth and demand real change to they way the federal government doles out “nutritional” benefits loaded with sugar, citric acid, and high fructose corn syrup. Shame on both parties for failing to use an opportunity for real policy to influence the well-being of millions of Americans. In light of the First Lady’s crusade against obesity, such a squandered opportunity to end this tax-payer enablement is particularly poignant.

Previous Dish on whether food stamps should cover soda is here. Related thread on the fluoridation debate among liberals here.

(Photo of a “15 Year Old With Severe Cavities” from ParentingHelpMe.com)

The Dish’s NSFW Saturday Night

Jul 12 2013 @ 12:16pm

Yesterday, I declared that, “in deference to the readers, this blog will henceforth censor itself in one area: no more non-pornographic, non-sexual depictions of any faintly naughty bits of the actual human body.” A reader pushes back:

The reason I subscribe to The Dish is because I love the range of issues you cover.  Politics and poetry, religion and pop culture, sex and, well, “non-pornographic, non-sexual depictions of faintly naughty bits of the actual human body.”  You don’t have to let our anxieties drive your editorial decisions, but if you really ARE sympathetic to those who work in nanny corporatist states, how about you post such (YES, I AGREE) innocent-yet-controversial photos below the fold?

Because anyone who links to the post would immediately see the whole thing, rendering them just as vulnerable to lawsuits from office busy-bodies, regardless of a “read-on” NSFW warning. Another reader goes into more detail:

I was one of those people who was at work when I scrolled upon the scrotum story with its giant picture of the aforementioned body part. I quickly moved past it lest anyone in my office caught sight of it; I’m just glad I wasn’t on a public desk when I perused your website (I’m a librarian at a public library). I’ve had the same reaction before to the graphic pictures of war that you’ve posted. But in reading your reaction to the Dissent of the Day, I disagree with your conclusion.

It’s not a matter of Puritianism; it’s a matter of Internet etiquette.

Read On