So You Say You Hate the Puritans

Despite the fact that Oliver Cromwell was vastly superior to Charles I, I have yet to hear anyone praise Cromwell for deposing and killing the king.  There have been many reasonable objections to his killing of Charles, chief among them being that Charles's death immediately led to the instant popularity and eventual kingship of Charles II – historically one of the most profligate and useless kings that England ever saw.  But people are more likely to complain about Cromwell and the Puritans and unfairly loathe them, despite the fact that Cromwell ruled more honestly and rightly than both his predecessor and his successor.  King Charles I is almost forgotten in America, despite his unhappy tendency to mangle and murder his subjects.  And the reason we hate the better man and forget the worse is simple.  Charles I offended the constitutional liberties of Englishmen; the Puritans tried to get rid of dancing on Sundays.

In an age not only ignorant of, but increasingly hostile to the constraints of constitutional limits and the balance of powers, we can only expect such a judgment to be passed.  Nobody knows about the dangerous and tyrannical tribunal known as the Star Chamber; nobody cares about whether or not Charles abused the rights of Parliament.  We barely care when our own president abuses the limits of executive power and tramples the rights of our own House of Representatives.  But we love dancing and drinking and Christmas and lovemaking – not because we're degenerates, but because we're simply humans.  And if some Puritans were against dancing on Sunday, then we remember it and want to run them out on a rail.  And if they're the only people we know of who caused Christmas Day riots by proclaiming it to be a day of fasting and penance, then we'd almost rather burn our cities to the ground than let them run one.  It's better, to us, to suffer even the wildest and most well-deserved natural penalties of vice than to have even our tragic romances stolen from us; we know, even by looking at newborns, that our heads and legs were meant to move when something catchy comes on the radio.  It isn't because the Puritans were bad at being neighbors that we've forgotten about their virtues (and let us be fair: they had many); it's because they wanted everyone to be bad at being human.

The most comical thing about our hatred of Puritans is that we've forgotten how exactly they annoy us, and so we've bred our own brand of Puritans and called them by a different name.  The undeniable fact of the matter is that there are Puritans all around us; miserable, petty Pharisees who enjoy ruining all our fun in the name of a new and judgmental and inhumane "orthodoxy" – an ideology imagined by professors and theorists and ivory tower idiots, malforming and persecuting not even the things we know to be wrong, but everything we know to be natural.  The Old Puritan could be found in nonconformist churches and middle-class businesses; the New Puritan is found in colleges and bureaucracies.  The Old Puritan erred by attempting to cleanse every corner of our minds; the New Puritan errs by trying to rob us of our balls.

For there's something irrefutably and backwardly Puritanical about someone who demands not that we get rid of dancing and illicit romance, but that we get rid of gender roles and chivalry; that we force little girls to play like boys, and demand that damsels also rescue their knights.  It takes a special kind of person to devise fifty different terms for sexual confusion, as it takes a special kind of person to come up with a hundred different ways to categorize our most boring vices.  The Old Puritan never let us criticize a certain book; the New bans critical observations about a certain sex or color.  If the Old Puritan kept us from doing anything even slightly disgusting, the new Puritan forbids us our most natural feelings of disgust.  The Old Puritan ignored our rights and feelings because we belonged to the wrong denomination, the New because we belong to the wrong race and civilization.

But our Puritans have taken the matter farther.  If they aren't burning witches at the stake, it's because they're busy lynching our own innocent cops.  The false god of "equality" has made them boo our winners and elevate our sorest losers.  Political correctness – historically a more capricious and pervasive kind of censorship than anything the Old Puritans would have dreamed of – taints every aspect of our lives, twisting our speech, forcing us to whisper obvious truths, creating paranoia that someone in this ignorant, inhumane minority might eventually hear us and ruin our careers.  In everything except usefulness and fairness and learning and piety, the radical leftist parallels or exceeds the worst of Puritans, and in two hundred years, he will be hated as worse than one.  For hearty, industrious, utopian Puritans built the paradise known as New England; the radical leftist will be remembered for ruining it.

Leftists can deny us the building blocks of romance and human interaction, our natural observations and sentiments; they can walk around for a while trying to be above humanity while making everyone miserable.  But in the end, when people are tired of pretending to be things that they aren't for reasons that aren't only unhelpful, but lacking in the simple joys and adventures and judgments that make life meaningful, Westerners will toss aside their shackles, or they will riot.  The fact of the matter is that men and women will always be men and women: the majority of little boys will continue playing war, and the majority of little girls will continue wanting to be princesses.  The majority of healthy men will always find damsels in distress exciting, and women will always count beauty to be their most powerful charm.  Powerful men and peasants alike will always want and need religion – and they will continue marrying their lovers in churches until the end of the human race.  We'll learn that liberty of thought and speech and property are the meaning of liberalism, that all races must be able to criticize, and that all men and women – black and white, brown and red – are capable of evils whether they're in power or not.  We will find common sense again, even if on the ashes of a once great and sensible society.  We'll throw aside our false religion, just so that we can feel the thrills of patriotism, and enjoy the Disney films we loved as children.

An ascetic party that denies the joys of human life itself, and the pleasures we prefer sentimentally unfiltered – the really raw and spiritual things that lie beneath our fraudulent ideologies, the things that unite the human race and distinguish us from the animals – is temporary.  It holds sway over minds for fashionable and miserable moments, and then loses to nothing less than the simple desire not only to dance again, but to dance again as valiant knights and long-haired damsels.  The Puritans lost, because liberty is too necessary to our happiness.  The radical leftists will eventually lose, because they have forgotten that liberty means pursuing all the good things we were born to pursue. 

Jeremy Egerer is the editor of the troublesome philosophical website known as Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.