This Thanksgiving, I am thankful that, in the years since the Pilgrims first landed here, Massachusetts no longer lives under a Puritan theocracy. H.L. Mencken called Puritanism “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
But, though the old Puritan theocrats are no longer with us, it’s instructive to consider how the modern Left has evolved into a moralistic, Puritanical philosophy that tolerates no dissent. Here’s some examples from recent months:
- Local Democratic politicians seek to ban ant-gay-marriage restaurants from doing business in their cities.
- The FDA requires graphic anti-smoking images on cigarette packs.
- Fordham University bullies the Fordham College Republicans into canceling politically incorrect speeches.
- Campus speech codes prohibiting politically incorrect speech proliferate.
- The Southern Poverty Law Center rakes in money by creating blacklists of people and trends that the Left doesn’t like.
- The First Lady launches a campaign demonizing fatty foods and forcing school children to eat what she considers healthy.
- The UN fights (democratically approved) marijuana legalization.
- Meanwhile, the Obama administration starts an unprecedented crack-down on medical marijuana dispensaries.
- “Women’s rights” requires employer-subsidized contraception.
- The President is loath to allow Catholic hospitals to avoid his contraception mandate.
- And all the while, the people subject to prosecution and incarceration for violating federal regulatory law keeps skyrocketing. One prominent lawyer estimates that the average person commits three felonies a day.
We tend to think of Puritanism as a historical relic for elementary school Thanksgiving plays (as long as religion isn’t mentioned, lest the ACLU bring suit). But if we understand it as the desire to impose a narrow set of austere ideological preferences on both willing and unwilling alike, then Puritanism is alive and well on the modern Left. Just because the old Puritans hated drinking, atheism, and fun, whereas the new ones hate smoking, traditional religion, and fun, doesn’t mean that the two don’t share the same philosophical roots.