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“American exceptionalism kicked off with a defining statement from John Winthrop, the first governor of the then Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early decades of the 17th century. Surveying the wilderness in front of him – the eastern edge of a continent that was the ultimate terra incognita – Winthrop vaingloriously noted: “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.”
How ironic that the most platitudinous of recent presidents, Ronald Reagan, chose to cite Winthrop’s commentary in one of his most oft-quoted speeches. Did Reagan’s preferred scribe, Peggy Noonan, realise she was borrowing a statement from the head of a puritanical hierarchy; a group that thought nothing about clapping non-believers in the stocks, hanging heretics for preaching the benign tenets of Quakerism, burning witches, and running its highly theocratic colony in a manner not dissimilar from the Taliban several centuries later? The Grand Guignol grotesqueries of religious fanaticism are indeed timeless.
No wonder that those men of the enlightenment who wrote the American Constitution – Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Franklin – were so insistent on the separation of church and state. Because they knew of the pious monomania (and the tendency toward mob zealotry) that were ingrained from the start within the national body politic. No wonder that the first truly landmark American novel, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), examined the public shaming of a New England innocent, Hester Prynne, forced to wear the letter A around her neck after being falsely accused of adultery in Puritan-era Massachusetts. No wonder that, 100 years after Hawthorne published his daring riposte to that very American need for communal moral self-righteousness, the absolute evil of the McCarthyite witch hunt commenced. Spearheaded by the deeply dipsomaniac and demagogic Senator Joseph McCarthy, it insisted on its victims wearing the metaphoric equivalent of a red C (for Commie) around their neck.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"On June 23, Erdogan and his party suffered a historic debacle in the rerun of the mayoral race in Istanbul. Binali Yildirim, an AKP heavyweight who ran as the candidate of the People’s Alliance between the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party..."
"Former Vice President Joe Biden will enter the first Democratic presidential debates with 19 rivals taking aim at him — nine on the night he will be onstage, 10 the night he won't be there to defend himself. He is the clear-cut frontrunner and..."
"The latest round of attacks and counterattacks in Israel and Gaza demonstrates the respective governments’ inability to extricate their people from an awful situation, decades in the making. Palestinians and Israelis live in the same land, share..."
"Yesterday, a new musical dramedy debuting this Friday, conjures up a world we can’t begin to imagine: one in which the Beatles never existed. Somehow, after a global blackout, no one on Earth has ever heard of the band, except for the protagonist.."
"“America will never be a socialist country,” President Trump said as he launched his bid for re-election last week. That declaration was an effort to frighten Americans and undermine growing support for expanding Medicare and Social Security..."
"SpaceX launched 60 satellites last month that now swarm around our planet like bees around a hive. It’s the first phase of Elon Musk’s ambitious Starlink project that will eventually send thousands of satellites into orbit to create a worldwide..."
""At the end of May, TIAA, the financial services and investing giant, rolled out new gender-identity awareness guidelines for its client-facing consultants. The guidance included: “Never assume someone’s gender identity” and “Be aware that a..."
"Nobody knows who threw the first brick at Stonewall. It might not even have been a brick. Legend has it a woman in the crowd yelled, “Aren’t you going to do something?” as she was dragged away by cops. We don’t know who she was."
"Secular studies were an afterthought in my all-male yeshiva high school, offered in the late afternoon after eight hours of religious subjects. After “English,” we often returned for a few more hours of Torah study. The person who was supposed,,,"
"Meat is dead. Carnivores are going the way of cigarette smokers and, by 2050, there’s a good chance that it will be socially unacceptable to eat meat. In the same way that we’re now horrified people used to smoke in offices and airplanes, we’ll..."
"In order to embody the philosophy of elegant simplicity, we need to address the relationship between science and spirituality. Some people think that science and spirituality are polar opposites, but are they? Science is about things which can..."
"Labels are a necessary evil when talking about Judaism. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform denote different religious streams, but they are simply primary colours which hardly do justice to the kaleidoscopic variety of the modern Jewish landscape..."