Some people on the right say Americans were divided into at least two peoples from the start, and the usual version of this meme is that the Puritans of New England and the Cavalier colonists of Virginia constituted two different peoples. Is it cultural or genetic, nature or nurture — or both — if it’s true at all?
What is the origin, I wonder, of the idea that somehow the old Puritans of New England passed on their attitudes to the present-day generations? In reading comments online of those who believe that today’s New England people are direct physical descendants of the Puritans, I get the impression that they believe genetics are to blame for the liberal attitudes of White people from New England or other areas like the Northwestern states.
Assuming that the people who now live in New England are mostly descendants of the original colonists of that region then some Southern partisans apparently assume today’s New Englanders must have acquired their political and social attitudes by DNA. I don’t know that such genetic transmissions are possible, though I certainly believe genetics plays a big part in who we are and how we think. Early environment and education plus life-experience as we grow older also play a part, though maybe less than the ‘nurture’ advocates think. We aren’t blank slates.
Nevertheless I think it’s far from proven that we inherit our political proclivities. It could be argued that political labels merely describe certain temperaments, traits which are to some extent innate in us. I believe there is such a thing as a ‘conservative temperament.’ Some people, it seems, are risk-takers and gamblers and thrill seekers while some are averse to courting danger and adopting change for its own sake.
I’ve argued, based on the ethnic makeup of New England today (which is in flux now, more so than ever, with mass immigration) that the Puritans have not left much of a genetic or cultural imprint on that region, with the exception of more rural areas. Even those areas are not immune to ‘diversity’, as the little hamlet in Maine where a good many of my ancestors lived has now got Hindus and Jewish residents fleeing from the urban areas of New England. Somalis have also settled in the town which my Houlton forebears settled.
So, will these people acquire, by osmosis or by ‘magic dirt’, the supposed Puritan ethos that haunts that area?
Some people attribute the multiculturalist/miscegenist attitudes of ‘SJWs’ to the Puritan brand of Protestantism, but this seems implausible. The critics of Christianity say that Christianity is, per se, ‘universalist’, meaning in the Christian context, that all will be ‘saved.’ Puritanism is Calvinistic, and Calvin is reviled by the liberal Christians today for the reason (among others) that Calvinism is exclusivist, preaching predestination, the idea that some are destined to be saved, others, not.
Christianity, contrary to what its critics on the right say, had no problem being ‘discriminatory’ in the past. Southern Americans were traditionally very Christian and yet they were not, until the last couple of decades, ”colorblind”, neither were they Zionist. If the Puritan-descended New England people of the 19th century were radical egalitarians and abolitionists — which some were, but hardly all — it is more likely due to the Jacobin influence that was abroad in Europe; the intelligentsia of New England, were, like virtually all such people, very taken with foreign ideas; there was the popular idea that Europe was much more cultured than the uneducated country cousins here in America.
Emerson and the ‘Transcendentalists’ were in some ways typical intellectual dilettantes, given to fads and to posturing. Another major influence amongst that type was ‘Eastern mysticism’, following various Hindu ‘holy men’ and sages, many of whom traipsed around America and Europe doling out their ‘wisdom’ to status-seeking intellectuals.
But the idea that genetics somehow predisposed certain people (Puritan descendants, for example, or by extension, Northeasterners) to certain radical egalitarian beliefs will continue to be repeated and unthinkingly accepted. Why? Because certain people have an interest in dividing White Americans in every possible way: by sex/’gender’, by religion, by social class and by region. Convincing people that political views are acquired either by being born in a certain place or through their distant ancestors is one way to make people see any differences as determined, and fixed permanently.
And maybe dividing this country into smaller nations is the best possible solution, but doing so on the basis of a false belief about our being ‘different peoples’ is not a good start. As for those who are using our present crisis as an excuse to bash Christianity as the source of all our troubles, it’s intellectually dishonest to refuse to consider the influence of European radical egalitarianism (championed by atheists and agnostics) as well as the considerable influence of ‘Eastern mysticism’ amongst many 19th century American intellectuals.