Marilynne Robinson writes in defence of the American character in 2018

6f833578-1178-11e8-aa39-e7299ff3a5e84Marilynne Robinson at the TLS:

Europeans often say our culture is Puritan – Lollard, according to Freud – and we don’t know enough history to understand what they might mean by this. We have made a project of freeing ourselves of even minimal standards of taste or discretion, and still the word clings. Ethical rigor, aversion to display, the ideal of vocation are all diminished things among us, and still we are Puritan. Most recently I heard us denounced in these terms at a dinner table in London. How horrifying our rules against sexual harassment! It is the most natural thing in the world for students to fall in love with their professors, subordinates with their superiors! And so on. My suggestion that this might all seem very different from the perspective of the student or the subordinate, and my thoughts about fairness, merit, and so on, were not of interest. They were merely one more Puritanical pretext for denying the pleasures of life. I think in many cases Puritanical may simply mean “reformist,” tending to assume that even very settled cultural patterns and practices can be called into question, that they are not presumptively endorsed by culture, that what is traditional cannot claim therefore to be rooted in human nature. We tend to forget that our revolution was one in a series – Geneva expelled its Savoyard rulers and was governed by elected councils. The Dutch expelled the Hapsburg emperor and in the process trained sympathetic British volunteers who took the experience home with them. Then with the Puritan Revolution England tried and executed its king and attempted a decade of parliamentary government. More than a century later the American colonies rejected monarchy as a system on the basis of the abuses of the king then in power. This is not logical, strictly speaking, but it affiliated the Americans with the great precedent of the English revolution, the revolution of Milton and Marvell.

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