FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Ghost of Mary Dyer

by DAVID MACARAY

Although we regularly hear people (commentators, politicians, citizens) refer with pride to our Founding Fathers, it’s unclear whether they’re familiar with the relevant dates.  Because if they had done the arithmetic, they surely would’ve noticed that every one of these illustrious “founders” had been born more than a century after this country was already formed.

Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America, was established in 1607, and Plymouth, the second settlement, was established in 1620.  By contrast, George Washington was born in 1732,  John Adams in 1735, Thomas Jefferson in 1743, and James Madison in 1751.

Technically, these men didn’t “found” us.  What they did was engineer our independence from England and invent our federal government, two magnificent achievements that set us on the successful course we’ve followed ever since.  But let’s be clear:  This country’s ethos—its customs, social rituals, religious beliefs, rural economy, national character—had been in place for a 150 years (that’s six generations) before Jefferson, Madison, et al, ever hung out their shingles.

We were taught in school that the pilgrims came to America in order to practice “religious freedom.”  While that statement is more or less accurate, what they fail to mention is that the Puritans were 17th century England’s version of the Taliban.  These religious zealots wanted to “purify” Christianity (hence “Puritans”) in much the same way that the Taliban wants to purify Islam.

Indeed, if we wished to be brutally honest, we could say that America was founded by a bunch of religious fanatics, and that it was the framers of the Constitution (educated products of the Enlightenment) who, bless their hearts, saved us from them.

How fanatical were they?  Fanatical enough, in 1660, to execute the first female in the colonies.  Her name was Mary Dyer.  She, along with three male associates, were hanged by Massachusetts Bay Colony authorities for the crime of being Quakers.  Dyer and the men had repeatedly ignored warnings not to set foot in Massachusetts, where Quakerism was outlawed, and when the warnings went unheeded, the Colony hanged them.

One can think of many religious people who deserve to be hanged, but Quakers aren’t among them.  In fact, Quakerism, with its pacifism and equality for women, seems like one of the more enlightened, dignified religions.  But in 1660, the good citizens of Massachusetts chose to kill a group of settlers whose only crime was belonging to another faith.  And they killed them in the name of Jesus Christ.

As far as theology goes, our neighbors to the north are, by all accounts, nowhere near as demonstrably religious as we are.  A few years ago, I saw Kim Campbell (former Prime Minister of Canada) on Bill Maher’s HBO television show.  The panel was discussing the comparative role that religion played in the politics of Canada and America.

Reminded of the fact that George W. Bush had declared, after announcing his candidacy, that he believed God wanted him to run for president, Campbell observed that if a Canadian politician had said the same thing, people would think he was “mentally ill.”  And as many will recall, during the 2008 Republican primary, three candidates (Tom Tancredo, Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee) proudly admitted that they didn’t believe in evolution.

Our history is filled with paradoxes.  We embrace founders who didn’t actually “found” us, we applaud the pilgrims for seeking religious freedom when, in fact, they were vehemently intolerant, and we assume we were established as a reverently Christian, God-fearing nation even though the framers took careful steps to ensure that we would never become a theocracy.

In this post-New Deal, post-industrial milieu we find ourselves, we have both kinds of voters:  the kind who vote for candidates on the basis of their positions on specific issues (health care, tax reform, trade policy, etc.), and the kind who ignore the boring nuts-and-bolts stuff and simply vote for the candidate they regard as the “most religious.”

And when the Tea Party says that they “want their country back,” and evangelicals say that we will never again be the nation we once were until “we put Jesus Christ back into our lives,” we’re reminded of not only how polarized we are, but of how the ghost of Mary Dyer—the first woman in Colonial America to be executed—still haunts us.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 24, 2017
Paul Street
Beyond Neoliberal Identity Politics
Daniel Read
Powder Keg: Manchester Terror Attack Could Lead to Yet Another Resurgence in Nationalist Hate
Robert Fisk
When Peace is a Commodity: Trump in the Middle East
Kenneth Surin
The UK’s Epochal Election
Jeff Berg
Lessons From a Modern Greek Tragedy
Steve Cooper
A Concrete Agenda for Progressives
Michael McKinley
Australia-as-Concierge: the Need for a Change of Occupation
William Hawes
Where Are Your Minds? An Open Letter to Thomas de Maiziere and the CDU
Steve Early
“Corporate Free” Candidates Move Up
Fariborz Saremi
Presidential Elections in Iran and the Outcomes
Dan Bacher
The Dark Heart of California’s Water Politics
Alessandra Bajec
Never Ending Injustice for Pinar Selek
Rob Seimetz
Death By Demigod
Jesse Jackson
Venezuela Needs Helping Hand, Not a Hammer Blow 
Binoy Kampmark
Return to Realpolitik: Trump in Saudi Arabia
Vern Loomis
The NRA: the Dragon in Our Midst
May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
L. Ali Khan
I’m a Human and I’m a Cartoon
May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail