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 “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
Farzana Versey
Of Beyoncé, Trudeau and Culture Predators
Pete Dolack
Fanaticism and Fantasy Drive Purported TPP ‘Benefits’
Murray Dobbin
Canada and the TPP
Steve Horn
Army of Lobbyists Push LNG Exports, Methane Hydrates, Coal in Senate Energy Bill
Colin Todhunter
“Lies, Lies and More Lies” – GMOs, Poisoned Agriculture and Toxic Rants
Franklin Lamb
ISIS Erasing Our Cultural Heritage in Syria
David Mihalyfy
#realacademicbios Deserve Real Reform
Graham Peebles
Unjust and Dysfunctional: Asylum in the UK
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
Yves Engler
On Unions and Class Struggle
Alfredo Lopez
The ‘Bern’ and the Internet
Missy Comley Beattie
Super Propaganda
Ed Rampell
Great Caesar’s Ghost!: A Specter Haunts Hollywood in the Coen’s Anti-Anti-Commie Goofball Comedy
Cesar Chelala
The Public Health Impact of Domestic Violence
Ron Jacobs
Cold Weather Comforts of a Certain Sort
Charles Komanoff
On the Passing of the Jefferson Airplane
Charles R. Larson
Can One Survive the Holocaust?
David Yearsley
Reading Room Blues
February 04, 2016
Scott McLarty
Political Revolution and the Third-Party Imperative
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail