Among the books I’ve owned for some time and not found time (until now) to read is one which convincingly illuminates how America has evolved (some might say retrogressed, in the case of our politicians) over the years.
When I say “evolved,” most people (at least, those who don’t regard it as a dirty word) think of it in the Darwinian sense as gradual development from primitive to more adaptive or advanced stages….as, to take a human example, from very brutish to veddy British — or, from restive barbarians to festive Bavarians. But one would have to be blind not to see that human evolution isn’t a straight forward, rising-tide-lifts-all-boats proposition. In other words, what you sea is what you get (even my puns have their ups and downs).
Then there’s the history of rights withheld, an early example being what American colonists determined to address. The British, loathe to let go, weren’t there yet…and neither are many of us there yet when it comes to the rights of others — speaking of which (for illustrative purposes), here’s a clip with reference to California’s 2008 ballot Proposition 8 denying same-sex couples the right to marry (an issue of no concern to me whatsoever except as it pertains to ‘affairs’ which some people — especially religious conservatives — can’t bear the thought of, even though it’s no skin off their nose):
Coincidentally, 2008 is the same year the book I referred to at the start (THE AGE OF AMERICAN UNREASON by Susan Jacoby) was published. Here is a review of that book:
Though I’m in tune with that review for the most part, I take issue with the reviewer’s belief that “Jacoby is overestimating the role of religion in America in the decline of Enlightenment rationalism.” Furthermore, the reviewer states that “the number of true fundamentalists is probably not that significant: she [Jacoby] conflates fundamentalism with evangelism” — a contention which leads me to question whether the reviewer did more than skim through Chapter 8 (THE NEW OLD-TIME RELIGION), which takes pains to differentiate between the two — including such distinctions as The main difference between fundamentalists and evangelicals….is that not all evangelicals regard the Bible as literally true but all fundamentalists do. That chapter, detailing the role of evangelism and fundamentalism in America past and present, is alone worth the price of erudition….eminently readable erudition, I might add.
If you want to add to your understanding of the forces and factors that have created THE AGE OF AMERICAN UNREASON, do it….buy the book.