Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Savonarola and His Offspring

Girolamo Savonarola was a Dominican friar during the Renaissance. He preached against church corruption, the Medicis, and secular art, among other things. His commission of secular books and art to flames became known as the "Bonfire of the Vanities".

Eventually, he ended where many reformers who take on powerful forces end - in death. He was excommunicated and hung, along with several of his friars. The purification movement petered out.

Periodically, similar manias flare up again. They are generally focused on purification of a society of worldly influences, sins, and corruption. They aim to bring about changes that will help the poor. The leaders take on those who they judge to be despots, and work to encourage the people to revolt against their rule.

There have been many manias since:

  • The Salem Witch Trials - used quasi-legal means to attack those in power, who were accused of working with the Devil
  • The French Revolution - different from the American Revolution, which aimed to establish independence from their colonial rulers, but a true frenzied tearing down of all "corrupt" elements in that society. All of the royal family and most of the nobility were accused of crimes against the people. A rumor could spark the mania to flare up again, and entangle yet another person or family in accusations, which would end in confiscation of property and eventual death by guillotine.
  • The Civil War - I contend that the post-Transcendentalists who lead the Abolition movement were motivated largely by their desire to "purify" America of sin. On the other side, the frenzy was based in Charleston, SC, where the most fervent and rabid secessionists had their base. On both sides, largely a war that pitted those that wanted a country free from slavery (sin), and those that wanted a country free of unconstitutional modifications (sin). [NOTE: both the Carolinas gave a disproportionate number of their citizens to the War for Independence - their children and grandchildren would have grown up hearing stories of how they had fought against tyranny (sin)]
The 60's were yet another example of mania that was based around the idea that America could be purified of its sins. The Weathermen and other radical groups just took this a mini-step further.

Since the Clinton Era, we've seen a permanent cadre of grant-subsidized fanatics who will stop at nothing to purify the USA, and rid it of perceived racism and sexism. To that end, they have initiated a war on individual freedom to start a business, to vote freely, to worship freely, to speak freely, to own a gun, to make decisions for their minor children, to publish anything that is contrary to Progressive Thought - in short, to act as free citizens in a society that they have some control over.


jabrwok said...

I was pointed towards an essay today which you might find interesting. I haven't investigated the site too deeply yet, and so can't comment on it much, but the thesis seems relevant to your post.

Linda Fox said...

I read it just now - absolutely fascinating. I'm bookmarking it, to read when I've had some processing time to absorb it all.