Part 5—You may be a Puritan if...: We hate to start with the Maddow Show again, but you pretty much have to go where the statements are most instructive.
On Wednesday night, the host of that cable news show interviewed Beth Reinhard. She's one of the trio of Washington Post reporters who broke the Roy Moore story last week, whatever that story is taken to be.
Last Friday morning, Reinhard and two colleagues reported that Moore had been accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl, an attack which was said to have occurred in 1979.
They also reported that Moore had dated two young women at that same time. They were 17 and 19 years old. According to the Post, both mothers were cheering ol' Roy on, dreaming of possible marriage.
(That may represent a cultural difference. Are we enlightened impressive progressives prepared to tolerate that?)
From that day to this, the saints have been trying to define what Moore is accused of. In this morning's New York Times, Jennifer Steinhauer muddles the matter in a way many others have done:
"Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, has been accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls."
So says Steinhauer, in today's Times, perhaps at the direction of editors. But is that what Moore has been accused of? Does he stand "accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls?"
Hopelessly muddled scribe, please! In our lexicon, Moore has been charged with two counts of criminal sexual assault, one of which involved overt acts of physical violence. The saints seem to think it's equally bad that he once dated a 19-year-old, kissing her two separate times with her mother cheering him on.
Moore kissed someone 19 years old when he was 32! We wouldn't recommend that as a general matter, but do Steinhauer and her editors think that was "sexual misconduct?" At any rate, the saints can't quite seem to distinguish a violent sexual assault from a pair of consensual kisses. This led to that peculiar exchange on Wednesday's Maddow Show.
Beth Reinhard is one of the scribes who brought us that report at the Post. Last Wednesday was the first time we got to hear her in person.
As Maddow ended her telephone interview with Reinhard, she asked a rather odd question, with a bit of high drama thrown in. For our money, Reinhard, in her statement, may have marked herself as one of the saints. For ourselves, we're inclined to trust her judgment less because of what she said.
In a new report in the Post, Reinhard had reported that Moore had dated two other teenage women or girls. He'd kissed one in an undesired manner. As she ended her interview, Maddow asked a peculiar question:
MADDOW (11/15/17): Have you discovered any evidence that Roy Moore ever dated someone age-appropriate? That he ever dated somebody his own age? I mean, the discrepancy between the age of these teenage girls and the fact that he was 30 and older does seem remarkable. It's the source of all this controversy. He's defended it himself by saying he denies dating girls who were below the legal age of consent.Several parts of Maddow's question struck us as odd. For starters, she said "the source of all this controversy" lies in the fact that Moore, who was over 30, was dating "teenage girls."
That—if that denial is accurate, that may leave open the possibility he was still a 30-something man pursuing girls in tenth grade. Did you find any evidence of him dating women his own age?
REINHARD: Uh—we haven't.
[SLIGHTLY UNUSUAL PAUSE]
MADDOW: Beth Reinhard, part of this remarkable team has broken this story over. Thank you for joining us on very short notice tonight, Beth. Appreciate it.
Really? That's the source of the controversy? We would have thought the controversy stemmed from the fact that Moore has been accused of criminally assaulting two young women, one 14 and the other 16, in one case in an overtly violent manner.
We would have thought the "controversy" had possibly stemmed from that! But when the saints begin to rampage, they'll often be unable to imagine such distinctions.
All offenses, real and imagined, will now seem equal in their eyes. That will include a pair of kisses with a 19-year-old "girl" whose mother is praying that Moore might want to marry her daughter, perhaps in line with regional cultural norms of the type we brilliant progressives deride, except in the widely-praised 1979 film Manhattan.
When the saints begin to rampage, all judgment leaves the room. But as a second part of that question, Maddow, who has long been a saint, seemed to say that a date can only be "age appropriate" if the man in question is dating a woman who is "his own age."
Can that possibly be what she meant? Plainly, that's what her words implied. Could she possibly mean that?
At any rate, how about it? Did the Washington Post find any evidence that Moore had ever "dated women his own age?" We thought it was strange when Reinhard said no, though she can't be blamed for the oddness of the question.
What made that question seem strange? In December 1984, Moore, who was then 37, met Kayla Kisor, a 23-year-old mother who was separated from her husband. You can read all about it in the Washington Post.
Moore and Kisor began to date. One year later, they got married. They're still married today.
At the time they started dating, he was 37, she was 23. Were their dates "age appropriate," puritanically speaking?
Maddow seemed to say they weren't. Reinhard offered no resistance, no clarification, no nuance.
Were those dates "age appropriate?" If not, do we understand how many dates, and how many marriages, will have to be denounced? Do we understand how many happily married people will have to be frog-marched off to the camps? How much re-education will have to be performed?
Were those dates age appropriate? Did Maddow, a long-time saint, really mean to say that they weren't?
We don't know, but just for the record, when Rachel Maddow met Susan Mikula, she was 26 years old; Mikula was 41. Should we organize an intervention to rescue Rachel from Susan's home? These are the kinds of questions which may arise when saints stage a moral revolution, setting their minds at ease.
When Roy Moore began dating his wife, were those dates "age appropriate?" We regard that question as strange, but the saints will say those dates were wrong.
We know that's what the saints will say because of William Saletan.
We met Saletan briefly once, long ago. By any normal standard, he is thoroughly sane. But when the saints go rampaging in, very strange judgments may start to appear. This past Tuesday, in a laborious effort to show that Moore was lying about various matters, Saletan offered this bizarre assessment at Slate:
SALETAN (11/14/17): “I’ve been married to my wife, Kayla, for nearly 33 years.” Moore presents this as proof of his character. But do the math. Thirty-three years ago, when they met, Moore was 38, and his wife-to-be was 24. That’s a difference of 14 years, roughly the same age gap his accusers describe. Kayla Moore’s bio also mentions that she had “previously been named Miss Alabama US Teen 2nd Runner up.” Moore didn’t just date pretty women who were 14 years his junior. He married one.How weird in that final remark? After doing the math, Saletan seems to suggest that a man shouldn't marry someone 14 years younger—and certainly not if the woman in question is pretty! So what should he say about Maddow's life with the person she loves? Maddow was fifteen years younger than the person she met!
Why have we described Maddow and Saletan, and possibly Reinhard, as saints? Let's consider a famous book which may speak to these very strange times.
In 1965, at the age of 30, Michael Walzer published The Revolution of the Saints: A Study in the Origins of Radical Politics.
Walzer went on to a long career, which continues today, as a "public intellectual" of the left. The Revolution of the Saints became a well-known book. According to the Harvard University Press, it's "a study, both historical and sociological, of the radical political response of the Puritans to disorder."
For the record, we're mainly talking about Puritans in England, not here in North America. (Where their response to disorder produced, among other things, those famous Salem witch trials, when we Americans famously decided, for the first time, that we should always "believe the girls.")
Walzer was talking about the Puritans in the 16th and 17th centuries, as the feudal system was breaking down, producing confusion, uncertainty and disorder—and attendant anxiety. At the Moral Imagination site, Ron Sanders pens a capsule of that era, which perhaps and possibly seems to reflect our own times:
SANDERS: [Walzer] argues that Calvinism’s appeal (the dominant theological perspective of the Puritans) was that it confirmed and explained, in theological terms, “perceptions men already had of the dangers of the world and the self " and that it presented a remedy to the anxiety created by the shifting tide of culture through the rigid discipline of “sainthood.” The important theological themes that characterized Calvin’s ideology were, (1) “the permanent, inescapable estrangement of man from God,” (2) “a cure for anxiety not in reconciliation but in obedience,” (3) a “holy commonwealth” and (4) the necessity of “wholehearted participation” on the part of his followers.Does Sanders get Walzer right? We can't tell you that. But at various times in history, anxieties and upheavals have led to puritanical revolutions which feature extremely crazy judgments producing large amounts of dumbness, disorder and death.
The state (holy commonwealth), for Calvin, had dual roles. Its negative role was to repress sin in individuals. Walzer states that, “Calvin accepted politics in any form it took, so long as it fulfilled its general purpose and established an order of repression.”
At times of upheaval and disorder, people may escape anxiety "through the rigid discipline of sainthood." In China, they frog-marched the intelligentsia off to the camps during the Cultural Revolution. In this country, they hung the witches until sanity prevailed; later, they found a Commie under every bed, then locked up the McMartin Preschool teachers.
Today, they can't tell the difference between kissing a 19-year-old woman (two times!) and conducting a violent sexual assault. It's all just unthinkably evil, wrong, inappropriate, bad!
The last eight days have produced the craziest revolutionary conduct we've seen in a great long time. For example, even after Duke and UVa, the saints insist we have to believe accusers instantly, every single time.
Can humans actually get this stupid? Answer: Yes, we can!
By Friday morning of last week, the saints were already attacking the "if true" crowd—the people who said we ought to maybe wait a few hours before we make our final judgment about that Post report.
In theory, Duke and UVa had shown the world that some accusers who come along are just completely crazy! But even after Duke and UVa, even after the moral stampede in the preschool cases, our rampaging modern-day saints were trashing the "if then" crowd, who wouldn't deliver instant judgments.
How crazy do the saints become when they start to rampage? Historically, the saints are often fairly young, and they can get very crazy.
If we might borrow from Brother Foxworthy, you might be a Puritan if you can't tell the difference between a violent sexual assault and two kisses, over three months, delivered to a 19-year-old woman (not a girl) whose mother hopes you're on your way to marriage.
You may be a Puritan if your own age difference is 15 years, and you're willing to hang the witch because his age difference is a much-too-large 14 years! Plus, have you heard the Bentley sex tape, where someone actually dared to say he loved his lover's body?
"The fear that somewhere, someone is happy?" How crazy do you have to be to keep on playing that tape?
Lincoln has come to us this week to warn us about what's happening. A continental nation can't long endure, he has masterfully said, if fifteen years up north is fine, but fourteen in Bama is not.
If living with a 17-year-old is high art when it's cinematically performed in Manhattan, but kissing a 19-year-old is a crime when it's done Down There.
That said, the saints are on the march. Last night, we saw an utterly crazy discussion on Don Lemon's CNN show. This morning, the initial Morning Joe segment was fraudulent all the way down.
That said, our press elites have been stunningly fraudulent lost souls for a long time now. They know how to pursue their careers by repeating their scripts. They seem to know little else.
The end of the feudal system was, of course, a great advance for humanity. But massive change creates anxiety. In a search for blessed relief, the saints came rampaging in.
We also live at a time of great change today. For example, the rapid acceptance of love like Rachel's with Susan represents a phenomenal social advance. Opportunities and norms have rapidly changed in many other realms.
These are the days or miracle and wonder, just like Paul Simon said. But rapid change can also produce conflict, confusion, disorder.
Down through the many death-dealing years, we humans have sometimes fled the anxiety of rapid change through the adoption of sainthood regimes. It's been happening in the past week all over cable TV, among the ranks of bogus souls who have fought their way onto such programs.
The various children of all ages are living in times of remarkable change. Again and again and again and again, they seem to be amazingly stupid, unpleasant, tribal, self-serving and scared.
Next week: Believe the accusers! (of Clinton)