October flashbacks: Turns of phrases, Quaker political influence, and of course Halloween

Appar­ent­ly I once had an idea of peri­od­i­cal­ly shar­ing posts from ear­li­er eras of my blogs: flash­backs to archival posts writ­ten one, five, and ten years ear­li­er. Maybe I could man­age this once a month.

1 Year Ago: October 2016

Bring peo­ple to Christ / Leave them there: One thing I love to do is track back on cul­tur­al Quak­er turns of phrase. Here I looked at a phrase some­times attrib­uted to George Fox and find a large­ly for­got­ten British Friend who laid much of the ground­work for Quak­er mod­ernism and the unit­ing of Amer­i­can Quakers.

5 Years: October 2012

The secret decoder ring for Red and Blue states: Dis­cus­sion of the Quak­er cul­tur­al influ­ence of Amer­i­can vot­ing pat­terns based on David Hack­ett Fischer’s fas­ci­nat­ing (if over-argued) book Albion’s Seed.

10 Years: 2007 (October 2007)

An Autum­nal Hal­loween: A fam­i­ly post, pic­tures of kids post­ed to the web long before Insta­gram was founded.

The secret decoder ring for Red and Blue states

Some­thing that fas­ci­nates me is the sur­pris­ing glimpses of Quak­er influ­ence in the wider world. Back in the Spring I drew out the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a Quak­er con­nec­tion in Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s so-called “evo­lu­tion” on LGBTQ matters.

This week the New York Times Opin­ion­a­tor blog argues a Quak­er con­nec­tion in the geog­ra­phy of “Red” and “Blue” states – those lean­ing Repub­li­can and Demo­c­ra­t­ic in gen­er­al elec­tions. The sec­ond half of Steven Pinker’s “Why Are States So Red and Blue?” leans on David Hack­ett Fischer’s awe­some 1989 book Albion’s Seed. Sub­ti­tled “Four British Folk­ways in Amer­i­ca” it’s a kind of secret decoder ring for Amer­i­can cul­ture and politics.

Fis­ch­er argued that there were four very dif­fer­ent set­tle­ments in the Eng­lish colonies in the Amer­i­c­as and that each put a defin­i­tive and last­ing stamp on the pop­u­la­tions that fol­lowed. I think he’s a bit over-deterministic but it’s still great fun and the the­sis does explain a lot. For exam­ple, the Scot-Irish lived in law­less region along the English-Scottish bor­der, where peo­ple had to defend them­selves; when they crossed the ocean they quick­ly went inland and their cul­tur­al descen­dants like law and order, guns and a judg­men­tal God. Quak­ers from the British mid­lands were anoth­er one of the four groups, coöper­a­tive and peace-loving, the nat­ur­al pre­cur­sors to Blue states.

Now step back a bit and you real­ize this is incred­i­bly over-simplistic. Many Friends in the Delaware Val­ley and beyond have his­tor­i­cal­ly been Repub­li­can, and many con­tin­ue as such (though they keep qui­et among politically-liberal East Coast Friends). And the cur­rent Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­dent per­son­al­ly approves U.S. assas­si­na­tion lists.

You will be for­giv­en if you’ve clicked to Pinker’s blog post and can’t find Quak­ers. For some bizarre rea­son, he’s stripped reli­gion from Fischer’s argu­ment. Why? Polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness? Sim­plic­i­ty of argu­ment. Friends are summed up with the phrase “the North was large­ly set­tled by Eng­lish farm­ers.” Strange.

But despite these caveats, Fis­ch­er is fas­ci­nat­ing and Pinker’s extrap­o­la­tion to today’s polit­i­cal map is well worth a read, even if our con­tri­bu­tion to the dis­tri­b­u­tion of the Amer­i­can map goes un-cited.

An Atsion Walkabout

An unusually warm beginning of February so I took the boys up to nearby Atsion NJ. The abandoned rail tracks were part of the New Jersey Southern Railroad. The semi-famous "Blue Comet" train would have roared through here:
* NJ Southern: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Jersey_Southern_Railroad
* Blue Comet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Comet

In album Atsion Walkabout (5 photos)

Posted February 1st, 2012 , in Uncategorized Tagged ,