American Love


Increase Mather


The photo above is of a painting of Increase Mather whose Puritan ghost still haunts the American psyche as surely as bubble gum sticks to your sister’s hair–or your brother’s hair–or the noggin of your best friend if, just perhaps, you were an only child. Increase Mather would have frowned at bubble gum and he would have frowned at your sister’s hair. It is entirely possible that the only happy moment of Increase Mather’s life was when he died of bladder failure. (That he died of bladder failure is true but we can’t prove “the smile”.)   

A Puritan ghost haunts every American relationship. It doesn’t matter if you’re straight or gay; single; married; divorced; or still in your latency. (Wasn’t it Woody Allen who said he never had a latency period?)

Poor Tiger Woods. Driven by vanity and lust he was. A fallen man he is. And now, Lo and Behold, here comes the ghost of Increase to tell him that he’ll never get to heaven because his very lust is the proof in the pudding that he’s not among the elect. Tiger is going to hell. And he was always going to go there. There wasn’t anything he could have done about the matter. Don’t you dare smile.

Once when I was vacationing at a resort in Jamaica I told a friendly groundskeeper that there was no such thing as the devil. (The man had just climbed a palm tree for me, and procured a coconut, had opened it so I could drink the milk. He’d seen my blind man’s white cane. He had wanted to help me somehow. He’d said that drinking from a coconut keeps away the devil.)  “There’s no such thing as the devil,” I’d said, taking the coconut. “Oh, oh, don’t say that Mon!” he’d said, backing away and waving his machete at the clouds. “The devil, he everywhere.”

The Puritan ghost believes that the devil is part of the “elect or non-elect” spiritual delivery system. And if you think you can’t argue with that, you’re right. In fact the only way you can win an argument with Puritans is by kicking them out of your country as the British did. And how thankful the Brits continue to feel about their ancestor’s wisdom each and every day.

Young America didn’t of course kick the Puritans out. We tried our best to ignore them but they got the upper hand with the school systems and the water supply and that’s that.

Of course hell doesn’t exist except in the public squares where Puritan ghosts carry on–talkative, hypocritical, afflicting projective evaluations of Mr. Woods’ downfall.

Why didn’t Thomas Jefferson kick the Puritans out?



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