On dancing to jazz: “[A]npuerile writhing on a narrownspot.” (1934)nOn letting the Old World go to Hell innits own way: Mencken was never morenfarseeing, perhaps, than when he contendednthat Germany, not England,ndeserved to win the Great War. ThenTeutons are at least as civilized anpeople as the British, he argued, andnmaybe more so. Had the demori Kaisernactually put the Brits to rout, thenbalance of power in Europe wouldnprobably have been more stable in thenpostwar period than the British-Americannvictory ensured; there would likelynhave been no Hitler, and we wouldnsurely not be witnessing today thendangerously chaotic situation in EasternnEurope as the absurd peace treatynimposed upon the Central Powers bynHerr Prof. Dr. Wilson (“the perfectnmodel of a Christian cad”) is finallynundone.nPuritanism —the chief cultural inheritancenof what Mencken calledn”the American of Anglo-Saxon descent”nand what has been known sincenthe 1950’s as the White Anglo-SaxonnProtestant, or WSP — was his life-longnpreeminent bane, the object of hisnhighest scorn, the butt of his severestnsatire. For him, Puritanism was muchnmore than the sickening fear thatn”someone, somewhere, is having angood time”; it was the lust for control,nfor the modification of individual andncollective behavior in service to annidealism that had become detachednfrom all reality and reattached to anstubborn belief in “the palpably notntrue.” In Mencken’s estimation, truth,nto the Puritan, was a matter of intentionncoupled with incantation:’ if it werendesirable that a thing should be true,nand if enough good men repeated oftennenough that it was true, and thennproceeded, day in and day out, to actnupon the assumption, then that thingnwould actually become true.nBy the action of the Holy Spiritnbroadcasting itself from Beacon Hill,nTranscendentalism was conceived immaculately.nSo was Progressivism. Sonwas the New Nationalism of HerbertnCroly and Woodrow Wilson. So wasnProhibitionism. So were the Volsteadnand Mann Acts. All types of socialnwork and every form of Uplift andnReform were likewise the hideousnspawn of Puritanism, whose attemptsnforcibly to stifle truth and to promotenerror reached beyond the social andnpolitical fora to embrace the intellectualnand artistic ones as well. “[T]henprevailing American view of the worldnand its mysteries is still a moral one,”nMencken wrote in a long essay, “Puritanismnas a Literary Force,” “and nonother human concern gets half thenattention that is endlessly lavishednupon the problem of conduct, particularlynthat of the other fellow. . . . ThenPuritan’s utter lack of aesthetic sense,nhis distrust of all romantic emotion, hisnunmatchable intolerance of opposition,nhis unbreakable belief in his own bleaknand narrow views, his savage cruelty ofnattack, his lust for relentless and barbarousnpersecution . . . have put an almostnintolerable burden upon the exchangenof ideas in the United States.”nBeginning in the 1960’s, only a fewnyears after his death, predictions begannto be heard concerning the “decline ofnthe WASP” in America; such rumorsnof a future enlightenment were greetednwith many satisfied smirks and a fewntriumphant guffaws. From a strictlynsociological standpoint they have perhapsnbeen substantiated by the subse­nquent march of history, but from anothernpoint of view they have beennvitiated completely. According to thisnperspective, the WASP during thenquarter-century immediately past hasntriumphed as never before in the historynof his race, although the result is thenruin of the country that his ancestors sonhopefully established. To put it simply,nhe has succeeded in converting allnother racial, ethnic, and religiousngroups in America to Puritanism bynconvincing them that they need forntheir own success and happiness tonbecome as moralistic, intrusive, reformist,nself-conscious, intolerant, andnbigoted — in a word. Puritanical — asnhimself That the result of this greatnmoral victory is turmoil, divisiveness,nthe wholesale abuse of law, a vastnincrease in religious rivalry and racialnhatred, enmity and distrust betweennthe sexes, a burgeoning neo-Prohibitionistnmovement, and a general breakdownnin social cohesiveness that may innthe coming decades end in actual civilnwar does not trouble him in the least.nHow Mencken would have relishednthis consummate irony! And how henwould have enjoyed the final show!nCHRONICLES GIFT OFFERnGive a one-year subscription tonChronicles for only $18 (you save $6nor 25% off the cover price). Justncomplete and mail the coupon belownwith your check or money order, andnwe’ll promptly send each recipient angift card in your name.nFOREIGN ORDERS ADD $6 PER SUBSCRIPTION ‘U.S. FUNDS ONLY • CHRONICLES SELLS FOR $2.50 A COPY.nSEND TO: CHRONICLES • P.O. BOX 800 • MT. MORRIS. IL 61054nnn<^nFEBRUARY 1992/29nIn