Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mencken in Dayton, 1925

"Fundamentalists, in the view of Mencken, belonged to the great masses of Americans who neither appreciated, nor contributed to, the best of American culture. They, like most people, were ignorant, ignoble, and cowardly. Moreover, fundamentalists lacked the intelligence to understand their own follies and superstitions.  Homo boobiens is a fundamentalist for the precise reason he is uneducable,” Mencken wrote.    Fundamentalists, he believed, found comfort in the imbecilities of their creed and “no amount of proof of the falsity of their beliefs will have the slightest influence on them.”  They accepted Genesis because it offers a cosmogony “so simple that even a yokel can grasp it”—it holds “the irresistible reasonableness of the nonsensical...

The people of this Christian valley, he wrote, “are simply unable to imagine a man who rejects the literal authority of the Bible.  The most they can conjure up, straining until they are red in the face, is a man who is in error about the meaning of this or that text.  Thus one accused of heresy among them is like one accused of boiling his grandmother to make soap in Maryland.”" H.L. Mencken - UMKC School of Law

My old landlord Winterton Curtis, in town to testify on behalf of science (but barred by the judge) had a different view of the folk:
Many times I sat next to Mencken.  He resisted my attempts at conversation, but I got the flavor of the man from listening to his talk with other reporters. 
The courtroom audience impressed me as honest country folk in jeans and calico.  “Boobs" perhaps, as judged by Mencken, and holding all the prejudices of backwoods Christian orthodoxy, but nevertheless a significant section of the backbone of democracy in the U.S.A.  They came to see their idol “the Great Commoner” and champion of the people meet the challenge to their faith.  They left bewildered but with their beliefs unchanged despite the manhandling of their idol by the “Infidel” from Chicago.... A Defense Expert's Impressions
I do think Dr. Curtis, whom I knew as a kindly old man who fetched dollars from my boyish ears, was too kind to his malefactors. But "boobs" is too rude. Civility, civility. As Kurt Vonnegut said, love may fail but courtesy will prevail.

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