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America’s puritanical soul

Lithograph of a Witch trial in Salem, Massachusetts. George H. Walker

Wokeism is deeply rooted in American history, says Jean-Loup Bonnamy in Le Figaro. The US was founded by Puritan Protestants in the 17th century, who fled England to escape religious persecution. They saw their new home as a “clean slate”, an attitude that lingers on in America’s love of the “self-made man”, and with wokeism’s assertion that every institution is ripe for deconstruction. Puritanism’s obsession with sin is another historical thread: literal witch hunts in Salem in the 1690s were followed, in the 1950s, by the anti-communist paranoia of McCarthyism. “Today, the woke hunt down supposed forms of racism or homophobia with the same fierceness that their ancestors hunted down witches”, or indeed communists.

America is also “haunted by violence”. Settlers used to fear an attack by native Americans; now there’s omnipresent anxiety over the country’s sky-high homicide rate, which is worse than that of Pakistan or Angola. This insecurity is expressed not only in the “safe-space” demands of the woke, but in the weapon-stocked bunkers built by extreme right-wing survivalists out in the wilderness. Left-wing cancel culture similarly has its equivalent in the country’s religious right, whose “godly mothers” imagine pornography in every school textbook. Throughout history and across the political spectrum, “ideological fever” is at the core of the American mind.