Before the counterrevolution: Abraham Lincoln and Rick Perry

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In the early 1800s, Jefferson’s vision of “freedom of religion” may be fairly accused of turning the Northeast to mental mud. We had then religious cults in which all 150 members were married to one another, the rise of polygamist Mormons, men in bear skins preaching half naked, and Krishna consciousness, socialism and feminism all blending together. It was not unlike the New England I grew up in beginning with the arrival of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. 

Then it snapped. Evangelicals appeared. A countercultural revolution occurred, starring Abraham Lincoln, and order and purpose returned. That day was very like our day. And today likewise we will face a countercultural revolution.

Historians need to ask and explain how America went almost overnight from half-naked visionary preachers in bearskins to disciplined warriors like Joshua Chamberlain, who would lead America in a great war that would tear the country to shreds, send Jefferson into remission and establish a new agenda for America that would run so far almost 250 years. We are there again. And the Supreme Court rulings this past week on gay marriage may have been the turning.

The arrogance of preaching gay marriage to our oldest and most serene elders and ancestors in Africa reaches almost beyond belief. The Obama administration can only be seen today in its naivety and innocence as the '60s II. In the historic cycles, each season repeats itself once generationally, then disappears entirely. And when it ends, it ends quickly. Then a counter-figure appears.

Henry James’s The Bostonians, (1886) is possibly the best definitive tale of those who live here today and a condition which has now spread nationally. James, post-Civil War, was disappointed. Boston suffered the long hangover of new thinking and was a mannered parlor game of socialists, mesmerists, sexual freedom and liberation. The only person of individualized character James found was the visiting country cousin, Basil Ransom of Mississippi.

Historian C. Vann Woodward writes of Ransom as New England’s countervailing figure “... described in heroic terms as ‘tall and lean, dressed throughout in black’” When he dined out, he usually carried a six-shooter and a bowie knife. When told by one of the elite Boston women, “I assure you this is an age of conscience,” he replied, “That’s part of your cant. It’s an age of unspeakable shams.”

History’s cycles are essentially cultural: That which began with Lord Nelson ends abruptly a hundred years later with Oscar Wilde. Suddenly we are at the end of things again. And that which began with Jack Kennedy ends this time with Charlie Harper — and Barney Frank, Anthony Weiner and Wendy Davis.

Classically, what follows at the break is an absolute change of paradigm, an equal and opposite counterforce as Lincoln was revolutionary counterforce to Jeffersonian visionary America gone amok. I see Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) potentially as countercultural warrior rising this time, and James's vision of Basil Ransom — whose “dark, deep and glowing” eyes were full of “smoldering fire” — as prescient.