The Legacy of Temperance
How the Temperance Movement s social experiment continues today
Antonia E. D'orsay 6/18/2011

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There are days when it often seems as if those we oppose are "getting desperate", as if the efforts we, as a mass set of collective subgroups in ever diverse and of late ever more fractious union out of necessity and common oppression. This is not new, however. It has a long history and this history has shaped the underlying cultural values of the US for a hundred years, and it has woven itself tightly into the fabric of the nation. This is about ideas, not people. It is ideas which change and shape things far more and for far longer than people, so I ve elected to not name people, in order to focus on the ideas. In the mid 1820's, spurred in part by the writings of a Doctor of Medicine, a movement began. It arose out of the Second Great Awakening, a period from roughly 1820 to 1860 when the number of new religious beliefs and the number of religious individuals expanded in a massive wave that was an outgrowth of the urbanization of the east and the expansions in the west. That movement was The Temperance Movement. Initially conceived as a means to promote the idea of abstinence from the ills and dangers of alcohol, it became one of the most powerful social movements ever, with an impact that is still felt today in the massive reach that it obtained and still has today. Initially, the movement was seen as a progressive cause -- they were interested in fighting for women's rights, they were abolitionists, they sought to promote the improvement of society as a whole. They were, for the most part, "good God-fearing men and women" who believed in strong principles and ideas like "Good Moral Character". They had many allies as they grew, utilizing what was the first real social reform effort and movement in the United States, and eventually developing an organization as a clearinghouse for ideas and information. This organization was the American Temperance Society. This movement spread throughout the nation, and was instrumental in establishing much of what we are working towards today. Women's rights, especially, were a major focus of many in this movement, as there was a strong correlation seen between the violence of men against women and the drinking of alcohol. Alcohol was a poison, they would say. It led to disease, to corruption, to loose morals, to sin. It destroyed people, and was against God's plan. The ideas about prostitution and prostitutes that we often see stated today are derived from the work of this movement. The idea of the prostitute as a person with no self esteem and as an individual worthy of scorn comes from this period, and the enforcement and creation of laws against prostitution was very much due to their efforts, and they are responsible for such things

as the Comstock Law and the Page Act, with the Mann Act the culmination of nearly 80 years of continual effort. Much of the support for this came from the reliance on alcohol as a scourge -- it was a symptom of a deeper ill in society at large. One of the organizations that most typifies this outlook is the still active WCTU, which initially attracted more women to the efforts of suffrage than many of the more "strident" and "radical" organizations and groups. They advocated for suffrage on the basis of women being "morally superior" and thusly needed to vote in order to protect their homes, families, children, and aid through those actions in curing society's ills. The WCTU worked to fight against the exploitation of working girls -- meaning women who worked in such places as mills and sewing shops. They were also a pro immigrant organization. Along with other organizations and in league with other movements, the Temperance movement created the concepts of segregated restrooms as "normal", and promoted them with the idea of drunkard men molesting women in them. They successfully passed the National Prohibition Act, and did indeed succeed in their efforts to grant suffrage to women. They also managed to influence the discourse over the pharmaceutical trade, with 'quacks' peddling various elixirs (often a combination of cocaine or heroin extract with alcohol), and were able to create the controlled substances laws that dominated the first half of the 20th century. A note about Prohibition -- at the time the 18th Amendment was proposed in the Senate, in 1917, at least 17 other states had already passed laws regarding prohibition. The temperance movement was strongly tied to the religious groups that backed it (predominantly Calvinist religious bodies such as the Methodists and Baptists), and these were people who were very much aware of the political and social events of the world. The temperance movement included many doctors, as well, who became familiar with a term from a work titled Sexual Psychopathy: a Clinical-Forensic Study, which introduced many of them to the concept of homosexual a term which was applied in a pathological and deeply negative manner to a certain group of people. This left folks with the sense, justified by medical practitioners of the day, that this homosexuality was a horrible thing, and led to the inclusion of it as a term into the revisions of the Bible that would become the American Standard Version and the Revised Version (both of which are still significantly influential on the newer books in use today). This early book written and widely accepted long before Freud s work reached a similar standing was created by an individual who felt that the only purpose for sex was strictly procreation. As a result, any form of sex that was not strictly for procreation was a perversion

a cerebral neuroses of a sort he called paraesthesia sex for a purpose other than procreative (and a term that later became paraphilia). Into this category he included sexual fetishism, masochism, and pedophilia. A reminder, this is a publication in the 1880 s. 1886, in fact. Benz patents the first gasoline engine. The 8 hour workday is a ludicrous concept soundly condemned by business people, leading to the Haymarket Riots. The Supreme Court would rule that year that Corporations have the same rights as people. Coca-cola is started to be advertised by a pharmacist. Geronimo would surrender this year.

This is the stuff our Great Grandparents were born into. This same doctor perceived women as sexually passive, saw rape as not a perversion but as an aberration because it could result in pregnancy, thus fulfilling the purpose of sex.

Many of the ideas, then, that we see articulated today, are derived from this work, which was essentially forgotten by academia following Freud s work, but not by the average person, who had been raised with this in a filtered down state and who heard it preached by authority figures. The same person, I ll note, also considered transgender individuals to be most likely biological, and that gay folks were born that way as a result of some issue during gestation, which altered their brains and created sexual inversion . This is also the reason that many early works on the subjects of LGBT people used the term Inversion. And, as a result, many of those who led in the temperance movement also worked against LGBT individuals. Their success in passing Prohibition and its attendant failure after 13 years taught them several lessons as a movement. Their reach was broad attendance at congregations waxed and waned, but generally stayed well above the levels known during the time of the Revolution. Indeed, religious attendance was surprising low, but the Revolution itself sparked a wave of revivalism that was called the Great Awakening (and thus led to the second great awakening I referred to earlier. Temperance groups faded out, the concepts and ideas hurt badly by the impact of prohibition s repeal, but the mood of the country was also dour following repeal, as the Great Depression hit. The temperance movement s wide reach continued through the increasing attendance, and during WWII many of the people who were raised in such times took positions in major offices in government.

This also led to continued oppression through the enormous effect of the ideas of the temperance movement, which never addressed the ideas of patriarchy since the concepts weren t fully available to them, and also benefitted from such (many of the organizations were headed and run by men, in part because only men could get anything done). The generally conservative mood of the country following WWII was heavily influenced by the ideas of the Temperance movement, and the social fabric of the day became fairly rigid. This period is looked back on by many of the inheritors of the temperance movement as the pinnacle of their efforts socially as a group and it is to the religious foundations that they turn to justify this (despite the reality of it having a great deal more to do with economic growth and prosperity among the most conforming at the expense of the least comforming). It was the decline of this period that created the sense of concern among them we see today that feeling of desperation .

The foundations for the current incarnation of these same religious and socially conservative forces lie in the ideas that came about in the 1970s and 1980 s. Among these ideas were that the US had lost sight of the ideals and values of the people who essentially lived and built the temperance movement, positing them as the default Americans and turning them into icons of what is good . Thusly, they look to those ideals as they think on the concepts of applying the scriptural teachings of the Bible as interpreted in all their affairs following the ideals of Calvin in what has oft been termed neo-calvinism. This means to essentially run the country on those ideas, as well, since service to the country is part of the affairs of life, and thusly should have the biblical stamp placed on it. This idea was fed into the US from early 1900 through to the 1970 s, and over time served to inform later people, coming from a European source who was very successful in his efforts at the turn of the century, and an expatriate student of his. Since the biblical stamp holds that homosexuality does not have, as its purpose, procreation, it is one of those things that is not welcomed, and it is certainly not part of the fabric of those icons regarding what is good . Therefore, it represents a threat to the way that the US should be, and is a danger akin to the very sorts of dangers that the Temperance movement fought. The Temperance movement is seen as the heart and soul of the United States, a struggle for the nation s character and culture, and an effort to make it into a nation of Christian people who tolerate and permit other religions so long as they do not interfere with the Christian ideas. It is through this that they justify conceiving the nation as a one time Christian Nation and that it has moved away from its roots which ignores the Enlightenment roots, and superimposes on them a layer that is derived from a later time and place.

In so doing, they view the Constitution very much an Enlightenment document -- as an attempt to codify into law the very structure of Biblical law thus making it a tool for the furthering of biblical law. This idea was more developed by what is considered a fringe element following the social upheaval of the 1960 s. Beginning in the 1970 s and continuing into the 1980 s, a tour regarding the idea of Whatever Happened to the Human Race? Circulated the ideas mentioned above among those who still had ties to the church during a historic low in attendance that had begun in the 1960 s and had led people to predict in bold print the Death of God and the end of religion. It was expressed as a worry, a concern, that people had been inattentive to the teachings they had learned in that bygone era of greatness, and the world was becoming postChristian . That the ideas and values were being lost. It was encouraged, then, that such things not happen, and in a brief tract called A Christian Manifesto, there was a call to peaceful resistance among the community including civil disobedience and a sense that many of those in power were actively seeking to make this a reality.

This was particularly pronounced among those who were interested in political efforts. Americans have long liked their leaders to be church going, and churches, as well, are often the halls were political meetings are held and candidates seek voters, and offer a tremendous opportunity to do a great deal of in person contact and fundraising. These ideas were percolating about and many of the stars of an earlier era, including former Presidential Candidates, condemned them as these ideas made inroads among the younger members of their party that were up and coming and connected to the 1970s era politicians. These ideas had a great deal of traction with many, who used their connections and ties to create religiously motivated political and legal organizations that had great influence. Influence enough to catch the eyes of aspiring and ambitious politicians, since they had great reach and the ability to rapidly raise funds for races that were only ever growing more expensive. These ideas even caught the idea of a Canadian author, who observed these social changes and in 1985 published a fictional novel titled The Handmaid s Tale . A work of fiction that does not directly deal in the issues here, it utilizes some of these ideas taken to an extremist point as the backdrop for the tale and much of the social critique in it is of this system. (The novel also has some very strong feminist statements in it as well.) It is not a coincidence that in 25 years, this novel has been highly ranked among those most often sought to be banned. With a Democrat elected president being very open about his religious beliefs, and a republican following him elected on using very strong religious ideals in the campaign that also touched on many of the ideas and ideals of the Temperance movement, the religious populations in the US began to increase, and a new revivalism began again, including the use of televangelism.

With the rise in evangelism that was being encouraged by the aforementioned tour, the political power of the newest incarnation of this nearly two hundred year old movement was set, and those muscles were flexed in the 1990 s after a series of small but successful efforts in the 1970 s and 1980 s that arose out of these same ideas. In the 1970 s, there was a strong backlash against a burgeoning social justice movement an effort to provide gay people what we now call LGBT with access to the equal rights they have been denied for so long (in no small part to the very efforts of the Temperance movement ideas and ideals).

This effort relied heavily on the ideas that being LGBT was related to pedophilia, that it was evil and dark and the research used to promote these ideas is pretty much the same that I m using now. The nearly 100 year old relationship to paraphilias was the primary effort, because by now it made sense to people who had essentially been raised to think that and it had been given the air of authority since it came from previous generations who modeled these very American traits. This movement dovetailed well with the movement for a Christian Nation, and so the two merged, and what was sparked is now called the Culture War , reflecting the sense of importance that is felt by those who support these ideas.

Among the other underlying ideas that fill in here is the notion that there is no middle ground one either believes these things or one does not, and that one that does not believe such is an impediment to the greater good. This is a very subtle idea it is not an overt thought, but rather a concept that underlies much of the effort. It is not that those who oppose such things are bad people, it is that they are simply misguided or crazy mentally ill in the same way that LGBT are regarded as mentally ill, and, therefore (in keeping with the origin materials) should be segregated from the main population just like any other crazy or dangerous person. For the more extremist of the ideas that influence the movement, one needs look no further than the book The Institutes of Biblical Law. Published in the early 1970 s, this book influenced to some extent the ideas behind the tour about what became of the human race? It is not as strong an influence on the more moderate elements, but those who have shifted to the furthest edges, and much of the underlying arguments surrounding many of the issues, are reliant on the ideas that it puts forth. This is not entirely good when one realizes that these ideas put them directly in opposition to the enlightenment ideals that support the Courts and the history and structure of law in the US. When entering courts, they cannot use these ideas overtly, as they go against much of the legal precedent that exists.

Unless they can change that precedent by introducing Judges who share similar views. And this is important, as this new movement opposes many of the things that under the Enlightenment ideals makes sense, but is oppositional to the concepts that they hold. For example, they oppose welfare, as this is not a function of government, but of church. They oppose abortion and homosexuality as these ideas are directly in opposition to hundred and twenty year old dogma that holds the purpose of sex is only for procreation. They oppose confiscatory taxation (income taxes, essentially) because such should be entirely voluntary.

Nor should the government be involved in moral offenses they are to be limited to strictly criminal proceedings, courts, and national defense. This is why it is ok to cheat it isn t, but the role of punishing such is to be left to the individual congregation and or God, and all such things for those who live righteously otherwise can be forgiven and therefore are not as bad.

Because things like abortion and being LGBT are dangerous to the fabric of society as a whole, they would be criminal offenses, not merely moral ones. They believe that only simple democracy is the means by which to achieve this majority rule is what worked int eh bible according to them, and their interpretation is right, and the only allowance they will make for tolerance is the sort of tolerance they have for other denominations of Christians. This is why they cite biblical concepts first and foremost, not constitutional ones. They view themselves, politically, as primarily Libertarian in outlook, as well, with Christianity being a danger to those forces which seek to create a post-christian world and therefore a tool by which to attain a libertarian state. This is why there are so many of them within the tea party (which uses the more secular language of these ideas in order to reach a wider audience). Without faith in the Bible, and individual cannot grasp the fundamental concepts they speak to and therefore, there is no common ground, there is no way to reach others, and they do not seek to reach those who do not have faith in such as a result. They are not interested in gaining converts, they are interested in gaining power in order to make this idea a reality. These are the ideas of the people we oppose, and no matter that such people are old and frail, they will pass on the ideas and this effort will continue. To combat ideas is the goal here. The individuals are unimportant. The ideas are hat matter and what must be countered, but to counter an idea effectively requires an equally strong and well grounded idea that appeals on the same level.