Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee


In between the terrible days of the retreat from Afghanistan last autumn and the not quite as terrible but more worrisome days of increasing involvement in Ukraine this spring, I wrote an essay for my friends at Modern Age on Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee. The novel that serves as a warning about American Progress leading to catastrophe in face of religion. It’s not quite a satire, although it is very funny, since the beginning and end are baffling and fearful respectively. Further, its humor is, more than might first meet the eye, aimed at the all-American protagonist, Hank; what seems to be a humiliation of King Arthur in a way turns out to be his vindication. Twain’s analysis of America seems to me especially timely now, since again progressive moralism has lost to antiquated fanaticism:

This, then, is the double paradox we need to understand if we are to change the mad liberalism that now rules in America. First, the greatest technological power the world has ever seen was defeated by religious fanatics whom we suspect of being not only illiterate but proud of it, too. “Godless Harvard loses to the Muslim Taliban in the Year of our Lord 2021” is quite a headline. In Ashraf Ghani, our elites even gave Afghanistan a TED Talk-delivering, Ivy League Ph.D., former World Bank official for a president, a technocrat who specialized in saving failed states. So how has Afghanistan failed to become a liberal campus-cum-NGO? Second, the most highly educated elites in world history, out of pious cruelty, created hecatombs that would have made the Romans & the Aztecs proud. Again, not a headline we are used to: “Humanitarian elites perpetrate what humanitarian elites call crimes against humanity.” And thus not a headline you have ever seen. Faced with our paradoxes, we look away.

Now that it is all over, we should be manly enough to see what our liberal elites did in America’s name, with American blood and treasure, to understand why it was possible, even easy, to drag the nation into this protracted evil. Elites no longer have the power to silence discussion or use their contempt to make disagreement seem worthless. It’s possible to learn what we should have learned long ago.

So, read the essay! I hope a similar hard truth will not be uttered about the current war in Ukraine. There’s some good news there that confirms Mark Twain’s focus on technology—Ukrainian forces claim cleverly to have sunk the Russian flagship in the Black Sea! But of course, the moralistic mindlessness of our liberal elites is today what it was last year. Circumstances have changed: None of these people have changed!

I leave you with the Will Rogers version of that story:

Picture of A Connecticut Yankee (1931)

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  1. Nohaaj Coolidge

    Your full essay was, as the Guinness ad suggests,  simply brilliant.  

    And also profound and insightful.  

    If only “we” could learn from it.

    As both Twain and you have observed,  our Betters are incapable of that. 

    • #1
  2. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Thanks for the extremely kind words!

    • #2
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