The Perimeter Fence

Historian Francis Bremer’s study of Puritanism, First Founders: American Puritans and Puritanism in an Atlantic World, offers insights for our own time, apart from early American history.  (I know that Whitewater’s founding had a Puritan influence, but that’s not my point, today.  Bremer’s observations on Puritanism are useful far from his particular study, and apart from sectarianism.)

Bremer observes that the Puritans had – and by extension many peoples have – within their cultures a figurative perimeter fence:

One of the challenges faced by the first colonists was how to determine the precise nature of a godly order and how to discern between free discussion that promoted their goal and ideas that threatened it – in short, how and where to position the perimeter fence dividing what was acceptable and what was not…..

Most communities, organizations, and cultures have their own perimeter fences. 

For the Puritans (although there was some dissent within their community) the perimeter fence was of narrow circumference and near impermeability.  They defended their way of life by restricting both the boundaries of the community and access to it from the outside. 

For other settlers to North America, this was less the case – other settlements had a wider perimeter fence, with greater penetrability, and so offered a warmer welcome to newcomers and dissenters. 

The question for a community is what circumference and what strength its perimeter fence will be. 

If all communities have perimeter fences, of one kind or another, then for Whitewater this question presents itself: How wide and how high should this small town’s perimeter fence be?

The answer to this question has shaped, and will continue to shape, Whitewater’s prospects. 

Tomorrow: The Solution to the ‘Same Ten People Problem.’ 


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8 years ago

This post recollects an odd introduction to Whitewater that relates to the idea of a perimeter fence. Twenty years ago here, it was considered normal to ask someone how long they or their family had lived in Whitewater and size up their value accordingly. As a newcomer to town, I found it very strange and disconcerting to observe this in many conversations. I think the town culture is changing in this regard. One’s contributions to a community are valued in present time (by most) and familial years in the same soil have little or no bearing.

8 years ago

The always interesting question will be “Is the University inside or outside of Whitewater’s fence?”