We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
~ Elie Wiesel (1928 – 2016)
One may question why I am opening my post this evening with a quote from the late Elie Wiesel. It is timely for many reasons. Obviously there is a lot going on in politics and, unfortunately, you can not make the wall between politics and faith absolutely impenetrable. It seems that a great deal of trouble comes from the mingling of those two systems. I try to avoid that by doing my best to keep my posts here free from political overtones.
I, however, can not maintain my silence any longer. I am not speaking on political topics for the sake of gaining readership or swaying anyone to my personal political positions. There is not some ulterior motive to advance any one person’s political race here. I make this preface for the rest of this post for one very simple reason, I want to be completely clear that what I present below is a complete position in its entirety and it is not some form of subterfuge or manipulation to win at some kind of political game here.
I am sure that you, gentle Reader, have observed the rising tide of xenophobia here in the US. I wish I could say that this was a new phenomenon and that it will pass away as quickly as the whims of fashion declared the mullet to be hideous. It sadly is something that has a long history in this nation and in the many nations of the world. You can not go to a single country and find a place completely free of this form of tribalism. Similar forms of tribalism, such as racism, are equally widespread. It is an unfortunate fact of human social structures and has been present for pretty much as long as humans have congregated together in any form of social structure. (Anyone who would argue that familial units do not engage in tribalism, I invite you to consider the iconic case of the Hatfields and McCoys here in the US or Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.)
While it is tempting to say that the xenophobic commentary that is about us is just people speaking from irrational emotion, this is a false argument because it decries emotion as some how inferior and is also a particularly insidious form of gas-lighting. As someone who believes that emotions are valid and that gas-lighting is one of the most abhorrent forms of psychological abuse, I adamantly reject this rather lazy false argument. And, to be honest, it is a lazy man’s argument because it glosses over the complex things that give rise to these kinds of things.
Prominent members of the community have come out and said things that are xenophobic. I can not stand beside their messages. There are notable members of the community that have said things that are racist. I can not support their messages. And there are people who have been upheld as leaders or would be upheld as leaders who have said similarly reprehensible things. It is particularly problematic when people who are respected within the community, within ANY community, come out and state things that run contrary to what they would have us believe they are seeking.
When someone is demanding tolerance for their beliefs, their racial profile, or their practices, it is at best nonsensical and counter-productive for them to reject said tolerance for others upon the basis of these things as general statements. One who insists that their worship practices should be respected as sacred and protected from persecution, for example, should not call for the persecution of others on the basis of their worship practices. Yes, oppose the practices that you have reason to believe threatens the welfare of the common good. But do so in a manner that is not going to make you a hypocrite. Provide logical arguments that illustrate the actual threat that these practices present. And make sure that this threat is something more than the displeasure of your specific deity of choice, because that is the same as saying that someone in a restaurant can’t have that slice of cake for dessert because you are on a diet.
The health and welfare of your spirit is not based in the relationship that someone else has with your deity. To argue this is the case robs you of your agency and slights your deity, maligning them as incapable of handling individuals on their own. I believe the ancient Greek term for that insult to deity is hubris and virtually all faiths of the world agree that this is an unwise thing to engage in. Indeed, I would suggest that you, dear Reader, should consider the things you would say on the behalf of your deity with great care because it does have an impact upon your relationship with your deity.
Now, thus far, my commentary here can pretty much be applied for everything. It is all somewhat general and, while timely, does not address the specific reason why I am posting this evening. I am unsure how to proceed, to be completely honest. Part of my uncertainty comes out of the fact that I look at the situation and see just how complex it is. I have watched it develop and I have hesitated to say anything before now because of the complexity that is rooted in the fact that I can not fully understand what motivates another person, that a great deal of emotion is involved here by all parties (myself included), and these matters are not as simple as words make them sound. Still, I can not maintain my silence any longer.
I am a lover of Loki. Loki is known as the Lie-Smith. He is also known as the Speaker of Unpleasant Truth. Loki is greatly maligned and disliked by many for the former and found himself tortured in horrific ways for the latter, if you go by the generally accepted lore. As much as people who despise UPG are going to protest what I’m about to say, Loki’s made it pretty clear to me that he’s got a lot at stake right now in the state of the world. Odin isn’t the only one who plots and plans, y’all.
I am going to put my neck on the proverbial chopping block and say it as eloquently as I can:
Islamophobia is wrong. It is as much a case of spitting in the face of the Gods as pissing on their icons. Racism, xenophobia, misandry, misogyny, and the ‘hate crusade’ against LGBT+ people is as well. There is no ‘love the sinner, hate the sin.’ Especially in the Norse/Germanic faiths. It is literally a foreign concept.
Tribalism by itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It can lead to great good. It encourages us to work together and be better humans. But the manifestation that leads to the abhorrent things I mentioned above, it must be rooted out and crushed beneath our collective heel. Because these things are a rejection of one of the most basic tenets of the Norse/Germanic faiths. We are called to be Hospitable to they who come to us.
Hospitality is not telling that man with the skin of a different color than yours that he deserves to die for it. Hospitality is not telling people of a different faith that they are a blight upon the Earth on the basis of the actions of a small, radicalized sect. It is not working to deprive people of their rights on the basis of the fact that you are uncomfortable with how they identify, dress, or what they do in their bedroom.
Now, one may ask, how do I know that these things are violating the tenet of Hospitality?
We wouldn’t do them if the Gods showed up on our doorstep. If we knew that that man with the olive colored skin and the Arabic features was Oðinn, we would not scorn him on the basis of those features. If we knew that the person who is of a gender presentation that didn’t lend itself to immediate and comfortable classification within the overculture’s system was Freyr, we would not scorn him. If we were to engage in such behavior, we are committing hubris.
How? We are saying that the Gods appear to the world in a manner that we are comfortable with and is in accordance with our personal preferences. I may be a bit mad. I will concede that point. I, however, am not so mad as to say that I have a direct line on how the Gods present to the world nor that my sense of comfort and aesthetics has even the remotest influence upon what They do. I am sensible enough to know that I don’t begin to know a damn thing about what the Gods do and that my efforts to influence Their will is about as powerful as Cnut’s command that the sea does not make his feet wet when he sits at the shoreline.
If the Gods walk the worlds, it is possible that any person you encounter is one of them in disguise. There is a reason why in the Hávamál, one is advised to be respectful and cautious in their dealings towards all people. One is that the Gods may be before you in the flesh and one is that any you meet may be a friend or a foe after but a few words. If the All-Father thought it necessary to advise us to be cautious in our dealings and our words, what folly do we commit when we are rash?
I understand that a great deal of fear and anger motivates the negative aspects of tribalism. I understand that it is an exceptionally difficult thing to battle these emotions. As someone who struggles with Bipolar, I engage in this struggle on a personal level just about every day. I truly do comprehend how these feelings can spur us to rash speech. I have made errors based upon the clouded thinking that comes from the grip of these emotions. I also recognize that when I have made these errors, I must attempt to resolve the problems created and take responsibility for my actions because that is the honorable way to conduct myself.
I ask you, gentle Reader, to do your best to resist the temptation to succumb to fear and anger. Do not let them rule your speech and deed because you will be like a horse that is running in darkness over uncertain ground. At some point, you will stumble and things will go horribly wrong, perhaps in an irrevocable fashion. If you must voice your fear and anger, do it somewhere that no ill will come of it. I keep a paper journal and I write in it for just this reason. If I feel that the work I have written is important, I come back to it when I am calmer and can view things from a more reasoned perspective. And I will ask those around me to look at it and consider if I am presenting things in a manner that is conducive to the world I seek to create.
Words have power. Use them wisely. In this age of the internet and instant communication, words are becoming a more powerful facet of our deeds. May it be that our deeds are honorable.
Now that I have done the work that my love Loki has set me to, let me close with the words of his brother.
Cattle die, kinsmen die,
thyself too soon must die,
one thing never, I ween, will die
fair fame of one who has earned.
Originally Published 8/5/2016