Hierarchy as a Religious Concept

Today, it is time to talk about an important, yet increasingly overlooked part of heathen religious philosophy: hierarchies. Ah, I can hear the outraged howls and lunatic rants of the Righteous Radical crowd already. You know who I mean. The crowd that believes that all hierarchies and ranks are inherently evil. The crowd that spends all of its time online ranting about how everyone except for them are fascists who need to be forced to think and behave Correctly. The crowd that starts screaming “Help! Help! I’m being oppressed!” every time anybody expresses an opinion that contradicts one of their own. The crowd that has to spend all of its time foaming at the mouth in cyberspace because it can never get anything real done. Because when they get together, every least detail of every proposal has to be debated by everybody. Because everybody’s voice has to be heard about everything. Because only the person who is holding the Talking Feather at the moment can talk, and there are a lot of people waiting for their turn with the Talking Feather.

When everybody gets to be Captain, nobody’s a Private. Trouble is, Privates are the ones who get the actual work done, and part of the reason why they can get the work done is that only one person is giving them orders. Instead of, you know, an unruly mob of puffed up egos all trying to give orders to each other. The reason that all human societies create hierarchies is that it is stupidly, fatally inefficient to reinvent the wheel for every single problem you face. Experience is required to solve any significant problem, to perform any important task. Not everybody has the right kinds of experience to solve every kind of problem, and the totality of human knowledge is so vast that no one person can understand all of it. So humans develop specialists. Some gain the experience to govern societies, others gain the experience needed to master a science, others learn how to educate children, and so forth. This way, each job can be done well, and there is no need to waste the enormous amount of resources needed to educate everybody about every single thing.

Look at it this way: when the leopards start dropping out of the trees, which group of people do you think is going to survive? The one where one strong, experienced leader instantly shouts out orders for defense, which are instantly obeyed because everybody knows their roles? Or the one where everyone sits down and pulls out the Talking Feather to determine whose vision of a defense strategy should be used?

Odin is the heathen embodiment of the understanding of the need for hierarchies. He is the chief of the gods, the lord of Valhalla. He is the leader of the einherjar and the valkyries. In many ways, Odin is the god of hierarchy. His people tend to not only believe in hierarchies, but to see the spiritual world expressed in a wide array of hierarchies.

Odin is not only a god of leaders, societies, and hierarchies, though, he is also a god of individuals. He is the god of the young warrior trying to work his way up the military or political hierarchy of his people. He is the god of the scholar who seeks to learn and grow enough to work his way up the academic hierarchy. He is the god of the wargs and loners who reject hierarchies and choose to live outside of them. This seems like a contradiction, but in fact it embodies a profound understanding of human nature and the way in which human societies function.

Human societies function because of dynamic tension. A society run by conservatives would be a nightmare. So would a society run by liberals, though in a different way. A society where both conservatives and liberals hold some power, and pull society first one way and then the other? That manages to be almost livable on frequent occasions.

A society which is too rigidly hierarchical tends toward the fascistic, the bureaucratic, the inefficient, the evil. A society which tends completely toward the individual at the expense of hierarchies tends towards the chaotic, the savage, the divided, the unjust, and the inefficient. What is needed is a society that has hierarchies that are counterbalanced by strong individuals, some of whom work within the system and some of whom live outside of it or even fight against it. THIS is a healthy society. The individualism in it restrains the hierarchies from excess, and the hierarchies tame individual excesses.

This is why Odin is god of hierarchy and of individualism both. He represents the dynamic tension that a healthy society needs to survive and even thrive.

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Some Pagans Are Getting Fooled Again

Before bringing the conversation around to a truly unsettling trend in both the heathen and larger pagan communities, allow me a brief reminiscence of my days in college, to set the context for it.

Although I was a science major, I had a keen interest in politics, and got onto the student senate. In those days, at that university, the student senate was responsible for distributing $1 million to student activity groups each year. Each group would make a proposal, come before us, and get operating money. We were mostly a rubber stamp process, and served only to weed out misuses of funds.

When I served, the rest of the senate was composed of liberal Democrats. I, of course, am a radical moderate, meaning that I subscribe to no –ism or –ology, but make up my own mind about issues on a case by case basis. When the Conservative Interests of America group came before us (yes, the CIA), they barely got their pitch out before a senator made a motion to deny them funding, and was seconded. When I asked why, I was told outright that the other senators saw this as their opportunity to shut down Republican-oriented programs on campus, and advance their own political agendas. They spoke as if it was obvious that I should see these young Republicans as the “bad guys.”

Now, I didn’t think much of the CIA group. I found their hawkishness of foreign policy and disregard of collateral casualties repugnant. I found their supply side economics theories as ridiculous as Laffer’s napkin drawing. I thought their opposition to basic assistance to the poor that their business-oriented Randian fantasies had created was hypocritical. I also knew many of them personally, and thought they were mostly %&*@#$!-bags. Yet still, I stood up to defend them. I filibustered for hours, until I had annoyed my fellow senators into giving the CIA its funds.

Why? Well, it was my job to disburse the funds impartially and fairly, for one thing. But there was a larger principle involved. America is founded on certain fundamental ideals that are supposed to be so important that they trump everything else. One is freedom of speech. Everybody, no matter how dumbass or repellant, has the right to speak his or her mind, and advance his or her ideas. Another core American ideal is that we are a melting pot of different cultures and ideas. The American ideal is that of many different tribes, each pulling together in some ways and in different directions in others, working out the answers between them. Because we are different, we have different beliefs. To make the melting pot work, we have developed standards of public, civilized behavior that draw boundaries for conflicts between different tribes.

What my fellow senators did that day was profoundly un-American. You know what else is? The emergence of the new violent extremists on the left. The kind of people you can find all too often these days over at Gods and Radicals. The kind that are increasingly trying to take over modern paganism, and turn it into an extremist political instrument.

I wrote recently about the call for McCarthy-esque witch hunts from some of the Gods and Radicals crowd, to eliminate “wrong-thinking” pagan elements, such as heathenry. I considered that to be the end of the matter, as I had said all I had to say on the subject. Then I saw more of that crowd writing about a whole new batch of truly disturbing things, and now feel I must speak again.

I am not providing a specific link, as I have no wish to start a flame war, and my point isn’t the specific words of one person or another. Anyone paying even minimal attention lately knows the kinds of writings I am talking about. People advocating going to Trump rallies and trying to shut them down. Trying to use violence against Trump rally-goers in an attempt to intimidate them into staying home. People claiming that this is the truly Pagan thing to do, and that it is a form of sacred warriorship.

Bull$&!^. It’s fascism, pure and simple. It is profoundly un-American. Parts of it border on terrorism.

It is also astonishingly hypocritical. These people love to present themselves as freedom fighters, anarchists, and rebels, standing up to the obviously fascist Trump. Yet they use repressive, fascistic techniques to accomplish their aims.

These people are not rebels. They are not freedom fighters. There is nothing sacred about what they do. All they are is closet aristocrats. They do not actually value freedom, as they are proud of denying it to those who do not think as they do. They just want to be the ones who are in charge.

There’s an old song by The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” It contains the lyrics:

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

You know what? These closet aristocrats, these phony freedom fighters, are exactly who The Who were warning us about.

Don’t get me wrong. I am passionately anti-Trump. The man is clearly a racist, crypto-fascist demagogue with an IQ even smaller than his hands. He is a dangerous, petty halfwit who could easy take America down the road Germany went in the 30s, were he to ever get power.

You know how I’m going to deal with that? I am going to vote against him. Like an American. Like a true lover of freedom. I will let him have his rallies. It is his right to.

To the new extremist pagan left, I would say that you have stared too long into the Abyss, and you have not taken care when fighting monsters.

I would also say that you seem to be a load of halfwits. You are doing more damage to the causes you claim to honor than Trump ever could. He was the one with the violent, fascistic rallies. He was the one encouraging un-American violence and suppression of political enemies. He was well on the way to discrediting himself in the larger electorate’s eyes. He was well on the way to showing what he really was, and making a sharp distinction between his toxic politics and the politics of those who oppose him.

Then you Bozos go and change the narrative. You snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. You make it clear that violence and fascistic jackasses come from the left, too, and make Trump seem less of an extremist problem relative to them. You even let HIM take the moral high ground, and publish speeches denouncing the un-American violence of your crowd.

Way to go, losers.

I am a man of Odin. I hear my god calling me to stand by my ideals, and not compromise them in order to score a cheap hit. Paganism is not politics, and it is most certainly not your brand of extremist, bumbling, grandstanding, un-American idiocy.

Revenge of the Son of the Bride of the Culture War: Part III

I think I am starting to get sick of Gods & Radicals as an organization. They seem to have a toxic, overprivileged culture that keeps leading members to say some really inappropriate things. The dust from Rhyd Wildermuth’s declaration that all pagan religions that do not toe the Gods & Radicals line be viewed as potential or probable right wing fascist fronts has not even settled, and another member has posted THIS little rant.

Is a left wing, multicultural Asatru possible??? SERIOUSLY???

Mr. Burley, you are clearly not a heathen. You clearly haven’t bothered to meet any actual heathens, or actually get to learn our lore or history in any way. You are doing nothing more than hijacking our traditions, and using us as a prop in your stupid little political efforts.

Not cool. In fact, you have taken it to truly bigoted levels of cultural appropriation.

The KKK had always been devoutly Christian, and claim the Bible’s sanction of their bigoted beliefs. Do you ask if a left wing, multicultural Christianity is possible? Do you ask the same thing of Islam because of a few terrorists? Do you believe that because there are some Jewish people who are heavily orthodox and insular that you must ask if multicultural Jews can even exist? Do you believe that nativist Buddhists in Myanmar mean that all Buddhists are knee jerk, right wing, nativist fanatics?

You have clearly never actually met any heathens, Mr. Burley, or you would be aware that, although we have our own problems with right wing fascist nativist racists, just like many other religions, most of us are not like this. Your asinine question indicates that you are not aware of MAJOR elements of our modern history.

As you seem to think it appropriate to make judgments and condemnations of us without having bothered to do even minimal research, let me provide the history lesson you skipped. The modern heathen/Asatru movement was pretty disorganized in the eighties, the decade it really got going in. Anyone who said they were heathen was accepted as such. Then there was a series of schisms around the end of the decade, into the nineties. One of the most major of these, the one you could not have possibly missed if you had done even a cursory amount of research into us, was the schism between Folkish and Universalist heathens. And also Tribalist heathens, but they were more of a minority at first. The other two groups were dominant.

In other words, the movement that birthed the Folkish heathens also birthed the other major camp, the left wing, multicultural heathens. You know, the ones whose existence you doubt.

Today, both Folkish and Universalist heathens have moved into the background in favor of the more common Tribalist heathens. We are neither left nor right wing. We are not fascists. We reject racists. WE are the dominant form of heathenry, if you look at the actual numbers.

So your snide little comments about “the clear association between Heathenry and an openly racialist subculture,” and “But what is it about Asatru that creates a trajectory towards the folkish interpretation,” are, at best, disingenuous, and at worst actual lies.

Our religion, our gods, are not props in your political struggles, Burley. You use us. You insult us. You misrepresent us. Fuck you.

I have been in the heathen scene for a long time. I have written a lot, and run groups. I have spent a lot of that time and effort in fighting fascism. Like any true heathen, I have stood up against the right wing and fascist elements in my religion. But that does not make me left wing. I also stand against you and your left wing brand of fascism, Burley. You and your Gods & Radicals buddies are every bit as bad as the right wing variety. And I will take just as strong a stand against you. We don’t need Folkies stealing our traditions and pushing their own agenda with it. And we do not need a load of crypto fascist anarchist neo-maxi Zoom dweebies doing it either.

The Culture War Part Two: Electric Boogaloo

A couple of years ago I published an essay to this blog titled “The Culture War: One Heathen’s Perspective.” Events in the last couple of years have pushed me to revisit the topic, and take up some of the points I discussed there from a different perspective.

Two things have been bugging me lately. One is a growing thing that I can only refer to as a form of cultural imperialism in the larger pagan community. What do I mean by this? I mean a point of view that functions as a way of creating and maintaining an unequal relationship between the dominant pagan culture and all other pagan cultures. I mean a refusal to understand things as people mean them, and an insistence on interpreting all other things, all other beliefs and cultures, through the narrow lens of one’s own, and an insistence that all people, all members of other cultures, must adopt and conform to their beliefs.

Take, for example, the recent hysterical idiocy over the Sanders’ campaign’s “Bern the Witch” slogan. A bunch of people got very upset over the fact that this slogan was used as part of a Halloween theme last October. Seriously, people?

There are so many things wrong with this that I don’t even know where to start. Firstly, “witch” is an astonishingly broad term. It does not mean “pagan.” It does not mean “woman.” It has been used by both pagan and Christian cultures for many hundreds of years to basically refer to a stock boogeyman of fairy tales: the creepy outsider who traffics with dark forces. Yes, there was a period when it was often used to persecute those with pagan beliefs, or at least vaguely pagany-sorta-looking beliefs. It was sometimes used as a cover for discrimination against women. More often than either of these, it was used to disguise naked seizures of one’s neighbor’s land or to justify harsh political measures that would be less palatable without a scapegoat.

Pretending ownership of the word in order to pursue your own agenda is pretty lame. Dirty pool, even. Pagans do not own the word. Just because it was sometimes applied to them does not let them ignore all of the other uses of the word. Just because it was sometimes applied to women does not mean that somebody can claim the word to mean “woman,” and ignore the far longer history of different uses.

“Witch” is a popular culture term that has, these days, far more to do with cheesy costumes and candy than anything else. Being so myopic as to insist that only the way you use the word is proper, and that all other uses of the word must be judged by the standards of your own beliefs and political agenda is plain old cultural imperialism, wearing a new mask.

Then there is something even more disturbing. The best example of it is the recent post on Gods & Radicals on “Confronting the New Right.” The author, Rhyd Wildermuth, basically drew up a list of all of the kinds of paganism that don’t “think correctly,” and need to be viewed with suspicion because of their supposed tendency to go fascist. This list includes devotional polytheism, reconstructionist paganism, druidry, heathenry, and any tradition with a hierarchy or secret mystery traditions. He declares that “hierarchies are artificial,” and that they are a warning sign of New Rightist tendencies. Egalitarianism, he rapturously declares, is the One True Path. Just like in nature, he effervesces, where there are no hierarchies at all, and all plants and animals help each other out of a sense of friendly brotherhood.

Gag me with a spoon.

Mr. Wildermuth, and his devoted followers, are astonishingly blind to hypocrisy, irony, and the definition of fascism.

So let me provide it for you, Mr. Wildermuth. “Fascism” comes from the old Roman symbol of the fasces, a bundle of sticks. You see, each stick alone is weak, and can be broken. But tied together in a bundle, they are strong. In other words, Mr. Wildermuth, fascism is all about enforcing uniformity of belief and behavior in order to be strong, and to advance your particular set of beliefs and ideals.

Mr. Wildermuth, you and your supporters in the Gods & Radicals crowd have started a McCarthyist witch hunt, an attempt to ferret out the “wrong elements” from our culture, and enforce your astonishingly limited perspective onto paganism as a whole.

Do you condemn traditional Chinese folk religion? It is BASED on hierarchy. Its core belief is that the world takes the form that it does because the Celestial Bureaucracy has ordered it to take that form. Do you condemn Kemeticism? It is based in hierarchy, too. Much of the religion, both ancient and modern, is centered around its own divine hierarchy, as mediated in the person of the pharaoh.

You are not the popes of paganism. Your view of paganism is not one held by many historical forms of paganism. Your declaration that people who put the gods first, or believe in hierarchies, are to be looked at with distrust and suspicion is downright insulting.

I am a neo-tribalist, Wildermuth. I am a heathen. I have fought long and hard against the racist, Folkist elements of my faith. I do not need people like you coming along and declaring that I and all people who believe like me practice what is “generally considered the most problematic” form of paganism. Mr. Wildermuth, can you guess which finger I am holding up?

Hierarchies abound in nature, Wildermuth. Wolf packs. Chimpanzee social groups. Ants. Chickens. Have you seriously never heard the term “pecking order” before? Anyone practicing a traditional, pagan, nature-oriented religion has every right to respect, honor, and benefit from such natural constructs. You have no right to claim that these are signs of right wing activity. You have no right to dismiss our beliefs.

And you know what? Hierarchies and anarchy are not mutually exclusive. I am an anarchist. And I believe that hierarchies are useful, necessary, and have their place. What, are you king of the anarchists, now, too?

The wonderful thing about polytheism is all the variety. There are many paths, many beliefs. There are many ways of knowing. This makes us strong, because alloys are strongest. You want to talk about “real” pagan thought, Wildermuth? Let me share with you what real polytheism looks like. I helped organize and moderate a group of berserkers for many years. For those of you who do not know what a berserker is, which is most of you, a berserker is a person who practices a martial art that is much like Shaolin: a combination of martial art and spiritual tradition. Berserkers tend to be heathen, and use heathen spiritual practices.

Over the decade plus our group was together, we got all sorts of members. Some were hard core conservatives. Some went to the point of holding beliefs that I found repugnant. One even insulted both of my grandfathers, accusing them of being part of the “moon landing conspiracy,” because they worked on the Apollo program. Some were serious left wing types. Some of these held beliefs I found idiotic, or even repugnant. Many of these people did not hold similar beliefs to each other, and did not get along.

You know what, though? We believed that the gods were not sock puppets who held the same political beliefs that we did. We believed that the gods are vast, and beyond human comprehension, and that each of us only had a corner of the truth, not the whole thing. We acted respectfully to each other, so that we could be about the business that we came together for. We learned things from each other. We all benefitted from this. This is why polytheism is awesome. We are many, who can work together at need, and go our own ways at other times. None of us sets himself up above the others, saying that he has The Truth.

You know what, Wildermuth? I believe a lot of the same things that you do. I think that fascism is a bad thing. I think that the New Right is indeed a danger. I am an anarchist. But, unlike you, I do not blindly assume that the gods think as I do. I am a devoted Odinist, and you know what? The Old Man and I disagree about a number of things. I do not, for example, approve of his support of waging war for glory, or power. But I can disagree with him without rejecting him, and without pretending that he really agrees with me.

This is the other thing that has been bugging me over the last couple of years: an increasing tendency to put the gods last. Wildermuth’s group at Gods & Radicals seem to be putting politics first, and using the gods only as a means of furthering their own political agenda. They are trying to open up a new front on the culture war: setting up their form of pagan belief as the One True Way, and purging all wrong-thinking elements from pagan society. They are pagan cultural imperialists. This kind of blind, unthinking, pagan cultural imperialism is privileged bullshit. This kind of pagan crypto-fascism needs to be stopped.

 

PS The subtitle to this post is a joke that probably only members of my own Generation X will get.

A Lesson for Mr. McNallen

Well, the Chicken Little Brigade is at it again. Stephen McNallen, self proclaimed scientist, self proclaimed psychic warrior hero, and anti-Mexican doomsday prophet has announced his and his terrified legions’ desire to bring back the old Nazi gangs that used to roam around murdering minorities. When called on this, he responded with the following asinine statement:

“IF YOU ARE READING THIS HOPING TO FIND MY ABJECT APOLOGY FOR OFFENDING THE POLITICALLY CORRECT DON’T BOTHER”

Mr. McNallen, let me explain some things to you, as you evidently lack the wits to understand them for yourself.

Political correctness is not some kind of censorship. It is not some kind of thought control.

You see, people who actually have grown up are polite. We try to get along, and see other people as they actually are. We try to see past the stupid blind assumptions that irrelevant surface level differences make.

We do not really think like you and your army of terrified bigots deep down inside, but are too afraid to admit it. We do not censor our thoughts or our speech.

We don’t have to.

You see, the thing is, society has been making a lot of changes, over the last century. Some people have realized that we need to have high standards. We need to eliminate the scourge of intellectual weakness, and stupidity-fuelled hatred.

That political correctness thing you keep whining about? It’s not censorship. It’s standards. Actual grown ups have realized that we need to call a spade a spade. We need to call losers like yourself out, who are driven by stupidity and hate.

There is no censorship. There is no thought control. You only think that. You know why?

Because you are losers. You are morons. You are driven by hate. You cling to ancient bigotries, and refuse to grow up. But oh no! The rest of society has moved on, and left you behind! The rest of us have grown up!

Well, you lack courage. So you hide your true faces. You hide your true intentions. You adopt the language of your betters, of people more mature than you, and use it to fool people into thinking you are something you aren’t. So that the rest of us don’t call you on your stupidity.

We aren’t censoring you. You are doing that to yourself. Because you are dishonest. You have the freedom to believe any damn idiot thing you want.

And we have the freedom to call you what you really are: bigots. Idiots. Barbaric halfwits who cannot see past their own fondly cherished traditional prejudices.

We don’t want you to act or think differently than you actually are. We want a world where people actually are grown up, and part of that is pointing at the children who refuse to.

Grow up. Your antics aren’t even funny anymore. You and all those like you are the real threat to our society.

A Temple in Iceland

Well, it looks like the Folkie Fool Brigade is at it again. This time, they’re going after Icelandic heathens. The Icelandic heathen group Ásatrúarfélagið has recently announced plans to build a temple in Rekjavik. To true heathens, this sign of our people’s resurgence in the modern world is a reason to celebrate. A bunch of Folkies in America and Germany, however, have seen it as an opportunity to show the world what incredible douchebags they are.

You see, Ásatrúarfélagið seems to actually try to practice their religion. You know, be actively involved in the world and address modern issues informed by the wisdom of the gods and the ancients. As such, they are outspoken proponents of LGBT rights, and they have also come out against animal sacrifice. Both things seem to have upset the Folkies, who are far more concerned with trying to control other people’s private lives and fighting a lost culture war than actually being heathen. In a vain attempt to make themselves the Popes of the heathen world, they have threatened to come to the new Icelandic temple and vandalize it if the Icelandic heathens don’t start doing what the Folkies tell them.

So I wish to publically reach out to the Icelandic heathens and wish them well in their dealings with these fools. I wish them to know that real American heathens are not like this. We simply go about our business of living our own lives and practicing our own faith. I wish to explain to them who these people really are. They are not heathens. They are not even religious. They are a sad bunch of socially conservative hatemongers who are terrified of the progressive changes that modern culture over here has been experiencing. They have merely hijacked the symbols of our faith to use as a rallying point for their dying cause.

Good luck building your new temple, my brothers and sisters. Wes thu hal.

Heathenry and Patriotism

Well, I haven’t been posting for awhile. I am self employed, which means there are times when I have to put in a lot of overtime. But during these past few weeks, I kept running across an interesting term in the media. After thinking about it for a while I decided that I had to write about it from the heathen perspective. This term is “American exceptionalism.”

This seems to be a term used by the Fox News crowd as one of the core beliefs that all true conservatives are supposed to hold. This is the belief that America is an exceptional country, and that Americans are all exceptional people, by virtue of being Americans. Signs of this belief include never condemning any action that America has ever taken, affirming that America’s accomplishments are superior to the accomplishments of all other nations, and always assuming that Americans are better than other people.

This is not a very heathen idea. The nine noble virtues counsel against it. Remember the virtue of Truth? Well, that virtue means that real heathens should always speak the truth. In truth, America has accomplished some truly great things, including creating a society that values individual rights more than most societies have managed. However, she has also failed to live up to her own ideals, far too many times. The genocidal campaigns against the First Nations, the enslavement of people of African descent, the horrors of Company Towns, laws outlawing the practice of minority religions and alternate sexual orientations, and a system that has often regarded women as property and that was designed to keep the poor poor while the rich grow fat off of their labors. The truth is, America’s past is not pretty. Much of it is brutal. Some of it is downright evil.

Other nations have accomplishments of their own that outstrip many of America’s. Iceland has maintained a near one hundred percent literacy rate. They also pioneered a much purer form of democracy than we use, much earlier than we did. China invented many of the devices that allowed us to gain the upper hand over the rest of the world, militarily. A large amount of modern science was pioneered by Germans, not Americans. Many countries have much lower rates of violence than we do. Many Asian, African, and South American peoples have pioneered psychological and physiological science that Americans are mostly still ignorant of. We have accomplished much. But so have other people.

It takes courage to speak unpleasant truths, or even admit them to yourself. Especially when those truths maybe mean that you have a responsibility or two that you otherwise wouldn’t. Courage is another of the nine noble virtues. Heathens should therefore have the courage to speak the truth, both to themselves and to others. This means speaking well of America and Americans when they deserve it. It also means speaking poorly of America and Americans when they deserve it. To not dare to speak the truth is cowardly.

Fidelity and discipline are also important amongst the nine noble virtues. Fidelity means loyalty. Loyalty to America, in this case. Loyalty does not, however, mean blind support no matter what. That isn’t loyalty. That’s enabling. Loyalty means providing true support. Showing fidelity to America means doing your best to keep America strong. To be strong, America needs to know herself. To be honest with herself. A strong house cannot be built on a weak foundation. Discipline means doing what needs doing, even if it’s difficult. We can only figure out where we need to go as a country, and how to get there, by knowing where we’ve been. That is, where we have actually been, not where some Fox News revisionist fantasy would place us.

Have you ever known somebody who thought that they were the greatest thing since bottled mead? Somebody who could somehow never admit when they were wrong? Not only are jackasses like this really unpleasant to be around, they’re also incredibly stupid and incompetent. They have never really learned how to do anything, because they are convinced that they are great already, without making any effort.

This is what the modern conservative movement, or at least the Fox Brigade, wants to make us into, the kind of loser described above. That is patriotism? Desiring to make the national character into a hyper-annoying boorish loudmouthed loser? Bullshit. That isn’t patriotism. Those who refuse to speak the truth, even in the name of national unity, patriotism, or anything else, are liars. Those who lack the courage to look at the truth without flinching, who lack the courage to speak that truth to themselves and others, are cowards. Those who boost any action that America takes show no fidelity. They are faithless, and the very worst kind of faithless too: the kind who hide under the disguise of fidelity. Those who do not do what needs doing to make America truly strong are undisciplined. They are children. Those who believe that it is always more important to feel joy than guilt are weaklings and cowards. Guilt has a place. It is a useful tool, and it leads to the more true, enduring form of joy.

The plain truth is, the rabid mania about American exceptionalism is just another kind of philosophical drug. It appeals to losers who know they are losers, deep down inside. It allows them to feel special, just for belonging to a group, without having to do any work at all to earn that feeling. That is a profoundly non-heathen thing to do. This is the same sort of thing that makes people become racists, xenophobes, misogynists, and homophobes.

I am a true patriot. I love this country, and want her to be strong. I want her to live up to the incredible promise that she has. I will show my loyalty by helping her become truly strong. This is heathen patriotism. This is heathen pride.