Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In Defense of Dan Halloran

The author of this blog would expect that many of his readers are aware that in the Queens area of New York City, there is a Heathen candidate for public office. Dan Halloran, a respected member of the Theodism variant of Heathenry/Asatru/Norse Paganism, is a Republican candidate for City Council in NYC. He recently got himself into some trouble with the media, with his chances for political victory, and his relations with fellow Pagans because of some newspaper stories about his Theodish affiliation.

The author had a mixed reaction to hearing about Halloran's candidacy. Though it is exciting that someone with a Pagan identity would run for such a position, Theodism is not the author's favorite flavor of Norse Paganism, as it is heavily involved with the idea of tribal identity that this writer has expressed discomfort with in the past. Furthermore, the Republican party in the USA is a political movement that the author finds extremely disagreeable, to put it mildly. For a liberal-progressive Pagan, there is not much to like about a right-wing political party that has often stood for racism and opposition to environmental protection efforts, to name just two items on what could be a very long list. So the author was struck with a dilemma: to cheer or to jeer at this Republican Heathen's run for office?

Certainly, Halloran's effort was groundbreaking, but the author would have much preferred that the first Norse Pagan to run for public office in the USA be a liberal Democratic candidate. That, however, is just a matter of personal taste, and it was mitigated by reading on various Asatru/Heathen forums about what a fine man and long-term supporter of Asatru and Theodism Halloran has been.

Something soon happened that caused the author to feel a rush of compassion for Halloran. Having been "outed" in a local newspaper about his involvement in Theodism, Halloran defended himself with an essay in which he spoke in very generic terms about being raised a Catholic and having belief in God. The author read this as a necessary political response, with a bit of understandable camouflage of religious identity, as the smartest possible way to deal with the political damage sure to follow from being associated with a religion that most Americans are likely to think badly of, out of ignorance, fear and the typical American distrust of non-Christian religiosity.

Then the author saw reactions from other Norse Pagans and Heathens on a variety of Heathen-related sites, and was quite shocked. Quite a few lashed out at Halloran in a brutal manner and condemned him for not making a more forthright public defense of his Heathenry. Several expressed pride in how they had been in tight spots themselves with job interviews and the like, and had openly proclaimed their Paganism despite the consequences. The author found this kind of reaction quite ironic, as it seemed as if what these critics really wanted was for Halloran to sacrifice his political aspirations and become a "martyr" for Heathenry, despite martyrdom being a rather Christian concept! The author feels that some expression of disappointment over Halloran's statements might have been fair game, but that this went over the line.

Worse, it suggested a very shortsighted and self-destructive view of how Heathens and Pagans should function in American society. There are few professions or lines of work where a person in America can really get away with being openly Pagan without paying some kind of cost in terms of lost respect, increased animosity, and decreased prospects for personal advancement, if not a quick loss of employment altogether. The insistence on Pagans or Heathens or Theodsmen proudly displaying their religious affiliation in very public ways even when in high-profile positions would, the author believes, probably confine Pagans to very low-level and marginal occupations. The author does not think that any Pagan should be forced to proclaim his or her religious identity when this might mean an end to their professional aspirations or a one-way road to public humiliation or persecution.

America is just not that tolerant, not yet. Let's be compassionate to those who need to cloak and conceal their Pagan identity at this point in time. After all, Odin, Thor and Loki all shifted shapes, lied and traveled in disguise when this was necessary to achieve their aims.

The author would be very curious to hear from readers in other countries about any similar or parallel situations of Pagans in politics in other lands.


Benjamin son of Steven said...

I disagree with you.

I believe there was a defense given of this article that we repay lies with lies, and that deception is for our enemies, and not for our friends. While that all may be fine and good, Halloran's article is misleading the very people he wishes to serve; therefore, it is not only lying to his enemies, but deceiving to many of the people he wants to serve.

If deceptions are for our enemies, then Halloran has set up his very own electorate as an enemy. This does not seem to me to be either honorable, or defensible.

Look, I know Dan is in a difficult position. There ought to be no religious litmus test, and yet his own political convictions force him to run for a party that really does believe in such a litmus test. Imagine if he were running as a Dem. You'd ONLY hear about his religion then.

The worst part, to me, is that it seemed that the Republicans were sticking by him. They knew about his religion. And to me that was encouraging. He is still their man. So why be deceptive?

In the end, author, you're suggesting that we pretend to be something we're not in order to get something. To lie to friends and enemies alike in order to get power, which is not honorable or defensible in the slightest.

And you proclaim that to think otherwise is to be self-destructive. That's ridiculous! Was it not Emerson who wrote that imitation is suicide? Well, if we're just imitating Christians, have we not just killed ourselves?

I don't suggest that Halloran become a martyr, but I do suggest that he stand up (with all the strength of his party behind him) and say proudly and clearly that yes, he's a Theodsman. Yes, he worships the Gods of his ancestors, and that's the way for him. Because it's the honest thing to do, and the right thing to do.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

I am shocked, shocked to learn of Pagans attacking other Pagans!!!

But srsly. Halloran should be defended as a Pagan. I don't much like his politics and as much as I love Norse (and more generally Germanic) Heathenry, I don't much care for his particular brand. Nevertheless.

The attack on Halloran began with a journalistic hit job that would be universally condemned if the same sort of crap had been done to a Catholic or a Jew. The message of that bit of yellow journalism was that Paganism is not a serious religion and therefore attacks on Pagans "don't count" as religious bigotry. That trumps everything else in my opinion.

Maelstrom said...

Apuleius, it is interesting that you should refer to the film "Casablanca" with your "shocked, shocked" comment, since that film gives us a very good illustration of the need to sometimes conceal and dissemble for the sake of survival or, as I am arguing, success and prosperity in a Christian-dominant society. I guess I should reply that I am "shocked, shocked" that Pagans would be aghast at someone having to conceal their religious identity or even pretend to be Christian.

DerApparat said...

"Dan Halloran, a respected members of the Theodish variant of Heathenry/Asatru/Norse Paganism"

Um, you sure about that? Talk to some non-Normanii Theodsmen sometime. I'm just waiting for some journalist to find out that one of his people just got arrested for pimping out his wife. THEN you'll see a shitstorm.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

The only way to make America more tolerant, is to push the envelope. I don't like it that *Martyrdom might be an option. But it is what it is.

In this country, there are supposed to be NO--I REPEAT NO Religious Tests to hold Public Office. And what Dan is facing is the long term, unofficial religious test that the Republican Christian Supremacists have been cultivating for years not just against Pagans obviously, but against any creed or denomination or faith, that makes for a convenient target, in order to further their own cause, which is to create a Theocracy by any means necessary.

I hate to say it but Wake up and Smell the Hegemony.

Dan should fight that Journalist. First of all, WHO owns that news media outlet that carried the story. Keep in mind that most news entities are owned by 1 of 3 or four megagiants, often those with their own political agenda.

Who is that local paper associated with? You have only to look at previous stories that cover items of religious import, to figure out fairly quickly if this was one of many organized attacks against religious or ethnic minorities.

If you are going to be a Pagan or a Heathen in the Public Eye, then you have to be ready for anything. And that includes being very savvy about how the media works, how rival religious organizations work, etc.,

The Republicans are not known in Recent History for their embrace of religious minorities, especially those that are seen as, at odds with Christianity. So my question is, why--isn't his own Party Defending him? Or have they decided to use him for kindling to light some other candidate's rising star?

As for deceiving the people---Deception of that degree only works for people not in the public eye, or those whose Pagan or Heathen identity is protected by oaths of secrecy.

There is no way that anyone is going to be able to keep a ruse like that up for long in this world of Facebook, the Blogosphere, and twitter. Privacy and personal history have been redefined, and that is to say, Watered down considerably.

Benjamin son of Steven said...

I'm shocked that you're shocked. You are defending an unethical action, namely: deceiving your own electorate. And you're doing so simply because he belongs to a religion similar to your own.

If he were Mormon, and used deception to give people the impression that he was Catholic, would we heap praise upon him for his clever ruse? No. We'd call him a coward. But simply because he's a Pagan, we all rally.

We ought not to rally around which betrays virtue just because it's something a Pagan did. If a Pagan does it, it's just as much a violation of virtue as if anyone else did it.

It's your right to defend whatever point of view you wish, author, but it's our right equally to offer some kind of rebuttal.

To address Seeing Eye's point:

Here's a quote from the Queen's Courier (via Wild Hunt) to show that even before Halloran came out with his article , the Republican party was standing behind him:

“Queens Republicans are vehemently denying published reports that they are going to replace Dan Halloran as their candidate for the District 19 City Council seat …“The Queens County Republican Party has not for even a moment entertained a substitution of our candidate,” said Vince Tabone, Queens executive vice chairman and spokesperson for the Halloran campaign. “What we have done is stand firmly with Dan Halloran and called on Congressman [Gary] Ackerman and his staffer Kevin Kim to renounce the vile, repugnant attacks on Dan Halloran’s faith and heritage,” he continued.”

See? They already knew, they were running him anyway, and they were going to stand by him. It was a display of profound courage by a party which is, as you say, beset by a huge proto-theocratic Christian movement which has found its cancerous little home inside the heart of the Party.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

Not replacing him as a candidate, is not the same as defending his honor. Are they also upping his appearance with the party supporting him locally? Have they run editorials in local papers countering this?

And if his party is so supportive of him *inspite of his Heathen identity, then why should he have to cop to being a Christian at all? Or is he practicing some form of Syncretism?

B.A. said...

This comment addresss the question of whether the deceptions perpetrated by some of the Germanic gods justifies deception by devotees of those gods.

To put it mildly, I don't see the gods as models of how we *should* behave. The gods--in all of the branched of Indo-European myth that I'm familiar with--commit actions that are adjudged wrong by other beings in the myth. And it's clear that the gods and mortals are not necessarily judged by the same standards, as they are not comparable beings.

B.A. said...

Below is my response to Halloran's article in the Queens Chronicle:

Halloran's article is deceptive.

As someone who also was raised Catholic, the headline of the piece stands out the most. "I believe in God." In every Catholic Mass, the congregation stands and says: "I believe in God, the Father almighty...." Christianity is the only religion that defines itself in terms of statements of beliefs. Even the other Abrahamic religions focus on actions rather than creed. To my mind, there can be no statement more explicitly Christian than "I believe in God."

If I was a local who read this article, I would likely assume that Halloran's opponent had attacked him for being Roman Catholic. I'd find myself wondering if perhaps Halloran had taken stands consistent with teachings of the Roman Church, such as anti-abortion, pro faith-based charities, anti same-sex marriage, or the like. While I disagree with those positions, I would not be surprised if a Republican candidate would espouse them, or that he would acknowledge that his Catholic faith led him to those positions. (Obviously, since I came to this article from The Wild Hunt, this is not what went through my head. This is what would have gone through my head if I ran across this article with no context.)

To me, this article is deceptive. He doesn't lie in this article, but he doesn't tell the truth. Apparently, the Theodish meaning of "honor" includes deception. Well, I shouldn't tar all Theodists with the same brush. All I can know for certain is that Halloran's understanding of honor allows him to perpetrate deception. That doesn't match my sense of honor. He would not be welcome in circle with me.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

The deception issue is important.

Is he being deceptive or is he no longer a Heathen but has embraced Christainity.

Is he practicing Syncretism?

Article 6 of the United States Constitution States: "All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Why would Haloran feel compelled to either deceive the public, or embrace politically motivated syncretism, or convert outright to another more socially acceptable religion--leaving what is considered a Fringe Belief system, if there wasn't a religious test being imposed on candidates from without?

Honestly I can see why Pagans and Heathens would be interested because this is an uncommon occurence. Not unheard of though. Its my understanding that Pete Pathfinder was involved in politics for a time. I am sure there are others.

However his religious beliefs should have no bearing on this whatsoever. It shouldnt even be brought up, unless, HE makes it an issue.

Like those dipshits that state that because they go to this or that church, and accept a specific religious doctrine, that somehow this sanctifies them to impose their religious morals on everyone else, regardless of belief or lackthereof, even if said law would violate the first amendment and possibly the right to privacy.

Any candidate that is Anti-Choice, Anti-Gay, Pro-Theocracy [of any kind] or knowingly supports other politicians who are, which the Republican Party does currently, then they would never get my vote. I don't care if they are the Lord High Witch Queen of the Hurdy Gurdy Coven and Little Green people fly out of their butt on full moons.

Politics should be about Policy Making and Society Building and not about Proselytizing. And if the only way you can get votes is by proselytizing, then that says a lot more about what's wrong with the process than anything else.

Thinking back to the 180 degree turn on a dime, by John McCain in regards to Religious Extremists. In 99 he ran an outstanding campaign as a Republican Candidate against Bush Jr, and was very vocal about his criticisms towards the Christian Coalition and its ilk. They made him disappear shortly after that speech in Virginia. In 2008, he sang a completely different tune. Even he had to sell out to the Dark Forces of Theocracy to get his foot in the door.

Seems to me there is a bigger issue here. One that is much older than Haloran's Candidacy.

Jason said...

I think you're incorrect when you assert that martyrdom is foreign to Heathenry. What would you call the 4500 Saxons who chose to die rather than pretending to be Christians? There were also plenty of Heathen martyrs in Norway who chose death and torture for their beliefs. Thorleif the Wise: ordered to be blinded. He withstood the torture so bravely that his torturers fled after having torn out only one of his eyes. Eyvind Kelde: drowned along with others. Iron Skegge: killed while defending Heathen temples in Maeri, Eyvind Kinnrifi: tortured to death with hot coals. Raud the Strong: tortured with a poisonous snake and a hot iron.

Workplaces aren't allowed to discriminate on religion when hiring. But they can of course. They may not ask you what your religion is but they might look at that funny necklace and decide you aren't professional. Basically I think if you're in doubt then you should hide your religion at the interview stage, and then once you've proved yourself in the job come out of the closet.

Leviathan said...

Having grown up in Queens I can tell you it is quite a diverse and usually tolerant place, but even so the religious right-wing shrillness of the last thirty years has certainly touched Queens as well. I am not surprised at the fire storm.

Had I been Halloran, I would have explained that issues of faith and spirituality should be intensely private. Faith is another word for introspection. Then I would have quickly expected a drop in poll numbers.

If you are going to run for public office, you have to expect the scrutiny. Still, it's good that people like Halloran are treading new ground.

Lance said...

If more strong, intelligent educated, successful individuals didn't take the pussyfooted politician way out, paganism in general would be more respected in society.

You would suggest a man compromise his gods, his religion, and his birthright for financial/political success? How stupid.

Maelstrom said...

I liked Bob Dole for his sense of humor, above all, and also because he was part of that nearly-extinct species of "moderate Republicans" who were once able to collaborate with Democrats on legislation before the hard-right, New Gingrich crowd took over the GOP in the mid-1990s. Dole for example once collaborated with George McGovern on Food Stamp legislation. I did not vote for Dole, but I liked him.

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