Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Wolf is Loose and Howling: Racism on Parade in Charlottesville

In Norse mythology, one of the first calamities that presages the total destruction of the world in the cataclysm of Ragnarok is the breaking free of the monstrous dog Garm, who is, I suspect, most likely an alternate form of the destructive wolf Fenrir. Well, I would not want to suggest that we are now on the edge of the total ruin of the world, but I think what we just saw in Charlottesville, represents the breaking loose of our own beast of destruction, namely, the racism, neo-Nazism and White Supremacy that were proudly on parade in an American city on August 11 and 12, marching in military formation, bearing semiautomatic rifles, and chanting Nazi slogans like "Blood and Soil!" We have seen insult added to injury with the spectacle of the American president being either unable or unwilling to issue a clear, consistent condemnation of racism and neo-Nazism, even when the Charlottesville situation turned tragically violent. Heather Heyer, a young woman who came to express opposition to racism and Fascism, was slain by a young white male Nazi enthusiast who ran her down with a car, putting 19 other people in the hospital as well.

We have seen Donald Trump making disconcerting expressions of equivocation, first condemning "hatred and bigotry," as per the prepared statement that he was reading from  on Saturday the 12th, rather robotically, but then veering off and adding, in a much more animated voice, "on many sides... on MANY sides." He made a second attempt at a condemnation on Monday, reading prepared remarks that were indeed fairly clear and straightforward in denouncing hatred and bigotry. However, in a press conference on Tuesday, he again either went off-track or let his mask drop to show his true feelings, saying that "there's blame on both sides." Trump appeared to be drawing a moral equivalency between the racists and neo-Nazis  and those who had turned out to protest against them,  the bulk of them peaceful, some of them willing to use force, the second group being members and supporters of the "Antifa," anti-Fascist movement.

The President was correct that there was violence on both sides, but he conveniently overlooks a number of important facts:  (a) most of the counter-protesters were peaceful, unarmed and unthreatening; (b)  many of the right-wing forces were dressed in military-style clothing and were bearing semi-automatic rifles and other military-style weapons, which were extremely threatening; (c) the Antifa were equipped with only the most simple of weapons, sticks and stones and cans of mace, some with bottles that they hurled; (d) a cursory examination of American history reveals that we went to war to oppose Nazism and Fascism in WW II, which means that the counter-protesters were on the side generally understood as standing for good, whereas those who came out supporting neo-Nazism and White Supremacy were on the side generally condemned as morally reprehensible by most people--but not Trump. He seemed to be suggesting that those who were marching to  promote Fascism, neo-Nazism, White Supremacy and racism, and those who came out to oppose them, were equally to blame for unhappy times in Charlottesville. If the racists and neo-Nazis had been allowed to march in peace, everything would have been fine.

Would it really? No problem to have hate-chanting, weapon-wielding, torch-bearing Nazis marching in our streets,intimidating and terrorizing other Americans?

The presence of the racists and Nazis in Charlottesville was bad enough, and the president's response a further assault on decency, but there is a specifically Pagan angle to this that I am very sorry to have to report. Some of the White Supremacists in Charlottesville were bearing Pagan symbols, associating themselves with Norse-Germanic Paganism. This is the very kind of thing that led me to create this blog in the first place, and here it is again, an ugly distortion of Paganism to serve far-right, fascist ends, twisted into the service of racism and White Supremacy. This is a call to battle for all of us who believe in a liberal, tolerant Paganism. We must stand up for diversity and tolerance and against those who wish to define  Paganism in racial and militaristic terms, the combination of which produces such toxic brews as Nazism and White Supremacy. This is deadly serious business. Stand up, speak out, as peacefully and firmly as you can, avoiding conflict when you can, but engaging when you must.

May the Gods give us strength.

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