Monday, January 12, 2015

Perspectives on Racial Issues in the United States

At a recent meeting of The Troth's High Rede, one question was whether we would, as an organization, make a statement about recent events regarding race in the U.S. and how we deal with them. It was decided instead that, in an organization that defines itself by accepting diversity, Individual Rede members might make individual public statements to be released together. Here they are, beginning with my own.

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We are known by the judgments we make, and the actions we take. Some judgments are made at leisure, while others must be made in the moment. Some are made deliberately, while others are made with no thought at all. Sometimes we don't know how we arrived at a judgment, or even that we have made one. Sometimes our judgments are made for us, absorbed from our surroundings, unrecognized as a choice, but seen as just the way things are, if they are seen at all.

Some people find the recent events of Ferguson, Missouri, and others easy to judge. Others find them more complicated. Some just don't want to think about them. The legal complications of some of these events are hard to brush aside. I won't ask you to brush them aside, as I certainly can't myself. I will ask you to look again at an issue that is at least related to these events.

It appears to me that most people like to think they are not racist. I like to think that myself, about myself. It might be more useful to think that most people are ready for racism to be over. But, whoever you are or whatever you think of these recent events, perhaps none of us know yet what it really means for racism to be over, or how to make that happen. Whatever our good intentions, and I don't doubt that they are good, maybe we have things left to learn, and judgments still to make, and actions yet to take, before we reach that goal.
- Steven T Abell
Steer
The Troth

January 2015

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Call to Tyr for Justice

by Lisa Morgenstern

Hail to Tyr, One Hand, God of the Thing
I call you to bring justice to the oppressed
You put your hand in the mouth of the Wolf to bind him.
You guide the Thing and are the keeper of Justice.
Your truth can be harsh, but you protect.
Help us to find the way to fair treatment for all people.
Even the utgardh are deserving of fair treatment
Give them the rights afforded by law, apply moral codes of right and wrong.
Humans need not die before they are brought before a judge and jury.
Humans who kill must be held accountable for their actions, for we are our deeds.
It is time to call for an accounting. I call on you.
I call for the diverse peoples of the Earth to live together in peace.
I am calling for an end to racism of all kinds.
Keep people of all ethnicities and heritages in your sight.
Help them to find the justice they deserve,
And help those who do not understand, to learn
And be open to see the worlds through different eyes.
Whether they are our folk or not,
As a Heathen I strive to be Tru,
Honest, Industrious, Loyal, Courageous,
Self-Reliant, have discipline and to Persevere.
As a Heathen I feel that I must offer
Hospitality to my brothers and sisters
Who are hurt daily by racism and prejudice.
By speaking, I let them know they are welcome in my hall.
That I see their plight and stand with them as we fight this battle,
Because to remain silent is to imply I agree that
They deserve to shed their blood in needless manner.
I fight with them in this cause, call on you to help me in my battle,
To see past my privilege, and find Truth.
Hail Tyr!

#BlackLivesMatter, #BrownLivesMatter, #RedLivesMatter, #YellowLivesMatter

- Lisa Morgenstern,
December 11, 2014

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Wyrd and Systemic Racism
by Gari Farmer

Some folks see Wyrd as a web or a weave. I'm not one of those people. I see it...well, HEAR it, anyway...as music. Every one of us has a part to perform, even the Gods. If one note is out of tune, or a rhythm misplayed, the music changes. It can even be ruined.

Thanks to systemic racism, there have been a number of wrong notes played in our history. The music has been discordant for ages. Thing is, we've become used to the discordance. Lately some of us have noticed that the music is...wrong. The chords aren't sounding right, even though we've been told that this is the way the music has been played for centuries [so why change it?]. The wrong notes need to be taken out and replaced with the right ones. The chords need to be rearranged.

Now, I know some of y'all may be wondering what the hell all this has to do with [the general] you. After all, you're playing your part right. You haven't missed any notes.

Actually, y'all, you have. We all have.

You see, a wrong note or rhythm played by the tuba section way in the back of the ensemble can throw off even most perfect flautist all the way in the front. A misplayed rhythm can cause whole sections to be thrown off. A misplayed part throws off everyone in the ensemble.

So it is with the real world. The wrong one person does can ripple through a community. The wrong one community does can ripple throughout the whole world. Feel free to look at any war involving more than two countries as an example. Remaining silent didn't help things at all; in fact, being silent made things worse, in some cases.

[On a personal note, systemic racism hits home for me as well. I've been followed in department stores and seated in unofficial segregated areas in restaurants, and my son has had gas station doors locked right in front of him so he couldn't go inside - just because of how much melanin we have in our skin.]

Some hold the opinion that the United States doesn’t have a national orlog – that because people came here from all over the world, Americans aren’t connected like other nations. I don’t believe this is true. The U.S. Constitution is more than the supreme law of the land; it’s also a contract that outlines the responsibilities of all three branches of government. The men who were present at the Constitutional Convention joined their respective orlogs together when pen met paper for signatures. The individual states joined in when they ratified the document. Every state that has joined our country has been required to ratify the Constitution upon joining the nation. Every state constitution has the U.S. Constitution as its base. Every member of the military has held up his or her right hand and sworn to defend the U.S. Constitution, regardless of background, ethnicity, and place of origin. Every person living here is subject to the laws of our country, and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The Constitution, then, is the strand – the main melody line, if you will – that brings the symphony known as our country together, and the oath made to it are still active, still binding, and comprise our national wyrd. Our nation’s wyrd, then, becomes orlog, and through alliances and treaties – oaths – our national orlog, our melody line, is joined with the orlogs – melody lines – of the other nations.

Our nations are playing separate lines of melody, sometimes in different beats, but when played right…it all works. It sounds beautiful.  One can listen to the 4th movement of Holst’s 2nd Suite in F - “Fantasia on the Dargason”- for a perfect example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0c0y0-MhTKQ

In this movement, half the band plays at ¾ time while the other half plays at 6/8 time in two spots, playing two different melodies at the same time as well. And it works beautifully. This is what wyrd should sound like – but the wrong notes must be corrected. The correct rhythms must be played. One false note can change the entire complexion of the grand music we play.

- Gari Farmer
December 2014

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Diversity in Heathenry

by John T Mainer

I understand we do things a little differently here.  Heathenry is based on relationships.  A large number of groups fall somewhere along the family to community spectrum more towards the family end.  A typical word used to self describe would be kindred.  Similar in some ways to a coven, grove, or congregation from other faiths, it has the community of shared faith practice and world view common to those, but as we are often criticized by other communities for being light in ritual and prayer and heavy in the feasting, we are more bound by the bonds of hospitality and amity than by ritual or oath.

This gives me a bad case of Asa-Goggles.  I admit this.  Now Asa-Goggles are not like beer goggles, they don’t dull you into being more receptive to those you might otherwise find unappealing, they are more like FLIR.  Asa-Goggles are what we see our own through.  Unlike standard optics even starlight Night Vision Goggles or scopes which use the same light to generate the same image as our naked eye, the FLIR uses the Infra Red Spectrum to see heat.  It is amazing in its ability to see small differences in heat, easily detecting life from backgrounds that are visually completely camouflaged, even as it fails utterly to see those colour or pattern related identifiers that are visible in any visible light system.

Asa-Goggles, like FLIR look for the emissions of life; infra–red searches for heat from life, where Asa-Goggles search for worth.  Don’t get bent out of shape, worth is the way heathens judge everyone, including ourselves.  It is how we see, and a cornerstone of how we think.  Now people of all communities have worth, and we see that, and acknowledge that.  Some shine with a light that is our own, a worth that follows our own pattern of belief.  We see markings in their words and their deeds that mark them as “us”.  Other people can be worth of admiration ,  but they are not the ones you want to share those things that we call our heathen practice, those things that blend the social and the sacred, the building of a community of people who we care to share this very private part of our lives.

I was asked to write about our diversity as a community, and I had  problem with that.  I look at those people that are deepest inside the “us” category, the innergard, the ones you share your problems with or seek advice from in your other parts of life.  Through my goggles they look not identical, but close kin, close enough that from a mile off you can know them as your own, and feel the strength and warmth that knowing they approach will bring.  Through others eyes they are “diverse.”  Well if you want to pick gender, or skin tone, or sexual orientation, even nationality, income or educational background, they are diverse.  I have other goggles at well that pick up CADPAT, MARPAT, and Mulitcam by the signs it leaves in the emission of those who absorbed it bone deep through their service.  The combination of these optics mean that when outsiders look at me and Gari, they see their own definitions, black woman and a bearded redneck white boy.  American woman with some foreigner/Canadian boy with some foreigner (depending on which side of the 49th they are glaring from).

When I see us side by side, I see Freyr and Freya; I see the male and female expressions of the same needs, the same struggle, the same sense of responsibility.  Scars; oh yes, by their scars they will know each other, and we see those clearly enough.  When you ask me to speak about diversity in our community I do see it.  I see a diverse understanding about how our folkway is expressed.  I see Stephen in his tower of reason, built brick by brick by choices and experience, by study and life lessons accepted and applied.  His heathenry is a shining light that could easily be discussed by learned men in any schola of the past or university of the day.  I see Diana whose heathenry reeks of the mound, the tree, of dark places and ancient truths, whose eyes have seen and embraced the storm and through which things look back that most choose to avoid seeking, let alone learning from.  I see Lisa and Rob whose community building is to see the wounds they cannot pass by and accept the responsibility for those who would have no guide but them.  I see Luke and Ken who ply the ancient trade of arms as modern men, and carry with them their ancestral sense of duty and honour, with a modern man’s reverence for law.

Our community is rich and diverse in ways that fill me with wonder and move me to tears, but no one wants to hear about them.  They want us to point to a black, an Asian, a gay, a (insert word for someone we get a merit badge for pretending is our equal).  I don’t pretend.  Those who are in our community are my equals, are my peers, my community, and very much mine to defend.

Everyone is not welcome in our community.  Our own are welcome here, however other people would describe them.  There is not a colour that gets you in the door, nor one that bars you from it.  That does not make us better than other faiths. If nothing else, let us be honest about this.  Our ancestors were masters of community building; and they built those communities of the people they found of whatever tribe, race, or nation they met, who could share their sense of worth, their sense of community, their practices that bound together the disparate parts and peoples into one new shining thing.  There were lots of communities, and people moved freely to find the community in which they fit, in which their sense of worth matched the sense of worth of their fellows so that they could join their efforts communally and know their actions would be judged individually by standards to which they held, or aspired to, themselves.

Our community is diverse in ways that outsiders don’t see and perhaps do not value.  Our community contains what others consider diversity, in those that I just can’t see as diverse, as through my eyes they are not.  This is not a statement of virtue, this is a reality of optics.  FLIR doesn’t see colour, that doesn’t make it enlightened, it simply admits that it only sees a wavelength in which colour doesn’t exist.  We still judge us and them, because as human beings we are no better than other communities.  I think it does our nations good to have many communities inside them who define us and them along different axis, so that people have a chance to experience the reality that people from every group in our community may well find themselves on the same side of the us/them divide at least as often as they are the opposite, and those closest to us may likewise find themselves staring across that boundary at each other.

Yule is a time to come together, family and friends coworkers and neighbors.  We reach across a thousand divides with a handshake, a gift, a smile, a candy.  Those boundaries are real, but they are everywhere, and we reach across them a thousand times a day.  When something happens that polarizes our community, those barriers loom large in our vision, and become not simply walls between us, but battle lines.  We are more than any one of those us/them divides, we are more than any one label or external value you choose to apply.  Every human being is.  Heathens are supposed to be honest enough to both admit we judge, and own honestly both our treatment of others in response, and the fact others will do the same to us.

- John T Mainer
December 2014

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by Hrafnskald

These words are mine, spoken only as myself, and not as a Redesman, nor on behalf of the Troth.

Recent events have caused a great deal of debate between our members, as to where the Troth stands, what its core values are, and how we will respond to the deaths and unrest in Ferguson, New York, and elsewhere.

I believe that, in the Troth, all who come in frith are welcome. This goes beyond merely allowing diverse people to join and serve, it says clearly that we respect and honor people, based on their deeds and words, not the color of their skin.

The Troth, and heathenism as a whole, does not compel its members to follow one political group or another, or to support one cause or another. Rather, our Gods call us to live lives that are worthy, and to follow the virtues and inspiration of those who come before us, and to inspire those who will come after. We are not our labels, we are our deeds, and each of us, as individuals, who decides how to make their life a worthy one.

I reject the notion that we must choose sides, praising one and attacking the other, because I know good and tru heathens on all sides. I believe with all my heart that the cause of building better and more frithful communities requires that all voices be welcomed, heard, and woven into the frith of the community.

While the main symbol of the Troth is the Apples of Idunna and the Ravens, for me another symbol describes best how I see the Troth and its role: Mannaz. The rune of humanity, of community woven together in frith. We bring together people of many paths, many histories, many worldviews, and, yes, many political views, and weave them into a frithful whole. And just like a woven garment is made better and stronger with each thread, and a chorus made better with each new voice, each member and each viewpoint adds to the Troth.

These bonds of frith and peace require that we respect each other, and that we allow the many diverse voices of the Troth to speak for themselves, so that they can speak their truths freely and honestly.

That is why I am glad the Rede has chosen *not* to make one statement that would bind the consciences of all members, but rather to allow our Rede members to make *their own* statements, and members to choose for themselves what *they* wish to support.

I believe with all my heart that the right of conscience, to decide where one stands, is, and always must remain, a personal one.

There is plenty of room for disagreement and different worldviews, as long as we have mutual respect. Gods willing, this will always be the case in the Troth.

May They watch over us, see our words and deeds, and judge them worthy.

Frith,
Hrafnskald
January 2015