Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Strawman has a point

When I was a child, I lived in a very black and white world. Most kids do, or at least they did, so this isn’t surprising. My home life was very sheltered, going for years without a television and the only music I was really allowed to listen to was classical (which led, in addition to a decade and a half of classical music lessons to a deep hatred of classical music, something I now regret but cannot overcome). No comic books, no toy weapons (even the tiny toy guns in my LEGOs were taken away), no cartoons, no magic of any kind, etc. It was, as I look back on it, a life lived under a moral guardian with the best of intentions and all the love in the world. It was my life and I knew no other.

Yet the years have passed and my life took turns I never thought it could, much less would. I stopped seeing the world in black and white. Mostly, it went black. I am not ashamed to admit I went completely and utterly to that which many call the Dark Side, a place where only the ruthless and the strong survive, where living with regrets is a sure way to end up dead or in a mental hospital, doped up on meds and barely able to function. There are many, many people who walk that path and lose control to the awesome and terrible powers that lie on the edge of that blade, which would as soon cut you as serve you. I didn’t fall into the darkness, I threw myself there, body and soul, knowing that when I came out the other end, I would be a stronger person than anyone else I had ever met.

One learns many things on the other side, that side that many touch and many more are touched by. People learn things from the Dark Side, especially those who are touched by it, but what they learn is rarely that which someone who has stepped over learns. A person touched by violence often sees it as bad and something to be eradicated, while the person who lives violence sees it only as an expression of power that is valuable and irreplaceable. Those who live in the Light world see things in terms of good and evil, while those in the Dark see things in terms of good and bad for themselves.

One of the things that has happened to me personally, having not just touched that Dark world, but lived and embraced it before I journeyed on to the Asatru way of life (one that I understand in fair better ways thanks to my journey through the Dark), is that I tend to identify and understand the villains better than most people. Chris Jericho is one of my favorite wrestlers, and I agree with many of his statements about the fans of wrestling and about John Cena. Darth Vader’s decent to the Dark Side is one of the most compelling I’ve ever seen, and despite the fan hate, episodes II and III are my favorite out of the entire Star Wars saga.

So when it comes to something known as a Strawman, I tend to listen. Strawmen, for those who don’t know, are individuals in various media who are created and used solely for the purpose of degrading and demeaning the opposing side’s views. Watch Stewart or Colbert, and you can spot an entire field of them. Fox News has them, but not quite the crops that CNN, MSNBC, and others do.

So what do the Dark Side, my affinity for villains, and strawmen have in common? Well, it leads to a certain skill that I can’t claim a monopoly too, but have something of an affinity and enjoyments of: Strawman has a point.

This typically means that the being set up to be the bad guy, the extremist, the antagonist, or what have you, actually makes sense. Sometimes more sense than the supposed hero. Those who oppose the “Forces of Light” are in fact the ones who have a more correct world view. I can draw personal history on this myself, with my Norse ancestors, who from the perspective of Christian Europe, were unwashed heathen monsters that slew, raped, and stole, yet were in reality, more a people who saw their lives and culture threatened by a monolithic force that saw them as evil.

Though, perhaps I can provide a slightly less personal example that more people might agree with. I’m going to assume that those reading this have also read the Harry Potter series, so my example with come from there. Most people who have read those books know of the four houses at Hogwarts, and my example comes from Slytherin, namely the founder of that house who felt that the school should be only for those students of pure wizard bloodlines and not open to students from non-wizard back grounds. This view is embraced by most students who live in Slytherin house. In the books, this is often used to show how bad the “racist” Slytherin students like Draco Malfoy are. Yet a closer look at the religious/political situation surrounding the foundations of the school (which is set deep in the middle ages) and the centuries following reveals the reality of this attitude of blood purity.

As any student of history, or even pop culture knows, the middle ages were not a friendly time for those who practiced the magic arts, thanks to power that Christianity held over both rulers and populace and which enforced the view that magic was evil and those who practiced magic were in league with the devil and should be hunted down and killed. I’ve read in many fanfics that touched on this subject how letting students from non-magical backgrounds into a school where children were being taught magic could prove dangerous.

After all, it doesn’t take much imagination to know how a religiously dogmatic group will react to those who practice “heresy”. We have politicians today who proclaim Pagans aren’t worshiping real gods and don’t have a real religion, thus shouldn’t be protected under the American Constitution. We have religious leaders, Christian and Muslim, who deride modern life as “sinful” and that it should be destroyed and replaced with a “holier” existence and these are the mainstream leaders, not the extremists. Leaders with thousands, if not millions, of followers. Even the cast of Harry Potter are not untouched by this, as I remarked in a previous post where I passed along the story of one of the actresses going into hiding because her own family tried to make her the victim of an Islamic Honor Killing.

The recent Ground Zero Mosque situation that is going on is rife with strawmen. Those who oppose the mosque are said to be emotionally reacting and unable to grasp that this is a gesture of friendship. Those that support the mosque are said to be weak, unable to see the truth, and only interested in destroying this nation by giving into the enemy that is Islam. Both these strawmen are correct, but fail to see the bigger picture. Islam is very much an enemy of the West and our culture. People should be free to build their houses of worship. Those who are acting against the mosque do come from a place of emotion, more than “rational” thought. Those who support are acting in “rational” thought, but ignoring the emotions.
The host of Red Eye on Fox News channel has suggested building a Gay Bar across the street from the GZM, an act which I find funny and bold. It would certainly be interesting to see how the Muslims react to it. If I recall, those involved in the planning have said he is free to do so, but that it would be inconsiderate to Muslims. I find that ironic, and a bit insulting, considering that at last count on CNN’s HLN network 70% of those polled were against the GZM. That’s right, CNN, not Fox. Those polled, if I remember correctly, were not just New Yorkers, but All Americans.

Personally, I have a better option. Ground Zero is a sacred place. So let us make it a sacred place for all peoples. Let us rebuild the church that was destroyed near there. Let us build great Greek and Roman Temples, the likes of which have not been seen since the fall of Rome. Let us build sacred groves of towering trees, dedicated to Norse, Germanic, and Celtic Gods and Goddesses. Let us build Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, Egyptian temples, and Jewish Synagogues. Let us make it a ground holy and sacred to all faiths and creeds. Let them be staffed by the followers of those Gods and Goddesses. Let a mighty monument be raised above the site itself, towering and lasting, to stand centuries and longer. And when the Islamic call to prayer is sounded, let church bells toll, let cries to Pagan and Heathen Gods ring out, and let all know that this is a place that will not be dominated by Islam, but by all Faiths, and made Holy.

It strikes me as odd, that my own generation, that which is now in college or just leaving, and who don’t have the luxury of a black and white world like previous generations had, are so eager to stick to a black and white world. Perhaps it is all the programming we received in school. Maybe we just aren’t that smart, all told. Maybe we’ve been screwed over and made so jaded that we are eager to latch on to anything that sounds like it will make our lives better, even as we are systematically milked dry and indebted so that the older generation of our parents can enjoy a life of ease and comfort, while we pay the bills as we grow up. So few of them are willing, much less eager, to look at the strawmen and see what really lies there. So eager are they to embrace the views of Stewart (now considered one of the most reliable sources of news by many) that they fail to step back and see if those he’s making fun of have a point. Those who are liberal lash against those who are conservative, acting as if they are uncaring imperialists. Those who are conservative lash against the liberal, calling them thieves and fools who would destroy America. Both are right. Both are wrong. But no one tires to see the other side. They both lie in the Light, and can only understand black and white.

That is why I embrace the Dark Side, like I did so many years ago. By removing myself, I see a world far different and more complete. By embracing my heathen ways after, I regained much, but never lost that inherent darkness that permits me to step away from these feuding sides, and see the reality. Some see this as terrible, for what kind of evil person can listen to the words of a KKK member from the 1960’s and admit that his prophecy of blacks becoming degenerate criminals that would brutalize whites have, in part, come true? That the man himself was sane and rational, that while everyone in the classroom saw only a monster, realized it was merely a man trying to do what he thought was right, however wrong the methods were.

It takes a strong person to stand on that side. To realized that those who say they are “good” really are no better than you are, and sometimes are worse. The only difference, sometimes, is that the Villain admits what he is doing is wrong, but the Hero that does the same things, always says it is for the “Greater Good.” Christianity did terrible deeds for the “Greater Good” and now Islam is continuing its mission of submission to Allah by all peoples for the same “Greater Good.” Perhaps I and my Heathen people are Evil. Perhaps we are wrong. But I’m not going to stop.

I leave with these words from Milton. “It is better to be a king in Hell, than a slave in Heaven.”

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