Black Lives Matter, Wotan Network, and Taking a Knee

There’s an ancient curse “may you live in interesting times” and I think each and every one of us can say that 2020 certainly fits the bill. The pandemic, and the attendant economic crisis resulting from it was shocking enough. But now the news for days and days has been about protestors who are rightfully marching about the police brutality experienced disproportionately by minorities.

I don’t personally know what it is to live as a black person in America. My complexion is not only fair, it’s so pale that even the lightest of makeup is too dark for me. But there’s no doubt in my mind that racial inequality not only exists, but they have a bull’s eye painted on their backs. Yes, all lives matter, but there is a disproportionate amount of violence and bad or fatal outcomes by law enforcement with people of color as seen more recently by cases like Treyvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and a sad litany of so many other names. This isn’t new, the fact we have video of George Floyd’s death, and the clear fact he wasn’t resisting has galvanized a nation. Much as the death of another black life incited a nation decades ago.

In August, 1955 fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was attacked by two white men in Mississippi in a lynching that left him dead and mutilated because he had spoken with a white woman who was the proprietor of the grocery store he was in (it’s hard to know exactly what was said, since various witnesses later admitted they lied). Her husband and brother-in-law tracked him down days later, abducted him from his great-uncle’s house, and proceeded to brutally kill him, tossing his body weighed down with a 75-pound metallic fan and wrapped up in barb wire into the Tallahatchie River. The body was discovered three days later. His mother raw with rage and grief, insisted on an open casket. She wanted people to see what had been done to her son, and see they did. Fifty thousand people saw his corpse with their own eyes at the funeral in Chicago. Thousands more saw it when photographs (with the mother’s permission) were published in Jet Magazine, and his death especially with the visual violence seen on his body by so many became a major catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement.  You can see one of those photos here: The 100 Most Influential Images of All Time (view at your own discretion). The perpetrators were acquitted of his murder, and because of double jeopardy laws bragged a short time later as they confessed in interviews they had in fact killed him.

Despite the struggles of black men and women in America, from the forced enslavement and relocation to the Americas, to countless years of violence and prejudice against them, and despite the triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement, here we are more than 50 years later, and some things are still happening. So when Colin Kaepernick began to kneel during the national anthem before NFL football games to call out the fact these things were still happening, you had people missing the point.  (Ironically the tradition of the national anthem played before sporting events was part of patriotic propaganda that started during the wartime years).

But this larger statement by the Wotan Network disturbs me.

wn

For those unfamiliar with the WN, it’s the current roost for Stephen McNallen “who became interested in Heathenry as a college student in Texas in the late 1960s, formed the Viking Brotherhood circa 1972 with Robert Stine. This group in turn became the first American Ásatrú organization, the Asatru Free Assembly, about four years later. By 1978, McNallen sought to lessen Odinism’s association with Nazism, even though he expressed sympathy for the “‘legitimate frustrations of White men who are concerned for their kind.’” He ultimately shut down the Asatru Free Assembly in 1987 before founding the folkish Asatru Folk Assembly in 1994.

In the years between the closing of the Asatru Folk Assembly,  and the founding of the Asatru Folk Assembly he became a writer. He wrote Metagenetics promoting his ideas of an ethno-genetic spirituality. He also was a freelance journalist with Soldiers of Fortune magazine. During which he wrote fawning articles about a mercenary squad composed of former Civil Cooperation Bureau members (apartheid South Africa’s government sponsored death squad). He wrote in a fall 1994 issue that as apartheid ended in South Africa, soon you would find a race war and all whites murdered in the country.

McNallen is most recently responsible for forming the Wotan Network, a White nationalist Odinist group dedicated to spreading White nationalist Heathen memes” (PoliticalResearch.org), in part supporting Defend Europe, which has been busted for human trafficking. More recently McNallen tied himself to the events of the Unite the Right Rally on August 12th in Charlottesville, Virginia.

I’m going to specifically speak to this excerpt from the Wotan Network statement:

After the last fire is put out and the last glass from shattered windows is swept up, after the last wounds are bandaged and the last body buried, the politicians will move in. More “diversity training,” more white-shaming, more job programs for minorities.

Worst of all, however, is the psychological conditioning to believe that we are guilty of a sort of “original sin,” of which ONLY WE can be guilty…RACISM! We see our Folk literally on their knees, the traditional posture of submission, of the loser, of humiliation.

NEVER take a knee!

Oh you misinformed fools.

The idea there is no kneeling or similar practices to our Gods is erroneous, there’s references abounding to it in the lore. But of course this group isn’t focused on the Gods, it’s focused on their political objective so this information is inconvenient to their purposes, and ignored.

We see in the first century text Germania by Tacitus a description of cultic worship of one of the Germanic tribes and their sacred grove:

nerthus_rvsd

“Reverence also in other ways is paid to the grove. No one enters it except bound with a chain, as an inferior acknowledging the might of the local divinity. If he chance to fall, it is not lawful for him to be lifted up, or to rise to his feet; he must crawl out along the ground. “ —Tacitus, Germania

Again in Ibn Fadlan’s observations when he was among the Rus/Volgars in the 10th Century, he describes a wood carved idol with a person prostrating in worship before it. In the Landnámabok it mentions bowing to the east to hail the rising sun. In Harðar saga og Hólmverja, we have an account of Þorsteinn in prostration in his temple speaking to his gods.  Kjalnesinga saga tells us the story of Bui, whose arrogance and refusal to prostrate before the idols of the gods, was charged as a criminal act of false religion, and sentenced to full outlawry (which is understood to be a death sentence). Beyond our Gods, there’s the tradition of utiseta, mound sitting by the graves of one’s ancestors. There does seem to be a tie to this tradition to receiving inheritance and title. As if the mound was hallowed by the numinous dead ancestor. There’s some other references too I just don’t remember them off the top of my head.

You think a culture that had people sitting on the ground by their ancestors wouldn’t have other traditions at least in certain circumstances that they did more than merely stand in the holy places for their Gods?

Simply put kneeling, prostration, and subservience to the Holy Powers happened. There was a reason for it (piety, reverence and awe), with codified cultural times and places for it that the specific details may have been lost to history. But no doubt that it did happen.

There’s no shame in it. It’s respect.

Does it make a man lesser when he kneels before a woman to ask for her hand in marriage? Does it make a soldier less that he takes a knee when a comrade has fallen? Of course not.

Is there anything wrong with taking a knee in observation of lives lost, and in commentary of wanting better from your government? No.

There is nothing wrong with kneeling, and it’s a certain sort of close-minded arrogance that thinks there is. But also, I’m annoyed to see our Gods called upon for racist rhetoric. Pay attention to those who genuinely worship the Gods, and not those who worship the Gods to further some propaganda.

I for one have no problem taking a knee for my Gods. But here the Wotan Network has tied that to those kneeling in protest of police brutality all over the United States right now.

As bad as it is for our African American peers, it’s so much worse for our Native indigenous populations. They face a mortality rate at the hands of police that is 12% higher than African Americans, and more than any other racial or ethnic group in the US. (Source CDC data from 1999-2015).

When it comes to the issue of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women the facts are alarming. Native American women face a murder rate that is more than 10 times the national average. (Source: US DOJ). Of 5712 known missing women cases in 2016, only 116 were logged into the DOJ database. Murder is the 3rd leading cause of death among these women. More than 95% of these cases were never covered in national media sources. (Source: Urban Indian Health Institute study). 84% of Native American women have faced violence in their lifetime. (Source: National Institute of Justice) The majority of these murders are committed by non-Native people on Native-owned land. Because of the lack of communication between state, local, and tribal law enforcement, it’s difficult to begin the investigation process. In some cases, the investigation, collection of evidence, financing to process forensic evidence is solely the responsibility of the loved ones of the missing.

Lady Justice is meant to be blind, but clearly, our law enforcement and criminal justice system is lacking in that regard. Having better justice for our minorities is better justice for us all.

Statue Of Lady Justice And Supreme Court Building

I don’t want to take away from the momentum I see in the world around me with the protests in memory of George Floyd and so many other victims. Because if we have true change coming out of this with our law enforcement agencies, it should help all the various racial and ethnic groups across the board when it comes to police brutality, whites included.

But kneeling is a sign of respect, and the Wotan Network is too concerned with their own racial biases and political propaganda to acknowledge the historical religious fact that kneeling, bowing, and prostration happened as a sign of respect and veneration to our gods, and failure to do so was a criminal act.

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