Independence Day in Northern Redneckistan

When M’Colleague first broached the “what does it mean to be a Pagan-American” subject, I was all excited and deeply thoughtful. Unfortunately, even the deeply thoughtful must vacuum the car and buy some groceries. As I drove around my touristy-collegey-military town I was horrified at the holiday goings-on. It was an explosion of tourists in the tackiest red, white and blue get-ups you ever did see. One older fella was wearing patriotic plaid shorts with decorative patches. *shudder*

I’m no fashion plate. I have been known to eat spam. I never use a fork to eat either pizza or fried chicken. I am a born and bred cracker and dang well proud of it. They say you can’t make fun of rednecks unless you are one, and like the man says, I are one. So when I tell you I recoiled from patriotism in all it’s redneck glory, I do so from an insider’s perspective. I went from feeling very much that I was a proud Pagan-American to “I’m not one of those people” in 5 minutes flat. So to answer M’Colleague’s query, I first must resolve this here paradox.

The problem with embracing patriotism and wrapping myself in the American flag is that I associate it with hypocrisy. The flag-wavers don’t tend to really believe in religious freedom, or in liberty, or in many of the ideals they espouse. People whose heart swells to John Phillip Sousa I have come to associate with the unthinking, hypocritical bigots I have encountered in my life. The ones who think because I drink RC Cola I must vote Republican (aka not for that black candidate), or that because I love Dolly Parton I can’t be a feminist, or worse, that because I was brought up to be polite and hospitable as any good daughter of the South I must be a good Baptist or Methodist.

Calling myself patriotic, or even a good American, rubs me raw because I associate that language with distinctly unAmerican people and actions. Now that Jason’s question has made me aware of this, it makes me angry. What right does anyone have to make me feel like less of a citizen? How dare I let them make me feel that way?

So here’s my answer: Pagan-Americans are important to this country because they do not make it seem like being patriotic means being just like them. A proud Pagan-American is proof positive that one can embrace one’s country, pray for it, believe in it and celebrate it while being as far from the Religious Right as it gets. Pagan-Americans are important because they directly challenge the status quo of this country by their existence without threatening the country itself. They are the voices calling us back to our roots, to the voices of our Founding Fathers and to “all men are created equal.” We are vital because we love this country and it’s history, but we feel no need to whitewash it or make it PC. We honor the truths of our past that they may serve us wisely as we forge our future.

Being a Pagan-American is an amazing privilege. We, despite our difficulties, enjoy the freedom to practice our religion openly. Like other religious minorities before us, we are demonstrating that despite our religious differences, we are still a vibrant part of American culture, and we embrace that culture in ways you may have not thought possible.

I will never have patriotic plaid shorts. I will never stand side-by-side some of the bigotry I know still exists in my part of the country that thinks hatred is ok as long as you wrap a flag around it. I will never call someone un-American for believing in a different God or Gods than I do, or for loving someone without regard for race or gender.

What I will do is honor my country, honor my ancestors whose sweat, blood and tears went into the making of this country and honor those who serve this country, from the lady at the tag office to the servicemembers on tour overseas. I will read the words of Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Washington and other Founders with pride. I will support equal rights for all, including the right to clergy of your own faith. I will fight every day to maintain the heritage my ancestors gave me and not let it be swindled away from me because I’m Pagan.

On that note, this Redneck child is off to a cookout with fireworks. I bought them myself. As we celebrate our freedom I will proudly flick my Bic in one hand, raise up my firework in the other and shout out “Hey y’all! Watch this!

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

    Sweet!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

    Sweet!

  • Masery

    Star, I was born and raised in Missouri and the lower half is considered part of the South. I’m so glad to know there is another Southern Pagan who gets frustrated with a culture that looks at patriotism as,”praise Gawd and pass the ammunition”. As a Pagan American I’m proud of my Southern roots. I also have deeper and higher ideals of what it means to be a patriot: to stand up for the rights of every citizen despite race, creed, or socio-economic standing.

    Also, Dolly Parton has a beautiful voice, down home girl charm, and her songs have lyrics that move the soul in their simple truth. So I say, “Praise the Gods and pass the biscuits oh and the cheese grits.”

  • Masery

    Star, I was born and raised in Missouri and the lower half is considered part of the South. I’m so glad to know there is another Southern Pagan who gets frustrated with a culture that looks at patriotism as,”praise Gawd and pass the ammunition”. As a Pagan American I’m proud of my Southern roots. I also have deeper and higher ideals of what it means to be a patriot: to stand up for the rights of every citizen despite race, creed, or socio-economic standing.

    Also, Dolly Parton has a beautiful voice, down home girl charm, and her songs have lyrics that move the soul in their simple truth. So I say, “Praise the Gods and pass the biscuits oh and the cheese grits.”

  • http://profiles.google.com/theblackpagan black pagan

    Your thought process is similar to that of any member of a marginalized group with a history in this country. We are proud of the US and many of its principles of equality, democracy etc. but feel somewhat ambivalent on holidays like the 4th and its overt displays of patriotism. 

    Frederick Douglass famously said that the 4th of July was not his holiday but he didn’t speak for everybody. I know elderly black men who are bitter as all get out about a childhood spent during Segregation but they’re still proud to display the flag because it has personal meaning to THEM as Americans. Symbols like the flag are loaded and coded but all Americans should feel free to claim and reclaim them. Right wing, left wing whatever you’re always going to piss off somebody so might as well do what you want.

  • http://profiles.google.com/theblackpagan black pagan

    Your thought process is similar to that of any member of a marginalized group with a history in this country. We are proud of the US and many of its principles of equality, democracy etc. but feel somewhat ambivalent on holidays like the 4th and its overt displays of patriotism. 

    Frederick Douglass famously said that the 4th of July was not his holiday but he didn’t speak for everybody. I know elderly black men who are bitter as all get out about a childhood spent during Segregation but they’re still proud to display the flag because it has personal meaning to THEM as Americans. Symbols like the flag are loaded and coded but all Americans should feel free to claim and reclaim them. Right wing, left wing whatever you’re always going to piss off somebody so might as well do what you want.

  • Lauren

    “The problem with embracing patriotism and wrapping myself in the
    American flag is that I associate it with hypocrisy. The flag-wavers
    don’t tend to really believe in religious freedom, or in liberty, or in
    many of the ideals they espouse.”

    SO glad I am not the only one who feels this way! I mean, I knew I wasn’t, but it’s so good to hear somebody else say it. I, too, find it sickening that as soon as I’m confronted in daily life with icons that I used to be proud of – the Constitution, the flag, making random things be red-white-and-blue (ah, childhood…) – I immediately turn wary, assuming the person attached is going to start spouting hate speech. I hope that in the future we can erase some of these negative connotations!

  • Lauren

    “The problem with embracing patriotism and wrapping myself in the
    American flag is that I associate it with hypocrisy. The flag-wavers
    don’t tend to really believe in religious freedom, or in liberty, or in
    many of the ideals they espouse.”

    SO glad I am not the only one who feels this way! I mean, I knew I wasn’t, but it’s so good to hear somebody else say it. I, too, find it sickening that as soon as I’m confronted in daily life with icons that I used to be proud of – the Constitution, the flag, making random things be red-white-and-blue (ah, childhood…) – I immediately turn wary, assuming the person attached is going to start spouting hate speech. I hope that in the future we can erase some of these negative connotations!

  • http://blog.chasclifton.com Chas Clifton

    “Calling myself patriotic, or even a good American, rubs me raw because I
    associate that language with distinctly unAmerican people and actions.”

    If you truly feel that way, it is only because you have been letting other people define “patriotism,” etc., while you were doing something else.

    Same thing that happened to “family.” The cultural left said, “Oh, we don’t need that.” And someone else appropriated the term.

  • http://blog.chasclifton.com Chas Clifton

    “Calling myself patriotic, or even a good American, rubs me raw because I
    associate that language with distinctly unAmerican people and actions.”

    If you truly feel that way, it is only because you have been letting other people define “patriotism,” etc., while you were doing something else.

    Same thing that happened to “family.” The cultural left said, “Oh, we don’t need that.” And someone else appropriated the term.

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    Dolly Parton IS a feminist.  She was helping to produce her records and promote them at a time when few women were involved in the music business as anything other than a pretty voice!  :-)

    Why are Pagans important to America?  Well, we have helped to bring feminism, environmentalism, and Gay rights into the mainstream. 

    I can recall a time when using herbs for healing was considered strange, even dangerous, and alternative medicine was thought of as whack, if it was thought of at all.  Now nearly every hospital or treatment facility has some type of alt medicine, including midwives, massage, “healing touch”, herbal supplements, and even accupuncture.  This is due to the new age movement as well as the neo-Pagan movement.  There is drumming for patients’ relaxation, nurses and nuns use healing touch, we know that the link between body and spirit and emotion is real and can affect the outcome of a patient’s treatment.  People are encouraged to use herbal supplements in addition to regular medication.  And common products such as shampoo and hand lotion contain herbs.

    Magick was something that was only seen on television, as a pleasant diversion, and psychiatry still taught that belief in magick was a symptom of mental illness, just 20 years ago.  Now it’s entering the overculture in various forms, even if disguised as prayers, belief in angels or spirit guides, or mind over matter.  Police departments use psychics to find victims and to determine where criminals are hiding.  Office managers use feng shui to arrange furniture.  Tarot and other forms of divination are used by corporations as well as blue-collar people, and it’s less likely to be illegal.  Psychics and readers are advertised in mainstream media.  Rituals are held in public parks and hotel lobbies.  There is much more acceptance of magick as a viable tool for living… not just in a religious context, but everywhere.

    Pagans have helped to raise environmental awareness and make caring for our earth a common practice.  Offices, schools and public buildings are encouraged to recycle.  There is curbside recycling in many towns and cities.  Products have statements about the amount of post-consumer waste used to manufacture them.  There is less dumping in rivers and lakes.  Civic organizations participate in cleanups.  This didn’t happen 20 years ago.

    Religious freedom and tolerance and acceptance are wonderful.  Yet Pagans and polytheists have contributed to these other movements immeasurably, as well.  We’ve done magick for them, we’ve been vocal and visible in implementing different techniques, we’ve raised awareness.  Hooray for us!

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    Dolly Parton IS a feminist.  She was helping to produce her records and promote them at a time when few women were involved in the music business as anything other than a pretty voice!  :-)

    Why are Pagans important to America?  Well, we have helped to bring feminism, environmentalism, and Gay rights into the mainstream. 

    I can recall a time when using herbs for healing was considered strange, even dangerous, and alternative medicine was thought of as whack, if it was thought of at all.  Now nearly every hospital or treatment facility has some type of alt medicine, including midwives, massage, “healing touch”, herbal supplements, and even accupuncture.  This is due to the new age movement as well as the neo-Pagan movement.  There is drumming for patients’ relaxation, nurses and nuns use healing touch, we know that the link between body and spirit and emotion is real and can affect the outcome of a patient’s treatment.  People are encouraged to use herbal supplements in addition to regular medication.  And common products such as shampoo and hand lotion contain herbs.

    Magick was something that was only seen on television, as a pleasant diversion, and psychiatry still taught that belief in magick was a symptom of mental illness, just 20 years ago.  Now it’s entering the overculture in various forms, even if disguised as prayers, belief in angels or spirit guides, or mind over matter.  Police departments use psychics to find victims and to determine where criminals are hiding.  Office managers use feng shui to arrange furniture.  Tarot and other forms of divination are used by corporations as well as blue-collar people, and it’s less likely to be illegal.  Psychics and readers are advertised in mainstream media.  Rituals are held in public parks and hotel lobbies.  There is much more acceptance of magick as a viable tool for living… not just in a religious context, but everywhere.

    Pagans have helped to raise environmental awareness and make caring for our earth a common practice.  Offices, schools and public buildings are encouraged to recycle.  There is curbside recycling in many towns and cities.  Products have statements about the amount of post-consumer waste used to manufacture them.  There is less dumping in rivers and lakes.  Civic organizations participate in cleanups.  This didn’t happen 20 years ago.

    Religious freedom and tolerance and acceptance are wonderful.  Yet Pagans and polytheists have contributed to these other movements immeasurably, as well.  We’ve done magick for them, we’ve been vocal and visible in implementing different techniques, we’ve raised awareness.  Hooray for us!

  • http://cityhallwarriors.com/ whats my house worth

    Not all herbs are alike. In fact, different herbs will have significantly different effects on your mind and emotions. So when creating your own herbal incense, it’s crucial to know how different herbs will affect you differently. The function of the incense should have a key impact on which herbs you choose. Do you want to give your mood a boost? Are you preparing for a romantic candlelight dinner? Will you be performing a religious ceremony? By first determining the function of the herbal incense, you’ll be better prepared to choose the right herbs. Besides doing research to create a blend of herbs, you should also do some experimentation.

  • https://www.legalincenseblends.com/ herbal incense

    Not all herbs are alike. In fact, different herbs will have significantly different effects on your mind and emotions. So when creating your own herbal incense, it’s crucial to know how different herbs will affect you differently. The function of the incense should have a key impact on which herbs you choose. Do you want to give your mood a boost? Are you preparing for a romantic candlelight dinner? Will you be performing a religious ceremony? By first determining the function of the herbal incense, you’ll be better prepared to choose the right herbs. Besides doing research to create a blend of herbs, you should also do some experimentation.


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