JLH has taken a break from translating German to compose this timely allegory.
Don’t Get up on Your High Horse — It’s a Long Way Down
President Obama’s recent and timely reminder of horrors only 1,000 years in our past has not gone unheeded. Some of us have read historical novels and we know what a nice fellow Salah-al-Din was and how well he got along with Richard Lion-Heart. He didn’t have to be polite about it. After all, the Crusaders were invading his sovereign territory, just because some namby-pamby Christians were complaining about genocide. Well, we all know how things like that can be exaggerated. Just look at the Holocaust. And that random shooting at some ethnic deli in Paris.
And don’t let the names fool you. Knights Hospitaller might sound good, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t handle a sword.
But we have a bigger problem right here and right now. Even as we congratulate ourselves that we have learned from the Enlightenment and the history of democracy in the Western World, and have every intention of avoiding the excesses of those ravening Crusaders from our past, something truly sinister is looming in what has been called the oldest, continuously functioning democracy in the world. It started quite a while after the Greek experiment, but unlike the Greek, was never interrupted by conquest or transitory dictatorships. Some have regarded its early form as quite rudimentary, in its employment of the quasi judicial-legislative body called the Thing, which seemed to operate as a blend of enlightened lobbying and the Swiss version of direct democracy.
I speak, of course, of Iceland, which had applied for membership in the EU, but backed away and is still on its own, even though its main trading partners are the EU and Norway, the land of its origins. The sinister development, which has been widely ignored, but was obviously foreseen by our president and most likely his religious mentors — the Reverend Wright, CAIR and, of course, Valerie Jarrett — is the unforeseen rise, after 1,000 dormant years, of the Norse religion. It has recently been announced that the organization Ásatrúarfélagið has begun construction of a temple to be dedicated to Thor, Odin and Frigg, that is, the CEO, the Hit-Man and the Big Mama of Norse religion. Two of the three are represented in the English names of the days of the week as Wednesday (Woden’s Day) and Thursday (Thor’s Day). Friday is dedicated to Freya, the goddess of love, but as Odin’s wife, the fertility mother and the most powerful woman in Asgard, and Frigg is arguably her alter ego.
For those who have not brushed up on the Viking era, the predecessors of our present-day Icelanders and co-devotees of the Norse religion were the residents of what are now Denmark, Norway and Sweden, who for reasons that are still being argued took to the seas to seek their fortunes through both trading and raiding. Both functions are attested by the variety of styles and sizes in their sturdy, clinker-built, sail- and oar-driven ships which crisscrossed the Baltic and North Seas, followed inland waterways south from Kiev to the Black Sea, poured out of the North Sea to cruise the coasts of Ireland, Britain, France and Spain and even into the Mediterranean Sea. Wherever one of the notorious, dragon-necked long ships appeared offshore, trembling townspeople and monks beseeched: “Oh Lord, spare us the fury of the Norsemen!” Possibly they sounded like the Christians, Jews, Yazidis and Kurds in Muslim territory today.
Even a thousand years later, as our president has reminded us, we cannot escape the opprobrium of those rascally Crusaders, one of whom actually bragged about wading through pools of pagan blood! (Wait…Why does that sound familiar?) And now we face the resurrection of the religion that fueled the Viking Age.
What must it have been like to march down to the shore or the riverbank, prepared to defend your town and family, and encounter an apparently disorganized mob of angry men who might in today’s world belong to Hells Angels? And careening at the front were the biggest, angriest, most obviously out-of-their-minds guys — the ones with the meanest-looking weapons — the berserkers. Some say their condition of sustained rage was stoked by drinking or some other form of substance abuse, but purists like to think of it as a semi-spiritual state of battle readiness. Some suspect that they were always in the forefront because their rage was so uncontrollable that they could not distinguish friend from foe, so they simply struck at anything in front of them, until it fell. (I suspect that the essential difference between these shock troops and the Ottoman empire’s janissaries is that the berserkers were a part of their community, while the janissaries were captured and mercilessly-trained infidels.)
These Nordic entrepreneurs of war painted a bloody graffiti along the coasts of Europe, terrifying and pillaging the populace wherever there might be something worth the effort. Just imagine that this new-old religion takes hold again and sweeps across Iceland and then on to their cousins in Scandinavia. If suddenly the pusillanimous Swedes and the biddable Norwegians should re-discover their roots and do the unthinkable — fight back, when the immigrant gangs come by to rape and rob. And if once they get blood on their teeth, Odin knows what they might do next. Are the Swedes still technologically savvy enough to make some modern, nuclear-powered attack ships? Could they start going “a-viking” again?
You see the problem? If they slaughter a few hundreds or thousands of their unwanted “infidel” immigrants, well that’s just internal politics and the dead were probably at fault. But if they start moving out of their home territory, raiding abroad, burning a town here, annihilating a population there. Demonstrating online how the infamous and fatal “blood eagle” is carved into the body of a vanquished enemy. That just doesn’t look good. And we need to learn from Islam how to deal with this subject.
First, of course, is the “So’s your mother” technique, pointing out that Muslims have no right to get excited over the destruction and de-population of a few towns here and there. After all, look at how many people Tamerlane killed. And he wasn’t even doing it for profit!
We could also protest that we have nothing to do with them. We live, after all, in a civilized, socialist era. We are not into this kind of predatory capitalism anymore. These are just extremist capitalists, perverting the normally civilized rules of money-making, and they have absolutely nothing to do with the moral guidance to be found in Wall Street, DAX and the Bourse.
Even though these folks appear to believe in Thor and his companions, they are following a distorted interpretation of the true religion, which is based entirely on trade, and only breaks down when someone is unreasonable about striking a bargain. For instance, just look how well it turned out when the French saw Rollo the Norseman sailing up the river one more time and offered him a large plot of land to settle down in — that thing they now call Normandy. Just give up a little “no-go” zone, and they’ll police it for you. “Only Norse law within these borders,” and peace will reign. Just don’t let your young women wander too close to the border. Norsemen are not good at resisting temptation.
Yes, that is the real difference between us peace-loving Western folk — even those of us from Norse territory — and these terrible capitalist terrorists. We may be the Norse, but they are NORSISTS. There is a world of difference. I am just peacefully raising my pigs, while they are out carving death eagles into people who won’t eat pork. THEY are not ME!
Oh, one more thing. No pictures! Marvel Comics is officially warned. No more taking the image of Thor or his co-gods in vain. No cartoons. We are a simple people and have no appreciation for irony or satire. Speak of our gods with respect or not at all. We would really be devastated if a band of Vikings should raid the editorial offices of Marvel Comics with the modern equivalent of battle axes — the AK-47.
All we ask of you is that you be quiet, respectful and pay us a tribute of good mead whenever we come around and ask for it. And be careful not to build a mosque or church or synagogue too close to one of our temples. Thor might get really mad, and he is the god of lightning and bad temper. Now go on about your business. Nothing to see here.