Lies my grandfather told: the perils of ethnic identification

This began as a reply to a comment on my previous post. It’s an explanation of why no “ethnic identity” is very central to who I think I am.

My father’s family, my name ancestors, were from Alsace-Lorraine, a border region on the banks of the Rhine between France and Germany. His father (my grandfather) told his children the family was ethnic French; it is recorded that one of his and my direct-line ancestors was an officer under Napoleon who died leading his men in a charge against the walls of Moscow in 1813. But I learned in my teens, after my father had been doing some genealogical digging, that the family had formerly identified itself as ethnic Germans. This is not as odd as it now sounds. Before world War II there were pockets of ethnic Germans under other sovereignty all over Europe; the “wrong” bank of the Rhine wouldn’t have been at all a strange place to look for them.

I still recall my father’s expression of surprise as he reported that his father had been fibbing about that. We didn’t know why at the time, but I now suspect that it was an effect of strong anti-German sentiment during World War I. A lot of the ethnic Germans in the U.S. at that time suppressed their German ties and even changed their names, though this wasn’t necessary in our case. (I do, however, suspect that I have relatives from the other bank of the Rhine named Riemann or Reeman).

The point here is that half my alleged ethnicity, the “French” part, turned out to be a fiction spun by my paternal grandfather. You may be sure that learning this discouraged me from taking any claim about my ancestry very seriously. He died in the 1940s when my dad was in his teens, so I never got to ask the old man what was up with that myself. He was a formidable character by all accounts, a train driver on the Pennsylvania Railroad back when that was a prestigious high-tech job.

And it’s actually a little messier than I’ve described yet, because my father’s cousins later did their own digging and they think the family was an eastern sprig of a very old Norman-French noble house of Raymonds. Which of course would make us Danish or Norwegian Vikings far enough back, even if we got assimilated among ethnic Germans on the French side of the Rhine later on. Could be just romanticism, but….Napoleon did recruit a lot of officers from the noble and gentry families who survived the Terror. I actually queried the French national archives about this years ago, and was sent back a coat of arms attributed to a “Raymond” family in Alsace-Lorraine. I rather suspect that my Moscow-charging ancestor had the use of it.

One reason for that suspicion is that the (normally aristocratic) tradition of producing cavalry officers stuck with us in the New World. Another direct-line ancestor, the Napoleonic officer’s grandson, was a Union cavalry officer who died at Gettysburg. That’s only a few hours from here; I keep meaning to go look for his name on the monument.

I suppose, just to make the infodump about family tradition complete, that we’re pretty sure my father’s direct ancestor lit out of France in 1815 because it wasn’t comfortable for Napoleonist grognards in France just then. And that the next couple of generations of Raymonds became the New World equivalent of petty gentry in central Pennsylvania, producing judges and engineers and military officers until the whole region was economically smashed flat by the Great Depression.

My mother’s family has its own legends. The family name was Lehman and the provenance from the German-Swiss area near Zurich; oddly, one of the things we do know is that some of her name ancestors were styled “Bishops” under some German Protestant sect that used the title. But there was Irish in her ancestry as well, and Amerind, and some tenuous connection to the royal house of Scotland. They crossed the U.S. in Conestoga wagons in the mid-1800s and settled in Nebraska. My maternal grandfather ditched the rural life to become a sign painter in Hollywood; my mother grew up on Laurel Canyon Road in the 1940s with Robert Heinlein as a near neighbor.

Anyway. I’ve actually had three theories presented to me about my father’s family’s actual ethnicity. One exploded, two others differing but possibly both true. Hard to get very attached to any of them, under the circumstances. And under any theory I’ve ever heard I’m probably a mix of French, German, Scots, Irish, Amerind, Scandinavian, and Goddess knows what else – if the people I tend to hang with and some of the women I’ve been attracted to are a clue I’d have to suspect some Ashkenazic Jewish got into the mix somewhere along the ancestral lines. That’d be nice, actually, if I could confirm it.

You can’t really form an “ethnic identity” out of a mess like that. It’s silly to even try. What, am I supposed to beat myself up because my hypothetical ancestors on one bank of the Rhine hated the equally hypothetical ones on the other? About the most sentiment I ever invest in the matter is to wear green on St. Patrick’s day, which in the U.S. is customary if you’re part Irish or even if you’re not.

When the subject of my ancestry comes up and I’m inclined to try to be funny and anti-PC about it (which is usually), I borrow a locution I read on USENET decades ago. What’s my ethnicity? “European dominator party mix.” Yeah. That’ll do.

UPDATE: For you foreign readers, my commenters are quite correct. While the details of my family history are individual this kind of ethnic mix is very normal in my country — I’m a typical American this way.

208 thoughts on “Lies my grandfather told: the perils of ethnic identification

  1. “My mother’s family has its own legends. The family name was Lehman and the provenance from the German-Swiss area near Zurich; oddly, one of the things we do know is that some of her name ancestors were styled “Bishops” under some German Protestant sect that used the title.”

    Holy crap, I think we’re distant cousins. The story I’ve read about my “name ancestors” is that they were Swiss religious fanatics who were perhaps just too much for their neighbors, and came to America to be overbearing fanatics in peace. So, same last name, same area, similar story.

  2. Heh. “Riemann” and “my mother grew up on Laurel Canyon road … with Robert Heinlein as a near neighbor.”

    That is some good name-dropping. You still have a bunch more to do to catch up with Jerry Pournelle. (whose site I continue to read every day, as I do yours)

  3. You may have run into the distinction between tribe and nation. In Europe the distinction between the two is blurred, even though the national borders don’t align with tribal borders much more closely than in the Balkans or in Africa.

    You can become a citizen of the nation without joining the tribe. Second generation Turkish immigrants in Germany who speak without a trace of accent are told they aren’t real Germans. Most of the tribes in Europe don’t adopt.

    My father-in-law was an ethnic Swede born in Finland. He married an ethnic Finn. They ended up moving to Sweden in the ’60s. My wife calls herself a Swede.

    The British have the advantage of an overarching identity, that doesn’t require you to belong to a particular tribe.

    In the USA, we adopt immigrants into the tribe. Sometimes the immigrants resist, for a while.

  4. Yeah, someday when I’m the keeper of my own Ancestral Plaque, I will actually try to decipher who all these people are (I’m a Han-Chinese from Taiwan). What’s made more interesting on my part is that unlike most Chinese family, I have to keep 2 sets of Plaque, seeing how one of my ancestor was married and adopted into my current family (the family don’t have a son, so adopted a son-in-law to keep the name going). Thus we have to honor both my own family name as well as the family name of my ancestor that was adopted into the line.

  5. My ex-wife used to insist that ethnicity was everything — every American *had* to be and self-identify as Irish-American, German-American, Chinese-American, etc.

    I disagreed: the first Holden arrived in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1645, the first Lovely probably sometime in the mid-1700s with the Scotch-Irish migration. There’s Pennsylvania Dutch, Tidewater Plantation English, and reputedly a bit of Chickasaw on my father’s side. My parents separately moved from New Hampshire and Oklahoma to California and then separately moved to Alaska, where they met and I was born.

    My ethnicity is “American”, dammit.

  6. it is recorded that one of his and my direct-line ancestors was an officer under Napoleon who died leading his men in a charge against the walls of Moscow in 1813
    Highly suspicious! Napoleon army in 1813 was far from Moscow, and in 1812 Moscow had no walls of military significance.

  7. My mother’s family is Irish on both sides. My father’s family is interestingly complex; “Haugh” probably comes from Lowland Scots, but my Canadian maternal grandmother’s maiden name was “Mercer”, which is ambiguously Anglo-Norman.

    And I look like traditional accounts of Genghis Khan. :)

  8. @Bryan Lovely

    Damn straight. I tell my daughter we’re American Mutts. We’ve got hybrid vigor.

  9. My family came to America from various countries that World War I thankfully wiped off the map of Europe. They didn’t like it there, and couldn’t wait to escape. (They didn’t migrate, they escaped.)

    “What was the Austro-Hungarian Empire like, grandpa?”

    “Dirty country…rotten country…lousy country.”

    “Oh.”

  10. I come from France from a non-aristocratic rural family. Which means my family has been made race-discriminated soil-tilling slaves for 18 centuries. Take that, victimhood scammers!

  11. “You can become a citizen of the nation without joining the tribe. Second generation Turkish immigrants in Germany who speak without a trace of accent are told they aren’t real Germans. Most of the tribes in Europe don’t adopt.”

    There are those that insist that Barry Obama isn’t a real Afro-American because his father was actually, you know, FROM AFRICA and hence none of his ancestors were ever slaves, he didn’t grow up in the inner city, and isn’t an authentic black.

    Which basically proves that there are way too many idiots in the world with access to a microphone of some sort.

    “My ex-wife used to insist that ethnicity was everything — every American *had* to be and self-identify as Irish-American, German-American, Chinese-American, etc.”

    So I was born to a couple of college kids at a midwest school, put up for adoption, raised by a father who’s parents were Balkan/Mediterranean immigrants, and mother who’s parents were Mediterranean. Raised in a different Mid-west college melting pot (seriously melting pot. I was a teenager before I realized that other people judged someone by the color of their skin) and have NO cultural affinity other than “American”. My culture is that of the 24 minute sitcom, the action adventure movie and McDonalds and pizza hut. Bush Beer and hot dogs. Baseball.

    No, I don’t care for it much, but that’s personal. I only know the first f’ing thing about my Mom’s mom’s homeland because I visited there on vacation from Baghdad. I know fuck all about my Dad’s Parent’s homeland. My dad’s attitude was “they left for a reason. A good reason”. He barely spoke the language, and then only to talk to his mom who could barely speak english.

    To put this in Internet Hyperbole, your ex is a moron. And I don’t care WHAT her life accomplishments are, or her IQ or anything else. She is on the intellectual and moral level of Jesse Jackson. That is assuming you’ve represented her views adequately.

  12. > My ethnicity is “American”, dammit.

    This.

    I own a burial plot in a small church cemetery in Georgia. My father has a plot there as well. My grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great- and great-great-great- are waiting for us in the same place (very pretty, up in the mountains.) Call me European? I think not.

  13. Interesting. My ancestry runs through the Alsace-Lorraine region (Metz to be specific) but has been traced back to Lübeck around the 1500′s but also runs deep in the New World as my earliest forebear came here in the very early 1700′s (after the family lived in Holland and France trying to stay one step ahead of the Inquisition) labeled as part of the French Hugenot movement on a land grant from William Penn acquired some years earlier (my matrilineal line arrived in the 1750′s). Otherwise, it is always interesting how much things remain the same. My family ended up changing their name due to persecution of Germans in parts of Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War. Much of the persecution was due to hatred of the Hessian mercenaries employed by the British but apparently that wasn’t the only factor. It seems then when Penn was doling out land grants he assigned what were felt to be “inferior” claims to non-English applicants…thus much of the flat, easy to till land was given to the English settlers and the hilly, mountainous areas to others. This tactic backfired since most German farmers were used to farming land even more challenging than what they were given and therefor they thrived…and the Germans (or “Pennsylvania Dutch” as they became known) ended up in many cases squeezing out their English neighbors. So, even though my great x6 grandfather was a two-time enlistee in the Continental Army, my family name was changed from Mercklen to Markle (a Scottish name) so that they could blend in better. Oddly, the current Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel is a very distant relative and the original name is not found in the Fatherland either.

    Details of early family history across the pond are sketchy. In the 1920′s a coal baron named John Markle (http://markle.org/) paid a scholar to research our early family history…not a moment too soon as the first major city to be bombed by the RAF in WWII was Lübeck and the records he used where completely destroyed when the city hall there was leveled. Chances are the being from Lübeck some of my ancestors spent some time “en Viking” although they likely were merchants thereafter. What is known is that they embraced the Protestant Reformation and received all of the threats and persecution that entailed. They moved frequently living in Holland and parts of France depending on the attitude of the current rulers of those regions to granting Inquisitors free reign in there lands. My forebear landed in Philadephia in August 1719 aboard the Phoenix, his grandson fought in the Revolutionary War, my family comprises a General in the War of 1812 and another during the Civil War who was great friends with Lincoln. Another descendant was a noted archivist for Congress who was said to have had a eidetic memory and who was honored by Congress upon his death (along with lifetime stipends to his family!) Another family member invented that ubiquitous mark of coal mining…the coal breaker. His son single-handedly invented the modern ecological mine disaster (see Jeddo Tunnel) spending $500,000 in the 1890s (that was BIG money) to create a tunnel just short of five miles long through the base of a mountain to drain an abandoned coal mine from the bottom…it’s effect on the Nescopeck Creek and Susquehanna River were devastating.

    I could go on and on…and already have…as I do love my family history. That said, add $5 to that and I can get a cup of coffee at Starbucks. None of it has much to do with who I am now or should. Am I just as related to the current Chancellor of Germany via my father’s family as I am to actor Rutger Hauer through my mother’s side…it’s neat to know but doesn’t really change anything. The large amount of research I did into my family did more to educate me that NOBODY is in any way “special” because of the family’s past. Slaves were persecuted? My family spent several hundred years being uprooted periodically and losing much of what they had due to the whims of monarchs and their willingness to allow the Catholic Church to exact depredations upon their subjects…I’m still surprised that my great X6 grandfather’s house (which still stands between Reading and Kutztown, PA) had a dedication above the front door written in German after they lived in various countries for several generations.

    I came to much the same conclusion that you did…clinging to some supposed ethnicity in the wake of all that is absurd. How do I work in my one forebear marrying the sister of Daniel Boone (who was born near Reading, PA where my my family settled)? How do I work in the tiny bit of Susquehannocks Indian on my mother’s side? And, mostly, other than for it’s information and simple human interest aspects…who cares?! My ancestry does not make me a Viking or a Nazi no more than any other ethnic group’s past travails should grant them any special status…but we should not forget the past lest we repeat it’s mistakes or forget it’s lessons.

    When it comes down to it: I is an American!

  14. >Highly suspicious! Napoleon army in 1813 was far from Moscow, and in 1812 Moscow had no walls of military significance.

    Since my dad’s hometown newspaper reported this I looked into the sequence of events, and this might have happened in early 1813 during the first phase of Napoleon’s retreat from the city. And actually, “no walls of military significance” would make sense; you don’t charge walls of military significance with cavalry, not unless you’re an idiot. I figure my ancestor probably got smoked while charging a revetment or something.

  15. I’m a mix of Dutch-German-Austrian Jews on the father’s side and Cumans on the mother’s side – the people living the part of Hungary where my mother is from are said to be of Cumanic origin and in fact my mother still so obviously Asian features that her childhood nickname was Cio Cio San (from Madame Butterfly). A rather weird mix – the typical nerdiness of Jekke/Yekke Jews combined with the passionate, rather unthinking, instinct-driven, romantic-nomad Cumanic stuff. Those folks on the Cumanic side were so wild that my grandpa became a strict anti-alcoholic at the age of 20 because he was getting into increasingly bloody bar fights when drunk and realized that if it goes on this way he gonna sooner or later kill someone. He was lucky because the local policemen hated typing reports (they were almost functionally illiterate, a really small, backwards village) and therefore they had just simply beaten up the local troublemakers instead of locking them up – but when he got the point where attacked a policeman with a shovel he began to figure out that sooner or later there will be some serious legal consequences if he keeps getting drunk and doing such stuff. So this side of the family is real wild. On the other hand the folks on the Jewish side were so geeky that my father just plain simply cannot grok that people sometimes say things they don’t really mean so but just say it under the spell of a passing emotion – he absolutlely takes everything literally and calmly explains factual wrongness and flaws of logic in absolutely every statement he hears, even in screamed insults. Totally geeky. A funny combination. I have no idea how they fell in love with each other, actually, two so totally different people, but they are still totally in love after 35 years.

  16. “Second generation Turkish immigrants in Germany who speak without a trace of accent are told they aren’t real Germans. Most of the tribes in Europe don’t adopt.”

    That, for example, is a third phenomenon, not tribe, not nation, and not even religion (Turks were rather strongly secularized by Kemal Atatürk). I call that thing plain simply culture that sense of the word which is without any ethnic connotations. The reason they are often disliked there is that they are often “too much, too loud” for such a modesty-oriented and kinda introverted majority culture, they are types who listen to too loud music in the cars and go to the music clubs dressed up too pimpish/”guido”, and argue with each other too loudly in the subway and so on. Which is more like a “global half-southern culture”, “global mediterranean/subtropical culture” rather than any kind of distinctly ethnic/national/tribal thing, you can observe the same everywhere from Italy to Latin-America, almost every place that’s kind of “southish”, mediterranean/subtropical but not actually equatorial/tropical.

  17. >Heh. “Riemann” and “my mother grew up on Laurel Canyon road … with Robert Heinlein as a near neighbor.” That is some good name-dropping.

    It gets funnier. After my mother mentioned where she grew up, I read her the opening paragraphs of And He Built A Crooked House, with Heinlein’s very precise description of the location on Laurel Canyon Road. She recognized it – apparently RAH dropped the house on the exact location of her high school.

    She didn’t know RAH by name. But she reports there was a neighbor the kids all called “the Admiral” who was very protective of his roses. That sounds like the old man, for sure.

  18. I don’t know my ancestry: the grandfather I knew as James R. Maynard Sr. took that name in the 1920s sometime as he and his older brother ran for their lives. Seems they were knocking over vending machines controlled by Al Capone. He took the knowledge of his original name with him to the grave.

    The other three grandparents were named Bradshaw, McMinn, and Weilander. Family tradition says that an ancestor, William Hooper, signed the Declaration of Independence; other than that, we’re not that distinguished.

    Me? I think of myself as Texan, and then American.

  19. “I think of myself as Texan, and then American.”

    That’s the problem with Texas.

  20. That’s the problem with Texas.

    Only if you believe that Texans are somehow anti-American.

    “Never ask a man where he’s from. If he’s from Texas, he’ll tell you. If not, don’t embarrass him.”

  21. “I was a teenager before I realized that other people judged someone by the color of their skin”

    Glad I wasn’t the only one blissfully unaware of widespread intolerance!

    My dad’s an African-American descendant of former slaves, though I don’t know the story any further back than his parents; never bothered to ask. My mom’s 3rd (or 4th? I dunno) generation Polish or Lithuanian Jew, and I was raised 99% secular atheist, 1% Quaker in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I was pretty ignorant of religious denominations, histories, and traditional rivalries outside of having a vague sense that Christianity and Judaism shared part of the bible. It wasn’t until 9th grade, when I saw the movie “School Ties” that the idea of discrimination against Jews (outside of the Holocaust, obviously) ever occurred to me. From my perspective, Judaism and Christianity were 90% identical, and I was completely confused as to why the kids at the new school would care at all about a kid being Jewish.

    Perhaps semi-relatedly, I have always considered it a point of pride that I’m not much of a “typical” anything. Through school, I wrestled, programmed, sang, acted, played soccer, and spent hours at a time playing computer games. I liked the fact that I wasn’t the typical black kid, or Jew, or nerd, or gamer, or jock, or anything. It’s the things I’ve done during my life which define me, not who or what my long-dead ancestors were or did.

  22. People often don’t realize what a time interval like “ten generations” can do to supposed ethnic purity. Ten generations is about the time span since the first European settlements in what is now the eastern US. There are some genealogists who specialize in tracing connections between seemingly unrelated famous figures, mainly for amusement, but also as an illustration of how far genealogical trees reach. My favorite link is between Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, who are tenth cousins. (Obama is a descendant of Massachusetts puritans from the 1640s.) This fellow’s pages describe lots of similar connections for politicians and other notables:

    http://www.wargs.com/

    “And after I became President, I found that I had all these relatives I didn’t know existed. (Laughter.) They just kept cropping up all over. And most of them had more limited resources than I did. I’ll tell you one real quick story. I did get one letter from a woman way up in her 80s in northeast Louisiana who showed me how John Grisham and I were like tenth cousins. And I wrote him a letter and said, praise God, you’re the first one that has any money—(laughter)—come to the White House tomorrow. (Laughter.) And it was really funny. It turned out it was true, she wrote him identical letters, we checked our lineage and we turned out to be kin. And one of us is still claiming it.” —Bill Clinton

  23. > @Shenpen: “Turks were rather strongly secularized by Kemal Atatürk”

    I used to think that was the case from my admittedly shallow knowledge of all things Turkey (still better than the majority of people who wouldn’t even recognize Ataturk’s name :).

    That misconception got cured by two sets of information (well, more than 2… those 2 just got me digging deeper).

    One was a set of Turkey related posts in blog by a gentleman who came to USA from Turkey (http://blog.qtau.com/ ). The guy’s got pretty impressive mental credentials so I tend to trust his judgements (among other things, his developer cred is highlighted by the fact that he’s the second top scorer in “Perl” tag’s answers on StackOverflow, right behind the guy who writes Perl books for a living – hopefully that will tell something to enough of ESR’s readers :)

    Side note to ESR – if you have a spare minute, please browse the qtau blog linked above – I have a feeling you’ll enjoy it.

    The other fact was assorted accounts of Turkey from Israeli businessmen who visited recently, and were compiled by some left wing Israeli journalist (like REALLY left wing – the sort who’s more anti-Israel than pro-Israel). The executive summary of the pertinent parts of it was “this secularized thing was somewhat true in large urban centers but way inaccurate in the countryside”.

  24. > @Shenpen “…Cumans on the mother’s side – the people living the part of Hungary where my mother is from are said to be of Cumanic origin and in fact my mother still so obviously Asian features that her childhood nickname was Cio Cio San (from Madame Butterfly).”

    That sounds surprising to me – to the best of my recollection (just confirmed by Wikying it), Cumans – also called “Polovtsi” in Russia, are by many theories considered to be of Iranian origin, so should not really be very asian looking (the second theory is that they were Turkic, but as per Wiki, that doesn’t fly since many accounts make them largely blonde, which Turkic people generally aren’t). Here’s the Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuman_people#Ethnicity

  25. > > “I think of myself as Texan, and then American.”
    > That’s the problem with Texas.

    No, that’ a problem with piss-poor American public education that fails to impart in people who are indoctrinated in its confines any sense of the history or founding philosophy of this country. Look up “Articles of Confederation” and “Amendment X” (as in Bill of Rights).

  26. > > “I think of myself as Texan, and then American.”
    > That’s the problem with Texas.

    William O. B’Livion: If you’re ever in San Antonio, contact me and I’ll show you WHY Texans have the right to feel that way. There were several hundred gentlemen who paid a very dear price for us to hold our heads a little higher than most. We won’t forget them, and we won’t dishonor them by being less than what we are.

    And yes, I’m a Texan first, always have been, always will be and most of us are.

    Tell me, do you have the same reaction when somebody from Germany says,”I’m a German,” rather than, “I’m a European?” If not, then WHY would you be surprised at myself or Jay claiming Texas in the same manner?

  27. Jay> “Never ask a man where he’s from. If he’s from Texas, he’ll tell you. If not, don’t embarrass him.”

    Ha! That’s one of my favorite quotes. And the funny thing is, it’s true, we DO find some way to work Texas into an awful lot of conversations with “foreigners” ;^).

  28. One of the best things about America is that not all of it is the South. ;)

  29. I’ll just interject here that it’s factual and true that Obama was not born in the United States of America. He was born in the Kingdom of Hawai’i, and any native Hawaiian will confirm that.

    Texas! Texas doesn’t even have a king!

  30. My parents met at Oregon State University. My father talked my mother into moving to Fairbanks, AK (which is where he’d been raised since he was 12). I’m still not sure what kind of sales pitch would convince ANYONE to move to Fairbanks…but I’m an American who spent a good chunk of his toddlerhood and childhood in the Alaskan Bush.

    “Never ask a man where he’s from. If he’s from Texas, he’ll tell you. If not, don’t embarrass him.”

    Way I tell it is this. “Where a man’s from doesn’t account as much as what he does. Unless he’s from Texas, in which case it’s an excuse for his failings. It’s impolite to hold it against him; people who have no pride in their own accomplishments compensate in other ways.”

    Or, as Louisianans say it, “Bless his heart, he’s just from Texas.”

    I lived in Texas for a year. I got to see a lot of Texan ‘tude and Texan pride. Some is justified. Most is tribalism built on the Alamo and accounts of Sam Houston.

    Texas is the only place I’ve ever heard a cop call a black man a nigger, as in “Halt, you fucking nigger or I WILL blow your head off.” (This was in Lubbock)

    It is the only place where I’d seen businesses shut down, claiming everyone was ‘out to lunch’ to avoid taking the custom of a black woman. (This was about 100 miles south of Austin)

    It is the only place where, when I was part of the hiring process at a private firm, I watched the resume of the only black man to apply get dumped in the waste basket because ‘reading this would be a waste of time’. (This was in Amarillo)

    It, and living in the Barrios of Phoenix AZ, are the only places where the appallingly stupid custom of firing bullets into the air to celebrate births, weddings, Independence Day, Texas Day, New Years, Christmas and Easter was practiced.

    I was taught to handle firearms and a bottle of liquor at the same time…and we were told to NEVER discharge a firearm without aiming at something you meant to hit, or to give suppression fire to a colleague. Texans have no excuse.

    I prefer living in the small town Midwest, thanks. The people prize competence, politeness, and follow-through here. Most of the kook prejudices boil down to shock that someone isn’t a Lutheran when, by all accounts, they act like civilized people…

  31. >It is the only place where I’d seen businesses shut down, claiming everyone was ‘out to lunch’ to avoid taking the custom of a black woman. (This was about 100 miles south of Austin)

    And where are the lefty “anti-racists” when barbaric shit like this is still going on? Oh. Yeah. They’re pulling stunts like crucifying Russ Nelson for speechcrime. Or trying to jerk me around with a kafkatrap-like manipulation about “white privilege”. Hello? Hello? Can we have some focus on the actual inhumanity here?

    It’s insane, and it makes me angry enough to chew nails. Actual victims of racism like that black women are humiliated and abused while their self-anointed defenders play social-power and guilt-tripping games against people who didn’t do it.

  32. > Or trying to jerk me around with a kafkatrap-like manipulation about “white privilege”.

    Kafkatrap-like? You’ve been very picky about what constitutes a kafkatrap so far — you’ve had to be to avoid falling afoul of the definition yourself.

    > And where are the lefty “anti-racists” when barbaric shit like this is still going on?

    Trying to increase the social and political power of people in this position. Part of this involves raising awareness of the memetic machinery that is used to maintain current power relations. An important part of this memetic machinery is the denial of the existence of white privilege; this allows conservatives to pretend that the economic situation in black communities is purely the result of individual choices.

    Let me turn this around: where are you when shit like this is going on? Constructing memetic weapons — the kafakatrap-like — that conservatives will inevitably use to defend the status quo?

  33. Alsace-Lorraine used to be ethnic German but so many were killed during the thirty years war that Louis XIV moved in and tried settle it with ethnic French. And so the roots of that particular conflict go back several centuries.

  34. >Part of this involves raising awareness of the memetic machinery that is used to maintain current power relations

    Spin all the bullshit you want, but helping her by trying to mindfuck me and others into carving the world up by race-centered categories still won’t make any more sense than raping to promote virginity. And in late-breaking news, war is peace and freedom is slavery too. I defend that black woman by opposing this poisonous collectivist nonsense.

  35. > I defend that black woman by opposing this poisonous nonsense.

    So basically by concern trolling?

    > helping her by trying to mindfuck me and others into carving the world up by race-centered categories

    I’m starting to see why you get so angry at me. Perhaps you could separate the things I’ve actually done from the things that have only happened in your fevered imagination?

    The only agenda is to make available the memetic equipment for detecting racism. This will make shame mechanisms more effective against actual racists, and will protect non-racists from accidentally spreading racist memes.

  36. > So basically by concern trolling?

    Your posts are now going into moderation until you learn how not to be an insulting asshole under the guise of argument. Any that actually present an argument may be allowed through.

  37. This is pretty exotic stuff to read for an inbred Pale-Of-Settlement Ashkenazy Jew.

    I agree, Eric sounds like a quintessential American.

  38. my mother grew up on Laurel Canyon Road in the 1940s with Robert Heinlein as a near neighbor.

    Fascinating. Care to elaborate a bit on that?

  39. >Fascinating. Care to elaborate a bit on that?

    Not much to tell beyond what I already have. My maternal grandfather was a theatrical signpainter in old Hollywood; if what he once told me is true (and I have no reason to doubt it) a lot of the signage you see in classic Westerns was his work. Hollywood was a lot smaller then, and Laurel Canyon Road wasn’t yet a famous location of the reclusive super-rich; it was just this place up in the hills where a lot of artistic types and bohemians happened to live. Maybe the houses were cheap, I dunno. I could ask my mother.

    One day my mother mentioned that she’d grown up on Laurel Canyon Road. My curiosity piqued, I read her this from Heinlein’s And He Built A Crooked House (Astounding, 1941):

    Americans are considered crazy anywhere in the world.

    They will usually concede a basis for the accusation but point to California as the focus of the infection. Californians stoutly maintain that their bad reputation is derived solely from the acts of the inhabitants of Los Angeles County. Angelenos will, when pressed, admit the charge but explain hastily, “It’s Hollywood. It’s not our fault—we didn’t ask for it; Hollywood just grew.”

    The people in Hollywood don’t care; they glory in it. If you are interested, they will drive you up Laurel Canyon “—where we keep the violent cases.” The Canyonites—the brown-legged women, the trunks-clad men constantly busy building and rebuilding their slap-happy unfinished houses—regard with faint contempt the dull creatures who live down in the flats, and treasure in their hearts the secret knowledge that they, and only they, know how to live.

    Lookout Mountain Avenue is the name of a side canyon which twists up from Laurel Canyon. The other Canyonites don’t like to have it mentioned; after all, one must draw the line somewhere!

    High up on Lookout Mountain at number 8775, across the street from the Hermit—the original Hermit of Hollywood—lived Quintus Teal, graduate architect.

    Now, in fact, the “Hermit of Hollywood” was Heinlein’s little in-joke; the ascribed location of the Hermit’s house was Heinlein’s actual digs. He was 34 at the time, medically retired from the Navy seven years before and doing some of his best early short-story work for Astounding. In fact 1941 was smack in the middle of the span of five years or so during which he and John W. Campbell invented modern science fiction.

    My mother would have been about 12 at the time, and living within a few blocks of him. She didn’t know him by name, but she reports there was a neighborhood figure the kids called “the Admiral” who (she says) was “very protective of his roses”. Wikipedia doesn’t confirm but I believe I read once that Heinlein was invalided out with the courtesy rank of Rear Admiral.

    My grandfather probably did know Heinlein; he was part of a General Semantics study group and I’d be astonished if even that neighborhood had more than one. He did mention to me having known L. Ron Hubbard, in a tone which strongly suggested he thought the man was scum. My mother can still quote General Semantics maxims from memory. And I’ve seen pictures from her twenties in which she looks the very image of a period Hollywood starlet. She happened to be a very beautiful woman and that’s how beautiful women in Hollywood dressed in those days!

    In fact she was never in the biz as far as I know. She got a college degree (still quite unusual for a woman in those days) and trained as a nurse, which was what she was doing when she met my father.

    One more thing: After I read my mother the location cues in the story, she identified the site of Quintus Teal’s fictional crooked house quite definitely as the place where she went to high school.

  40. I was born in Texas.

    I usually don’t really talk about it, usually, for reasons Ken Burnside makes pellucidly clear.

  41. Ken Burnside: If you’ve never heard racism anywhere else in the country, you should get out more. :^) I’ve heard it from people here (yeah, cops are people too) and elsewhere (Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia, California, Arkansas, Florida, DC, and Connecticut to name a few), and I suspect that I’m FAR less traveled than you are.

    I’m sorry that you ran into so much of it. I’ve been here 40 years, and you’ve experience more of it (or at least a more concentrated dose) in your brief experience than I think I have my entire life. Of course, from about age 14 or so, I called down anyone (including my parents or their friends) who spoke that way. I guess when you’re willing to stand up for what’s right, people tend to control their urges around you (or else I just pick a better class of associates because I won’t tolerate that crap from the people around me).

    As for gun safety, I don’t know anybody that does what you accuse us of (and what the hell is “Texas Day”? Cinco De Mayo, maybe? Or are you talking about Texas Independence Day? Where were you, anyway?). My father would have kicked my ass if I’d done something like that, and every one I know would at the very least call you down for it (if not kick the crap out of you for being stupid). Again, perhaps its self selection of the people I associate with, but that is intolerable behavior. I’d have to wonder, where were these folks from? We got a lot of transplants and not all of them exhibit true Texas behavior and attitudes (although we try to assimilate them as quickly as possible).

    But none of that has anything to do with WHY Texans feel as they do about this State. Perhaps if people in Michigan (for example) were as proud of where their from as we are, then Detroit wouldn’t be the stinking cesspool that it has become (and a large population of armed, law abiding citizens probably wouldn’t hurt either :^).

    One thing I’ve noticed about Texas and Alaska that doesn’t seem to hold true for any other state: people who have been there either love it, or hate it. There seems to be a complete absence of people without strong opinions on both States. The only things I can tell that might cause this distinction is the harsh weather, or fierce independence of the the typical inhabitants of those two States. Of course, I’m jaded ;^).

  42. I suspect I’d get along fine with an Alaskan, although I’d be compelled to trade good-natured insults.

    If I were around that restaurant south of Austin, I’d be kicking some butt and finding a place for that lady to get a bite.

    And I never, ever have seen or heard of a Texan firing into the air to celebrate something. We know better than that. As Gordon Baxter once wrote, “It’s no unheard of for the son of a well-to-do family to be given a Jeep Wrangler and a Ruger Super Blackhawk on his 16th birthday. Of course, he will have long since been taught to handle both safely.”

    And there’s a reason Aggie Muster is held on April 21.

  43. In the tradition of this (and the last) thread, my ancestry is pretty interesting, but it leads to a completely American story (I’ll post later in this thread). Like several of the others here, I feel the connection most when engaged in “traditional” martial activities. And like ESR, my primary love was eastern martial arts, particularly Japanese styles, though I am also extensively trained in Tae Kwon Do (instructor & rank certified and registered in Kukkiwon). Then I started fencing, which led to sword and shield (I did this for strength building/exercise initially, and because it was fun), then to horse-riding, with each activity feeling more and more “right.” I think my mother started that when she took to me to see a jousting recreation when I was little.

    There’s a downside to this too for me too though. Although I am a converted Jew, and a practitioner of Magick (both high and low) and love exploring and participating in the ancient traditions and rites (yes I understand the seeming contradictions here – contact me for the long, long details on my thoughts and evolution on his if you like), I have felt a constant pull toward Roman Catholicism for as long as I can remember. I have researched and observed it extensively, and haven’t liked most of what I’ve found. I will say this though: I toured Italy last year and had the opportunity to visit some very old cathedrals. While it isn’t my religion, I did experience a strong feeling of spirituality there. Or, it could have just been the unconscious leaning of my life – my family has been Roman Catholic as far back as we can trace. My maternal grandparents were the first Protestants in the history of my family. For myself, I reject Christianity as a religious base.

    Anyway, does anyone think the interests you find yourself pursuing (those that seem to “call to you” without any apparent relation to your life-state), or the things that inspire you (sword romance, medieval architecture, colonial politics, whatever it may be) could flow from ancestral (or other past) lineage?

  44. Jay Maynard> And there’s a reason Aggie Muster is held on April 21.

    Yes, and Fiesta is held that week as well.

  45. pete,

    > So basically by concern trolling?

    Are you nuts? If I could grab you by the shoulders and shake some sense into you, I would.

    Don’t anagonize the host. Especially when he is this unhappy with you. It doesn’t matter if you are right and he’s wrong. On a blog, the host is king! But an especially powerful king! Judge, jury and immediate executioner! You would be a fool to go into Genghiz Khan’s house and treat him like you treat Eric. BTW, John Kerry should know that, while Genghiz Khan was a ruthless warrior, he was no more ruthless than our hero Julius, and Genghiz Khan was actually a good ruler. Very religiously tolerant. Excellent at promoting knowledge and trade. If Kerry has a problem with Genghiz Khan, I suggest he pass a bill to rename July first.

    Having much less history with you than Eric I don’t know if he should have a problem with you. Having a very short history with Eric I can’t prove with other examples if he has had a problem with leftist troll infestations.

    But it’s pretty clear Eric thinks he can prove it. He is king. He seems to be a very good king. He has an excellent reputation. I don’t know yours. I do know the reputation of leftist trolls. It’s very, very well deserved. Given Eric’s time in the internet game the likelihood he has been exposed to far too many leftist trolls approaches 100%. He has every right to treat suspected leftist trolls with considerable withering contempt.

    You may, if you like, complain about conservative trolls and liberarian trolls. It’s a moral equivalency that won’t help your case with Eric at all. So don’t do it if you want to converse with him, no matter how much they have abused you and how bad their reputation is.

    It is even more clear that it stupid beyond all belief to escalate, as you keep doing. If your desire to converse with Eric you are going to have to meet him on his terms, not yours. This is often true, and being able to converse with others on their own terms is a useful skill.

    It’s also useful to learn how to talk to kings.

    Yours,
    Tom

  46. pete,

    You could consider yourself an ambassador from Leftavia. Your predecessor was declared persona non gratia. The king of Leftavia has told you that under no circumstances should you be declared persona non gratia. You better apologize fast!

    Yours,
    Tom

  47. Sometimes I think of myself as African. Sure, my ancestors moved out a million years ago, never went back, and separated enough for environmental adaptation to reduced levels of sun, but everybody on Earth came from the same place, if you just go back far enough.

    >pete arguing

    >esr arguing

    Sometimes I wonder if the internet just makes us think like little kids. All this dancing around, trying to twist past words into what you *really* meant…

  48. Tom DeGisi: You’re wasting breath/keystrokes here. pete has been at this for a while. He’s decided to be Eric’s personal antagonist (as if there aren’t enough!) and if Eric declares the sky blue, pete will scream that he’s a closed-minded clod who cannot accept the possibility of other colors and then go on to accuse him of some false leap of logic that leaves virtually everyone else here scratching their heads.

    Bizarre behavior, but very typical in my experience.

    I wouldn’t attempt to save him from banning personally because he’s usually more a distraction than he’s worth (but then, the same could likely be said for me :^).

  49. re: all the Texas talk

    I wrote a pretty long post about how I feel about being a Texan, then went to lunch, came back, deleted it, then refreshed and read all the responses to Ken’s post. My words would have been redundant as they were mostly the same as expressed by my fellows. Though, I have seen the racism he speaks about. I’ve been through sundown towns that only removed the warning signs on federal command. I’ve heard east-Texas white boys say ‘nigger’ amongst friends and family without a hint of hatred or ill will, but with ignorance. But I know that this is not unique to Texas, and it hurts my pride as an American far more than it does as a Texan.

    I’m about polar opposite from a stereotypical Texan, but I’m perfectly content to call myself one. And 6th generation, at that. Identifying as Texan, for me, has nothing to do with nationality and everything to do with character. ‘American’ is /where/ I am, ‘Texan’ is /who/ I am.

  50. Russ Nelson:

    > I’ll just interject here that it’s factual and true that Obama was not born in the United States of America. He was born in the
    > Kingdom of Hawai’i, and any native Hawaiian will confirm that.

    Are you putting us on? Hawai’i became a state on August 21, 1959. Obama was born August 4, 1961, in Hawai’i, and had been a state of the union for nearly two years. Prior to that, Hawai’i was a territory of the US for many, many years.

  51. J. Jay: Uh, I think Russ is doing his own version of State pride there.

    Russ: Wouldn’t that be the “Republic of Hawaii”, or did that not exist long enough to count? Or do you discount that on the basis of the coup?

  52. I lived in Texas from late 2004 to early 2006.

    I saw the firearms-shot-in-the-air in Austin, and in Lubbock. I heard it from several blocks away in Amarillo. I got to find bullets that fell to earth again on the patio of the apartment complex’s pool the next morning in Amarillo.

    As to the business that ‘said everyone was out to lunch’, it was a fabric-and-finished clothing store that had been in the same family since Reconstruction. I was there with a friend of mine doing costuming, and we promptly left without purchasing anything.

    On the business that circular filed the resume from the only black applicant, that process was one of the reasons why I left their employ when I did. It would’ve happened later in the year, otherwise.

    On the cop – I was too dumbfounded (and far more interested in being somewhere with a concrete wall between me and the nutjob with a gun and a badge) to want to think about intervening. (While I suspect the black man who was running for cover was a perp, that cop did not do himself any favors with the way he demanded a halt….)

    The semi-rural places where I prefer to live, there’s about the same per-capita ownership of firearms as there is in Texas. The people just don’t brag about it. There’s no grandstanding “Don’t Mess With Iowa” attitude, there isn’t a bumper sticker on the back of the truck…there’s just a shotgun and clip of shells racked behind the passenger seat where the driver can get at them in a hurry, more often than not.

  53. >As to the business that ’said everyone was out to lunch’, it was a fabric-and-finished clothing store that had been in the same family since Reconstruction. I was there with a friend of mine doing costuming, and we promptly left without purchasing anything.

    Good for you, Ken. I’m frankly rather shocked – the last time I encountered anything like that sort of overt, considered racism was in the 1970s, and I thought it was dead and gone in this country.

    >(While I suspect the black man who was running for cover was a perp, that cop did not do himself any favors with the way he demanded a halt….)

    Of the incidents you describe, I think this one bothers me the least. Not that it makes me happy or I ever want to see it repeated, but the cop (who I presume from context was white) was adrenalized and used the word “nigger” in exactly the same way a black cop might have in the same circumstances. There is at least room for doubt that he would go all Bull Connor when less stressed.

  54. > He’s decided to be Eric’s personal antagonist
    dgreer,

    Shoot. All that prose to convince a real troll. In that case I’m glad Eric banned him. I probably should have noticed pete’s trollish behavior, but my old gray head doesn’t remember everyone around here. I think I’ve been mostly ignoring him as noise.

    > I’m frankly rather shocked – the last time I encountered anything like that sort of overt, considered racism was in the 1970s, and I thought it was dead and gone in this country.

    Bad ideas die slow. @%$#^!$@^%#$^!@%# Marxism!

    Yours,
    Tom

  55. I’m actually more interested in the restaurant “100 miles south of Austin.” That puts it in my neck of the woods, and I don’t want to give them any of my money, even accidentally. Do you remember the name?

    Can’t defend people being stupid with guns, but I think that’s the exception, at least it is in my experience.

  56. Ken:
    > There’s no grandstanding “Don’t Mess With Iowa” attitude, there isn’t a bumper sticker on the back
    > of the truck…

    I have only ever read ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ as it’s original, late-80s anti-littering intent. Sadly, I have little doubt that there are plenty of hot-blooded Texas residents who took it as a literal motto. TXDOT has even been trying to reclaim the original meaning, with new billboards proclaiming ” ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ Means Don’t Litter ” and so forth.

    I see how non-Texans, who see the phrase out of context, can easily take it as a kind of tough-guy elitism when it’s actually really pretty benign.

  57. dgreer

    I don’t remember the name of the store – it wasn’t a restaurant; it was a fabric and finished clothing store, the sort of place where you can either buy fabric and buy a pattern to make something yourself, or bring something in to be altered, or buy a pattern and fabric and have one of the women who worked there make it for you. They also kept a fair number of ‘pre-made’ uniform jackets and other costumery on the rack and would alter to suit.

    I think it was in or near Gonzales, TX, based on my memory of driving there, and looking at Google Maps – and that we had to double back to get to San Antonio, where we were doing a convention. (We planned on buying some costume kit and modifying it at a friend’s place before going to the con; the store was recommended to us for their selection and pricing.)

  58. Re: ESR and Pete,

    There are many levels of racism, ranging from straightforward lynching, to scumbag politicians/commentators who use phrases like “welfare queen” and “states rights” as racist dogwhistles when seeking votes, to the dawgs who fetch when they hear that whistle and claim to be tolerant all the while. It needs to be called out at every level, hopefully while being positive and pleasant, but still firm.

    Name-calling shouldn’t ever enter the picture.

  59. >In that case I’m glad Eric banned him.

    Note: He’s not actually banned. I recently discovered how to exile a poster to a moderation queue, and that’s what I’ve done.

    I was serious that if he presents an actual argument I’ll let it through; my principles require this. So far I have received one insult which I have not let through.

  60. Having resolved the trolling issue, at least to my own satisfaction, let me discuss my own ancestry:

    On my father’s side, it’s Russian Jews, aside perhaps from the occasional rape-child during a pogrom, as far back as we can trace. One great-grandfather entered illegally from Canada, and his store was burned down North Dakota, probably because he was Jewish. (Family tradition says he moved to St. Paul immediately afterwards) while the other swam the river between Russia and Romania to avoid getting drafted into the Russian Army, which was a horrible place for a Jew to end up.)

    My mother’s family comes from all over Europe – English, French, German (including descent by bastardry via Frederick the Great) Swiss, etc., all ending up in a little town in Iowa as members of a quasi-Mennonite group call the Brethren in Christ. My wife claims to be related to both Admiral Dewey and the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, with Irish and more German.

    My daughter is engaged to a pretty (and very smart) Puerto-Rican/Cuban girl – “Bob” only knows where they’ll find the other 23 chromosomes, but I very much doubt he’ll be from “my tribe.”

  61. There are many levels of racism, ranging from straightforward lynching, to scumbag politicians/commentators who use phrases like “welfare queen” and “states rights” as racist dogwhistles when seeking votes, to the dawgs who fetch when they hear that whistle and claim to be tolerant all the while.

    Heh. Side point about “welfare queens” — in a study done by the Census Bureau in 1995, there were actually about 500,000 more whites on AFDC than blacks, (although percentage vs. the general population, of course, looks much different). Interesting little tidbit..

  62. Eric is right as to most Caucasians being a mix of various nationalities. My father is half-Lithuanian, 25% Welsh, and 25% English. My mother is about 75% Irish and the rest is Scottish. My Lithuanian great-grandfather came to the states around 1908 to escape communism and he did at one point work on assembly line that involved manufacturing bombs for the Soviets. Turns out he was a famous violinist and someone wanted to write a book on him, but his son was too paranoid and would not let it happen.

  63. > Note: He’s not actually banned. I recently discovered how to exile a poster to a moderation queue, and that’s what I’ve done.

    > I was serious that if he presents an actual argument I’ll let it through; my principles require this. So far I have received one insult which I have not let through.

    It is good to be king.

    Yours,
    Tom

  64. @dgreer, @j.jay: no, I’m pretty sure that it’s the Kingdom of Hawai’i. And I think it goes a bit beyond state pride, to an actual secessionist movement, like the Quebequois.

  65. Apropos of nothing, there’s a convenience store about 1.5 hours to the east of me that sells guitars and guns. Seems to be doing a bang-up business.

  66. # dgreer Says:
    > > “I think of myself as Texan, and then American.”
    > That’s the problem with Texas.

    William O. B’Livion: If you’re ever in San Antonio, contact me and I’ll show you WHY Texans have the right to feel that way. There were several hundred gentlemen who paid a very dear price for us to hold our heads a little higher than most. We won’t forget them, and we won’t dishonor them by being less than what we are.

    ————————-

    I had an Uncle who served in the Navy during WWII. On a boat (errr. Ship) in the Pacific.

    My father served in a Anti Aircraft unit that saw action of various kinds in Korea.

    I’ve got 10 years in various active and reserve military units, and a year (as a civilian) in Baghdad where all I risked was getting hit by rockets, mortars, ricochets and Dysentery. Fortunately I only got hit by the latter.

    Yeah, I have a lot of respect for the guys who stood and fought at the Alamo. And a dozen or so other battles big and small all over the fucking world before and since then, but then you look at stuff like this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_E._Erwin or either of these two:
    http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/afghanistan.html.

    There are about 3400 stores like his. Well, no. Most guys either weren’t hurt nearly as bad, or died of their wounds. He as one tough guy. Chuck Norris got nothing on that.

    There are hard men in every generation. Men who, as it says on the front of a claymore “Face Towards Enemy”. Some of them die well, some of them get hit by a random bullet. Some die in bed surrounded by grandchildren who heard *cool* stories.

    And yeah the education system in the US is bad. Not as bad as most of the world, all things considered, but I came from a good part of it (relatively speaking), and I know both what the Articles of Confederation were (WERE) and what Article 10 of the BoR says (mostly, I can’t quote from memory because I tend not to commit to memory what I can look up trivially).

    I have a very, very good friend of my from the Houston area. Has a “big” ranch near there. He lives on the west coast, because (as he quotes Gen. Sheridan) “If I owned Hell and Texas I’d live in Hell and rent out Texas”.

    But really it was a joke, an throw away line. At least it was intended to be. I didn’t *MEAN* for there to be a worm and a hook on it.

    But Texans are touchy. Like Japanese, and Muslims.

    I spent a christmas in San Antonio. At one of the cheep motels along I-10 across from TGIF. With a bottle of whiskey and a broke down motorcycle because no one in the city would rent me a car to drive to Lousiana, and the U-Haul places were closed until the day after Christmas. It’s not a bad town, but it’s a little flat.

    “””
    Tell me, do you have the same reaction when somebody from Germany says,”I’m a German,” rather than, “I’m a European?” If not, then WHY would you be surprised at myself or Jay claiming Texas in the same manner?
    “””

    Nope. “European” isn’t a country. It’s an attempt by a bunch of twits to build a trading block that can compete with the United States. Now, if I could routinely get a rise, or at least a chuckle out of them by calling them on it, I would.

    See, MOST people in the US think of themselves FIRST as Americans. They’re loyalty, to the extent they have any, is to their Country, not their state. And yeah, it’s a LOT more complicated than that. Most Americans would say “I’m from $STATE” rather than “I’m $STATEian” (unless the question was carefully phrased such as to elicit that response, your pollster may vary).

    In 1690 it *may* have been that most people in the newly formed United States of America thought of themselves as Virginians, or New Amsterdamn^w Yorkers, but that was before the Civil War (which would have been a LOT different if the Civilians would have won).

    The EU is a political and economic entity, and the treaty that formed it isn’t even a generation old. The closest thing they have to a common language is English, and their cultures are HEAVILY regionalised. Yes, “we” have some regional sub-cultures, but we have even more horizontally distributed cultures. A Punk from NYC will find the Silver Ballroom in St. Louis a LOT more comfortable than most of the people who live within a block of that establishment, but they’d be very comfortable at almost any sports bar in San Jose. Europe *may* get there in 40 years, but I’m betting the PIGS engender a rift that splits the EU apart. In 2000 I predicted that Europe would be at war with itself in “about” 15 years. The CIA was predicting something similar. I kinda hope I’m wrong, but we’ll see. At least Vacations will be cheap after that.

    And really I don’t *care* that Texans think they’re better than the rest of “us”. It’s just funny. That, and I’ve been drinking. Drink always makes me loquacious.

  67. I treasure the joke about a restaurant in Alaska listing their medium-sized orange juice as Texas-sized.

    Not that I’ve spent more than half my life in Delaware or anything.

    My ancestry is assorted Ashkenazi Jewish– half Litvak (Lithuanian) on both sides, and the rest Bylo-russian, Ukrainian, and such. I’ve heard that all of it is from what used to be the Lithuanian empire.

    When my head is on straight (that is, not when I’m arguing with Eric about what real science fiction is), I believe there’s a large element of invention about all this stuff, including being American.

    You see, I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading arguments about what science fiction is, and eventually I concluded that people imprint on what they perceive as the best examples of just about anything humanly interesting. The imprinting process is fast and unconscious and feels like direct perception of reality. As far as I know, there’s a physical basis for perceived best examples of colors, but this doesn’t mean there’s an objective way of deciding whether New Wave is science fiction.

    In re kafkatrapping and practical work on easily perceived injustices: At this point, I’ve got at least sketchy knowledge of the lives of a fair number of people who use the privilege etc. construct, and there’s only one who talks about doing any sort of practical work on a related issue. I’m inclined to think that the privilege etc. model makes it much harder to contact with people who don’t share it– and that’s just about everybody.

    Also, is there any solid knowledge of to what extent people’s thinking (including defaults in art) changes political arrangements, and to what extent it follows political arrangements?

  68. ESR:

    Have you considered having your DNA unraveled and use that to determine a more definitive ancestry?

  69. Nancy Lebovitz: “I believe there’s a large element of invention about all this stuff, including being American.”

    Nonsense. There are two ways one can be an American:

    1) The US Constitution defines rather clearly what one needs to do to be defined as an American. This is the broadest and most definitive set that divides “American” from “Non-American”. As much as it disgusts me, this does include Universal Life Church members, Communists, and people who think it’s ok for a revolver to have 8 shots.

    2) A much more nebulous set is those whose ideals and beliefs expressed in word or deed define themselves according to some general and hard to clearly state ideals of what it is to be an American. I am dead set against Illegal Immigration, but some young Salvadoran walks his ass up here, gets a job washing dishes, gets a better education, and works his way up until he buys himself a house, starts a company etc. etc. without government handouts, well, IMO he’s more American than some twit born in the US who’s parents pissed all over the flag, who hung out with anti-american professors who hide behind the constitution, and who spent most of their adult lives working for the downfall of this country.

    So no, there’s at least one definition of American that is only invented in the sense that a bunch of people argued about it, then wrote it down and voted on it. If you want to call that “invented” then we’re going to have to have a semantic argument.

    With that I gotta get to bed. I got a bunch of rifles that won’t shoot themselves tomorrow.

  70. >Have you considered having your DNA unraveled and use that to determine a more definitive ancestry?

    No, hadn’t thought about it. The information might be mildly interesting, but it’s hard to imagine how anything I might learn from it would make a difference in my life or my self-image. I mean, I’m not going to turn out to be the Dauphin of France or the Kwisatz Haderach or anything. :-)

  71. >With that I gotta get to bed. I got a bunch of rifles that won’t shoot themselves tomorrow.

    And that closing line is a bit of I’m-an-American credential right there. :-)

  72. @Russell Nelson, @dgreer, @j-jay:

    @dgreer, @j.jay: no, I’m pretty sure that it’s the Kingdom of Hawai’i. And I think it goes a bit beyond state pride, to an actual secessionist movement, like the Quebequois.

    Yep.Given the historical legitimacy of Hawai’i as a US terrority in the first place — as in zero — it’s not much of a surprise. You guys should read about the coup that overthrew the royal monarchy in Hawai’i, if you don’t already know it. Fascinating stuff — lots of intrigue and subterfuge, including an illegitimate (and possibly illegal) use of U.S. troops.

    A true secession probably won’t ever happen, but the history that led to it is quite fascinating.

  73. Whereas I believe that if there’s an American character it’s the belief that something must be done. Thinking is permitted but optional.

    In that sense, both people who are strongly pro- and anti- gun are showing more American traits than those who don’t care about the subject.

  74. >In that sense, both people who are strongly pro- and anti- gun are showing more American traits than those who don’t care about the subject.

    No, on this one the conservatives are right. Anti-gunners are un-American, and I base that judgment on what the Founders said repeatedly and consistently about the moral and constitutional function of civilian firearms. There’s a reason only the free-speech/free-assembly guarantee is the only one that comes earlier in the Bill of Rights.

  75. @ESR “I mean, I’m not going to turn out to be the Dauphin of France or the Kwisatz Haderach”

    So _that_’s what the Eric Conspiracy was really about…

  76. Thinking is permitted but optional.

    Thinking is mandatory.

    “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government;… whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.” –Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, 1789. ME 7:253

  77. > ESR: I mean, I’m not going to turn out to be the Dauphin of France or the Kwisatz Haderach or anything. :-)

    Well, you might turn out to be The One, at least. In which case you’d be forever damned to having 100% of your computer interfacing done in green on black letters.

  78. Well, you might turn out to be The One, at least. In which case you’d be forever damned to having 100% of your computer interfacing done in green on black letters

    Well, except that his name’s not Neo. He may, however, turn out to be The Rice.

  79. There’s a reason only the free-speech/free-assembly guarantee is the only one that comes earlier in the Bill of Rights.

    As good as this sounds, and as much as it should be true, it’s not. The original set of submitted amendments numbered 12, not 10; the first two were the ones not ratified (the first one, which specified a number of Representatives, was never ratified, while the second, forbidding Congressional pay increases from taking effect until after an election. became the Twenty-Seventh Amendment in 1992). Thus, not even freedom of speech came first.

  80. >Eric, are there any traits you disapprove of which you’d say are fundamentally American?

    That took some thinking; I had to exclude things like the ugly nativist streak American politics occasionally displays, because that happens everywhere on Earth at the same or more intense levels, and it’s not discernably tied to the Constitution or other formative history of the U.S.

    I think my top candidate is this: the Jacksonian plurality in the U.S. is too tolerant of debt and profligacy, both on an individual and national level. The unusually high level of religiosity in the U.S. ain’t so great either.

    I might have put our relatively high per-capita incidence of crime and violence at the top of the list, except that’s largely an illusion derived from ignoring its distribution – outside a handful of large urban areas those levels drop to parity with Switzerland.

  81. “Don’t anagonize the host. Especially when he is this unhappy with you. It doesn’t matter if you are right and he’s wrong. On a blog, the host is king!”

    I dropped in because this url was posted on alt.fan.heinlein, a usenet group. I really enjoyed the discussion, beyond the little fascinating Heinlein reference. The original post about ethic identity was really interesting and many of the discussions were great. And some old friends are “here,” some who no longer come to usenet.

    But the above is why I don’t spend any real time in the blogverse. Even though I side with the host in the discussion involved, even though he has handled it without harshness, it just isn’t isn’t as good.


    Will in New Haven

  82. In any social group, competition for resources (i.e. wealth acquisition) often involves the use of many different tactics and tools. Either downplaying a perceived negative ethnicity or promoting a perceived positive ethnicity can sometimes help someone gain an advantage or get ahead. I, too, am an ethnic mongrel, but many of my mother’s-side Italian relatives had to Americanized their surnames in order to get into college or enter certain WASP-dominated professions.

    At the individual level, ethnic manipulation can be a normative practice. However, at the macro social-political level, employing group ethnicity as a strategic weapon is ultimately about the raw exercise of power. It’s practitioners aim to subjugate others through guilt, coercion, or government mandate.

    It is not enough to merely explain that individual ethnicity is irrelevant in American culture; we must clearly point out that in-your-face race merchants are frequently incipient tyrants.

  83. > “ESR: The unusually high level of religiosity in the U.S. ain’t so great either.”

    Eric… please look over circa-2010 Russia. The religiosity (especially the kind you might likely object to) level is orders of magnitude higher. See here for basic reference of the mood that has re-surged in modern Russian with a mighty vengeance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthodoxy,_Autocracy,_and_Nationality – and the first part of the triad means “orthodox christian supremacy”, not any other connotation.

    While I might conceivably disagree with some minor aspects of religious influence on American life (the whole silly creationism/evolution debate and the idiotic Terry Chiaivo crusade being most recent examples I paid attention to), saying that this is somehow “fundamentally American” is naive to the extreme and not something I’d expect out of someone with ESR’s level of knowledge of the world.

    For fun examples of how Russia’s different, look at homosexual treatment there (like what happens when you try a pride parade in Moscow… and what happens when you try it in rural area). And how they treat Wiccans.

  84. > “ESR: The unusually high level of religiosity in the U.S. ain’t so great either.”

    What exactly is wrong with it? Our religiousity is one of the things that make us uniquely American. This nation needs Christian morality to survive and thrive. Even many non-christians acknowledge this.

    Personally I am proud to live in a country with a proud tradition of religious liberty. People need to believe in something, this is a good thing and makes them human.

    What other country is as live and let live for various religions, even for stuff like Wicca?

    We even tolerate stuff that we probably shouldn’t, like Scientology.

  85. Just because a society tolerates all religions does not mean that the reciprocal is true.

    Westboro Baptist Church, for example.

    (And contrary to many interpretations of the 1st Amendment, the intended aim was not to make the entire country non-denominational, but to say that every State could have their own State Church….)

  86. The Westboro baptist? Really?

    And how many people belong to that? You are talking about a splinter of a splinter.

  87. Ken Burnside,

    > Westboro Baptist Church, for example.

    Not a useful example. It’s tiny, the extended family of one man. It has a talent for self promotion, bolstered by its unethical usefulness to people who are bigoted against Evangelicals. Please don’t be snookered by this favorite whipping boy of the left, which uses it’s outrageous behavior both to get the publicity it so desperately desires and the occasional lawsuit (they are also a family of lawyers) against someone who loses his or her temper and treats a family member in a manner which perhaps should be protected by the law, but in fact is frowned upon.

    They are also Democrats, and it’s unfair to mention that, too – except to shut up the people who are unethically using this tiny group of outliers as a pawn to support GLTB people as yet another group of victims of an ism.

    Yes, I’m an Evangelical Republican from Kansas. Why do you ask?

    If you want a much better example, the current vague distaste among most Christians for Mormonism used to be something much worse. And the KKK used nativist anti-Catholicism and Jew-hating as well. There has always been a religious component to anti-Catholicism, although I think it’s mostly nationalist sentiment grafted onto Christianity. Before the Revolution it was called the Church of England, after all. But the Jew-Hatred is something of which Christians should be ashamed, both on moral and theological grounds. Jesus was a Jew! And Peter, James, John and Paul, among nearly everyone mentioned in the New Testament as disciples.

    Yours,
    Tom

  88. Alex R. says:
    >> There are many levels of racism, ranging from straightforward lynching, to scumbag politicians/commentators who use phrases like “welfare queen” and “states rights” as racist dogwhistles when seeking votes, to the dawgs who fetch when they hear that whistle and claim to be tolerant all the while. It needs to be called out at every level, hopefully while being positive and pleasant, but still firm.

    This sounds like a comment from 1991. “Welfare queen” was uttered by the first president Bush. In the world we live in today the real problem are the scumbags who use false accusations of racism to intimidate their political opponents.

    For example congressman Lewis who falsely claimed to be called the n-word numerous times at a tea party rally. Andrew Breitbart offered a $100,000 reward to anyone who could produce video evidence of this, the crowd was full of people who had cameras. No one has claimed the reward, and no one is going to, because it never happened.

    The lamestream media wants to lay down a narrative that the tea partiers are racists, it is too bad for them that reality is not cooperating. The JournoList disclosures make quite clear that this is how the state controlled media operate.

  89. >Eric… please look over circa-2010 Russia. The religiosity (especially the kind you might likely object to) level is orders of magnitude higher.

    You’re quite right. But the U.S. is exceptionally religious among first-world countries.

  90. >What exactly is wrong with it? Our religiousity is one of the things that make us uniquely American. This nation needs Christian morality to survive and thrive. Even many non-christians acknowledge this.

    I don’t. My opinion of Christianity is as negative as my opinion of socialism, and for pretty much the same reasons.

  91. > ESR: “You’re quite right. But the U.S. is exceptionally religious among first-world countries.”

    I’d really like to see you try to hold a Wiccan ceremony in any of the islamist heavv areas of UK, France or Germany. Preferably withe heavily armed guard on standby since a stoned and burned alive ESR can not continue his valuable contributions to society (the latter was in all seriousness, in case it unintentionally sounded like sarcasm)

  92. The Westboro baptist? Really?

    And how many people belong to that? You are talking about a splinter of a splinter.

    And somehow, when Muslims make the same argument about Wahhabism (“Oh, they’re just a tiny splinter of the true glory of Islam…”), the argument doesn’t carry weight with conservatives. Particularly Evangelicals and religious conservatives.

    If you are an Evangelical, these morons are smearing shit on your public image.

    Yes, I am aware that not all Evangelicals are like Westboro Batshit church. However, it’s also not MY public image getting smeared in feces – you don’t want it to stick to you, clean up the mess.

    At least for the Muslims, I hold a small amount of sympathy. Their batshit crazy wing also tends to fire mortars and talk young people who see no future for themselves into blowing themselves up in marketplaces. I can understand having some caution in chastising the Taliban in that circumstance.

    But Evangelicals who are not going out of their way to protest what Fred Phelps is doing to their religion, who aren’t picketing his church, who aren’t using the various ecumenical structures of their faith to make him toe the line or admit to apostasy? That’s either agreement with his message, or cowardice. Neither one speaks well of your movement.

    I have VASTLY more respect for the fen at San Diego Comic Con who counterprotested with atheist slogans and with signs saying “All That Is Required For Evil To Prosper Is For Good Men/Women/Androids/Time Lords/Sophonts To Do Nothing”, “All Glory to Hypno-Toad” or “Fags are Sexy Beasts”.

    I was very much pleased by the video of the man dressed as Jesus organizing everyone into a large group recital of the Green Lantern Oath. (Sadly, that YouTube clip got taken down, or I’d link to it.)

  93. Darrencardinal:

    This nation needs Christian morality to survive and thrive.

    Horseshit and hogwash. You make the same fatal error that many Christian fundamentalists do: that morality must have a religious basis. This is not true, and never has been.

    I am an atheist, and yet I subscribe to a moral code that you would no doubt recognize as familiar and approve of. The only difference is that I don’t need threats of eternal damnation from a father figure in a 2000-year-old fairy tale to make me adhere to it. I do it because it’s right.

    I recognize your right to believe as you wish. Please don’t deny mine by making statements like these that imply that I’m necessarily {a,im}moral.

  94. Ken Burnside says:
    >> And somehow, when Muslims make the same argument about Wahhabism (”Oh, they’re just a tiny splinter of the true glory of Islam…”), the argument doesn’t carry weight with conservatives. Particularly Evangelicals and religious conservatives.

    If you are an Evangelical, these morons are smearing shit on your public image. >>

    The difference is that the Wahhabists are far larger, and more dangerous, than some losers from Westboro church, and that stupid church is not flying planes into buildings and committing other acts of terrorism. Nor is it inspiring stupid Americans to join their cause, the recent Times Square bomber being the most recent example.

    I am not an evangelical, they are not smearing my image. I am a jew as a matter of fact. I tend to be very skeptical, myself, of the evangelicals and christian right. A dumbass like Fred Phelps certainly does not speak for me, I feel no need to either support or defend him but rather to ignore him. How dare you.
    I would also point out that the people from that church are democrats, not republicans.
    I find it interesting that many people are far more eager to criticize these christians than the moslems, and I suspect it is because you know you can say anything you want about the christians and they are not going to do anything. Not so the muslims. Funny that you show sympathy for the muslims but not the christians. Perhaps the violence of the muslims secretly excites you, while the passivity of the christians inspires only contempt.

    I too thought the comic-con protesters were hilarious btw. ;) I especially liked Bender holding a sign saying, “Kill all humans.”

  95. Jay Maynard says:

    >> Horseshit and hogwash. You make the same fatal error that many Christian fundamentalists do: that morality must have a religious basis. This is not true, and never has been.

    Jay, maybe you can survive without believing in anything but most people cannot, they need to believe in something.

    Morality does in fact have a religious basis, and this nation was founded on that foundation. Specifically, a religous based morality is needed to counter the nihilism that comes from atheists and the culture at large.
    When god is dead, all things are permitted, like it or not.

    Nor did I say that you were immoral, as a regular at this blog I would be willing to bet that you are a stand up guy. But not everyone is like that unfortunately.

  96. >Specifically, a religous based morality is needed to counter the nihilism that comes from atheists and the culture at large.
    When god is dead, all things are permitted, like it or not.

    This is the first time you’ve sounded like an idiot in my hearing. I’m pretty sure you’re not actually an idiot, so read this and try not to repeat the maneuver.

  97. Nice try Eric I have read that essay before.

    But like it or not this is a nation with a christian basis. I say this even though I am not a christian. Most Americans are not atheists, and are never going to be. Talking about Altaic shamans is largely irrelevant, there is a reason that the christians swept away the pagan religions.

  98. And somehow, when Muslims make the same argument about Wahhabism (”Oh, they’re just a tiny splinter of the true glory of Islam…”), the argument doesn’t carry weight with conservatives.

    There are a metric assload more Wahhabist mosques and madrassas than there are far-out “Christian” churches like Westboro Baptist, wacko cults like the Branch Davidians, polygamous splinter Mormons, etc.

    And there is a very important distinction between the two religions. Jesus explicitly renounced any connection between His church and the world’s governments. Mohammed just as explicitly built Islam as a synthesis of religion and state. The only legitimate state under Islam is the Caliphate; its only law Sharia. Therefore, hateful bastards like the anything-but-reverend Fred Phelps and church-state syntheses like the Inquisitions and Witch Trials are apostates, while those who preach a more moderate form of Islam are the apostates (as the Wahhabists never tire of pointing out).

  99. >But like it or not this is a nation with a christian basis.

    Don’t change the subject. You claimed that without a religion as you understand the term, morality would collapse. That’s not true, and the essay refutes it; whether or not most Americans will ever be atheists is a completely unrelated question.

  100. Fair enough.

    I do not think that without religion, morality would immediately collapse and people would go out in the street and start having the red hour.
    But I could see that over time morality would be weakened, gradually.
    The idea of g-d is inescapable, it is part of who we are. Even you, yourself, are not strictly an atheist no? You also claim to be a wiccan.
    Pure atheism was not enough for you. Or for anyone, I think; it is a thin gruel.

    I am not a torah thumper, I do not regularly attend synagogue. But still i believe in the G-d of my forefathers.

  101. >Even you, yourself, are not strictly an atheist no?

    I don’t believe that gods exist independently of the humans who imagine and worship them. In your terms I think that makes me a pretty hard-shell atheist.

  102. > I don’t believe that gods exist independently of the humans who imagine and worship them. In your terms I think that makes me a pretty hard-shell atheist.

    Does it? I wonder.

    One wonders what Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins would make of a wiccan atheist.

    If you really are an atheist then being a wiccan seems like little more than a silly pretend game.

  103. @ TomA “…individual ethnicity is irrelevant in American culture…”

    Yes, but it’s the behavior of the immigrants who created American culture that has made it so.

    With relatively few exceptions, all American citizens today are immigrants, or descended directly from immigrants.

    I myself am only a second-generation American. None of my grandparents were born in this country, and a fair number of my aunts and uncles were not born here. My mother’s people lived in Poland, though her father was part German (he was illegitimate). My father’s people were of mixed Polish and Ukrainian ancestry, and lived what we now call the Ukraine but what was, at the time of their emigration, was called Austria (because the Austrians were running it). If ESR’s background is “European dominator party mix”, mine is more like “European-oppressed peasant party mix”.

    Anyway, all of my relatives began their new lives by promptly changing their names to look more American, and assimilated so well as to nearly forget their ancestry. My mother and aunt could barely speak Polish by the time I was old enough to be interested (12, say). The same was true of my father’s family and Ukrainian. Neither of my parents knew very much about the old country because they had been born here, and both left home young. By the time they regularly saw their parents again, said parents were in poor health and little inclined to think about the Old World, and well before I was old enough to care all four of my grandparents and my older aunts and uncles (i.e., the ones born in the Old World) were dead. So even if I wanted to learn about my family history, it would be an uphill climb (though one of my second cousins is attempting that; I should get in touch with her again).

    My point is that most of us are here because their ancestors chose to be, and most of us have no real “ethnicity” other than “American” because those ancestors made deliberate decisions to build a life here and forget their past. That’s worth thinking about, in the context of this discussion.

  104. >If you really are an atheist then being a wiccan seems like little more than a silly pretend game.

    Google for “Dancing With The Gods” and read. And that’s enough on this topic for this thread.

  105. >most of us have no real “ethnicity” other than “American” because those ancestors made deliberate decisions to build a life here and forget their past.

    Yes. My impression is that it’s actually fairly unusual for Americans to know even as much about their own ancestry as I do, and in many cases that is due to a semi-deliberate act of forgetting, of cutting ties with the past and reinventing one’s self. That’s a very American thing to do.

  106. Darrencardinal wrote:
    “What exactly is wrong with it? Our religiousity is one of the things that make us uniquely American. This nation needs Christian morality to survive and thrive. Even many non-christians acknowledge this.

    Nope. Sorry. We are not, in any way, a Christian nation, and our morality comes from many, many sources, including the Code of Hammurabi (who was the king of a polytheistic state,) Greek and Roman law (once again, not Christian in any way, shape, or form,) Old Testament Law, (Jewish, not Christian) and a giant number of European philosophers who, in many cases, rejected religion.

  107. So, Darren – tell me how Deism meshes with ‘Christian Morality’. Given that Deism is a fairly firm belief that God is non-interventionist, and that it implicitly denies the divinity of Christ?

    Deist thought weaves through most of the writing of the founders of the country. Eric’s opinion is that Deism was a fig leaf for agnosticism or atheism, I contend that it’s not quite to the former rather than the latter.

    I have every beef in the world with religious fanaticism. I don’t care if Westboro Batshit is Christian or Democratic. I don’t care that CAIR is largely Muslim and Democratic. I care that both of them regard the idea of temporal tolerance for religion as a weakness in society to be exploited.

    I am firmly convinced that what we’re seeing right now is the equivalent of the Reformation of Islam. The only way we’re going to be happy with the results is if we make it abundantly clear that tolerance of creeds means that creeds needs must be tolerable.

    I don’t consider suicide bombers, genital mutilation, and keeping females uneducated and as chattel property to be tolerable, any more than I consider Westboro Batshit Church to be tolerable. I also wrote op-ed pieces when CAIR did deliberately provocatory behaviors at airports to attract security, and then claimed “oppression, oppression!” when they were rounded up.

    Belief in God != belief in an organized religion. Saying that one must belong to {a,this} religion to understand morality is astoundingly blind. God, I believe in, though (completing the circle), I have more in common with the Deists, and Thomas Jefferson than I do in any current Christian sect.

    I know several highly moral and ethical atheists. It doesn’t require the belief in the afterlife, or threats by God The Shepherd, to make one behave in an ethical manner, or a moral manner. I also know several atheist fanatics – and I argue with them, too. Fanatic atheism is a component of Communism, and has a death toll of around 100 million, and that blood is on their hands.

    Just remember: For a society to tolerate a creed, the creed must be tolerable to the majority of society. It is up to members of that creed to clean up their own mess; the results are infinitely worse if society as a whole does so.

  108. @esr:

    Yes. My impression is that it’s actually fairly unusual for Americans to know even as much about their own ancestry as I do, and in many cases that is due to a semi-deliberate act of forgetting, of cutting ties with the past and reinventing one’s self. That’s a very American thing to do.

    Yet genealogy research is something that has been making a bit of comeback, especially on the Internet, which is a particularly well-suited environment since it enables easy collaboration. In fact, a brief look at any of the Net’s genealogy forums will quickly reveal that genealogy researchers typically do ‘open source’-style research. Many (most) of these researchers know nothing or little about open source, yet they subconsciously adopted its methodology.

    I think increasingly more Americans have been looking to reconnect their ancestral ties. Not exactly sure why, but I noticed that genealogy research took a big upswing after 9/11. Probably has to do with same cultural reasons we’ve seen a big upswing in interest in religion, but I’m certainly no great anthropologist.

  109. Daniel Weber Says:
    > Sometimes I think of myself as African.
    > Sure, my ancestors moved out a million years ago, never went back,
    > and separated enough for environmental adaptation to reduced
    > levels of sun, but everybody on Earth came from the same place,
    > if you just go back far enough.

    I would not be surprised if somewhere there is a Face Book group of folks who also think of themselves that way, and ‘check the box’ accordingly on all their applications.

  110. When god is dead, all things are permitted, like it or not.

    More horseshit and hogwash. It is entirely possible to form, subscribe, and live by a code of morality that rests on just one principle, shared by everything that people recognize as religions. It’s the principle known to Christians as the Golden Rule.

    That principle, if followed fully and completely, results in a moral code that Christians only disagree with in that it says nothing about a deity. All things are definitely not permitted.

    If you say that the Golden Rule was set forth by God, I’ll turn around and ask “which one”? It’s not a Christian idea.

  111. All of this discussion about religion and morals does bring up a point, though…Regardless of religion, it’s safe to say that Americans, by and large, think about morality and try to apply those thoughts consciously to a greater degree than most other places. I’m not saying they’re {a,im}moral, just that they’re not as conscious about it as we are.

  112. As usual, ESR is making a profound point with this posting on ethnicity. American is synonymous with ethnic mongrel, and our society has greater acceptance of ethnic and racial intermarriage than any other place on the planet. I would argue that this is one of our core strengths. We prefer to value people based upon their merit and integrity rather than a happenstance of heritage. I wish this discussion could focus solely on the positive attribute of this reality, but sadly, there are wolves among us that will exploit ethnic and racial divisions in order to pit good people against each other; all while lying in wait to pounce when the population is weak and spent. I fear that this is not a problem we can talk our way out of.

  113. If you say that the Golden Rule was set forth by God, I’ll turn around and ask “which one”? It’s not a Christian idea.

    Not by a long shot. Most of the general principles taught in the Christian New Testament probably have their basis in Hinduism, while Judaism and the Christian Old Testament had been very much influenced by Zoroastrianism. Christianity likely began as a Jewish reform movement; if there ever was an historical Yeshua bin Miriam (and some very controversial biblical scholars at least seem to think not), he was likely an Essene Jewish reformer who adopted ideas from the East.

  114. > The unusually high level of religiosity in the U.S. ain’t so great either.

    The unusually high level of religiosity in the U.S. is annoying (at least to a non-religious/atheist type like myself) but I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that it is healthy. Sort of like having a varied & robust set of intestinal micro-flora – icky, but the alternative can be really bad for you.

    And it shows that the answer to “how can the government best help religion?” is the same as the answer to “how can the government best help business?” – Laissez-nous faire. Leave it alone.

  115. At the risk of being on topic… I’ve been calling myself a “Euromutt” for a while. Nice and snappy. Ran a “find” over both posts to make sure it hadn’t come up yet.

  116. Ken Burnside,

    Please don’t feed the Meatspace trolls.

    > But Evangelicals who are not going out of their way to protest what F–d Ph—s is doing to their religion, who aren’t picketing his church, who aren’t using the various ecumenical structures of their faith to make him toe the line or admit to apostasy? That’s either agreement with his message, or cowardice. Neither one speaks well of your movement.

    A troll on the internet is a person who likes negative attention and goes around stirring up trouble and getting into internet fights just to get it. This is negative attention, but it is attention.

    It occurred to me that F–d Ph—s and his family are professional Meatspace trolls. They thrive on negative attention, particularly if video cameras are around. They live off lawsuits when the negative attention laps over into illegality. If you picket his church, you are feeding the trolls. It absolutely will not deter them at all. They want you to picket the church. And if you mess up they know the law and you will end up paying them money. Oops.

    There aren’t any “ecumenical structures of their faith to make him toe the line or admit to apostasy”. That church accepts no other authority than the Bible and Ph—s. There is no way to discipline it, other than to shun it. That’s occurring.

    People have instinctively adopted a don’t feed the trolls attitude towards Ph—s. That’s why I’m not spelling out the name, BTW. I don’t even want the Ph—s clan to get attention via Google.

    What we should do is tell every TV station that shows video of the clan, every radio show and blog that mentions them this: Don’t feed the trolls!

    Now let’s look at some numbers.

    Muslims and Christians both have about a billion adherents. There are twelve million Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia alone. There are 100 members of that church. You are very numerate. Do the math! Christianity does not have a Ph—s problem. That church is a wild outlier. We learn nothing about Christianity from them, except that crazy and unethical people can twist Christianity to evil ends, just like they can all other philosophies and religions. Christianity has a problem with deceptive propaganda being spread about the Ph—s clan and Christianity. You are helping to spread it. Please stop.

    I would be happy to discuss the many, many real problems Christianity has which I would like reformed with you. You can use them to complain about Christianity rather than that little church. Unlike your example, the ones I give will involve large numbers of Christians. I gave three historical ones above. These days Christianity has problems with adultery and divorce. Christians practice adultery and get divorced at essentially the same rate as the general population. Since Christianity teaches that adultery and divorce are wrong, you can see the problem. Christians believe (and some studies confirm) that divorce is bad for men, women and children. Christians also believe that adultery is wrong, both because it breaks a promise and because it is very hurtful, often leading to divorce. Yet Christians are still practicing adultery and getting divorced.

    At my church we have a men’s group. Right now we studying ways to avoid sexual sin, including adultery, and hopefully there will be fewer divorces because of this. In my opinion, divorce and it’s causes are a real problem for the Church to address. Ph—s? Not so much.

    Yours,
    Tom

  117. A few comments:

    esr: “this might have happened in early 1813 during the first phase of Napoleon’s retreat from the city…”

    Napoleon captured Moscow on September 14, 1812. The city had been evacuated by the Russian army, and there was no resistance to the French entry. Soon afterwards, fires broke out that destroyed most of the largely wooden city. The surrounding countryside had been stripped of food. Napoleon had to retreat, and left Moscow in mid-October. The remnants of his army crossed into Poland (at Kovno, now Kaunas, on the Niemen River) on December 14.

    If your ancestor was killed near Moscow, it was in 1812. If he was killed in 1813, it may have been against Russian troops. but it was nowhere near Moscow. Also, Napoleon was initially regarded by many Germans as a liberator, and his armies mustered thousands of German troops. See “Confederation of the Rhine.” An Alsatian would be considered French nationality though.

    As to your more recent ancestor’s ethnic self-identification: Alsace was German territory until acquired by Louis XIV in the late 1600s. It remained French until 1870, when it was ceded to Germany. Though many of the locals still spoke a Germanic dialect at home, this did not go over well, especially as Germany held Alsace as a sort of colony, rather than as an equal part of Germany. However, it seems likely to me that your ancestor might have started referring to his background as “German”, because that was who now owned the land of his ancestors. And you are probably right that this changed during the anti-German hysteria which accompanied U.S. entry into World War I. Then in 1918, France regained Alsace, and the identification would follow.

    “’Bishops’ under some German Protestant sect that used the title”.

    That would be Lutheran; they have bishops. The German “Reformed” or “Congregational” church being Calvinist, does not. Neither do the German Baptist sects such as Hutterites, Mennonites. The “Moravian” Church had bishops, too.

    For anyone who claims that God is the font of morality: then presumably morality is whatever God wants it to be – and God can change His mind. If the Heavens open and God declares that buggery, bestiality, and incest are now morally OK, those who accept God as moral authority have to accept those practices as moral. If one wants to say “God would never do that”, then, well, why not? Because these things are “intrinsically” wrong? Then one is arguing for a moral law that binds God – and must have some origin outside him.

  118. Interesting about the extent to which a lot of Americans have made a deliberate effort to wipe out their previous ethnicity.

    My family (great-parents left Eastern Europe) made a fair job of it. IIRC, my parents knew enough Yiddish to use it for saying things they didn’t want the kids to understand. I know less Yiddish than the average non-Jewish New Yorker. On the other hand, I was sent to Hebrew school (generally 4 1/2 hours/week) for 10 years. I don’t think it was an efficient use of my time, nor that it was a total waste. I do think of it as a kind of thing that parents can do to their kids without it being disruptive to the larger society.

    And we did have an unused brass samovar in the family room, which I believe is (was?) a Jewish (Russian?) marker.

    I’ve heard that Chinese-American kids are apt to be sent to Chinese school, without the excuse of maintaining a religion. I don’t think this is just awful, either, though I do think people are kidding themselves if they think they can maintain a culture that way. Culture is learned at home. School can’t teach the “this is the obvious way for people to live” aspect of a culture.

    Still, I recommend The Breath of a Wok, not just because it’s transcendently geeky discussion of woks, starting with how they’re made and going on to various aspects of street cooking and recipes, but because the author gets fun out of the details of being Chinese in somewhat the same way I get fun out of being Jewish, except that she has more gusto about it.

    I’ve got some traits which I think of as more Jewish than than mainstream American– like not being able to take sports seriously and not believing that athleticism is a proof of virtue, and I don’t think it’s a problem, for me or for America. Countries are better off for having some variety among their citizens.

    This being said, we’re better off if old grudges are forgotten. (See Stan Rogers’ The House of Orange lyrics.) On the other hand, I’ve got some twitchiness about Christianity which I’m pretty sure is culturally driven (I’ve had practically no personal experience of poor quality Christianity or of anti-Semitism), and I’m still not sure about whether I should work on not having it.

    Back to generalizations: I think Americans have gotten more past/ethnicity/genealogy oriented in my lifetime, and I think “Roots” did it. Good thing? Bad thing? Just one of those things?

    My impression is that most Americans have some beliefs about their ancestry (my thanks to Eric for pointing out that the beliefs aren’t necessarily accurate), but I may be over-generalizing from fandom.

    A notion from the Jewish annex to RaceFail: Anyone who thinks they can and should develop their own view of religion with nothing but a little reading and their own mind (that is, without extensive study and reference to tradition) is taking a Protestant approach, no matter what they say their religion is. This may not be fair to the original Protestants, but may be a good enough description of American defaults. What do you think?

    Anyone know the history of Texan being a strong identity? I have a guess that the modern version didn’t take form until well after the Alamo.

  119. Countries are better off for having some variety among their citizens.

    This much is true. However, more recent immigrants are, to many people, rather defiant about retaining their entire cultural and language identities even though they claim to want to become Americans. This is what’s angering many Americans, especially about the current flood of illegal Mexican immigrants: they’re not even trying to become American.

  120. Anyone know the history of Texan being a strong identity? I have a guess that the modern version didn’t take form until well after the Alamo.

    I’m not sure that’s so much the case. Texans were definitely a breed unto themselves during the Civil War, just 25 years after the Alamo; Texan units were considered wild and undisciplined, and proud of it – and deadly fighters in battle. Not sure how much that differs from the modern form you’re thinking of. I’d say it was more the other way around: the modern form of Texas pride is in no small part a conscious emulation of that era.

  121. William O. B’Livion >In 1690 it *may* have been that most people in the newly formed United States of America …

    Just a Nit, but I think you meant “1790″ :^).

    > That, and I’ve been drinking. Drink always makes me loquacious.

    This is a highly entertaining post so to quote John Belushi, “I recommend you drink heavily.” ;^)

  122. This much is true. However, more recent immigrants are, to many people, rather defiant about retaining their entire cultural and language identities even though they claim to want to become Americans. This is what’s angering many Americans, especially about the current flood of illegal Mexican immigrants: they’re not even trying to become American.

    I think that Americans who are upset about that sort of thing don’t have enough faith in America.

    American culture is, to a large extent, based on letting people get what they want much more than most cultures. It’s an attractive thing to join, and joining it gives you access to a much wider range of people than staying in one subculture. The parents can do what they want, but the vast majority of kids will join the mainstream.

  123. Jay, from my point of view, the modern form seems like unending self-congratulation over things which aren’t all that distinctive– most groups have some heroism in their background– or self-congratulation over being self-congratulatory.

    It seems like a parasitic meme, though it may be pretty harmless.

    I’ve heard complaints from Europeans about excessive American self-congratulation, though not recently. Of course, I don’t have the foggiest idea of what they’re talking about, mostly because I’m not sure whether they congratulate themselves just as much.

    As usual, I move to a more abstract level (a clear sign of personal superiority). Do people need to believe they’re from a superior group just to get through the day?

  124. Tom Degisi> If you want a much better example, the current vague distaste among most Christians for Mormonism used to be something much worse. And the KKK used nativist anti-Catholicism and Jew-hating as well. There has always been a religious component to anti-Catholicism, although I think it’s mostly nationalist sentiment grafted onto Christianity. Before the Revolution it was called the Church of England, after all. But the Jew-Hatred is something of which Christians should be ashamed, both on moral and theological grounds. Jesus was a Jew! And Peter, James, John and Paul, among nearly everyone mentioned in the New Testament as disciples.

    Tom: Couple of nits.

    First “Church of England” is the Episcopal Church, not the Catholic Church.

    The KKK used Christianity for the same reason that Hitler did, it allowed them to put a veneer of religous authority on a solid foundation of bull shit.

    And as for “Westboro Baptist Church”, religiously, call them what they are: Blasphemers. They’ll burn until their done.

  125. I’ve heard complaints from Europeans about excessive American self-congratulation, though not recently.

    Meaning not since Obama was elected?

    Of course, I don’t have the foggiest idea of what they’re talking about, mostly because I’m not sure whether they congratulate themselves just as much.

    The thing you have to remember about Europeans is that they still have powerful cultural memories of the more dangerous forms of nationalism — in a way that we don’t. We fought the bastards, but it wasn’t our lands being taken and it wasn’t our women and children being gassed.

    So they look at George Bush and the whole conservative movement, who ordained and condoned torture while loudly patting America on the back, and that gives Europeans some scary brushy-moustached flashbacks.

  126. > I think that Americans who are upset about that sort of thing don’t have enough faith in America.

    It’s always nice to see ‘immigrants’ who come in, make some money, never learn english, then go back home. It happens enough to be annoying. These aren’t immigrants; they are migrant workers. I won’t address the fundamental economic issue (obviously someone on the US side is profiting or they wouldn’t come across).

    It’s complex though. Personally I get more annoyed at the UT kids than the die-hard Mexican culture pockets here in Austin.

  127. >This is what’s angering many Americans, especially about the current flood of illegal Mexican immigrants: they’re not even trying to become American.

    Let’s be fair, this is not entirely the immigrants’ fault. Our press and popular media no longer convey any message that being American is special or worthwhile – they wallow in anti-patriotism and an attitude that proclaims Americans are virtuous only when self-flagellating over their past sins. Why should immigrants assimilate when they’re hearing this from one direction and learning the power of being an official victim group from another?

  128. Jeff Read, I’m not sure when I stopped hearing European complaints about American self-congratualtion, but I think it was before Obama got elected. I will tentatively suggest that first they were being sympathetic about 9/11, and then they had more specific things to complain about.

    Anyone else notice a change in the complaint level?

    jsk:
    It’s always nice to see ‘immigrants’ who come in, make some money, never learn english, then go back home. It happens enough to be annoying. These aren’t immigrants; they are migrant workers. I won’t address the fundamental economic issue (obviously someone on the US side is profiting or they wouldn’t come across).

    This kind of complaint bewilders me. People come in and do useful work. They take the money to another country. Either they’ve lowered the price levels here (by adding production and taking away money) or the money eventually circulates back. Where’s the problem?

    UT kids?

    Eric, would it be feasible to number the comments? It would be easier to refer unambiguously to previous comments, and to keep track of how far I’ve gotten in a thread.

  129. Nancy Lebovitz:
    > This kind of complaint bewilders me. People come in and do useful work. They take the money
    > to another country. Either they’ve lowered the price levels here (by adding production and taking
    > away money) or the money eventually circulates back. Where’s the problem?

    Like I said, for me it’s just annoying; I don’t speak Spanish and I don’t have a huge interest in the language. My comment about someone profiting was meant to imply that there is a trade going on and that it is not one-sided. The workers wouldn’t come here if there were no profit; they wouldn’t get hired if they couldn’t do useful work. I have less problem with the economics than I do with the disregard.

    > UT kids?

    University of Texas students. Any college kids really, and I use the term ‘kids’ very explicitly. Not all college students are kids; I use the term to specify that specific brand of college brat that no one really likes outside of goggle-eyed nostalgia. Basically overgrown high-schoolers. I didn’t like them when I was in school, and I like them less when they cause the downtown population to skyrocket several thousand. Garumph!

  130. # Jay Maynard >>Anyone know the history of Texan being a strong identity? I have a guess that the modern version didn’t take form until well after the Alamo.

    >I’m not sure that’s so much the case. Texans were definitely a breed unto themselves during the Civil War, just 25 years after the Alamo; Texan units were considered wild and undisciplined, and proud of it – and deadly fighters in battle. Not sure how much that differs from the modern form you’re thinking of. I’d say it was more the other way around: the modern form of Texas pride is in no small part a conscious emulation of that era.

    Jay: You’re correct. I’ve know many life-long Texans who were born in the early 1900′s in my life, and my feelings as a Texan very much emulate theirs, and they very much emulated their fore fathers, some of who fought in the Revolution. As a people, Texan’s hold fast to their traditions and history, and our penchant for braggadocio doesn’t discourage this ;^).

  131. dgreer:
    > As a people, Texan’s hold fast to their traditions and history, and our penchant for braggadocio
    > doesn’t discourage this ;^).

    When I tell people I’m a Texan, they may say ‘You live in the South.’ No, I respond. I live in Texas. ; D

  132. >Eric, would it be feasible to number the comments? It would be easier to refer unambiguously to previous comments, and to keep track of how far I’ve gotten in a thread.

    I’ve tried to modify the PHP to do this and failed, alas.

  133. jsk> University of Texas students. Any college kids really, and I use the term ‘kids’ very explicitly. Not all college students are kids; I use the term to specify that specific brand of college brat that no one really likes outside of goggle-eyed nostalgia. Basically overgrown high-schoolers. I didn’t like them when I was in school, and I like them less when they cause the downtown population to skyrocket several thousand. Garumph!

    I used to have my office just off campus, under a parking garage for one of the private dorms. The scenery was good :^), but I hated being in the elevator with many of those kids because their conversations where so damned childish and self absorbed it caused physical pain to slap some since into them. And UT’s student body seems worse than any of the other universities I’ve been around.

  134. @esr: WordPress 3.0 has some nice changes in the comments UI to show when a comment is replying to another. I’m guessing updating wouldn’t be too hard.

  135. Eric, would it be feasible to number the comments? It would be easier to refer unambiguously to previous comments, and to keep track of how far I’ve gotten in a thread.

    But they are numbered (invisibly). Yours was #265868. They aren’t assigned on a per-page basis, but they do uniquely identify each comment, and rise as the thread continues.

    (Right-click the date/time under the commenter’s name, and Copy Link Location to get the exact comment URL containing the comment number.)

  136. DVK:

    here is a picture of a girl from the Cumanic regions of Hungary: http://vfek.vfmk.hu/00000153/kepek/51.jpg – my mum looks different, less slanted eyes but more pronounced cheekbones, but the Asian influence is nevertheless noticable. This doesn’t mean what you found is wrong – this place has always been a kind of a highway of people from the Migration Period to Mongolian and Turkish occupations, the genes are rather mixed. (The Cumans I consider the last players of the Migration Period, although it happened long after that period which is officially called so, around the XII. century yet it makes sense because they recipe was the old one: a new power arises around the Urals which presses the peoples of the Russian steppes to move westwards into Europe through the Carpathian basin, Turks and Hungarians under Turkish rule pressing Avars, then Pechenegs pressing Hungarians, then Cumans pressing Pechenegs, then Mongols pressing Cumans, same recipe all the time, with various results).

  137. @esr: Sorry for the repost, but based on your spam filtering troubles, I thought you might miss it: WordPress 3.0 includes a new comment UI that includes basic threading.

  138. @Nancy Lebovitz:

    1) As far as samovar, that’s definitely a culturally russian thing to do, but a useful enough thing (in certain circumstances) that many jews owned one. heck, **I** owned one, though mine was a prize from some math competition or another (do NOT ask why a math competition prize was a samovar. please).

    2) You said “I think that Americans who are upset about that sort of thing don’t have enough faith in America.” (referring to issues some of us have with specifically Mexican illegal immigration).

    I *KNOW* that it has NOTHING to do with faith in America, and a lot more to do with logic and either intiutive or actual understanding of game theory.

    The whole melting pot thing and country built on immigration was NOT some act of miracle to be take on “faith”. It was a logical consequence of a certain set of conditions and facts driving certain payoffs which resulted in certain equilibrium.

    Old pre-1930 model game had certain equilibrium based on certain payoffs. 2010, the payoffs are VASTLY different, and thus the equilibrium shifted. As some very small examples, there’s no longer a major negative payoff to not knowing English. There’s no major negative payoff in holding “I’m a mexican first and American 100th” views, even publicly. Witness La Raza. There’s no major negative payoff in semi-legal existence, thanks to sanctuary cities and such. There was no great set of major payoffs in the form of all sorts of public assistance, free emergency rooms, free public education – bi-friggin-lingual to boot. No full-scope pandring by a majority political party hoping to score a deep voting payoff from an extremely large (minority my a**) constituency.

    Oh yeah, and in case you feel that I’m a bigoted anti-immigrant white power, bible thumper rethuglicrat bully, an illuminating fact: i’m a first generation *legal* immigrant. Jewish, to boot. And politically libertarian. And MOST ex-USSR immigrants, at least the ones I hang out with, actually share my views.

  139. > ESR: “I’ve tried to modify the PHP to do this and failed, alas.”

    Anyone else had an almost irresistible impulse to try and do it upon reading that comment?

  140. @Shenpen – I (along with my original sources and Wiki) stand corrected… that pic looks a lot more Khazah/central-asian than arian/iranian :)

  141. @Jeff Read: Since you obviously have no bloody idea of what “torture” means, and what REAL dictatorships look like and behave, I have a suggestion. Go from your cushy California where you “fight the Man” to first protest for gay rights in the middle of Tehran. And then to Beijing to protest the torture of assorted political prisoners and Uighurs in the middle of Tiananmen square.

    After the aforementioned nice and cuddly governments are done with you, then come back and spout moronic crap… except you probably won’t come back too alive to do it.

  142. ESR: “Before world War II there were pockets of ethnic Germans under other sovereignty all over Europe…”

    Not exactly. There were pockets of Germans all over eastern Europe. During the Middle Ages, German settlers moved eastward: the Drang Nach Osten. As of 800 AD, Germans lived only in Cold War West Germany. East Germany, Silesia, Pomerania, Prussia, and Austria were Germanized over the next 600 years.

    But all this movement was eastward. There were no German colonies in France, Iberia, Italy, the British isles, or Scandinavia.

    Germans were also recruited to colonize various parts of the Baltic littoral and lower Danube valley; they were considered desirable subjects for their productivity as farmers, craftsmen, and merchants. The legend of the Pied Piper is thought to be an allusion to a bishop who led migration of young Germans to settle part of Transylvania. Remnants of that German colony (“Siebenburg”) may still be seen, but nearly all the volksdeutsch there emigrated to Germany during the Ceaucescu era. They were allowed out because the German government paid ransom for them.

    There were volksdeutsch colonies in towns across Poland and into Russia, in the towns of the German-ruled Austrian domain. There was a larger-scale colony on the Volga, established by Catherine the Great in the 1700s. It was dissolved during WW II.

    This history gets kinky in places. Among the Danubian volksdeutsch there were communities of “Danube Swabians” – founded by migrants from SW Germany. Some Volga Germans emigrated to the New World in the late 1800s, and this diaspora was self-aware as distinct from ordinary Germans, especially in Canada.

    By comparison, Alsace was commonplace – merely the western edge of the German heartland.

  143. “…i’m a first generation *legal* immigrant. Jewish, to boot. And politically libertarian. And MOST ex-USSR immigrants, at least the ones I hang out with, actually share my views.”

    I echo what he says. First generation, legal immigrant, Jewish, libertarian (but not Reason Magazine open borders naive libertarian, obviously.) I think we see pretty clearly this has become a farce. Major turn to anti-assimilationism.

  144. >Other than the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes who started moving to Angleland (England) in about AD 400, that is.

    Oh, be fair. Rich Rostrom was largely correct. Yes, there were people of Germanic stock all over Western Europe, but the phenomenon I was alluding to – ethnic minorities of self-identified Germans retaining their language and customs amidst larger populations with different traditions – genuinely was a more restricted phenomenon. Mostly it went on in Eastern Europe, where at various times different kingdoms encouraged German in-migration because they were (usually correctly) thought to be better farmers and craftsmen than the locals.

    Alsace-Lorraine under France was an outlier in two respects First is that it was the only such area either Rich or I can think of west of the Rhine, and second that it wasn’t a result of sponsored in-migration; Germans had always lived there.

  145. Not exactly. There were pockets of Germans all over eastern Europe. During the Middle Ages, German settlers moved eastward: the Drang Nach Osten. As of 800 AD, Germans lived only in Cold War West Germany. East Germany, Silesia, Pomerania, Prussia, and Austria were Germanized over the next 600 years.

    When you start talking about the Middle Ages, then you start to have to define what you mean by the “Germans,” since there were everywhere in Europe. What is now called France is, of course, named for the Franks, who were a West Germanic people. At the height of the Frankish Empire around 800 AD, the Franks controlled much of Europe.

    Now when you start talking about the people of Francia Orientalis,the “Eastern Franks,” then you’re right that they were mostly confined east of the Rhine, at least for a little while. ;) Of course, it’s all a matter perspective, I suppose.

  146. There were no German colonies in France, Iberia, Italy, the British isles, or Scandinavia.

    Other than the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes who started moving to Angleland (England) in about AD 400, that is. Or the Franks, Visigoths, and Ostrogoths who respectively moved into France, Iberia, and Italy a few centuries before that. They assimilated into Roman life better than the other tribes, largely giving up their old language and picking up Latin vulgate that differentiated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. The rest of the Germans (in middle/eastern Europe and the British Isles) transliterated their language into the Roman alphabet, and picked up Latin loan words for concepts that didn’t exist in their language. The English managed to keep the language in the Germanic group just barely, especially after the Normans french-fried it. (Arguably, English is the bastard child of the Germanic and Romance families.)

    Perhaps the reason the Drang nach Ostenwent the direction it did was because West und Süd were already well covered.

  147. ethnic minorities of self-identified Germans retaining their language and customs amidst larger populations with different traditionsI don’t know how many of those Germans self-identified as “Germans” per se, since there was no such country as “Germany”. I suspect there were a lot of people who identified as Prussians, Saxons, Hessians, Bavarians, etc., just as the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes eventually self-identified as English, the Franks as French, etc. Nationhood preceded the self-identification for them.

    That English has so far diverged from German as to be a separate language is simply a matter of centuries of separation. Were it not for radio and TV, “American” would probably be considered a separate language from British English within a few more generations. But England wasn’t ruled by Rome for long (particularly compared to France, Iberia, and Italy), and the invading German tribes were able to be the “larger population”, driving many of the Britons (who didn’t assimilate into the nascent English identity) west into what is now known as Wales, so your statement still stands.

    To me, the difference between the eastern and western migrations is that the existing Roman culture was advanced and strong enough for those tribes to learn Latin vulgate, while the Eastern European cultures were not able to make the migrants assimilate. One could argue that the European colonists in the New World were similarly situated. We do not think it remarkable that Englishmen would retain their language and culture rather than assimilating into, say, the Mohawk culture and language. But we also find it entirely normal that, once a strong, techologically-advanced civilization was established here, those German, Italian, etc. immigrants would learn English when they came here.

    Or to put it bluntly, those skilled farmers and craftsmen in Eastern Europe considered the surrounding community to be primitive.

  148. >I don’t know how many of those Germans self-identified as “Germans” per se, since there was no such country as “Germany”.

    Before the rise of romantic nationalism this absence didn’t matter much. That is, when they self-identified as “Germans” they were making an ethnolinguistic statement, not a political one.

  149. Alsace-Lorraine under France was an outlier in two respects First is that it was the only such area either Rich or I can think of west of the Rhine

    Allemagne-en-Provence? In particular check out the French Wikipedia version of the article (linked to in the article).

  150. > First “Church of England” is the Episcopal Church, not the Catholic Church.

    I know. The Church of England was strongly anti-Catholic, but I believe the reasons for this were just as much English nationalism as Protestantism. I believe the anti-Catholicism of the Church of England carried over into the Episcopal Church.

    > Or the Franks, Visigoths, and Ostrogoths who respectively moved into France, Iberia, and Italy a few centuries before that.

    Reputedly, the name DeGisi means Son of Gisa, where Gisa was a Gothic word meaning Hawk.

    My brother has traced many of our Italian ancestors back to the shadow of Vesuvius. We can buy wine bottled in one of the valleys where they lived. The variety of grape was brought over from Greece in 600 B.C.

    So my Italian ancestry probably has some Gothic and Greek mixed in.

    I’m half Italian, quarter Irish and the rest we mostly haven’t traced out of this country yet. The names sound like English, (King, Johnson, Steele) except for Hudgens which might be Welsh. The exception is a lady named Tabitha Motley who came over from an English port in the 1740′s. My wife is half German and half Polish, so our kids are well mixed.

    There are other reasons people conceal their heritage. We all thought my grandmother’s name was “Martha Jane Hudgens”, but her birth certificate shows “Martha Cinderella Hudgens”, named after her grandmother, “Cinderella Johnson”. Apparently my grandmother hated the name and just started calling herself “Martha Jane”. If she had not done this my sister Jane might have been named Cinderella!

    Yours,
    Tom

  151. > ESR said: “Eastern Europe, where at various times different kingdoms encouraged German in-migration because they were (usually correctly) thought to be better farmers and craftsmen than the locals.”

    Amen. The best poster child for this (or at least a very good one) is of course Russia, which started importing German skillset (attached to German stock of course) since Peter the Great all the way till the commie revolution; from tradesmen to royalty. Most of course lost any trace of the cultural lineage except some last names by the time I was born.

  152. I know. The Church of England was strongly anti-Catholic, but I believe the reasons for this were just as much English nationalism as Protestantism. I believe the anti-Catholicism of the Church of England carried over into the Episcopal Church.

    The Church of England was strongly anti-Catholic only because Henry VIII wanted an annulment from his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and the Pope refused to grant it.

  153. Morgan Greywolf,

    > The Church of England was strongly anti-Catholic only because Henry VIII wanted an annulment from his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and the Pope refused to grant it.

    You haven’t been reading the same history or the same historical novels I have been recently.

    The Church of England was, relatively quickly, influenced by Protestantism and Protestant thought. This increased their anti-Catholicism. In addition, it became a staple of English nationalism that the French were plotting to replace the good English Protestant King with an evil, French-influenced Catholic King. Although this was mostly foolish conspiracy theories, sometimes the French were plotting to replace English Protestant King with a French-influenced Catholic King. This also increased English anti-Catholicism, hence the frequently heard phrase “Popish Plot”. Not French plot, sad to say, although that was very often heard as well, especially if you replace the word French with some common derogatory referent to France.

    Yours,
    Tom

  154. What is “Texas day”? I’ve lived in Texas most of my life and never heard of it.
    I’ve seen plenty of guns here and never ever seen one shot into the air. My father told me he had when he was young and visiting Mexico, however.

    I am also a first generation immigrant and really I feel Texan and American more than I do my previous nationalities.

  155. The Church of England was, relatively quickly, influenced by Protestantism and Protestant thought.

    Protestants thought? :) (kidding)

    Seriously, though, the imagination of Neal Stephenson aside, the Anglican Church is more of Catholic reformation movement rather than a purely Protestant movement; the doctrines, theology, and practices are far closer to Roman Catholicism than any sect of Protestantism.

  156. the Anglican Church is more of Catholic reformation movement rather than a purely Protestant movement; the doctrines, theology, and practices are far closer to Roman Catholicism than any sect of Protestantism.

    Which makes the “Protestant v. Catholic” distinctions in Ireland not really religious, but political.

  157. Religious wars, in general, aren’t really religious, but political. Religiosity and such in a religious war are driven by the (perhaps necessary) political propaganda machine. The other side is usually made out to be immoral and have reprehensible behaviors that simply aren’t true. Religious doctrinal differences are blown way out of proportion. Current events are no exception, either.

  158. > Seriously, though, the imagination of Neal Stephenson aside, the Anglican Church is more of Catholic reformation movement rather than a purely Protestant movement; the doctrines, theology, and practices are far closer to Roman Catholicism than any sect of Protestantism.

    I’ve actually read a lot more history books more recently than Stephenson. Protestantism and Protestant thought influenced a good number of early Anglican clerics, leading to The Westminster Confession of Faith, to which many different Protestant preachers of widely different theologies lovingly refer today. It would be equally fair to say that Lutheranism at the time was more of Catholic reformation movement than most Protestant churches today, especially concerning liturgical practices – although not nearly as much as the Anglican Church, which I have heard described as Catholic Lite – all the ceremony, but one third the guilt!

    > Religious wars, in general, aren’t really religious, but political.

    And is the politics ultimately driven by population issues, as Heinlien conjectured?

    And ON TOPIC – any other “embarrassing” issues in your family trees which might suppress heritage? Beyond Cinderella, I have a Louis Johnson who was apparently a fraud artist, theif and all around violent thug, plus we have land sales with members either the James or the Younger gangs or both. And soldiers on boh sides of the Civil War, of whom the only distinguishing fact I can remember is a bad case of disentery, although there is a photo of one holding a rifle and brandishing a knife.

    > I’m so tired of the race issue

    I’m so angry. I’m going to start taking away people’s race cards. If a cop pulls out his gun and hits twenty innocent bystanders we take away his badge and gun, even if he hits the perp. Well, if you pull out your race card and hit twenty innocent bystanders I’m taking away your race card, even if you hit the perp.

    Yours,
    Tom

    Yours,
    Tom

  159. Morgan Greywolf> The other side is usually made out to be immoral and have reprehensible behaviors that simply aren’t true. Religious doctrinal differences are blown way out of proportion.

    Yeah, that’s part of what made WWII so horrifying, things in Germany were even WORSE than the propaganda made it sound.

  160. techtech,

    People like him are why Richard Pryor said “Thank God there’s a penitentiary.”

  161. Doc Merlin>I am also a first generation immigrant and really I feel Texan and American more than I do my previous nationalities.

    Well, welcome to Texas! What you’re saying is exactly what we have in mind when we refer to the Melting Pot, thank you for participating :^).

  162. >Yeah, that’s part of what made WWII so horrifying, things in Germany were even WORSE than the propaganda made it sound.

    Same was true of the Cold War, and is true now of the Long War against the Islamists. It’s not an unusual situation for the U.S., because we have a powerful domestic political faction that so heavily invested in the idea that all exercise of U.S. power overseas is evil that they’ll systematically whitewash the behavior of our enemies – and that faction controls our media and academe.

  163. I’m happy not to be American, I would be happy to be American – I’m not anti or pro anything. I am what I am. I am European by birth and I have a Kenyan wife, who is actually Indian by ancestry. I am also English but I live in Scotland where my sone was born.

    So what is he ?

    He is my son and that is all that matters.

    I find this quote quite useful

    “Hey, this is Europe. We took it from nobody; we won it from the bare soil that the ice left. The bones of our ancestors, and the stones of their works, are everywhere. Our liberties were won in wars and revolutions so terrible that we do not fear our governors: they fear us. Our children giggle and eat ice-cream in the palaces of past rulers. We snap our fingers at kings. We laugh at popes. When we have built up tyrants, we have brought them down.
    And we have nuclear weapons.”
    Ken MacLoed

  164. > domestic political faction that so heavily invested in the idea that all exercise of U.S. power overseas is evil

    I wonder how many other successful political factions in history could be found that ran on the platform of “the home team sucks”.

  165. > I wonder how many other successful political factions in history could be found that ran on the platform of “the home team sucks”.

    Well, the Whigs were that faction in Britian during the Revolutionary War, we benefitted and they were successful before and after the war. So at least one. Although I don’t think they kept running on that platform.

    Yours,
    Tom

  166. @dgreer, @esr, @techtech:

    WWII, the Cold War and the Long War against the Islamists were and are not, from the U.S. point of view, religious wars, of course.

    As far as whitewashing by the “powerful domestic political faction” go, perhaps that’s true, but I’ll point out that plans for the occupation of Iraq and other fronts in the Long War haven’t changed nycg under the aforementioned political faction’s regime from what the other powerful political faction said they were going to do prior to the presidential election. The only difference is the way they spin it.

    Also, the U.S. military interests in Iraq, in particular, are beyond terrorists or oil. The stability of the entire region depends on Iraq, and Iran is a major player in that.

  167. > we have a powerful domestic political faction that so heavily invested in the idea that all exercise of U.S. power overseas is evil that they’ll systematically whitewash the behavior of our enemies – and that faction controls our media and academe.

    They are Wilsonians and therefore perverse about it, just like Wilson was. They love peace-keeping missions – which really benefit from our power projecting capabilities and good training. They even love wars as long as they are like Kosovo. I’m pretty sure that if Obama wasn’t tied up in Afghanistan he could successfully pitch them a war against the Sudan to protect Darfur. They would fall over in orgasmic paroxisms of delight if he could finagle a war against Israel on the Palestinian’s behalf. But he is not within eight orders of magnitude of being a good enough politician to pull that off.

    Yours,
    Tom

  168. They would fall over in orgasmic paroxisms of delight if he could finagle a war against Israel on the Palestinian’s behalf.

    Considering we’re expected to supply $30 billion in military aid to Israel between 2008 and 2017? I’d say there’s little chance that a politician eight orders of magnitude better than Obama could pull that one off. Israel is an ally. They fly F-15′s for crying out loud.

  169. Morgan Greywolf> Israel is an ally. They fly F-15’s for crying out loud.

    Not to draw anything near a moral equivalent here, but Sadam was our ally at one time too. If he can make the case for it, Obama can drop Isreal like a hot potato. It would be the first time we did that sort of thing, and God knows that the current administration has nothing like a conscience and is more than willing to dump on our allies whenever it’s convenient to do so to support their agenda. They’ve already proven that I think. And it’s not like he has a reelection to win or a legacy to leave that could seriously be damaged by such an action.

  170. @Morgan Greywolf – “Considering we’re expected to supply $30 billion in military aid to Israel between 2008 and 2017? ”

    Well, to be completely technical about it, a vast majority of that aid is predicated explicitly on buying US military hardware, which pays off in at least 5 distinct ways –

    1) US benefits from Israeli experience/input/participation (think improvements to Bradley);

    2) US contractors get extra orders resulting in increased jobs and thus benefitting US economy;

    3) US contractors get extra orders resulting in higher volume of production resulting in lower per-unit costs resulting in lower costs for US military.

    4) US gets practical feedback/evaluation of the hardware capabilities from real combat

    5) US gets to veto Israeli military-industrial complex sales pretty much at will (look up the amount of money Israel lost on broken-up-by-US-insistance sales, e.g. to China). All of those are spun as US national security interests, but a lot of it smells like market share competition.

    As a matter of fact there’s a not-insignificant share of analysts and general public in both Israel itself and among pro-Israel USA crowds who thinks that Israel would have net benefit from discontinuance of such aid, especially if matched by discontinuance of the same-volume aid to Egypt and co :)

  171. All you guys out there who think that moral systems are independent of religion or epithelial (I hope I am spelling that right):

    The pagan world was by our standards today immoral. The Romans threw the Christians to the lions. They had no problem watching gladiators fight to the death. And pagans in different cultures like the Mayans would practice human sacrifice. By our standards today this is horribly immoral. But why?

    Think about the abolitionist movement. The Christian faith they had motivated them to insist that slavery was wrong, and to devote themselves to fighting against it. Men like William Wilberforce were convinced that slavery had to go because they were Christians. Today they would be derided as Evangelical nutjobs or the christian right. But no one today would argue that they were not morally correct and visionary as well. People like Jon Brown maybe went too far with their tactics, but they were right that slavery had to go. Does anyone want to argue that Abraham Lincoln was not motivated by a christian sense of divine providence?

    No pagan or wiccan priest ever said this. The ancient world, people like Socrates or Plato, felt that slavery was necessary, that some would be forced to dig the ditches so that they could be free to think great thoughts. Slaves were the appliances of the ancient world. It never dawned on them that they could invent appliances.

  172. >Well, the Whigs were that faction in Britain during the Revolutionary War,

    Not quite true. The Whigs didn’t believe that the exercise of British imperial power was evil; they were very supportive of, for example, punitive expeditions and minor wars conducted against countries that had committed outrages against British citizens. The American Colonies were a special case in that the Whigs considered the inhabitants to be British citizens and entitled to the ancient rights of same, which British policy was unjustly denying.

  173. Darren, you’re committing a gross logical fallacy. You’re arguing that because ancient non-Christians did not behave morally according to your standards and that historic Christins did, that no non-Christians can behave morally. That, as I have been saying, is horseshit and hogwash.

    Where you go wrong is in failing to understand that plenty of non-Christians behave morally, aside from believing in your particular 2000-year-old fairy tale, and plenty of Christians behave {a,im}morally. The two are orthogonal. I do not believe in slavery any more than you do.

    For your argument to succeed, you must demonstrate that it is not possible for atheists to behave morally, not simply assume it. I am an existence proof that you are wrong.

  174. @Chris
    “Hey, this is Europe. We took it from nobody; we won it from the bare soil that the ice left.”

    Not true at all. The modern europeans are quite different from pre-historic europeans and are far more asiatic. The current europeans (aside from the Basques) came from asia and conquered most of europe and killed off and intermarried with the locals. This happened in multiple waves coming from asia, the last of which were as recent as Roman times.

  175. Darren is also incorrect about Christianity being a good motivator for outlawing slavery.

    Exodus 21:20-21:
    If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.

    Beat your slaves all you want, just be sure they can still walk sometime soon afterwards. More good advice from the Good Book!

  176. esr,

    > >Well, the Whigs were that faction in Britain during the Revolutionary War,

    > Not quite true.

    I meant “successful political factions in history” “that ran on the platform of “the home team sucks”.” However that category is so broad it makes the question much less interesting. Lots of factions have even colluded with foreigners and rebels on the basis that the home team sucks since we aren’t in charge. The Whigs had the much better formulation that the home team sucks since our people’s ancient rights are being violated, but that’s pretty common too.

    How about this one:

    How many powerful factions have believed “the home team sucks because we are violating other people’s rights”?

    Well, there was a long time powerful faction of Israeli politics that believed this.

    And I think we can count the English outlawing the slave trade.

    And we can count the abolitionists here.

    That’s much less common.

    techtech,

    Christianity is not pre-rabbinical Judaism. Lots of Christians will tell you that all of the Law of Moses do not apply to Christians – except perhaps for Jewish converts – which is due to a very straightforward reading of Acts 15. Here are two key verses:

    “23With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. 24We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.”

    IIRC, that is a pretty good summary of the Laws of Moses which apply to aliens in the Land of Israel rather than Jews, but this is not important here, so I’m not looking it up. The entire context is here.

    I know Christians take verses out of context all the time. I have made the mistake myself. We shouldn’t. I’m sure some slave owners were happy to quote Exodus.

    Jay Maynard,

    > For your argument to succeed, you must demonstrate that it is not possible for atheists to behave morally, not simply assume it. I am an existence proof that you are wrong.

    There is a more subtle argument that most atheists around here behave as they do because of the Christian culture they live in, and if there were no Christianity they would behave much differently.

    Yours,
    Tom

  177. > Tom DeGisi Says:
    > techtech,
    > Christianity is not pre-rabbinical Judaism.

    Your position is that your all-knowing, purely-good God used to think it was OK for you to beat your slaves, but later He changed His mind. I now feel sorry for you.

  178. @darrencardinal:

    The pagan world was by our standards today immoral. The Romans threw the Christians to the lions.

    Having had one too many run-ins with Bible thumpers recently, I’m beginning to think that we should go back to throwing Christians to the lions. ;)

    Think about the abolitionist movement.

    Slave owners in the Americas were Christian and used the Bible to justify slavery.

    Additionally, Abraham Lincoln was not a moral abolitionist. He thought that the abolition of slavery was the only to preserve the Great Experiment. As an aside, I’ll point out something famously observed by Alvin and Heidi Toeffler: the Civil War wasn’t really fought over the single issue of slavery.

    I won’t even bother to point out the atrocities committed in the “good” name of the Lord Yeshua bin Miriam. I think I, and others, have poked enough holes in your fallacious argument.

    @techtech:

    Your position is that your all-knowing, purely-good God used to think it was OK for you to beat your slaves, but later He changed His mind. I now feel sorry for you.

    There’s a simpler explanation than that: the god of the Old and New Testaments aren’t the same deity.

  179. If I may, back to esr’s subjective experience when training with swords. He quite reasonably says he doesn’t know what it means, if anything, and a lot of pretty reasonable explanations have been put forward (such as, esr has watched a lot of Western media involving swordplay).

    This whole thing reminds me of what seems to me to be a scientific mystery of the first order that nobody ever seems to talk about. At least, over the years I have done at least dozens of web searches, looking for discussions of the issue, and haven’t found anything.

    The question is this: what is the material mechanism for the inheritance of instinct?

    Nobody teaches a spider how to build a web. The process of building a web is not trivially obvious, especially for an arachnid. If we wanted to program a little robot to do the same thing, the program would involve a non-zero amount of code; it is a non-zero amount of information.

    What is the material mechanism for that transfer of information from one generation of spiders to the next? Again, spiders aren’t taught to build webs; they are born with the knowledge. (That’s what we call instinct, after all.)

    Don’t *just* answer “DNA” and wave your arms. I know something about genetics. DNA codes for proteins, etc. We know the genetic code for how that works. We know the material mechanism for the inheritance of proteins.

    What is the equivalent for the inheritance of spiderweb-building-algorithms? I’m not saying DNA has nothing to do with it, but nothing we’ve learned about the genome and epigenome tells us anything about how a spider knows how to build a web.

    Isn’t this a fascinating question? Why does no one talk about this?

  180. techtech and Morgan,

    > Your position is that your all-knowing, purely-good God used to think it was OK for you to beat your slaves, but later He changed His mind.

    > There’s a simpler explanation than that: the god of the Old and New Testaments aren’t the same deity.

    There’s an even simpler one, which doesn’t multiply entities needlessly. Wouldn’t an all-knowing, purely-good God react differently to different conditions?

    Furthermore, techtech, don’t you prefer the divine rule that your slave has to be able to walk soon to the other, more common human rule where it was OK to beat him to death? If you allow physical punishment, limits are good.

    Personally I’d like to see more crimes punished by flogging. I think it would be more consistent, more humane and more of a deterent than jail time.

    > I now feel sorry for you.

    You shouldn’t. You should consider that almost all of your arguments are centuries old as are all of the answering arguments. Christians who know their stuff and are good at arguing have, generally, not been successful at converting the non-Christians they argue with. Non-Christians who know their stuff and are good at arguing have, generally, not been successful at converting the Christians they argue with. You may replace the religion Christian in those sentences with almost any religion you like, including atheism.

    The “I now feel sorry for you” argument never works.

    What generally converts people is being befriended, then loved and accepted into a supportive community. It starts with friendship, not argument. You are much more likely to re-convert me away from Christianity by befriending me first. A courtship sometimes starts this process.

    Which is one reason why the “I now feel sorry for you” argument does not work.

    The Muslim method of conquest, subjugation and tax relief for believers seems to be a very successful method of conversion as well. Pity, that.

    Yours,
    Tom

  181. Tom DeGisi Says:
    > Christians who know their stuff and are good
    > at arguing have, generally, not been successful
    > at converting the non-Christians they argue with.

    Tom, question for you: I have always been a fan of your comments here, I have a lot of respect for you; you are obviously, a smart, perceptive, and reflective person. However, as you might have picked up I am an atheist, even a militant atheist to quote Richard Dawkins.

    I would very much like to hear why you believe in God, and why you believe the Bible has something valuable to contribute to your life, despite all its obvious flaws, holes and gross inaccuracies. I ask this question quite sincerely. I am fascinated to understand the thinking of intelligent people, such as yourself, on this subject. (I remain baffled why Eric is a Wiccan too, FWIW.)

  182. What generally converts people is being befriended, then loved and accepted into a supportive community. It starts with friendship, not argument. You are much more likely to re-convert me away from Christianity by befriending me first. A courtship sometimes starts this process.

    The Mormons are well-known to use this technique. However, befriending me isn’t likely to convert me to Christianity or any other religion, either. I’m one of those people who simply don’t care what other people believe. I’m not going to try convert to you; I wouldn’t care if you decided to worship a shoe. Whatever floats your boat. It just irks me when I see Christians attempting to argue bullshit like “morality comes from Christianity.” No, it doesn’t. Otherwise, in parts of the world where Christianity is very much in the minority (most of it), society would be wasting away in moral depravity. It is not.

  183. @JessicaBoxer:

    (I remain baffled why Eric is a Wiccan too, FWIW.)

    Clue stick: Wicca is a religion of shared practice, not really shared belief. That’s why I don’t call Eric out on being an atheist the way Christians do around here. See the difference?

  184. Jessica,

    > I would very much like to hear why you believe in God

    That’s a long answer which I am not well enough prepared to make on short notice, to my chagrin. But the short answer, which would, I believe, be remarkably similar to Eric’s about Wicca follows. It works best for me. Weirdly, I know don’t the reasons it works for me, but possibly, if I understand what they say around here, Morgan and Eric do.

    Second: I can see Jesus and his love in my fellow Christians and I love him and them for it.

    Third: Communal, shared worship, when you get into the flow with your fellow Christians, is quite wonderful.

    Weirdly, given some things Eric has written here, he or Morgan might have a very interesting explanation for these two as well. After all, everything I’ve said has been about practice at a deep level, no?

    Morgan,

    > However, befriending me isn’t likely to convert me to Christianity or any other religion, either.

    There are other steps in the process, which can be very long. True intimacy may be required for you, for example. And it’s always possible in that long process that you might convert the other guy first. ;)

    > It just irks me when I see Christians attempting to argue bullshit like “morality comes from Christianity.”

    Well, they are arguing from their experience and within their context mostly. Truth be told, in America, morality does comes from Christianity. However, that is because this is a Christian culture. Even atheist morality in America tends to flow from or react to Christianity, since atheists are surrounded by Christians, the Christian God is the one they have to spend most of their energy on and Christian tactics are the ones they mostly have to counter. For example, atheists don’t have to fight the Christian culture at it’s root to maintain their faith. All they really need to combat is it’s creation story. They are pretty good at this.

    However, keeping a Christian culture and morality is one reason why the culture war is so important to me (and other Christians). Multiculturalism in America is the probably the biggest threat to the Christian culture. Without it the Melting Pot would just melt everyone into the existing Christian culture, and the morality would remain essentially Christian.

    Yours,
    Tom

  185. Tom DeGisi Says:
    > That’s a long answer which I am not well enough
    > prepared to make on short notice, to my chagrin.

    No, problem, I appreciate your honesty. You say that it works for you, that you enjoy the experiences, and the communion with your church family is empowering and enjoyable. I can understand all that, in fact, my dirty little secret is that I really like church music, and think the Christmas service is just so Christmasy. There, I said it out loud.

    I think all these things are very understandable and enjoyable, and I suppose it is the basis for the whole Wiccan thing too, emotion, ritual, bonding, fellowship — I get it.

    Where I am having a hard time understanding is in the plane of rational. When the priest or minister tells you to behave in a certain way, because the Bible says so; or when you measure your success at supplication and find it is equal to a coin flip; when your spiritual aid offers you comfort during the death of a love one by promising you will see them again — when you know that that is probably not true. How do you deal with that congative dissonance? Or perhaps you think my assessment is wrong.

    Your spiritual guide no doubt recommends that you use the Bible as your guide for life, but that book is full of really bad stuff (1Samuel 15 for example), so how can you take such a recommendation seriously?

    Again, I ask in an spirit of honest enquiry, not out of any disrespect for you.

  186. >I think all these things are very understandable and enjoyable, and I suppose it is the basis for the whole Wiccan thing too, emotion, ritual, bonding, fellowship — I get it.

    There is a bit more to it than just that. Wicca has a strong, central element of ecstatic mysticism to it. That has rewards that go beyond “fellowship” and “bonding”.

  187. # esr Says:
    > ecstatic mysticism to it.

    Hmmh, not sure what that means exactly. Ecstatic? Perhaps you mean an intense emotional experience, a non chemically induced high (or more exactly, a high not induced by externally introduced chemicals.)

    Mysticism? What I have understood from many religions is that the complexity and mystery of it is part of the challenge and curiosity, even if the complexity and mystery is essentially without any rational basis. Scientologists have to master the complexities of their nonsense to climb to higher levels. Many Catholics enjoy the Latin mass, and the complex difficult to understand catacism, Buddhists seek enlightenment through understanding the non-understandable.

    It fits I guess with two of the core extrinsic motivators of humans — the desire to gain mastery, and the desire for purpose (regardless of the absolute value of the skill or knowledge mastered, or the purpose sought.)

    Is this what you mean by “mysticism”.

  188. Jessica,

    > Again, I ask in an spirit of honest enquiry, not out of any disrespect for you.

    Not feeling any disrespect but this may take some to answer, since I haven’t thought about it in those terms.

    I will keep doing the easy stuff and add more as it occurs to me, though.

    > Hmmh, not sure what that means exactly. Ecstatic? Perhaps you mean an intense emotional experience, a non chemically induced high (or more exactly, a high not induced by externally introduced chemicals.)

    I cannot speak for Eric or Wicca but the possible parallels in practice might be the Charismatic or Pentecostal movements in Christianity and the Sufis in Islam. At one time the Quakers and the Shakers were mocked for their ecstatic worship, and the Sufis produced the famous whirling dervishes.

    Yours,
    Tom

  189. Tom DeGisi Says:
    > the Sufis produced the famous whirling dervishes.

    Of course there are many secular situations where such hyper emotional states are achieved. Rock concerts and dance clubs being two obvious examples.

  190. >Is this what you mean by “mysticism”.

    Your characterization is mostly correct, but mysticism can have some content that is interesting even to a hard-shell rationalist like myself (e.g. as opposed to being a mere high or a pointless mind game). It is a window on parts of the human mind that are not accessible to the unaided waking conscious, and as such can enable some interesting abilities.

  191. esr Says:
    > It is a window on parts of the human mind that
    > are not accessible to the unaided waking conscious,

    Eric, this is pretty interesting to me. I have been interested recently in the reality that our perception of our mind is just a tiny fraction of what is really going on in there. I just finished reading Shirky’s “Cognitive Surplus”, which, besides a lot of other things, talks about the fact that much of what we do, and the decisions we make come from a deeper, imperceptible, unrational part of our brains. (He didn’t say that as such, that is just my reaction to some of what he wrote.)

    So, if you are interested, I’d love to hear you elaborate on your comment quoted above.

  192. >So, if you are interested, I’d love to hear you elaborate on your comment quoted above.

    Sometime. Not in this thread, though, it’s been hijacked quite thoroughly enough already.

  193. Sometime. Not in this thread, though, it’s been hijacked quite thoroughly enough already.

    We’re terrible about that around here. We seem to get sidetracked very easily.

  194. # Morgan Greywolf Says:
    > We’re terrible about that around here. We seem to get sidetracked very easily.

    Why is that “terrible”?

  195. “We’re terrible about that around here. We seem to get sidetracked very easily.”

    Morgan, I have no idea — SQUIRREL!! — what you’re talking about! ;^)

  196. Traditional activities like martial arts have not evolved out of a vacuum, and that’s why the signs (in the Peircean sense)/memes involved in them stay in a close relation to other signs/memes which happen to be attached to our phenotype. This might be why people of Asiatic origin certainly have advantages when it comes to types of Asiatic spirituality or martial arts (I would even venture that some of them, like Taekwondo, presuppose the bone structure of Asian people).

    Honestly speaking, a real evolutionist should bear in mind the fundamental continuum that exists between nature and social conventions—institutions included. Unless one embraces an idealist philosophy (esp. in its Kantian version), there’s no reason to pretend that society/culture and nature are two separated realms.

  197. This sad little lizard told me that he was a brontosaurus on his mother’s side. I did not laugh; people who boast of ancestry often have little else to sustain them. Humoring them costs nothing and adds to happiness in a world in which happiness is always in short supply.
    —Lazarus Long

  198. My parents came here from Ireland in the late 70′s. I was born a few years later…

    I don’t identify as “Irish,” “Irish-American,” or any other label I can think of (I don’t even use “caucasian”).
    I am American.
    It is my nationality, and the only one I need.

    mom and dad just don’t get it…

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