Archive for July, 2013

Who’s a “Real Pagan”? Well, who’s a “Real American”?

I’m not going to add much at least directly to the eternal debate over the definition of the term pagan/Paganism, pagan community etc. Ruadan McElroy, and others have expressed along similar lines what I think on the issue. Instead I will take a step back to contemplate the messiness of another label of mine: American.

When I call myself American, people in much of the world will assume that I am a citizen of, or reside in the United States, in spite of the fact that anyone living (or originating) from North or South America and neighboring islands could call themselves by that label. Canadians, Brazilians, etc. may take offense to me calling myself “American” with that assumption. On the other hand, Mexicans use the term “fútbol norteamericano” not “fútbol estadounidense” to refer to American football, in spite of the fact that Mexico is considered part of North America.

First generation immigrants sometimes call me “American” to distinguish me culturally from themselves, and while I have assured them that they are just as American as I am, I still know what they mean- a long assimilated descendent of European immigrants. Some people who encounter immigrants (even ones who have lived here for decades) will consider them to not be “real Americans” if they have accents, haven’t stopped speaking their native language and given up obvious aspects of their culture. (clothing, religion, holidays etc)

Furthermore, an “American” is also often thought of a resident of the “lower 48” and even when Alaska and Hawaii are included, territories like Puerto Rico and Guam are often forgotten. So we can divide who is considered “American” up into a bunch of overlapping groups, members of which identify with the label to varying to degrees, and are identified by other self-identified Americans, and non-Americans, and dual citizens (included tribally enrolled American Indians)

But at the end of the day, none of us who are self-identified or identified by others as American are _just_ Americans. I’m a Midwesterner, a Minnesotan, a St. Paulite, a British Isles mutt and German-American. Regardless of who labels who, no one is just a Pagan. What’s the point of fighting over it? Just be a Pagan or don’t be a Pagan, a polytheist, a Wiccan, Druid, Heathen whatever. Don’t worry about what others call themselves if they are not claiming to be part of your specific religion.  And to other folks, just be who you are, don’t go around trying to get everyone to affirm your “right” to call yourself pagan. And focus on doing something positive for yourself, your spiritual practice, your community. Arguing is pointless.

July 3, 2013 at 1:32 am Leave a comment


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