Over the last month or so, I’ve considered applying to join the AFA. I’ve been quite critical of them in the past, so it’s not like I can anticipate automatic acceptance. That’s fair, but I’ve begun to believe there are somethings I need to see for myself, and this is potentially my only method of resolving such a thing.
Hold any rotten tomatoes that you may be tempted to throw, and allow me to explain. I have reasons for my curiosity, and I think it’s important to talk about them for a moment.
The first is that there is one counter-criticism that has been directed at me that I have not answered to my own satisfaction; that my issues aren’t based exclusively on first hand accounts of AFA events and circumstances. Oh, I’ve seen a few things for my own eyes, and many of these things I didn’t like. At the same time, it would be a mistake to call a majority off my experiences anything other than anecdotal. While I’m not about to pretend that I don’t get to have an opinion on the things I have heard and seen just because I haven’t been apart of the organization, it would also be an error to ignore that the vast majority of criticism I have heard is second hand recounts at best.
Yes, Metagenetics and Wotan versus Tezcatlipoca are still baffling documents that give me greater pause for concern than any rumor I’ve heard associated with Cauldron Farms. Yes, anytime they’re brought up it seems that most members of the AFA would rather pretend that both of these documents were never written, an action that raises some very poignant questions. These documents are needlessly focused on racialist talking points, making their existence look like a dark stain made from racialist apologetics.
By the same token, these talking points seem to be largely absent from present day AFA rhetoric. While assertions that there is a horrific racist agenda under the surface are plenty, there are extremely few smoking guns. Yes, it could all be word games and semantics. The thing is that dedicated, professional bigots don’t really seem able to do that for years at a time. A real bigot is someone who has a huge chunk of the brain
dedicated to an engine of hate, scorn, and malice. Those things can be subtle depending on circumstances, but they’re not good at maintaining that subtlety 24/7. Look at the headlines in North Dekota for an example of what I’m talking about; professional bigots who seek to create organizations for their hate to live within tend to be mentally unstable.
Yes, I’ve read Circle Ansuz. I think what they wrote about McNallen was worth reading, no matter what your personal beliefs are. By the same token, it would be unethical to call that writing evidence. It’s largely educated guesses, tangential connections, and anecdotes that suggest things but can’t quite prove them. Horrifying and concerning material to be sure, but nothing other than theories at this point*. I’ve also heard from at least one person that some of the problems that Circle Ansuz presented weren’t portrayed honestly. If they got that wrong, it begs that we askquestions about what else they got wrong.
Than there is another thing.
I have been good friends with Rebecca Radcliff for a long time. When I started on my investigations of Heathenry, it was her husband (whose a blogger in his own right) and her that I approached. She also happens to be the director of the AFA’s clergy program, a position she’s held for over a year a now. When I say that I am conflicted on the universal, across the board condemnation that the AFA receives, these two are amongst the biggest reasons why. I know their philosophies and opinions very well, as we have talked and discussed them dozens of times over the years. They do not utilize the pro-racialist, bigoted mindset that many suggest are mandatory conceits within the house that McNallen built. It casts shadows, deep shadows, on the assertion that the AFA is a racist organization when I personally know someone in their leadership who is anything but.
I am a vocal Loki worshiper, I have a step-daughter whose genetic background isn’t bleach white, I’m politically leaning towards liberal, and I find nothing wrong with synchretic religious praxis and concepts. Conventional wisdom states that any member of the AFA worth their salt should castigate me, renounce our friendship, and cast me into whatever bog or mire is at hand. Well they haven’t done that; instead they held my wife a baby shower.
They know my criticisms of the AFA, it’s stances, and it’s public face. I know that can’t always be easy on them, even those my commentary is intended as constructive rather than abrasive. Still, my family has been invited over to their home again and again. Frith has been created, grith has been maintained, and we generally have a good time.
I’ve met people who are not all funshine and rainbow unicorns mind you; there are people out there who fit the boorish stereotype that many associate with the AFA. These people are problems that cause community rifts, but they are not born from a singularity. A conversation that I recently had with Rebecca was especially eye opening on this subject.
We talked about her family’s experiences at AFA’s Winternights this year and, at one point, the conversation moved to the tensions between various factions within Heathenry. At one point, she said the following:
“The majority of those I have gotten close to in the Folkish community over the years, they have not been on a witch hunt for anyone not of the same mind as them…..and just as importantly, I don’t get criticized for continuing to spend time with the friends I’ve had for years in the Universalist community by them, either.”
I got to tell you that I’m not always happy with the way that some people choose to addresses things that are said by pro-folkish/pro-AFA people. No small number of the responses have been the verbal equivalent of shooting first and asking questions later, and have used ad hominems, straw men, and just being a downright asshole to make their point. Yes, I know that some of those people are horrifying jerks. No, I don’t think that matters. I see no reason to drop down to make ourselves lesser, simply to prove some point to someone who isn’t worth our time any way.
Which brings us to the last reason I’m considering applying for membership to the AFA; simply put, I want to look for reasons for us to get along. This doesn’t mean I’m looking to “drink the kool-aid”, or whatever trite expression is used to make condescending implications about someone’s desires or opinions; it means that I’m looking to see if there are actually reasons that people don’t get along. To see if this is merely the fault aside of a vocal minority possessed of huge egos, loud voices, and deaf ears. Because if that’s the reason we don’t get along, than those people are easier to ignore than to communicate with.
If that’s overly optimistic of me, so be it; I’m tired of seeing pointless arguments and stupid fights drag out. If I can do something, anything, to reduce the tension? Than I’ll do that. No questions asked. If that means asking to be allowed to join a potential crucible to see things for myself? Than that’s what it means.
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* Don’t misunderstand me; Circle Ansuz still did work that I felt was valid and needed to be said. Yes, pointing out that McNallen worked in apartheid era South Africa and then, later, produced Metagenetics is a special kind of horrifying. It remains anecdotal however, because we don’t know what his experiences within that regieme were, nor if he had ulterior motivation for being there. Honestly, I can barely find evidence that he had been there at all; I found references to a single article that he supposedly wrote but I couldn’t find the article itself, so I could only take Circle Ansuz’s word for it. I think our condemnations and accusations, when we choose to give them, need to come from a place of absolute certainty. To do otherwise completely ruins our credibility, and runs the risk of turning our ideals into witch hunts.
**I heard that the “Stella Natura” situation, in particular, was grossly misrepresented. This came from someone who is a member of a kindred with a strong reputation for a pro-syncretic approach to Asatru. She also follows a number of (non-facist) bands that are going to the venue. I respect her immensely, and I regard her opinion as free from bias on this matter.