One Nation Under Two Banners

“The Puritan and Pilgrim stand
A bannered nation on that strand.
This is the heritage they gave
To you, as sons of sires thus brave.”

E. S. Sayer, “Our Heritage” (1853)

Christopher Caldwell has published an interesting essay on the seventeenth-century English conquest of New England, and more particularly on the fading luster of the old American myths of the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving.  He was prompted to write this essay by the silence in which the quadricentennial anniversary of the Pilgrim’s landing at Plymouth Rock was this year allowed to pass.  There is much to learn and ponder in Caldwell’s essay, and I recommend it to you; but I would here like to consider a quote it contains from the historian David J. Silverman, author of This Land Is Their Land (2019).

Caldwell tells us that Silverman asks,

“Why should a school-age child with the last name of, say, Silverman, identify more with the Pilgrims than the Indians?”

This is a reasonable question.  But to me it naturally suggests this parallel question.

“Why should a school-age child with the last name of, say, Smith, identify more with the Jews than those with whom the Jews have fought?”

I hope my question will also be taken as reasonable, and not traduced as Jew baiting.  Since it appears that Silverman does not identify with the Pilgrims, and therefore does not identify with the people who identify with the Pilgrims, is there any reason for the people who identify with the Pilgrims to identify with Silverman and the people with whom he identifies?  Or, to state the question somewhat differently, if Silverman refuses their myths, should they not also refuse his?

Myth is folklore.  It is the common lore of a people, and to learn the lore of a people as a disciple is a very large part of what it means to be a member of that people.  This lore mostly takes the form of “song and story,” and a disciple receives these songs and stories as his spiritual heritage.  This is what distinguishes the disciple from the detached scholar, the dabbling dilettante, or the hostile critic.  Davy Crockett is, for instance, a hero to a disciple who receives the old American mythos as his spiritual heritage, whereas he is an historical figure to a scholar, an entertaining character to a dilettante, and an abominable villain to a hostile critic.

I am not going to say that Silverman ought to identify with the Pilgrims, although I think such an argument could be made.  He is, after all, enjoying the physical heritage of the Englishmen who extirpated the Red Man with iron and fire.  I will simply register the fact that he does not identify with the Pilgrims, but rather with the Wampanoags, and leave the casuistry to him.

From a political point of view, it is simply a fact that many people with “the last name of, say, Silverman,” are very far from being disciples of the old American mythos, and are, in fact, its harshest critics.  They are disciples of a rival spiritual heritage, and this rival spiritual heritage is aggressively proselytizing, iconoclastic and blasphemous.

For two religions to peacefully coexist in the same space, they must work out a modus vivendi that controls proselyting, iconoclasm and blasphemy.  Both religions must agree to refrain from poaching the other’s children, vandalizing the other’s property, and outraging the other’s sensibilities.  This modus vivendi may require some hypocrisy, but some hypocrisy is better than a whole lot of religious war.

Disciples of rival spiritual heritages in the post-American United States obviously needs to work out a modus vivendi along similar lines.  The alternative is a whole lot of “religious” war, declared or otherwise.

19 thoughts on “One Nation Under Two Banners

  1. Pingback: One Nation Under Two Banners | Reaction Times

  2. “Why should a school-age child with the last name of, say, Silverman, identify more with the Pilgrims than the Indians?”

    Because his fate and his future might lie with the Pilgrims and their ilk. Consider the fate of the Indians, and of every other cult whatsoever that confronted the Northman in the full flow of his spirit. If you can’t beat him, join him. As many of the surviving Indians have done.

    • He does not think that his fate and future lie with the Pilgrims and their ilk. The question is, do we take him in when the the Wampanoags come for his scalp (and ours). I suppose to be jointly scalped to Wampanoags is to share a fate and future, but in this case we would not share it as brothers. We should, of course, forgive men who repent of telling dangerous and defamatory lies about us, but should be very skeptical of “deathbed conversions.”

      • “He does not think that his fate and future lie with the pilgrims and their ilk”

        This is what they mean when they say one is “on the wrong side of history”. I’ve been trying to figure out how to say this and you capture it perfectly. Reminds me also of that great Don Colacho aphorism: “When he is defeated by a majority, the true democrat should not merely acknowledge that he was defeated, but also confess that he was wrong.”

        Which further tells us that Silverman is not a true democrat but is in fact a temporarily embarrassed authoritarian.

      • Whenever I hear that lofty Hegelian rhetoric, I think that every traitor has gone over to the enemy in an effort to get on the right side of history. Colacho is right. It is literal nonsense for a true democrat to say that an election has gone the wrong way. A democratic election is a means to discover the truth (a means only slightly more ridiculous than examining the entrails of a bird).

      • I’d say democratic elections are slightly less ridiculous oracular methods than haruspicy, personally. One can make the argument that bird entrails, being part of the natural world, should reflect in some small way the Ratio underlying all things, so that a proper subtle reading allows one to dimly perceive the tenuous but real connection between the entrails and the question posed to the haruspex.

        Meanwhile men, especially in large bodies, are known to be carried along by passions and irrationalities.

        That the same argument can be made for practically any means of divination as over against democracy seems to me to rather strengthen the point that democracy is an unutterably stupid form of government.

      • At least when someone consults the fortunes of bird entrails, they are consenting to the belief that there is a higher order of things than man.

  3. Kristor beat me to it. But do we know that Silverman identifies more with the Native Americans? He raises the question but out of context it’s not possible to determine what his answer would be, if he indeed provided one. It could well have been a Socratic question.

    • In a book entitled “This Land is Their Land”? Not, I would observe “This Land is
      Their Land?”
      Obviously, the word “their” doesn’t really refer to the historical Wampanoags, or their descendants, but to the millions of virtual Wampanoags who are today excluded from America by evil Pilgrims. I have often sung the old Woody Guthrie song, and would sing it again, but I know it is a communist anthem.

  4. For two religions to peacefully coexist in the same space, they must work out a modus vivendi that controls proselyting, iconoclasm and blasphemy. Both religions must agree to refrain from poaching the other’s children, vandalizing the other’s property, and outraging the other’s sensibilities.

    That depends on the nature of the respective religions. Mr Silverman’s new religion is aggressive. Its proponents are unlikely to honour such an agreement, even in the unlikely event that they initially agreed to it. They rightly perceive that they are in the ascendant, and that their opposition is weak and growing weaker.

    • You are right. Working out a modus vivendi appeals to weak religions that have no hope of annihilating their rival. But the weakening religion must work out a modus vivindi before it becomes too weak to negotiate a good deal.

      • This doesn’t work in the long-term and never has. Either a religion is too weak for a rival to take seriously its demands at the negotiating table, or strong enough that it need not fear its rivals. (Often it is unclear which of these two it is, which is why temporary accommodation sometimes happens, but willingness to negotiate is always a sign of weakness.)

        Religions aren’t people. People are not necessarily in conflict because the valid existence of one person does not negate the validity of the existence of another. The valid existence of one religion, however, does negate the validity of the existence of another. This includes even syncretic, national, or otherwise limited or ‘tolerant’ cults.

      • This is why I said that a modus vivendi entails a certain amount of hypocrisy. It is really a truce, not a peace settlement. Not all religions are equally intolerant of rivals, though. They can carve out space for “virtuous pagans,” avatars and lesser dispensations. I think Leftism would be satisfied if conservatives were politically impotent and culturally despised.

      • What reason have Leftists, as opposed to your own conservative leanings, given you for thinking that?

        Leftism is perpetual revolution, and it requires a perpetual target. It hunts all its enemies to absolute extinction as far as it can, and then when it runs out of enemies it creates more from among its own ranks.

        The only reason monarchists aren’t currently being hounded to extinction is because they are already, by and large, extinct.

      • Even Leftism gets lazy. Maybe not permanently, but from time to time. But you are right that their zeal for persecution puts all previous religions to shame.

  5. Well, this isn’t the question on the agenda any more, is it? S. & ilk have won and control public discourse, hence the non-celebration. Leftism is never on anybody’s side (except Satan – nobody human therefore) except as a temporary expediency. S. would dump the Indians when no longer useful (as happened with The Proletariat – native white working men), and will soon impose diversity and social justice quotas on Indian native institutions (especially their – popular – Christian churches – -presumably already de facto destroyed by virus lies) and annihilate the remnants of their distinctiveness and autonomy. Same as will surely happen to religious, observant Jews.

  6. I would ask whether Silverman’s question assumes that land is the sort of thing that can belong to a “them”? If it assumes that, then we have a further question: if the Wampanoags didn’t believe land was the sort of thing that could be owned, and the Pilgrims did, then it turns out that they were not in disagreement about whether the Wampanoags owned the land. They could not have owned the land if they denied the possibility of owning the land. Indeed, (in such a case) the only way to treat them as actually having owned the land in spite of Pilgrim claims is to treat their (“religious”?) view as wrong – to repudiate their religion as error. That would indeed be a strange sort of thing to urge to defend the Wampanoags.

    And if Silverman’s question assumes (like the Pilgrims assumed) that land is the sort of thing to be owned, and the Wampanoags did not, then is Silverman’s received (inherited?) view is inherited from Pilgrims, not from Wampanoags.

    • The native Americans did not believe land could be “owned,” but they certainly believed it could be “controlled.” And what is more, they believed that who controlled any given piece of land was constantly contested. In other words, tribal war for tribal territory. If we view the white men from over the sea as just another tribe, we see that it effected a transfer of title in exactly the same way that Indian tribes effected transfer of title. The only real difference is that the Indians absolutely lost their tribal war with the whites, and so lost their territory forever.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.