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Looking Deeper: Kavanaugh, women, culture war, and us.


The controversy over appointing a ruthless political operative, perjurer, and probable sexual predator to the Supreme Court has led many people to put the blame on old White males and their culture of privilege. While there is some truth to this argument, it does not go nearly deep enough to shed adequate light on these crimes against the constitution. Going more deeply also sheds light on the rise of NeoPagan religion in this country.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently wrote a particularly good analysis of the issues underlying the Kavanaugh controversy from a mainstream progressive perspective. Krugman emphasized Trump’s base is not motivated by economic issues, but rather from rage at losing their accustomed status in a society where more and more Americans are people different from themselves.  The result is hatred of others, racial resentment, and a deep rage by white men in particular. 

The influence of Trump’s base is made all the worse by what Krugman terms “high end resentment.” These are successful people who believe they should receive still more recognition than they have. Such people have always existed, but today they are allied with a deeper cultural revolt, at least so long as they can use them for their own ends.  It’s a good piece, well worth reading.

And yet it does not probe deeply enough.

Certainly the rage of some white men who think they aren’t respected enough is a part of our problem. But if that were all that was needed to understand Trump, Kavanaugh, and their supporters, why did Trump get a majority of White women’s votes?  That majority tipped the scales in the last election even though his opponent was a White woman. Why did his mixed-gender crowd cheer him when he attacked Dr. Ford in Mississippi?

The explanation lies deeper than White men

Probing one level deeper, we can note the Republican Party is now controlled by wanna-be Confederates, centered in the South but with allies in the North and West. This takeover of a major party started with the Republicans’ “Southern strategy,” adopted to lure Southern Democratic into the party.  It has continued ever since, until today traditional Republicans have been pushed from power in the party unless they obey the dictates of Southern Republicans. Kevin Phillips, a primary architect of that strategy, now has serious regrets, and in my opinion his American Theocracy  is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the modern Republican Party, how it came to be, and the threat it poses to the nation.

Phillips emphasizes the role of Southern religion, especially Southern Baptists, in shaping Southern culture.  The Southern Baptists broke away from America’s Baptists over the issue of slavery, and as they embraced a society where some permanently dominated others, also increasingly emphasized subordinating women to their husbands. They strengthened every dimension of Christianity that decent people find objectionable, ultimately explicitly rejecting the Declaration of Independence and its values.

As Southern NeoConfederates took over the Republican Party they turned it from a conservative party into a radical anti-American one, looking more to the Confederacy for inspiration than to our Founders. (Ever notice the lack of statues to Jefferson, Madison, and other leading Southern Founders in the South?)

Going deeper yet

I argued in my book Faultlines that America is split between a culture rooted in agricultural civilization characterized by patriarchy and hierarchy and a new one rooted in a greater role for feminine values, and much flatter hierarchies.  It is receptive to feminine, democratic, and ecological values in ways the old culture is not.

Agricultural civilizations once had many admirable qualities. Their core values were as often violated in practice as ours, but still had influence.  The male ideal was a protector, not a dominator. Today as women become more financially independent and equal under the law, this protector role is fading. Those feeling threatened by this decline are embracing values taking increasingly pathological forms. If I cannot be respected as a protector I can at least be a dominator.  Ironically, most have sought to avoid actual protector roles, such as in the military. (Compare Robert Mueller, a traditional Republican who served in Vietnam as a Marine, with those, from Trump on down, who criticize him and never served.)

This nihilistic degeneration is deeper than just dominating women.

Consider guns. In the old West, guns were often not allowed to be worn openly in towns.   Today insecure men openly wear guns to demonstrate their pathetic sense of being a man. They feel the need to impress others with their power to kill.

Many women who grew up in this culture accept this moral degeneracy. Southern religion infects both genders and the worship of guns demonstrates the problem is not just men’s attitudes towards women. Most fundamentally, it is men’s attitudes towards what it is to be a man. Theirs is the logic of a baboon troop, with most accepting being subordinate to some baboons so long as they can feel superior to others. Theirs is a degenerate caricature of agricultural civilizations’ hierarchical and patriarchal values.

Southern culture once gave us people like Washington, Jefferson and Madison. No more. It has become deeply toxic. Western ‘individualism’ has done the same, where flaunting a gun is ‘freedom’. As these folks, men and women alike, realize their way of life no longer fits the world around them, they become resentful and enraged in the way Paul Krugman describes.

And they want to dominate all who are different from themselves..

What matters

The issue here is not racial. “White” matters only because American culture has long been predominately White. The same dynamic would be playing out if we were Brown, Black, or any other color, because it arises from forms of life, not race.  Obama actually did remarkably well among White voters.  It was in the South, the center of Trump's support, that racism made a huge impact. Putting today’s problem in terms of race only makes matters worse, because it emphasizes the wrong characteristic. It is culture, not race, that matters most.

Add to this cultural earthquake between two deeply different ways of life with the arrogance of too many of the ultra-wealthy who have always been a problem in any good society, and we have what we have.

The feminine, sacred and otherwise

It is no accident that the most contentious issues Republicans have sought to force down the country’s throats relate to the status of women and feminine values. Many of the rest attack nature, which is thought of in feminine terms. 

(The rest serve the worst of our corporations and wealthy. Not every issue is analyzable in the terms I am presenting, but the most fundamental are.)

The most effective opposition to this right-wing nihilism has been from women, from the wonderful women’s marches, to #MeToo, to the unusually large number of women running for office, to the role of empowered women in disrespected fields such as the sex industry, in undermining Trump’s legitimacy, to the current movement against Kavanaugh. All have emphasized respect for women, for feminine values, and rejecting pathological masculinity.

In our various forms, we NeoPagans, exemplify this cultural divide’s spiritual dimension. If the human race is to come out of its political and ecological crises in good shape, it is religions emphasizing feminine values that will speak most directly to their souls, as religions emphasizing the pathological masculine speak to the souls of the deplorables on the right.  To be sure, there are powerful movements in mainstream Christianity and Judaism emphasizing their deities’ feminine dimensions, but as my book demonstrates, these movements were often inspired by Starhawk. And this thread continues back to Gardner’s early emphasis that the Priestess was ultimately supreme, as was the Goddess. Far from being a throwback to earlier times, we are in extraordinary harmony with the deepest currents of the modern world.



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Gus diZerega DiZerega combines a formal academic training in Political Science with decades of work in Wicca and shamanic healing. He is a Third Degree Elder in Gardnerian Wicca, studied closely with Timothy White who later founded Shaman’s Drum magazine, and also studied Brazilian Umbanda  for six years under Antonio Costa e Silva.

DiZerega holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from UC Berkeley, has taught and lectured in the US and internationally, and has organized international academic meetings.

His newest book is "Faultlines: the Sixties, the Culture Wars, and the Return of the Divine Feminine (Quest, 2013) received a 'silver' award by the Association of Independent Publishers for 2014. It puts both modern Pagan religion and the current cultural and political crisis in the US into historical context, and shows how they are connected.

His first book on Pagan subjects, "Pagans and Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience," won the Best Nonfiction of 2001 award from  The Coalition of Visionary Resources. 

His second,"Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and a Christian in Dialogue" is what it sounds like. He coauthored it with Philip Johnson. DiZerega particularly like his discussion of polytheism in Burning Times, which in his view is an advance over the discussion in Pagans and Christians.

His third volume, "Faultlines: The Sixties, the Culture War, and the Return of the Divine Feminine," was published in 2013 and won a Silver award from the Association of Independent Publishers in 2014. The subject is obvious, and places it, and the rise of goddess oriented spiritual movements and our "cold civil war" in historical context.

His pen and ink artwork supported his academic research in graduate school and frequently appeared in Shaman’s Drum, and the ecological journals Wild Earth, and The Trumpeter. It now occasionally appears in this blog.


  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Thursday, 04 October 2018

    I am sad to read this level of anti-white racism and anti-men sexism on Pagan Square. It also opposes the American citizen's ability to elect representative who will follow our constitution and carry out our choices. Its really sad to see such divisiveness and hatred being promoted so vociferously. Its a sad day for America and for pagan Americans.

  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega Thursday, 04 October 2018

    Did you actually read my piece? If you are referring to my article, I suggest re-reading it without preconceptions. There is nothing anti-white or anti-men in it- quite the contrary.

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Thursday, 04 October 2018

    Yes. Its really sad to see such divisiveness and hatred being promoted so vociferously. Its a sad day for America and for pagan Americans.

    I see new forums for "conservative pagans" being created because of the high level of hatred and divisiveness being pushed by older pagan web pages.

  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis Friday, 05 October 2018

    You're welcome to seek out another place for your content if you wish. But speaking out against sexism and racism is not the same as "anti-men" or "anti-white" prejudice and it is an astoundingly bad faith argument to claim otherwise.

  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega Friday, 05 October 2018

    Thank you.

  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega Thursday, 04 October 2018

    There are some more PC-than-Thou folks out there who seem to run on self-righteousness and denouncing others. But if you are referring to my piece please move beyond generalities. I write this because we've disagreed in the past.

  • Jamie
    Jamie Saturday, 06 October 2018

    Mr. diZerega,

    We haven't always agreed in the past. But I enjoyed reading your post, and I think that your analysis is fundamentally correct.

    The whole problem of toxic masculinity is, as you allude to, deeply entwined with a kind of toxic femininity. Women who have invested their lives in the patriarchal system as we know it, and whose social statuses depend upon it, just aren't going to up and leave the reservation. And many of these alphas act as tastemakers and conformity enforcers for a vastly larger number of betas.

    It's a chicken and egg situation with no easy answers.

    Thanks again.

  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega Saturday, 06 October 2018

    Thank you Jamie. Sadly we agree on a reality we both wish was different.

  • Jamie
    Jamie Saturday, 06 October 2018


    I'll say it for the record. I didn't like Hillary Clinton, but you were right.

    By the Goddesses and Gods, there was voting for the lesser of two evils...and then there was 2016. It's like some dystopian 1980s science fiction movie. I used to think that Trump's supporters would eventually wake up, and realize they'd been conned by Oz the Great and Pow erful. Now I realize that these are largely the same folks who think the earth is 5000 years old.

    I wouldn't have cast a Libertarian protest vote, if I could have seen into the future. My blue state would still have gone for Hillary, but just sayin'. You were right.

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