Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Crusades Imagery and Modern European Racism - The Crying Templar

Modern xenophobic Europeans have adopted medieval crusader imagery for their cause.

As a medievalist, and more specifically a historian focused on imagination, memory, narrative creation, myth, and political culture focused around medieval crusading, I find this at once worrying and fascinating. Fascinating because it replicates many of the medieval processes by which crusading became a vehicle for articulating identity; troubling because it's an identity partially dependent on the use of violence against non-Christians, including within Europe's borders.

Which brings us to the crying Templar, courtesy of writer Saladin Ahmed on Twitter:
Description:

A badly drawn image of a lightly bearded man in armor, with blue line meant to represent a tear coming from his right eye. You can see the red-top of his crusader cross on his chest and a sword on his back.

The text is partial (and I haven't found the source), but includes a series of statements about the medieval context taken directly from medieval myths about crusading, with a final anti-refugee pivot.
>be raided, enslaved, rape, murdered,and conquered for 500 years
>your homelands suffer from destitute poverty because of the constant sea raids destroying naval trade and transport routes
>Byzantium is begging for help, southern france is easy picking for slavers, Spain is conquered and france is invaded, churches are burned and nuns are raped en masse in conquered cities, southern italy and sicily live in fear
>call upon nobles, peasants, the poor and rich alike to put an end to the centuries of oppression and evil and retake the holy lands that are dear to you
>sell your lands, your estate, your everything to buy armor, a sword and enough food to make it halfway across the world knowing you won't return but believe in the cause of justice
>lose hundreds of thousands of good men for over a hundred years in perpetual war
>a thousand years later your ancestors piss on your grave and bend over for the very people you traveled through hell itself to stop.
It's a little funny, but only in the scary way because of the implicit requirement for militarization and the dangerous "clash of civilizations going back millennia" myth. Al Qaeda, interestingly enough, deployed similar historical perspectives.

Previous coverage of modern myths around crusading here, here, and here.

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