Marseilles 1212

Those who contend Americans have a short memory might be well served to look back a mere forty score years ago, to Marseilles in the year of our lord 1212. It was a time of chaos and enforced ignorance, and thus a time of great opportunity. It was a time of tragedy and great personal loss for the masses while the elite expounded on their ability to interpret the unseen. It was an era ruled by a vengeful god, who, in his first and foremost command, proclaimed there were to be no other gods but he alone, with vengeance and violence for those that would cross his worshippers. In short, it was a time a lot like America today.

Infidels, non-believers, berserkers, in short, followers of Islam had gained control of the Holy Land and our armies were proving helpless against them. Though most of us had only heard of the fabled Holy Land , we were continuously exhorted that it was worth dying for. The people there had the wrong beliefs. It’s like they weren’t even people at all.

Across the land a cry rang out and the simple people, the children, the innocent and guileless rose up to take the matter into their own hands. Surely their purity of spirit and true faith in the Lord, our very Christian god, would overcome the heathen whereas our weaponry had not. The sheer power of our unwavering belief in the rightness of our Christian god would surely be enough to overcome any lesser beings’ superstitious hocus-pocus over their tawdry talismans.

So we massed, in our anger and our righteousness, first to Genoa , then eventually around to Marseilles, where in 1212, two kindly merchants at tremendous personal sacrifice agreed to help us in our final leap of our noble crusade, and so, like lemmings we boarded their ships . . .

Never to be seen again. Sold as slaves the thirty thousand European peasants and youth who took part in the fabled “Children’s Crusade” disappeared from history into a fate generally imagined to be “worse than death.” And those two “kindly” merchants of Marseilles, the Halliburtons and Raytheons of their day, were in cahoots with the bogeymen Muslims all along and sold the questing Christians for a clear eyed profit. In some versions of their legend, the merchants are later captured and hanged for a plot to kidnap a king, but that would be in a world where the wicked get punished and the kind are redeemed.

A place decidedly not the Obama America of 2009, where banks are rewarded for impoverishing the rest of us and religious war in the Holy Land is still framed to demonize the Muslim. Though Muslim religious extremists are blamed for inciting violence in the name of their vision of god, America steadfastly and incrementally has retrofitted our military to march onward as Christian soldiers. Because, after all, our Christian religious intolerance is so much more sanctimonious and thus justified than any other religion’s zealotry.

Now with the stage duly set by last week’s news item of Muslim guys plotting to launch RPGs at a synagogue, this week a Muslim convert guy is accused of shooting up recruiting station in Little Rock . And in the same time and news cycle, ironies of ironies, in the latest of what is appearing to be an inexhaustible series of right-wing gun users intent on lighting up America like it was their personal amusement park, an abortion doctor has been shot and killed in his own church in Kansas, by yet another right-winger following orders from his minister du jour, in this case Bill O’Reilly.

As the day to day gun violence of American life begins to approach Bruckheimer-esque levels, I think it is safe to say, or rather unsafe to say, that the shooting war for the post-Obama America has now openly begun. And, as the summer thrill season heats up, it seems our box office isn’t the only aspect of the public arena enthralled by angels and demons.

Of course the advantage the rest of Europe had in 1212 over America today is that the Christian fanatics and opportunists who comprised the thirty thousand or so that took part in the crusade walked out of their society, not among it. The Holy Land was a lot farther away from their day to day life than the religious war that is on the edge breaking out right here at home, in racially and religiously mixed America .

Also, modern day America is a whole lot bigger than Europe of the early 1200s and even though Christianity is in decline here, and thus feeling embattled, there are still millions more American Christian zealots ready to kill for their love of man, with most of them living near most of you.

Good luck, America , welcome to Marseilles 1212. Simply follow the kindly merchants who will lead you on your way. Perhaps your faith will set you free . . .

Mikel Weisser teaches social studies and poetry on the left coast of Arizona. He can be reached at Read other articles by Mikel.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. rg the lg said on June 3rd, 2009 at 11:55am #

    Well said.

    The children’s crusade … the response of capitalism to simple faith …

    Don’t change much, does it?

    RG the LG

  2. bozh said on June 3rd, 2009 at 12:22pm #

    the cultists evaluate a planetary region as holy. But there is only one planet which cannot be subordinate to an impoverished/tiny region.
    the ‘holy’ region comprises just 001% of the planet.
    so, to make any sense at all, it is 99.99% of the planet wich shld be holy
    and not troubled sliver of land.
    actually, word “holy” is an sacerdotal invention. And if there is such category as “holy” then every human being and inch of land/sea is also holy.
    but most priests are screwers and not improvers. So, the time has come to tell the priestly class to stop their vitiating labors.
    we have enough problems without priestly inventions. tnx bozhidar balkas vancouver

  3. Barry99 said on June 3rd, 2009 at 6:01pm #

    To say nothing of the Jewish fanatics, the apparent inventors of monotheistic rage against the other. How unlucky to be born Palestinian in Palestine – several thousand years after one might have been unlucky enough to be born a Philistine in Philistia.

  4. john andrews said on June 3rd, 2009 at 10:07pm #

    The existence of god (or gods), the base of most main religions, has never been proven.

    Therefore those religions are all groundless.

    The main purpose of all religion has always been to control people; possibly the most effective control device after weapons of war.

  5. bozh said on June 4th, 2009 at 6:01am #

    john andrews, yes
    our enslavement or subjugation started with rise of shamanism. It was later fully developed and institutionalized by criminal-minded priests.
    Pharoah, e.g., was raised to the status of a god.
    as late as 18th century only patricians cld be priests. High priests were often high rulers. tnx

  6. David said on June 4th, 2009 at 8:16am #

    A major difference that can be drawn between the peasant society of 1212 A. D. and now (since we are drawing similes here and the lower class of the USA is made up of modern-day peasants by most measures) is that in 1212, peasants had no opportunities to learn about their world. They were denied the ability to think because of their day-to-day survival needs and were largely confined to serfdom under some baron or lord.

    In the USA and mostly since about 1950, American peasants have had the opportunity to learn about their world, even if by self-teaching. Yet, tens of millions have not availed themselves of this wonderous chance, choosing instead to watch TV, wander the malls, or play with their gas-powered toys. (To be sure, many in the modern peasant class, howsoever you choose to define that, have acquired diplomas of various sorts. This has made little difference in preventing our current plight, hasn’t it? Perhaps the holders of these diplomas really didn’t learn much.)

    I suggest that before we start to look for the bogeyman outside of ourselves that we look inside and find out why this has happened.

  7. john andrews said on June 4th, 2009 at 9:23am #


    You are, of course, right that we peasants have infinitely better access to information than our ancestors – but therein lies part of the problem: we are confronted by so much distraction and utterly useless information that it is all but impossible to filter out the useful bits. We are too deafened by the noise to hear the melody, too blinded by the wood to see the trees.