Monday, July 4, 2011


Here's the last of our American names for Independence Day, the adorable sounding yet historically momentous Tripoli!

Tripoli (pronounced "TRIH-poh-lee") is a Greek name that means "three cities." It is the name of the capitol of Libya, which was founded in the 7th century B.C. by the Phoenicians. They were attracted by it's harbor and easily defensible peninsula. The city was usurped by many cultures, including the Greeks, Romans, Muslims, Spanish, Ottomans, Italians, and then finally by the Libyans themselves. There is also a separate Tripoli in Lebanon.

This might not sound very American. But there is a connection. A really good connection if you practice a form of Neo-Paganism. Bigotry is a sad fact for Neo-Pagans living in America, even though we do have it better than Neo-Pagans living elsewhere in the world. But there may have been a time when someone has asked you, as condescendingly as possible, "Do you know what religion this country was founded on?" You most likely simply stared into the void of deep stupidity and tried not to punch said person. But today, I'm proud to give you a rebuttal: "Have you heard of the Treaty of Tripoli?"

The historical context is this: shortly after the formation of the United States, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean became a playground for piracy. We didn't want our commerce stolen. In an attempt to come to an agreement that didn't involve war, we wrote numerous treaties to the pirating nations and cities.

This particular treaty was written by our nations 2nd President John Adams. The entire treaty was read aloud on the Senate floor, and ratified unanimously. An Arabic translation was sent to Tripoli. It was then published in full in three different newspapers. There was no outcry from the public.

For the most part, the Treaty of Tripoli is a pretty straight-forward diplomatic agreement. But this clause in the English version is what's interesting:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,--as it has in itself no character or enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Mussulmen,--and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

...Well. There you have it. Granted, the treaty didn't work and we wound up going to war with them anyway, but still. The wording could not be more clear. It's an official evidence that the founding fathers did not base the American constitution on Christian theology.

Of course most people already know this. Neo-Pagans know this. Good Christians know this. Good government officials know this. Our small children know this. The bigots? They refuse to accept it. It's genuinely frightening when a popular government official goes on television and claims that the constitution is only meant to protect Christians and Jews. They only take the pieces of history that suit their agenda. Pathetic, really.

In this way, Tripoli is a truely patriotic name. Ripe for boys or girls, and rarely used before. Because we'll worship whatever religion we please, dammit! And screw those that don't like it! That's the American way!


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1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post - love the heritage of Tripoli in a Pagan context. It certainly has a nice ring to it, too! And anything that comes in threes has to have Pagan appeal ;D.


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