Over and over during this election campaign the same theme keeps coming up in news stories and in conversations: many, many people don’t like either of the two main candidates. While each candidate certainly has ardent supporters, many voters say they find both candidates so distasteful and dishonest that they don’t want to vote for anyone.
The problem is actually bigger than just these two candidates. As a society, honor and integrity are no longer values that we hold paramount. The evidence is everywhere, not just in the political arena. On college campuses, there is an epidemic of rape and sexual assault. Every year, too many criminal convictions are overturned because the police or prosecutors are revealed to have concealed or falsified evidence. The news recently has been full of stories about unscrupulous drug companies raising the prices of essential drugs far above the price necessary to recoup expenses and make a reasonable profit, just because they know they can—people will die if they don’t get the drugs. In the financial arena, Wells Fargo was recently caught opening bogus accounts in customers’ names to generate extra charges and profits. In our government, members of Congress swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution and to “well and fully discharge the duties” of their office. Not so many years ago, that meant that once an election was over and a majority of the citizens of our country elected a president, the members of Congress in both parties would strive to work together with each other and the president to govern our country. No longer. All that matters to our “leaders” in Congress now is winning, and for the past eight years Congressional members of the party that lost the presidency have repeatedly broken their oaths, have refused to work together with members of the other side or the president, and have expended all of their efforts not to govern, but rather to prevent the duly elected president from effectively governing. And then there’s that special variety of honorless cowards the internet has given rise to: those who hide behind the internet’s cloak of anonymity to launch vile verbal attacks and threats against others—internet trolls.
Actually, there’s another name that perfectly fits the trolls, and all of the others whose behavior is beyond excuse: Nithings.
Over a thousand years ago in Scandinavia, the Viking peoples had a culture and society with values that frankly were in many ways better than ours are today. The real Vikings were not just savage, bloodthirsty barbarians and pirates, although that is how they are often portrayed today in many works of fiction, including the History Channel’s Vikings television series. Part of my mission in writing The Strongbow Saga, has been—in addition to spinning an exciting and moving tale—to provide an accurate portrayal of the Viking peoples and their society and culture. In reality, only a small percentage of the population of Viking-age Scandinavia ever went i-viking, or raiding. Most were farmers, fishermen, craftsmen, and merchants. But whereas in our modern society, and particularly here in the United States, people are held up for high regard based on things such as how much wealth and possessions they’ve acquired, how much power they possess, and whether for some reason they are considered a “celebrity,” in the Vikings’ culture the most important qualities esteemed in a person were whether they conducted themselves with honor, integrity, and courage. Whereas in our society a person’s actual behavior often seems to be only a minor criteria by which many, especially which the rich and famous, are judged, in Viking society a person’s behavior and character were the measure of the man (or woman).
In fact, the Viking peoples so valued honor that they had a special word for those had none, those who acted dishonorably and without integrity. Such were clearly not beasts, yet because they lacked the finer qualities that human beings are capable of possessing, they were considered less than human, as well. Those without honor were considered to be unique and despised creatures, neither human nor beast, called Nithings. The word is, very appropriately, the root of our modern English language word “nothing.”
Nithing is a term that should be returned to active use. Consider this a call to action. If you would like our country, our society to be one in which we not only highly value, but expect and demand that people conduct themselves with honor and integrity, then I suggest that changing our societies standards must begin with each of us as individuals. Do not accept dishonorable behavior. Let’s all take a stand by calling out those who engage in reprehensible conduct. But let’s do so with a touch of fun. Let’s start a grass roots “Despise Nithings” campaign, and use a little humor and creativity to call out the scoundrels.
I have purchased, and will be giving away free, “Despise Nithings” bumper stickers. They don’t have to be put on bumpers, though. Be imaginative. Maybe place one across a campaign sign or photograph of a politician, celebrity, talk radio host, or other person worthy of the “Nithing” name. Maybe stick one on a crooked corporation’s name or logo. Maybe even stick one on the doors of Congress itself. Take a photo of your call-out, and post it on social media—on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc., with the tag #DespiseNithings. The more we do this, the more widely the call-outs will be seen, and the more the idea will spread. Shameful behavior should be shamed, not accepted.
For a free “Despise Nithings” sticker, send a business-sized (4 x 9 inch), self-addressed, stamped envelope to:
c/o Northman Books
P.O. Box 336
Walterville, OR 97489
It’s time for a change. It’s up to all of us to make it happen.