Dionysos is an American God

Last week, Sannion wrote this piece about America as a Dionysian country. Essentially, he looks to an ideal of (or an idealized imagining of) certain aspects of the land and culture of the United States, and sees a clear pattern of Dionysian spirit in our art, politics, and history.

The essay is not unproblematic, and the bits folks might find distasteful start with the word “recolonize” in the title. The piece does not look critically at American culture, does not address how the Native people might have seen the patterns the author highlights, and does not acknowledge the history of appropriation or oppression that went into some of the things Sannion praises as Dionysian aspects of America.

Still, I think Sannion would be disappointed if readers were to assume that he is ignorant (or insensitive) to these problems just because he doesn’t call them out in this essay. The man can be downright misanthropic at times, and does not disguise a sarcastic disdain for mixing religion and politics, but he’s not a fool. Well, not a secular fool, at least.

At any rate, my take-away is this: Dionysos is an American god; not in his birth, but in that this land was ready to welcome him as an immigrant, and easily takes a place in the long story of the God who comes out of the east with a train of outcasts dancing behind him. Now, whether or not American Dionysos is the same entity as Greek Dionysos will require more pondering of syncretism on my behalf, but I suspect the answer is “Yes, but/and.”

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