Just over a year ago, I (and several others) made my first post on PAGAN+politics. I was excited beyond belief and so honored to have been contacted by Jason Pitzl-Waters to participate in a blog project whose objective was to feature Pagan voices from across the political spectrum and encourage civil discussion. An additional hope what that this would help end the stigmatization of minority voices in our community and show non-Pagans (and Pagans) that we are as diverse politically as we are in other ways.
I think PAGAN+politics has made a good start on those goals, but it has also shown just how far we have to go.
In my first post, I wrote: “Carrying that over to politics, I think that most people and political Parties want the same outcome; a happy, healthy, open and caring populace. Just because we disagree on how to accomplish that outcome, why should we denounce one another as evil and hateful? Our unity and harmony should derive from the goal, not the method. Many paths can lead to the same destination.” I still believe that. One of the more frustrating things about participating in this project is the realization that many people don’t believe that and never will. They will always see ‘the other side’ as inherently evil, operating from either ignorance or base motives. Even within such a diverse umbrella group like Paganism.
I love writing for this blog. I enjoy talking about politics in general and have found it fascinating to delve into how religion affects our political views. And how it doesn’t. I enjoy our differences and appreciate even more how alike we are. I have made many new friends, many of whom don’t agree with me on a single thing in politics and it doesn’t matter. We respect one another. I have been given new opportunities. I am an editor for PNC-Minnesota. It’s wild being back in the news business, never thought that would happen again. I’ve been able to write for Patheos. And I’m chairing Pagan Coming Out Day, which is starting to take off. That was born right here on this blog.
And yet…because of some of those opportunities and changes in my professional life, I don’t have the time needed to write for PAGAN+politics on a weekly basis. I’ve been struggling with this for a few months, but I’ve come to the decision that I need to pare down what projects I am involved in so I can do them justice. I will no longer be a regular contributor to P+p. I’m not sure if this is goodbye or see you later, but I do thank you for all the fish. Perhaps my addiction to P+p will overcome me and I won’t be able to stay away. Don’t celebrate too much just yet!
(Tangent – one of the reasons why I wrote “Wisconsin, it’s none of our business” is because while outsiders concentrated their time, energy, and money on Wisconsin…look what is happening in Ohio. This has taken some Ohio union supporting people I know by surprise. It shouldn’t have.)
In keeping with the nature of this project, I wanted to leave you with this video. Let me explain a bit about what you will see and why I felt it perfectly encapsulated both political bipartisanship and the nature of this blog project.
The video is of the rally in Wisconsin. The protesters there, many of them, have been spending hours or days standing out in the reallyfuckingcold weather. They are tired. They are cold. They are also determined. Some are getting frustrated, feeling like those in power aren’t listening to them. Worried they will lose and how that will affect their lives. (My opinion – they will lose, for now. The Democrats will come back and the Bill will pass)
In the first minute of the video, the crowd sees Sen. Grothman(R) walking to enter the capital building. They follow him and chant “shame” at him. It’s pretty loud. I don’t mind these kinds of displays by voters as I feel our elected officials need to buck up and understand that sometimes the electorate is going to angry with them and their actions. But then again, I wasn’t all shocked, horrified, and offended by the Health Care town hall meetings that Democrats faced last year.
Then something changes in the dynamic of the crowd. The crowd corners him up against the side of the building at about 1 minute into the video. The media make a corridor and he presses forward. At about 2 minutes int the video, someone starts yelling “Fuck You” at the Senator. There’s always one, right? The crowd starts to turn ugly. Watching it, you can see things start to shift and when you have crowds, things can go south on you quickly. If you’ve been in crowds (or are a police officer) you know its when the crowd stops a unified chant, but increases its intensity, that you have to watch out for. The mob, no longer just a crowd, presses in at the Senator.
2:45 in the video – enter Rep. Hulsey(D), wearing his bright orange union shirt. He goes to the assistance of his colleague. Shielding him and physically holding the mob back from him. Putting his arm around him. At first the crowd is still pushing against Hulsey, trying to get to Grothman. A man who appears to be an aid or assistant to Hulsey helps push the crowd back, then holds his fingers up in a ‘peace’ sign and yells PEACE to the mob. He puts his back to the mob, spreads his arms out, and continues to push back at them. After a while, the crowd, no longer a mob, takes up the chant of “peaceful” and hold up fingers in the sign for peace. The Senator is kept safe, but it was a very near thing. You can then skip to about 5 minutes into the video. Hurley addresses the crowd, trying to calm them down. Hurley: “I know you’re angry.” Protestor: “Damn right!” Hurley asks that the protests remain peaceful and respectful. He claims Grothman as his friend. “Glenn Grothman and I probably could not disagree on more things and yet he is my friend. He is my friend and he is a good person.”
I bolded that last part because Hurley also appears to believe what I believe and sums up what this blog project stands for – people can be good, decent, intelligent and still have a point of view different from our own. And we can passionately oppose their view without losing sight of that.
Conservative commentators have been playing these videos as signs that the protest in Wisconsin isn’t all that peaceful. I understand that, but it’s been pretty good for that large a crowd for that long a time. I’m shocked (but not surprised – if this was a Tea Party rally the media would be all over this) that more isn’t being shown of the signs and what people are saying at the rally. And please note – the National Jewish Democratic Council would like people to stop the Hitler signs, quotes, and references no matter what party you belong to. However, when I look at the video I see a Republican is safe because a Democrat protected him with his body and his words. If THAT isn’t reaching across the aisle, I don’t know what is. Even though the two are in opposite political parties during a time of very heated disagreement, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in Wisconsin in decades, Hurley still went to the aid of Grothman. The mob, seeing only an enemy and getting ready to become violent, turns back into a crowd of people exercising their right to peaceful assembly.
That, my friends, is bipartisanship when it mattered most. That is also the spirit of this blog project. The contributors to this project should strive to be like Hurley. And in our discourse, we should all seek to be the crowd, not the mob. We need more chants of “peaceful” and less of “fuck you!”