cara

Mar 042011
 

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!”

Feb 252011
 

…and probably none of yours.

Like many of you, I have been following the budget and union event in Wisconsin.  I’ve probably been following for longer than you because I live next door and this issue has been in the news for years here.  Yes, I have some opinions on the matter.  No, I don’t care to share most of them.  In fact, if it weren’t for my husband pushing me to write something about this you wouldn’t be reading this blog post.  So I’ll voice these two thoughts:  I find it unethical to try to affect the outcome of events in a state that I don’t pay taxes in, yet I see what is happening there as a serious threat to our form of government.  And both of these opinions have been formed by my religious beliefs.

Over my years as a Hellenic Polytheist I’ve become more and more libertarian in my political leanings.  I think that is a natural result of delving into both the ethical backbone of the religion and studying that in the context of the culture if was practiced in.  The Greek city-states were autonomous and were very different from one another.  When they weren’t waging war on one another they stayed out of each others business and let each city govern as it saw fit.  The city-states joined together to form defense leagues to repel foreign invaders and they cooperated for religious festivals.  This was a very early form of Federalism, which is a core concept in US libertarianism.  It had it’s weaknesses, but many of those weaknesses are minimized and the strengths of freedom and diversity are increased in modern Federalism.  Add to this the Delphic Maxim of ‘When you are a stranger, act like it’ – meaning that when you are outside of your home or city-state you should be act like a polite guest.  Don’t act like your way is the best and everyone should conform to you.

All of this leads me to be very uncomfortable with people traveling to Wisconsin to join in protests – on either side of this issue.   The citizens of Wisconsin are the ones who should be free to decide what their future should be as they are the ones who will live that future.  They are the ones who pay the taxes, union dues, and have children in the schools.  The protestors from outside the state will hop back on their buses and go home and that will be that for them.  I also wonder why people from outside the state, who don’t know or live with the complexities of the situation on a daily basis, feel compelled tell Wisconsinites what to do.  Are we smarter than the citizens of that state?  Do we not think that they are capable of deciding important issues like this?  When I enter another state or another person’s home I am very conscious of the fact that I am a guest and I try to act like one.  I have made a conscious decision in my life to live out the ethics of my religion in all aspects of my life and I honor the best ideals that my religion has brought forward into modern times.

There is one thing happening in Wisconsin that I will speak about – the Democrat Senators who have fled the state to stop the government from being able to function. On important issues like budget, a quorum of Senators must be in session to allow a vote to take place.  By fleeing the state, these Democrat Senators ensure that a quorum cannot be achieved.  Although I won’t join in the efforts to recall those Senators as I am not a voter in their districts, I see their actions as a threat to our form of government – representational democracy.  Another gift of ancient Athens and Rome which the USA has refined under the blessings of the Patron Goddess of our country, Columbia.

While many focus on elections as the heart of our republic, the true test of our form of government comes after the election. If the losing party recognize their loss and continues to participate, then representative democracy works. When the losing side refuses to participate and boycotts governance, as is happening in Wisconsin, then our form of government STOPS WORKING.  Our form of government rests on two things – free and open elections by an informed populace and the willingness of minority parties to continue to participate in governing.

It’s no fun to be in the minority, to be in the party that loses heavily in an election.  The GOP experienced that in our Federal government and had to stand by as laws were passed that they vehemently opposed.  The GOP didn’t leave the country, though. They complained, they grandstanded, but they participated in governance.  On Bills they opposed, they voted against the Bill and then they used that vote as part of their platform in the next election.

In Wisconsin, the budget crisis and public unions were a large part of the political discussion during the last election.  Republican ad Democrat candidates put forth their ideas on how to deal with the crisis and the voters cast their ballots.  In the last election they did something extremely unusual, especially for Wisconsin.  They voted in a Republican House, Senate, and Governor. Democrats became the minority.  But instead of doing their duty, upholding their sworn and sacred oath, they fled the state.  And that is a very dangerous thing for them to have done.  When elected officials do things like skip the state to shut down the government because you lost the last election, it puts our form of government in danger. It thwarts the will of the voters, it breaks the bonds of oaths, and it puts us out of balance with Columbia – which can bring Nemesis into the picture.  If it can’t be corrected, we could slip further into inbalance with the scales swinging wildly back and forth.  After all, don’t you think that when the Democrats are back in power, the other Republicans could use the same tactics?  What if this becomes more normal?

I’ll keep watching events in Wisconsin, but this is about as involved as I will get in the discussion.  And you certainly won’t see me crossing the border to join in the protests.

 Posted by at 10:13 am
Feb 232011
 

I’m back from PantheaCon, no thanks to those bastards at Delta airlines. PantheaCon is a gathering of approximately 3000 Pagans from across the country and hosts educational sessions and Pagan-friendly concerts over the course of 4 days.  The con was great and the conversations were even better.  This type of gathering is not only a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow through formal workshops, but it helps you take the pulse of the greater Pagan community.  You find out what the hot topics are and get a sense of the direction our communities are headed.  These are just a few of my observations from the con.

Electric Atmosphere
If you’ve gone to an outdoor festival, PantheaCon is nothing like that.  Very different vibe.  The pace is almost frantic, very high energy and there isn’t really any down time.  You weep as you look at your schedule of events, choosing between seven or more workshops happening simultaneously.   The workshops start at 9am and the last ones end at midnight or later.  I can’t tell you how many times I was torn between workshops and concerts.  In some cases I went between them, catching a few minutes here and there.

Even more exciting was meeting people I have known only online.  To see them, have a real life conversation, and hug them was worth the entire experience.  Star Foster and I roomed together and she is beautiful on the inside and the outside.  I liked her before, now I love her.  Some of you found out that I’m really not an asshole.  (“You know, you’re actually rather nice,” was my favorite comment.)  I chatted with bigwigs in the Troth, ADF, and COG.  I got their perspectives on how their organization is doing, how its membership is changing, and what they are planning for the next few years.  Two words came up over and over – infrastructure and families.

I got to have several ‘fangirl’ comments and I’m not the only one.  Many of us were meeting people we’ve read about for years and look up to.  Selena Fox hugged me.  I had a conversation with Margot Adler (No shit, I’m serious)  And…my most squeeeee-worthy moment:  I heard Charles Stein read his translations and arrangement of the Chaldean Oracles.  And I got to talk with him before the workshop, too.  I think I freaked him out because I was overly excited to meet him.  He kept his eye on me during the hour long presentation.  Hey, to a Hellenic Recon…Stein is a freaking rock star and if we both weren’t married/spoken for and if I wasn’t fixed and if I liked children I would so have his babies.  Those are the kind of moments you have at Pantheacon.

Respecting our Youngers
Pagans, generally, have great respect for our elders.  We respect their experience and honor the contributions and sacrifices they have made on behalf of our religions.  This contrasts with much of mainstream society in the USA.  However – we are treating our younger generation like shit.  That’s a blunt statement and it’s none too pretty, but that was driven home during the con.

I watched Pagans under the age of 30 told, in not so many words, to sit down and shut up.  The attitude was that they couldn’t possibly have anything of value to offer, after all, they probably had only read a book or two and didn’t have the 20, 30 or even 40 years of experience that many of our elders have.  Just watching body language, when younger folks approached or would try to enter into conversation, some Elders physically turned a shoulder to them to block them out, a dismissive and defensive gesture. This causes our younger generation to feel alienated.  Some of them are choosing to no longer be active in the greater community because their attempts at contributing have been rebuffed repeatedly.  One exchange I overheard encapsulates this.  A younger Pagan offer to help put a booklet of songs into a PDF format so that people could download it onto their eBook reader as a supplement to printing it out on paper.  The Elder ridiculed the idea commenting that it was a stupid idea and he don’t know why anyone would want to own an eReader.  After all, he barely uses email and hates computers.  The younger people in the group exchanged a look, went silent, and then left.

Not only taking into account the lack of basic respect from one human to another, this is disturbing behavior for our community.  Our Elders are overworked.  They are burning out from doing it all as they have been doing for the bast several decades.  Yet some can’t seem to give up control and allow a younger generation to assist them.  They are not using their wisdom to create a space for a new generation of Pagan leaders to grow and flourish.  This is a shame as many of these younger Pagans I spoke with are trustworthy, responsible seeming adults who are professionally successful and have knowledge and skills that our community needs.  They are lawyers, community organizers, financial professionals, work in media or PR, and in psychology.  They have life experiences and perspectives that we would do well to listen to.  They may have lived in countries where polytheism is the norm.  Some of them have grown up as Pagans and don’t have the baggage and ‘translation’ issues that us converts to Paganism carry around in our heads no matter how devoted and knowledgeable we are.  We need to develop future leaders, but we can’t do if we treat our younger generation with disregard and disrespect.

Infrastructure and Families
I mentioned above that those two topics kept coming up.  Pagans are trying to find ways to have their group survive and thrive after the passing of a charismatic leader.  Some already know that having some sort of organization and infrastructure is a needed while others are just coming to that conclusion.  I spoke with coven leaders who worry that Wicca is in danger of dying out, even while numbers of Wiccans continue to grow.  They said that the early leaders of Wicca set it up to be anti-establishment, which they like, but that built weaknesses into the religion.  They worry the coven model is not sustainable and cannot support the initiatives that many in the community wish to have such as temples, charitable organizations, and groups that survive a leader’s death or retirement.

Other groups, like ADF, are not only surviving the death of a beloved leader – they are thriving and planning for growth.  They have enough structure and organization to accomplish what they wish, but not so much that they stifle their members.  They, like the Heathen groups, are focusing on being family friendly while not scaring off the the solitaries.  Families are welcome at rituals and groves plan fun purely social events to build community ties.  They are seeing more members of the same family become active in ADF and that creates a stable membership base.  This was another area of concern for some Wiccans I spoke to – becoming more family friendly.  They feel only attracting adult converts is not a paradigm desirable to continue.  However, they didn’t have many ideas of how to bring families into the coven system successfully.

Wicca-Centric Language
PantheaCon does a good job of bringing in non-Wiccan speakers for the workshops.  If you are a recon of some flavor, there were many options for you and much you would find of interest.  One thing I’m losing patience with, though, is Wicca-centric language at supposedly Pagan events.  If it is a Wiccan event or topic I don’t begrudge using language and terminology that is exclusively Wiccan.  But when the workshop is for Pagans of all types it would be better to keep the language more neutral.  There is sometimes an assumption that we all use some type of coven system, believe in the God and the Goddess, and use magic.  That we work with deities and aren’t religious, but spiritual.  Looking around the audience at some of the workshops, I could tell I wasn’t the only one feeling like I was an outsider because of the language used and the assumptions made.  In a panel discussion a woman asked a question about how they see Pagan leadership changing, especially as leaders emerge in non-religious roles.  The panel, for the most part, couldn’t break free of their coven model mindset to understand the question.  They gave suggestions about how people could help the HP or the HPS in tasks, but that wasn’t what the question was about.  The question was about leaders who emerge in areas outside of religious authority.  For example – Patrick McCollum is a leader in the greater Pagan community due to his social justice and interfaith work and it doesn’t matter if he is a priest or not.  Jason Pitzl-Waters, Star Foster, and the Pagan Centered Podcast folks are leaders in our greater community, but they are not religious leaders.  I talked to a few people in the audience about the question and the answer and generally Wiccans felt the question was answered well while the non-Wiccans were frustrated that the question was ignored or misunderstood.

Suggestions
I do have a two suggestions for PantheaCon and cons in general, but my first suggestion is for the attendees of both festivals and cons.  TAKE A FRIGGIN SHOWER.  You may think I’m joking, but I’m not.  Getting on a crowded elevator or sitting next to someone for an hour who smells like old B.O. mixed with fresh B.O. is no treat.  I mean, you all paid to stay in a hotel for the con, right?  The room comes with a shower and free soaps and some shampoo.  You might as well use them, you already paid for them.  Heck, make it more fun and have a friend join you.  Please.  Because chances are, your friend smells just as ripe as you do.

Con organizers – have some side trip options.  I can tell you, if you sent out an email to those pre-registered saying there was a bus trip to see a Hindu temple (we had some Hindu speakers this year) and you could go for an extra fee – people would click the link and enter their credit card information.  If there was a day trip to wineries and a ritual for Dionysos offered, I would have done that too.  I was able to go with some friends and see the redwood trees and visit a Hoodoo shop and I got jealous texts from people wishing they could go.  These side trips could be offered a day before or after the con.  Heck, you wouldn’t even have to put any money out for it, just go through an established travel group and have them organize it all, the con just sends out the email invite.

Just go!
If you can attend PantheaCon, or another con or festival, I urge you to do so.  Yes, the workshops are great and you get every penny’s worth of your reg fee.  But it is the unexpected experiences and casual conversations that stay with you.   It’s the people you meet and who you can keep conversing with long after the event is over that continue to add value in your life.  Anything written about a con or a festival cannot capture the experience.  Its like the mysteries we have in our religions – they are not mysteries because we what happens is a secret, they are powerful mysteries because we cannot put the experience into words.  That is what Pantheacon is – a transformative mystery – one that you can’t fully appreciate while it is happening.  It has to seep into your soul and simmer in your brain.

Feb 082011
 

Back in August of last year, Jason Pitzl-Waters wrote an article titled Building a Pagan News Ecosphere (and why that’s important) on the Wild Hunt.  He wrote it to preface launching the local Pagan Newswire Collective bureaus, of which there are now eight and soon to be nine, in addition to the PNC editorial blogs like the one you are reading now. He said his reasons for wanting to create local news bureaus, as opposed to just editorial outlets, were two-fold , ” if modern Pagans want to be informed about important events within their communities and possibly influence the narrative of stories that do reach traditional media outlets, we have to do it ourselves.”

Who knew, back in August, that Jason’s ambitious (and crazy) idea may help save a life?  It’s amazing the ripples a cast stone can produce.

Ken Ra at the Gradfathering ceremony at Sacred Harvest Festival, 2010

In addition to writing for Pagan+politics I am also one of two editors for the PNC-Minnesota bureau, Nels Linde being the other.  We have a Webmistress, a photojournalist, and a few writers.  One of the first events we covered was the Sacred Harvest Festival.  There was so much to cover and we published a number of stories, one them an article by Nels about the Grandfathering of an Elder in our community, Ken Ra.

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Over a hundred people gathered on Saturday Aug 14th at Sacred Harvest Festival to honor Ken Ra and his years of passing knowledge.

The ceremony continued with a procession of the scores of Ken’s symbolic children, Grand children, and Great Grand children.   Nearly each person spoke words of thanks, praise, and recognition; some loudly and some with intimacy. Among groups represented were: The Coven of the Standing Stones, Iris Glenn, Iris Dawn, Lodge Yggdrasil,Circle of Phoenix, Shades of Gray, Elemental Synergy, Circle of Dragons, and Temple of Eros.

Besides his rich teaching legacy, Ken was recognized for his strong support of Pagan civil rights and the environment, with his hands, words, and dollars.

The Grandfathering was bittersweet as the community was aware that Ken was very ill and fighting for his life.  He was in desperate need of a kidney transplant and the average wait for a kidney appeared to be longer than Ken could wait.  Last October, JRob Zetelumen, a writer for PNC-Minnesota and admin for the Twin City Pagans Yahoo! list, wrote an article for PNC-Minnesota detailing Ken’s need for a donor to come forward.

After 42 years of practicing, Ken Ra has trained about 80 Wiccans, and there are about 300 of his lineage. He has continued to be a pillar of the community through personal adversity. Ken Ra has been a major player in making this one of the greatest Pagan communities in the world. To this day, despite his health problems, he continues to teach four classes a week; three in Wicca and one in Magesmithing, all are free.

Now, Ken Ra needs a new kidney, and you can help. Ken has signed on with the Paired Kidney Program through Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Kidney Transplant Unit. If he can get someone to donate a kidney, (whether it’s a match for him or not) then someone else in the program can get him a kidney. This will drastically reduce the wait, which is usually between 3 to 5 years. Ken needs a kidney sooner than that.

The article explained how the program worked and also talked about the risks involved in donating a kidney.  After that, Ken waited and hoped.  Hoped the article would be read or passed on to just the right person.  And it was.

On Monday, JRob Zetelumen of PNC-Minnesota was able to print a fantastic update to the story:  Ken Ra is receiving a kidney transplant on February 14th.  The new kidney is being donated by a local Pagan who wishes to remain anonymous. Ken wrote the following letter and asked that it be printed on our PNC bureau site and I’ve included it here:

“Two years ago, I had kidney failure and the government did not get me on disability in any reasonable amount of time. The Minneapolis Pagan community came together and we raised nearly five thousand dollars. At Sacred Harvest Fest, I was honored with a Grandfathering. Mostly from people who hardly knew of me but had been taught by people who had been taught by me. The event has taken me a long time to accept. It was a great deal more than I had ever expected.

“We had put out that I needed a kidney donor through JRob and PNC- Minnesota. To our great, surprise one came forward, and she is willing to risk ending up on dialysis like me, to get me out of it. There are coincidences galore like we share the same blood type and live in walking distance of each other. She is also three blocks from one of our Elders Bret.F. My Acupuncturist at Sacred Paths Center offered her free treatment to help with her pre operative procedures. One of the team at Abbot Hospital is a close friend with an old friend of ours Gary L.

“Many, Many people have shown an interest in what is happening with me. For me the first law of Wicca is that we take care of our own. I have been forcibly made aware that I am not just a giver, but must accept being one who has been given a gift as great as life itself from a community that is truly coming into its own.”

Yes, this is great news for Ken Ra.  And yes, this is a story that illuminates the basic good nature of people and their willingness to help those in need.  But it also illustrates why it is important to build a Pagan News Ecosphere, one which focuses on covering local news within our religious community.  What happens within our communities is important and newsworthy and needs to be treated that way.  Without our own journalism, we miss newsworthy events that usually aren’t covered by mainstream media, and we miss opportunities to positively impact and interact within the community in which we live.

Local news stories won’t always (possibly) save a life, but they have affected our community in many other ways.  They let others know about events and rituals to attend.  They have drawn people together.  Sometimes they bring controversy to light so the facts can be known and the issue can be resolved openly.  They have also changed how non-Pagans view Pagans.  How dangerous can people be who host a potluck?  They present a story from a Pagan point of view and that is very needed.

Earlier I noted there are eight (and soon to be nine) local bureaus of the Pagan Newswire Collective up and running.  Is there one in your community?  Would you like to help out?  Then contact your bureau, because I can tell you from experience, we need more help!  If there isn’t one in your area, can you get two other people together and form a bureau? You’ll get help in getting started, don’t worry.  If you have questions, they will be answered.

Also – Jason will be giving a talk at PantheaCon about PNC and how to get involved. I’ll be there, Nels Linde will be there, and whole bunch of other PNC folks will be attending – so come up and talk to us.  Find out more.  Help build a Pagan News Ecosphere.  We need it and it IS important.

Feb 022011
 

Just over seven months ago, on this blog, I wondered if “Perhaps, like the GLBT community, we need to organize a National Coming Out Day? An International Pagan Coming Out Day?”

I asked that question after attending the Pagan Spirit Gathering and hearing how often the topic of coming out came up. Each time coming out was mentioned, a passionate discussion followed. Stories of fear and loss came from those firmly closeted. Those living their faith more openly encouraged others to do so for the good of us all. I’m sure you’ve heard this same discussion happening in other places. As Diana Rajchel wrote, “To open up even to trusted loved ones can risk loss: loss of job, loss of family, even loss of trust. At the same time, speaking openly “this is my faith” can come with the rewards of relief and freedom. No more praying that no one notices “doctor’s appointments” coinciding with the full moon. No more negotiating ways to avoid church at Easter. No more lying to your grandmother.”

As Chair of the Executive Committee for International Coming Out Day, I am proud and excited to announce that Pagan Coming Out Day is May 2nd. The goal of Pagan Coming Out Day is to achieve acceptance and equity for Pagans at home, at work, and in every community. We’ll do this by being more visible and standing together. As more of us become publicly unapologetic and matter of fact about our faith, the less discrimination we all face. May 2nd, is when individuals, deciding on their own terms, take a step that helps foster a society that truly does tolerate all religions. It’s also a day when our religious community comes together to support those Pagans coming out to a person or group and celebrates the more public emergence of their Pagan identity.

Let me clarify what I mean when I talk about coming out. It means you are open about your religion to your family, even if it’s uncomfortable, and it means being willing to request and expect equal treatment in the workplace. However – it is not an either/or proposition as some Pagans are out to some people in their lives, but not others. The phrase ‘coming out’ can have two meanings – an entrance into a new world of hope and communal solidarity or an exit from the oppression of the closet. This imagery helped us make a final choice as to the date. In the Northern hemisphere May is Spring, calling to mind new beginnings and emergence. In the Southern hemisphere it is Fall, with thoughts of clearing out what is no longer needed and endings so you can start fresh.

When we’ve talked to people about this project, the number one question asked is why should Pagans come out? Should is not a word we use when talking about the decision to come out or not. Coming out to someone is a decision only you can make and it’s a decision best made when you’re mentally and emotionally ready to do so. Pagan Coming Out Day is not about shaming other Pagans and polytheists into coming out when they’re not ready.

Rather than talk about ‘should’ – let’s look at the benefits, personally and for our religious community as a whole, to coming out. Some of these benefits include the reduction of anxiety in your life caused by living a double life, developing closer, more genuine relationships with friends and family, and developing a positive self-image. It’s stressful to hide a core piece of who you are from those around you. Another benefit is one that the LGBT community has experienced – a reduction in prejudice. In a study for Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers found that, “heterosexuals tend to hold favorable attitudes if they know two or more gay people, if those people are close friends or immediate family members, and if there has been open discussion about the friend or relative’s sexual orientation.” This is why the LGBT community strongly encourages its members to “Come out, come out, whereever you are” – because it works for them in their struggle for equity. This is also why LGBT Pagans are often the most vocal in our community about the need for Pagans to come out. Being open and honest about our spirituality encourages a climate of greater tolerance and acceptance of Paganism as more people realize they know a friend and loved ones who are Pagan. But there are risks, too, and each person will have to access the risks and benefits unique to their own situation.

Our website offers resources (like the IPCOD’s Guide to Coming Out authored by Drake Spaeth, PsyD) and encouragement for Pagans who choose to come out. We give Pagans a place to make their voice heard as they recount their personal stories of coming out or as they relate the experience that caused them to decide that they were not able or willing to come out yet. Through these stories, by more Pagans coming out and being visible, and by showing Pagan allies how they can stand with us, we hope to reduce stigma by putting a human face on Paganism. Some of the ‘out’ stories featured on our site are: A Pagan mother faces a home visit by her child’s teachers. Telling your parents. And my story, coming out in a police station.

I closed that blog post seven months ago with the question “Who would like to assist me in launching this project?” As of today, seven other Pagans have joined me in forming an Executive Committee to make Pagan Coming Out Day a reality. They are Pagans of all ages, different paths, and have different perspectives on coming out. Some names will be very well known to you, some are not.  Old Frisian and archaic Anglo-Saxon language specialist Nick Ritter, licensed clinical psychologist and a faculty member of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology Drake Spaeth, PsyD, The Wild Hunt’s Jason Pitzl-Waters, editor of SageWoman, Witches&Pagans, and Crone magazines Anne Newkirk Niven, writer and blogger Laura M. LaVoie, webmaster David Dashifen Kees, and CUUPS Board Member Emeritus Dave Burwasser. Pagan Coming Out Day couldn’t have come as far as it has without their hard work and I would like to thank them for everything they have done and for all the work that still lays ahead.

Today I again ask “Who would like to assist me in launching this project?” There is so much to do before May 2nd. If you would like to help, there are several ways you can do so.

  • You can friend us on facebook – http://www.facebook.com/PaganComingOutDay – and post this on your status “I wanted to share a fan page that’s really worth liking! Many Pagans, Witches, Druids, and other magical or nature-based spiritual paths face challenges being public, perhaps due to family or where they live. It takes courage to be true to yourself and it also takes the help of community! The people at Pagan Coming Out Day are a great place to find that community!” with a link to our facebook page.
  • You could write your personal coming out story, like the ones on our site, and send it to us at pagancomingoutday@gmail.com. Or tell us why you feel you cannot yet come out. We will then post it on our website. Sharing your story provides a human face to the joys and struggles that modern Pagans experience.
  • If you live outside the USA, become an IPCOD committee member to represent and organize your area. While we have Pagans from all over the world who have joined in support of this project, we need organizers from those same areas.
  • Host a ritual to send strength to those Pagans choosing to come out. Or say a prayer for greater acceptance and equity.
  • Host a Coming Out Ball. A ‘coming out’ Ball or party originally celebrated a debutante entering into public society in their new statues. It was a rite of passage. When Pagans come out, they too are entering into public society under a new status. So why not throw a party to celebrate?

If you do decide to host a ritual or event, be sure to let us know so we can list them on our website. Our website has many more ways you can help out and is updated with new information, and new ‘in’ and ‘out’ stories, each week. What ever way you choose to become involved is appreciated and needed. One voice cannot carry very far. Thousands of voices can sing a song with the power to change the world.

Jan 282011
 

There is no act more political in nature than making an oath of citizenship to a nation. On Tuesday, Melissa Gold, a Pagan living in Canada did just that.   Like many new Canadian citizens, she did so with her hand resting on a book containing stories, poems, and hymns sacred to her religion.  What makes this event extraordinary, and possibly a first in North America, is that the book wasn’t a Bible, a Torah, or a Koran – it was a text containing Hesiod and Homer.

Melissa Gold (right) holding a Canadian flag, her certificate of citizenship, and her copy of Hesiod and Homer.

Melissa agreed to speak with Pagan+politics about about her experience and what it meant to her.

PNC: Melissa, first off, congratulations on your new citizenship status.  I know this was very exciting for you and your family.  But how did a nice American girl like you end up in Canada?

Melissa: Yep, I’m a Canuk! Got a flag pin and a little paper flag along with my citizen card and welcome letter from our Prime Minister.

I came to Canada from North Carolina, right after I graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1972.  Although this was the era of Viet Nam draft dodgers, I came because of a young Canadian man I’d met on a university exchange program between my school and the University of Toronto.  We married that same year.

I’ve lived in Canada for 38 years, my entire adult life, so it definite feels more like ‘home’ than where I was born.  But more, Canada as a society embodies more of my principles than the US: Canada is more liberal and believes in social support systems to a greater degree.  I’m sure I couldn’t afford to live in the US any more.  Canada doesn’t have the divisive partisanship and religious extremism of the US.  Canada was one of the first countries to embrace same sex marriage and to have a cultural conversation of diversity—not a perfect one but more inclusive and accepting than in the US or Europe.  I’ve already decided to assist our local Member of Parliament when elections are next called, so that I can ensure that the progressive agenda of environmental and social concerns is maintained and forwarded.  Now I can be wholly and fully involved in every aspect of the country where I have been living.

PNC: OK.  Let’s switch over to religion.  Hellenion, which you are a member of, is a recognized church of Hellenic Pagans that use reconstructionism as a tool to revive the pre-Christian religious practices of ancient Greece.  How long have you been a Pagan and how did you end up in Hellenismos?

Melissa: I’ve been in the Hellenic movement for almost eight years.  I loved Latin and Greek when I was in high school but my father encouraged me to study something more “practical” in university, so I went into biology.  However, when my outdoor education position ended ten years ago, I decided to return to university and chose Greek, which I had had to abandon when younger.  I studied many aspects of antiquity but felt especially attracted to philosophy and religion.  When my Greek hair dresser told me that there were people in Greece who actually worship the gods, I nearly fell out of the chair with excitement!  I had no idea such a thing could be.  As soon as I got home, I went on to the computer and found both YSEE and Hellenion and applied to Hellenion immediately; that was in 2003.  I had been searching for a spiritual home and knew I had found it, even though much work remained to be done.  Hellenic practice has been my only involvement in pagan communities.

PNC: How do your family and close friends feel about your religion?

Melissa: My closest friends are in the religion, in my Hellenion Proto-demos.  I’ve drifted away from friends in my former religion, Judaism, and haven’t talked to them about it.  Because my Hellenic group is beginning to get media attention, some of my former friends will hear about it eventually and they may refuse to associate with me, but I would never refuse to associate with them.  All my immediate family know about my new spiritual practices and group, and it helps that my family are not particularly “religious.”  As the oldest person in my family now, I’m not looking for approval: I give approval.  Again, because Canada is so open and tolerant, I’m not concerned about how the wider society might react.

PNC: I have to tell you, I’m extremely impressed with your Proto-Demos and what you all have been doing.  Your rituals are  beautiful and are drawing quite a crowd.  The Solstice celebrations were amazing, both of them.  The ritual to honor Ares and the Heroes was something that was commonly practiced in our religion long ago, but many modern Hellenics are slow to revive.  Your religion is obviously something that is an important part of your life and it’s exciting that you were able to bring that into the citizenship ceremony.  How did it come about that you were given an option to choose a holy book for your swearing?

Melissa: As it turns out, Canada adapted its citizenship ceremony to be workable for the vast number of different cultures from which its new citizens come.  In fact, we don’t swear allegiance, we affirm it, a word choice that avoids problems for many people.  We also have the option to use any holy book we wish or nothing at all.  My group of candidates included 68 people from 26 countries.  We stood in a group facing the citizenship judge and raised our right hands and repeated the oath.  No one observed or cared whether our other hand held a holy book or not.  In fact, most people had not brought anything with them.

PNC: OK. Affirm, I’ll remember that.  Can you tell me a bit more about what the ceremony was like and what it meant to you to be able to honor your religion while you affirmed an oath?

Melissa: I described the moment of affirming above, but I can add that the ceremony included formal and legal procedures as well as a warm welcome by all the officials present.  Much time is taken to confirm that we are who we are but the judge was personable and welcomed each one of us as we received our certificates of citizenship.  In the background, mellow music mixed with the sounds of Canadian nature was playing.  The judge welcomed us to the “family of Canada,” which informed the entire process.  I am fortunate that I didn’t have to act defiantly in order to honor my spiritual practice, although I was prepared to do so.  That I didn’t have to is typical of Canada and is yet another reason why I choose to live here.

PNC: This gets to something that may be a bit controversial in our wider religious community, the idea that Pagans could have a holy book and why we would swear or affirm an oath on one.  Which book did you choose and why did you choose that one?

Melissa: I wanted to make a point that Hellenic texts could logically be part of a citizenship ceremony in lieu of touching an altar of Zeus, which was a traditional way to make oaths in antiquity.  I had brought a Loeb volume containing the works of Hesiod, the Theogony and the Works and Days, and the Homeric Hymns.  Those texts represent some of the earliest writings about Hellenic spiritual practice and mythology, which underlie most of what was done in ancient times along with the epic poems and give us inspiration and direction today.

PNC: Did it give you pause to be choosing a book, knowing you may be setting an example or precedent for Hellenics?

Melissa: Yes and no.  While I realized that some people might regard my particular choice as a precedent, I suggest that anyone in a similar position choose whatever is of importance and significance to them.  If it helps anyone to have the works of Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns be known as a precedent, that’s great; but polytheism is inclusive and therefore many other choices would be just as good.  There is no one right choice as in monotheistic societies.

PNC: I’m curious, how did the officials react to your book choice?

Melissa: The officials did not ask or attempt to observe what any one of us brought or failed to bring to the ceremony.  In a way, that seemed too easy.  On the other hand, it represents an approach that is the most inclusive of the diversity of religious practices within this country; no one need feel uncomfortable or unacceptable because of their choice.  It is one more reason why I love my adopted country of Canada.

PNC: OK, yeah, that was easy.  Canadians, like Minnesotans, are known for being nice.  I think this interview is going to make American Pagans long to cross the border like you did.  I have one more question for you.  You may be the first Pagan in North America to affirm or swear an oath of citizenship on a Pagan sacred book – can you tell me how you feel about that?

Melissa: I don’t imagine that oaths of citizenship among Pagans happen very often, especially in the US.  Obviously, in Canada, it’s not an issue.  I don’t know what the process involves in the US, but if it empowers anyone there to know that, in Canada, at least one person is known to have affirmed an oath of citizenship while holding Hellenic texts, then I’m happy to be the first!  The whole ceremony was wonderful and will remain a treasured memory for me.

PNC: Melissa, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.  And again, congratulations on gaining Canadian citizenship.

PNC contacted Hellenion, the religious group Melissa is a member of, to get their reaction to Melissa being able to affirm her oath of citizenship on Hellenic texts.  Here is what they had to say:

“Hellenion is delighted for Melissa Gold, who was recently able to undertake her Canadian citizenship ceremony while holding a volume of Hesiod and Homeric Hymns. We celebrate with her that she was able to mark the moment of being able to participate fully in her country’s democracy while maintaining her Hellenic principles. In these times all of us are regularly reminded how precious the rights of religious freedom and tolerance are, and salute the government of Canada for their on-going commitment to these principles. We hope more countries will soon enact laws to extend religious freedom to all their citizens. All the best to Melissa and her family.”

Addendum: YSEE, the Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes, also wanted to congratulate Ms. Gold.  YSEE is an umbrella organization for Ethnic Hellenic religious groups in Greece and seeks the morale and physical protection and restoration of the Polytheistic, Ethnic Hellenic religion, tradition and way of life in the “modern” Greek Society.

YSEE salutes Melissa Gold’s swearing the oath of Canadian citizenship in the name of the Hellenic Gods.  It was a good proof of our known thesis that Hellenism is a matter of mind and heart and that the Hellenic Ethinic Religion is the religion of all humanistic and logical men and women of the Globe, the religion of the ones that know how to honour both the beauty of Cosmos and human nature.

Robert Clark, moderator of Hellenic Recons and considered a leading proponent of a more traditional form of Hellenic Paganism, noted that swearing oaths was taken very seriously in ancient times and Melissa has followed in that tradition.

Congratulations Melissa for swearing on Hesiod’s Theogony and Homeric Hymns and for leading the way with right action, conviction, and piety! May blessings go with you and may the Gods watch benevolently over you and guard you with favorable fortunes.


Jan 252011
 

Glenn Beck is a favorite boogieman of many on the Left, invoked when they wish to discuss how scary those on the Right can be.  I’ve never really listened to Beck and have largely ignored anything to do with him.  I’ve heard his promos on the radio (I listen to Jason Lewis) and so my major opinion of Beck has been that he has one of the better voices in radio, but that’s about it.  On occasion I’ve run across something  that is written about him or quotes him that seems so absurd that I look it up.  I also briefly looked into him when he did that rally in DC, but it was a religiously-toned rally so again, not high on my list to read much about.

Realizing I’ve been a bad Conservative by not listening to Glenn Beck (we all must do it or we lose our membership card) I decided to listen to at least an hour of Beck on the radio each day for a week.   I don’t have broadcast TV, so I’ve never seen his TV show on Fox.  After listening to Beck for a week, all I can think of is, “Really?  This is what has people in a tizzy?”

Beck’s show is not so much political as it is some kind of Oprah-esque self-help program.  I hate the Oprah show and didn’t like Beck for the same reason.  Yes, Beck does discuss politics and political leaders, but not in a Hardball way.  Not even in a Rush Limbaugh way.  In a very…Christian way.  I don’t think you could go 10 minutes in a show without knowing that Beck is a Christian and that when he speaks about topics, it it from a Christian POV.  I don’t mind Christians and enjoy a bit of theological discussion about Christianity once in a while, but was a bit much for me.  He doesn’t do the hellfire and damnation routine at all, but I don’t think there is a Christian program out there I would listen to every day.  Just like I wouldn’t expect Christians to be excited about reading Pagan+politics every day. Which, when I think about it, his show seems to resemble P+p.  Beck seemed very focused on personal transformation and ties this into personal (and political) liberty and politics.  He was upbeat, happy, at times sarcastic.  Mostly he seemed to be aiming for ‘inspirational’ as his tone for his show.  It wasn’t anything like I expected or was led to believe it would be.

Here are some examples from his show:

1.  When Alabama Governor Robert J. Bentley said

I didn’t think much about it either way.  It seemed in line with much of Christian thought, as they call each other brothers and sister in Christ.

Beck, however, took exception to it.  While saying he didn’t know what was in Bentley’s heart and this could be out of context, he said that he disagreed with the Governor.  Beck said that since we are all children of God, we are all siblings of the soul.  That we have a deep connection to one another, must love one another as a brother or sister, and that spiritually we are one family.  When a caller came on to disagree with Beck (Pagans are neighbors, not sisters or brothers – KJ version of bible quoted) Beck again disagreed with that line of thought, stressing that even Bin Laden is a brother and we must love him.  Oppose him.  Stop him because he’s trying to kill innocents.  But love him.  This thought that we are all one, connected, is something Pagans could identify with, if not the portion about his God being our creator.

2.  Early last week Beck talked about some professor named Frances Fox Piven.  Evidently Beck has brought her up before on his radio program.  I’m used to professors saying some really out there stuff, but holy cow.  Beck read from a book she published long ago and a very recent article she wrote dated December 17th.  Later I looked up more information on her because I want to hear things in context.  It didn’t get any better.  I have to agree with Beck, if you want to point to someone inciting violence, she’s a good example.  I’m not going to get bent out of shape about this, but encouraging riots like they had in Greece where there were numerous injuries and fatalities seems like a bad idea to me.

An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union, or like the student protests that recently spread with lightning speed across England in response to the prospect of greatly increased school fees.

She also thinks that riots could help force Obama to make some choices.  No thank you.  How about we encourage peaceful protests?  I’m for that.  And if that’s what Piven is calling for, peaceful protests, then perhaps she shouldn’t reference Greece or specifically say people should riot.  Although far less violent than the protests in Greece, the UK protests weren’t without injuries and rioting, either.  There was even an attack on the car carrying Prince Charles on December 9th. I get that she’s trying to champion those living in poverty, but the way to do that is not to riot or try “to overwhelm the system and bring about the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with impossible demands and bring on economic collapse.”

Then on Friday, the New York Times runs a piece on Beck and Piven.  OK.  I listened to that portion of the show, let’s see how the Times reports on it.  You can read the whole thing here, but I’ll tl;dr it for you:  The Times says that Beck has put Ms. Piven in physical danger by spotlighting her and should stop talking about her.  The implication was that he was whipping up his audience and inciting them to violence against Ms. Piven.  In the radio program I listened to, I’m not sure how the Times, or anyone else, could come to that conclusion.  He never once came close to suggesting violence or was aggressive in his presentation.  In fact, he joked about how people like Piven are overlooked by the press in the current conversation about violent rhetoric.  He was pointing out her violent rhetoric.  So according to the Times (and the  liberal nonprofit group, the Center for Constitutional Rights) actually calling for riots is ok, but pointing out when someone else is calling for riots is dangerous speech.  Not sure how they got there.

3.  There was a cute comedy skit about the Chinese Premier, Hu.  They did it like the old fashioned Who’s on First routine.  It was funny at first, but after an hour of continued references, the joke got old.  Sometimes they think they are much funnier than they really are.

4.  Book pimping.  I realize when you write a book that you need to get the word out and if you also happen to have a radio program that’s a good place to do it.  But do we need to hear about all the freaking time?  No, not everything relates back to your book.  Although I haven’t read it, I can guarantee it isn’t that awesome.  I did like when he had his co-author on the show, though.  Dr. Keith Ablow.  He seems nice and helpful and honest.  And has a better sense of humor than the guys on Beck’s show.

Was there other stuff on the show?  Sure, but other than the very well done tribute to MLKjr, I can’t say as anything stuck out to me.  The show was a strange mix of politics, personal transformation, and Christian thought.  I felt a bit like I was in a self-help seminar with the speaker pimping his book every few minutes.  Although, in all fairness, he does manage to be entertaining and he does have an excellent voice.  Very easy to listen to.  I put him right up there with Alan Rickman, but not nearly as sexy.  His books, or websites, or TV program may be different, but after a week of listening to him, I can’t see why the Left gets into cold-sweats about Glenn Beck.  He’s Oprah.

 Posted by at 7:00 am
Jan 142011
 

I’m not ready to comment, yet, directly on the horrific shooting in Arizona. I have a very different perspective on contributing causes that are drawn from my religious beliefs and have nothing to do with politics. I’m waiting for more time to go by so this isn’t quite so raw.

I do have some helpful hints for my (Pagan) friends after listening to them and reading their words about the shooting.  Since this advice is 100% unsolicited, I’m sure it will be well received.  I know I always enjoy it when I’m on the receiving end.

1. Please learn the difference between the Gold Standard and buying gold as a hedge against inflation.
I’ve seen Pagans attempting to tie Loughner to Glenn Beck by saying they both talk about a return to the Gold Standard. They then deride this as laughingly ‘ignorant’ of Glenn Beck and how this is a ‘staple’ of the Right. It’s generally not a good idea to deride someone as ignorant if you demonstrate your own ignorance on the topic in question. What Glenn Beck advocates is buying gold as a hedge against inflation and currency devaluation. It’s an investment strategy. If you had followed this ignorant advice, you could have tripled your money in the past 2 years.

Advocating a return to the Gold Standard (which Loughner seems to be talking about, but rather incoherently) is an entirely different thing. It is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed weight of gold or some other finite and non-perishable commodity. Likewise, if you can’t articulate the pros and the cons of a gold standard perhaps you shouldn’t laugh about how stupid an idea this is. There are many topics I don’t weigh in about because I don’t know jack about it.  The Gold Standard is advocated by a minority of Libertarians and that’s about it.

This is kind of a tangent, but it’s been bugging me.

2.  Stress doesn’t build character.  It reveals it.
That’s actually a paraphrase of Heywood Broun’s famous quote, “Sports do not build character.  They reveal it.”  When we are confronted with horrifying situations, even if we are not involved, we are placed under stress.  I don’t think that people do things they normally wouldn’t do when they are placed under stress, they do what is most true to them.   What did your response to the shooting reveal to those around you?

I don’t find it unreasonable that many jumped to the conclusion that the shooting had a political motive and was most probably done by someone from the political Right.  Not because the Right is more violent, but because the politician who was the target is on the Left.  I can also understand anger as an initial reaction.  That’ s not all that happened, though.  The extreme venting of hatred by some that I know on the Left was eye opening, shocking, ugly and continued for days.  This was done by people I respected and have conversed with for years.  As it quickly appeared increasingly unlikely that the shooter was from the Right, was influenced by Palin, talk Radio, had never been part of the Tea Party, and appears he has profound mental health issues and been fixated on Giffords starting in 2007 – there was no acknowledgment by them that the depth and heat of their words was excessive.  Instead, I watched them try to force the shooting to fit into their world view.  One person went so far as to say that although it was clear to them the shooter wasn’t part of the Left or the Right, this is an opportunity to push Palin and the Tea Party off the political stage.  Under stress they revealed who they are and what they actually think.  The polite social masks were removed.  Despite what they have said previously, they demonstrated a lack of respect towards ‘people like me’ and they feel contempt and hatred for those who have different views.  It was the same feeling you get when you realize a friend who has previously said they respect your Pagan religion slips up and lets you know that they think you are involved in something evil and they think you are a joke.   Perhaps you had a similar experience from people you knew on the Right or the Left?

However, most people revealed that they are wonderful, caring, respectful people – just as advertised.  What an incredible gift to have people like that in your life.  I treasure them all the more for the beauty that shown through during such a sad time.  When they make nuanced arguments that although Loughner didn’t appear to be motivated by political tone, pushing for a more civil discourse is still a worthy aspiration in and of itself – they have the moral credibility to make this argument.  They press for compassion for the mentally ill and wish that Loughner could have been treated by mental health professionals.  They prayed for those injured and the families of those killed.  They celebrated as the injured showed signs of recovery.  Hopefully you know people like this, too.

What did I reveal?  That I’m a persistent pain in the butt.  This should not be a surprise.

3.  If you want to promote civility and peace, sending me emails that you wish that I had “been the one shot” because, as part of the political Right, I’m “responsible for the hate and violence” is a bit counterproductive and hypocritical.
Calling me a “fascist teabagger bitch” in the same email where you complain about “toxic rhetoric” is pretty humorous.   Saying that “people like you” should die/disappear/be put in jail because we are “eliminationists” is projection – seeing in others that which you hate about yourself.  It stops being funny when you wish that someone would kill me or that if we are ever in the same room I will get what’s coming to me.  The same goes for comments about Palin, the Tea Party, Soros, Pelosi, or whatever person or group drives you to Pavlovian frothing at the mouth.

I read a comment from one Pagan, “Many Pagans believe that language carries magick – - words have meaning and consequences. In that framework, it is at best sloppy and at worst grossly negligent to call for violence as leaders on the Right – - but not the Left – - have been doing of late.” I would agree that words have power so the three Pagans (I’m assuming Pagans since they referenced Pagan+politics and wanted me to “shut the fuck up” and that I’m not a Pagan, blah, blah, blah)  who sent me an email wishing I would die or sad that it wasn’t me that was shot meant their words to have real and negative consequences in my life.  Since I’ve given these emails to the police, as I said I would do in a previous post on P+p, I hope there are legal consequences that come back to them for their words.

I disagree with the commenter that calls for violence are unique to the Right.  As a sign that the Gods have a sense of humor, I read his comment after coming back from the police station to turn over the threatening emails I mentioned.  It’s not words like ‘targeting’ that can be dangerous or the province of just pundits and politicians on the Right or the Left.  It’s the othering that we, regular folks like you and me, do.  When we define and secure our own positive identity through stigmatizing the “other” we open the door to hatred and violence.    When we otherize a group of people, we see them as inferior to us.  Extreme othering, where we no longer see those others as even human can result in killing homosexuals, or genocides such as WWII, Rwanda, or Darfur.  That’s the conversation Pagan+politics was created to have – to lessen this othering within our religious community.

I know – I know – that we have more in common than we have differences.  I know that you can be intelligent, informed, sincere, and ethical and have a political view that completely different than mine.

As for what is a danger to the average American – I would say our concern is better directed on our economy and the rising costs of fuel and food.

Jan 062011
 

Today, at 10:30 am (Eastern), the Constitution of the United States, excluding those portions that have been superseded such as the the 18th amendment, will be read aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives.  As far as historians can tell, this will be the first time in our history that this will occur.  This is in preface to a new House rule that  requires every Bill to cite its basis in the Constitution.

Like all things our elected officials do, this is being dissected by pundits, political science academia, folks around the water coolers, and by the politicians themselves.  Is reading the constitution aloud “long overdue” as Rep. Robert Goodlatte, who originally proposed this idea, proclaims?  Is it “a presumptuous and self-righteous act” by the new GOP majority as the New York Times contends?  I don’t see why it couldn’t be both.  This is Washington we are talking about, after all.

More interesting than the usual polarizing viewpoints – us good, them bad – is the discussion taking place about how we, as a nation, feel about the Constitution.  Take a look at these comments:  (Bold emphasis is mine)

“They are reading it like a sacred text,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, and characterized the reading as ritualistic.”   “You read the Torah, you read the Bible, you build a worship service around it.  You are not supposed to worship your constitution,” said Nadler, who went on to say that the Founders were not “demigods” and the document’s additional amendments to abolish slavery and other injustices showed it was “highly imperfect.”

On MSNBC, Dahlia Lithwick said:  “The way some people rub Buddha and they think the magic will come off, I think there’s a longstanding tradition in this country. We’re awfully religious about the Constitution,” she said. “I think there is this sort of fetishization that is of a piece with the sort of need for a religious document that’s immutable and perfect in every way.”

Both of these statements posit that the Constitution of the United States is not a sacred document, that in order for a text to be sacred it must be unchangeable in nature, and that we grant it an irrational reverence that should be reserved for texts like the Bible and the Torah.

I find myself in total disagreement with Representative Nadler and Ms. Lithwick.

The idea that sacred texts must be unchangeable to be perfect is a uniquely Christian view.  Even Christians who are not bible literalists, see the most well known of Christian sacred texts, the stone tablets containing the 10 Commandments, as something that is unchangeable and therefor perfect.  Even though there are different versions of the Commandments in the bible, the ones God wrote and the ones Moses re-scribed.  The very word of God handed down to man and you don’t screw with that, right?

Other religions, like Buddhism, Judaism and Paganism, look at sacred texts in a different light.  They are words of wisdom that can change and be added to because they are alive.  Some come directly from the divine, some divinely inspired, and others are wise saying of learned humans.  The texts are used as a learning tool, are open to interpretation, and are studied.  Students of sacred texts look not only to connect to the divine, they ‘divine’ a blueprint for how to live their life in harmony with a higher power or consciousness.

Columbia Eleutheria, which formerly graced the niche behind the Speaker in the House of Representatives.

That’s how I see the Constitution.  It is a sacred text inspired by the Patron Goddess of this country, Columbia Eleutheria. I’m not alone in the belief that a divine hand, whether you call Her Columbia or Providence or God, assisted in the creation of our Constitution. Those where were there when the Constitution was created, whom some Pagans offer (or are considering offering) cultus to as a Hero, had this to say:

“I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing, and to exist in the posterity of a great nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in whom all inferior spirits live and move and have their being.”  Benjamin Franklin

“When the great work was done and published, I was … struck with amazement. Nothing less than that superintending hand of Providence, that so miraculously carried us through the war, … could have brought it about so complete, upon the whole .”  Charles Pinckney

“For my part, I sincerely esteem [The Constitution] a system which, without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”  Alexander Hamilton

“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”  George Washington

Although the mainstream sees the Constitution as a product of a Christian nation and attempt to whitewash the Founding Fathers as firmly Christian in their faith, the Constitution is purely Pagan.  Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Washington were all men of the Enlightenment -  a time when the ‘lost’ knowledge of the classical world resurfaced in art, literature, and philosophy.  They consciously and deliberately set out to use the best of Pagan Athenian and Roman law, philosophy, and political science as the foundation of a new nation, not the Christian bible.  The Framers made Rome our body and Athens our soul.  Republican Rome offered the example of a Tripartite government consisting of three branches:  the executive which was run by  two consuls , the legislative which was run by the Roman senate , and the judicial which was run by the assembly.  But it was Athenian Democracy, as exercised by the Demos (the People), that became the American ideal of liberty.

French philosopher André Glucksmann, offers an insight into the concept of liberty that the United States adopted from Greece.  The same freedom that Columbia Eleutheria breathed into the hearts and minds of our Founding Fathers as they deliberated over the birth of our nation.

Glucksmann writes:  “It is liberty understood in doubt and anxiety about the fate of man.  Tragic freedom works in uncertainty, sailing toward no glorious destiny. Man is free, yes—free to learn from his mistakes. Or not.”

Our Constitution is a document containing sacred wisdom gained from our Goddess, a blueprint of how the USA can live in harmony if we devote ourselves to its study and gain the wisdom to interpret it. That the constitution can be amended demonstrates its perfection.  We have the freedom to learn from our mistakes and correct them.  Or not.

Oh – Representative Nadler, I do not see a “ritualistic” reading of the Constitution as meaningless or wrong.  Ritual is a positive and effective way to ask for Divine guidance and aid.  So I close with this prayer:  May Columbia Eleutheria guide our Representatives – especially our newly elected House Speaker John Boehner – and grant Her blessing to our country.

Dec 142010
 

You! Yes, you. If you love your country you’ll put down the fork and step away from the plate!

That, in a nutshell, is what First Lady Michelle Obama put forward yesterday at the Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Northwest D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, as the President signs into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

In general, I’m on board with the First Lady’s initiative on combating childhood obesity. Encouraging people to make better food choices and get a spot of exercise regularly is certainly in keeping with both my personal views and my religious views. Hellenic Pagans of old thought that physical education combined with reasonable portions of natural foods were vital to living a life of arete.  Athenian schools looked upon rhetoric, music, and athletics as equal in importance and I share that sentiment.

However, I’m not into fat shaming and I’m also not into declaring overweight children a threat to national security. Here is the quote from Ms. Obama:

“And from military leaders who tell us that when more than one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight, childhood obesity isn’t just a public health threat, it’s not just an economic threat, it’s a national security threat as well.“  Michelle Obama – 13DEC2010
By all means increase the nutritional quality of food in the schools, as this Bill does.  (I should note, the funding increase for the school lunch program came at the expense of the food stamp program to the tune of$2.2 billion in cuts) Go ahead and ban all junk food from school grounds, that doesn’t really bother me.  Add more students to the rolls of those who receive free or reduced cost meals, I have no problem with that.
What I do have a problem with, Ms. Obama, is classifying  overweight children as threats to our national security.  Overweight children, and adults, have enough judgment thrown their way without this from our First Lady.