This is a post I’ve thought about, wrestled with for many years. It came to the fore again in this past election season, and even more since the final count gave the White House to Donald Trump — a man, who ironically had a show called “The Apprentice.” America has elected an “apprentice” and not a particularly talented adept one at that. The reactions since have been varied, of course.
Some say we need “an orderly transition,” neglecting to consider that a possible transition into chaos is at some point definitely not going to be orderly. Others say to fight, to resist — some meaning violently, some meaning with rational thinking, discussion, non-violent protest. And then some simply did what many, many Americans had been doing for a long time: they stepped away from keeping up with news, with fact-checking news or political statements completely.
It was too “troubling”, too “painful”, too “hopeless.” Frankly, it distresses me even more than those people advocating violence because these people seem to feel positively virtuous in their choice to be dis-involved in the national life. They remind me of Trump supporters, who were asked about their knowledge of the actual things being argued about, professed a deep and self-satisfied ignorance of the issues. For me, both the intentionally passive and the willfully ignorant betray a brokenness. All living things that are “broken” – injured, ill, etc? They try to heal because to do otherwise leads only to increasing disability and death. Physically speaking, disengagement is not a viable option. Mental disengagement, to me, is mere cowardice.
All through my life, I’ve seen people step back and say “That’s none of my business.” about things they certainly could have changed, some times with a bare minimum of effort and very little risk to themselves. Sometimes the risk is significant, of course – and those who step up anyway are generally regarded as activists, as leaders, as visionaries, and yes – sometimes as heroes. Not everyone is cut out to be a hero. And that is fine. But I believe everyone is cut out to be involved as a participant in their own life, in community life, in national life.
Pacifism means refusing to do violence. Passivity generally means refusing to do anything at all. There is a difference between refusing violence and stone-walling reality! To refuse violence and prefer to negotiate, to be civilly disobedient, to work to protect rights and laws long defended – sometimes by the sacrifice and blood-shed of war — is a necessary thing if a culture has not totally lost the Will to survive. But to whiningly announce one is taking one’s mental ball of fuzz and going home, refusing to play at all — but usually endlessly whining about how things are “going to hell in an (unattended!) hand-basket — that IS the definition of a “loss of Will”.
To be clear here, I am not a pacifist, nor am I passive. A pacifist, presumably, would see their own family and friends injured or killed before doing violence. I don’t know what sort of mental guarantee one needs to do that, I simply cannot imagine!. I am not passive because I’ve never seen anything good come of passivity. I’ve seen passive people – some who felt terrorized into passivity, become fairly nasty in terms of passive aggressive behaviors. I’ve seen them sicken themselves with maladjusted coping mechanisms. But my voice on this subject has always been the minority report, so to speak. I’m often told I’m just a “goddamned Brunhilda sort” who would merrily ride into any fire. I am very much not that person, let me assure you.
I’ve long seen graphics online, suggesting that the Bible Belt “throws back more alcoholic belts”, has more drug addicts, more sex offenders, more teen pregnancies, more STDs than either presumably too libertine, liberal coastal area. Those statistics do suggest that the “turn the other cheek, don’t think about sex, do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do” verbal cues that rule the Bible Belt (and yes, as an escapee, I can tell you they DO rule the public dialogue) fail in terms of practicality in real life. The religious arguments made for controlling, do not in fact control — but lead to a sort of insanity. This is perhaps no where less public, but most screamingly obvious than in the most religiously shut-in societies, like the Mennonites. So when a Mennonite article proclaims that pacifism leads to violence? It behooves ALL of us to read it and consider whether our allegedly pacific natures are really peaceful, or merely destructively disengaged passivity.
I put my newly recycled string of stars on the dark mantlepiece!
Many branches of shamanistic paganism hold an idea of damage to the human psyche – they call it “soul loss” or words to that effect. I think it serves a purpose to consider what they mean; any metaphor that is adequate description of a broken human dimension might suggest a solution, don’t you think?
In traditional shamanic practice, the healer would drum and sing over the patient; and then go on an ecstatic flight/journey to that dark other-where where shorn souls and broken bits end up. The goal was to find the busted, disassociated bits and thus restore equilibrium and health to the patient. Well, I have no musical ability at all and so far as what is sometimes called “astral projection” goes? Let’s say my control is imperfect and my desire is meager!
I prefer to find more down to earth pragmatic ways of putting my own human puzzle back together! And I am in dire need of putting things back in order since the election. I also need to pick up the fallen spirits of my family members. I think the little daily or seasonal rituals we create in our life are the tool kits of re-assembly to address the damage of normal life. That is why the Yule holiday is my favorite – it is the time of re-light the blown-out candles of our hearts. Hasn’t it been darker since November 8th?!
Several years ago – a decade or more, I had a light “curtain” from IKEA – little golden stars so warm and bright. Eventually, as holiday lights do, the lights died — first one or two, then a dozen and finally dark stars like little smoky quartz shards. Even lightless, I couldn’t give up those stars, I tore them off the electric strand and saved them. For several years they went in a big glass bowl with whatever semi-defunct cheap lights would illuminate them from the bottom. This year, back in January, at an IKEA after-Christmas bin, I found a long strand of tiny cool lights for a pittance price and bought them. Imagine my surprise, this morning, putting away the debris of two days of decorating, to see that bag of darkened stars and the skinny lights in the same pile?
I sat down with a paring knife and pried apart one of those stars — “shucking” the little plastic pointy bits. To my delight, they did fit over the tiny new lights! It took a considerable time, and finally the repetition of ripping open the star and inserting a new light took on the necessary mindful, meditational quality. Each dark star was a fear I’ve grappled with, each light the self-assurance of control.
Laws can be changed to something worse; but I can use passive resistance and civil disobedience.
People can hate and name-call; I can scrub off hateful graffiti.
We may see more war, more economic destruction; but I can hold friends and family and resist.
Fascism can raise a straight right arm over America; but I can raise a strong right fist.
There will be dark nights of the soul; I can light a candle or a star!
Certain groups might be cut adrift in public life; but I can throw a life-ring of love and support.
A red-hatted mob may howl; but I can hear my inner stars singing instead.
The minstrel-priest is gone; but I can make Leonard Cohen songs the sound-tract of my mind.
May it be so for you!
It was difficult decorating for Yule this year. None of the usual joy infused the process! So much worry over a Trump Presidency, so much misery in the world.
But we did it. Today, as dinner cooked, we worked on brightening the front porch. And suddenly, shaking out and checking lights? I felt it! The rise of heart, a bit of magic and sparkle – going forward can have a bit of ease here and there.
May it be so for you!
Thanksgiving, you say? I’ll thank you FOR giving — to help the Standing Rock Sioux save the water being threatened by the Dakota Access Pipeline!
The Sioux must have realized almost immediately that the American oil men bringing the Dakota Access Pipeline across their sacred lands didn’t give a rat’s ass about the lands being “sacred.” It was soon apparent that graves and sacred sites for ritual meant less than nothing to the oil men with a company funded by big investors like our new “no conflict of interests if the (Republican) President does it” Trump. So let’s call Standing Rock what it is – the first war in America over protecting the purity and use of WATER!
Although the Army Corps of Engineers says more time is needed to study the information the Sioux protestors have brought to light, the oil men are fighting in court to begin drilling beneath the Missouri River right NOW. The moronic corporate owned media covers the horrific events unfolding the the icy winter weather as if it…
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We don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving in this household. Being pagan, we do have other days to do that and we’ve done it. For me, Thanksgiving is forever soured because of the school day gloss of the the “happy Indians and Pilgrims” stories that were such lies for the most part.
This year in particular, as police use water canon to douse protestors at Standing Rock with icy water in sub-freezing temperatures while the White House sits silent in spite of many petitions begging Obama to act, I cannot bear the idea of feathers and pilgrim hats.
We celebrate “Wayland’s Day” on Thursday — or whenever in this week everyone is home at once. This year, it is Thursday. We bless the ironware of the house in memory of the legendary smith. But today? Today is, in the Nordic Tradition, called Ydalir — and celebrates the winter god, Ullr — master of skiing and archery. Some tales say that Ullr rules the world through winter, while Odin presumably spends the winter toasting and drinking in his Hall!
It is the day we begin decorating for the Winter Solstice — my favorite holiday of our year and the first since the formal end of the year at Samhain. So I began the decorating that will be completed by the weekend. I’ve been a bit under the weather of late, so my entire day was dedicated to planting daffodil bulbs and getting “Ullr’s Tree” up.
Let the snows begin!
This is not the blog concerned primarily with the labyrinth I built, the path I walk for those fallen in America’s most recent wars. But where DO I put this, if not here where I discuss what I believe or disbelieve?
I built the Walk of the Fallen in 2003. Building it and walking it in the first year or two was emotionally and spiritually grueling. I experienced things I formally did not believe in out there. Things I encapsulated in my life as ideals, metaphors, archetypes became something else on those sandstone bits embedded in my rocky soil. I cannot explain my experiences there, nor can I deny them.
For thirteen years now, I have walked in every name of every American or Coalition troop killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and a few other places — Ft. Sam Houston, Benghazi, Kuwait — all deaths I consider to have come about as a result of George W. Bush unwisely choosing to invade Iraq and Afghanistan in the wake of 9-11. The death tolls, even with renewed combat against ISIL in Iraq, are much reduced. But still, the names come in.
And every walk is worse in sensation. It is a a grinding misery and heartbreak. A decade and a half of war and we are not done. When will it ever be done? I should walk daily, as twenty of more veterans die by their own hand daily. I cannot even find those names, of course. And my heart quails at those nameless walks. How many times do I ring the brass bell? Superstition rears its head — if I ring the bell once too often, does another battered veteran off himself?
I feel like a failure because my energy flags. My resolve remains, but weakened — it takes me longer to get my tears under control to go out onto the stones. Sometimes days longer. There have been other times in the thirteen years when it was difficult, each time feeling like some deeper initiation into — well, into what? I don’t know till I get there, do I? Weakness, vulnerability, pain — the lesser mentioned threads of the Hermit’s robe.
This blog’s sub-title is a warning about taking care what you worship. While I did some weekend grocery shopping this weekend, a chatty man in line in front of us kept talking to me about the stack of sweets he was buying “for Fellowship tomorrow morning”. He meant Sunday, of course. I was a bit mystified why he was so cheerily companionably chatty to me – a perfect stranger. Walking past the jewelry counter on my way out, I caught my own reflection – ah, it was a “failure of attention to detail” I think. I was wearing a silver necklace from a dear friend in Ireland.
It was made for me by a silversmith there in the “olde country” of Ireland. A place that knows lots about crosses, crucifixes, and women. I wear this necklace because as near as I can tell about years of studying, observing, or trying to practice, (and finally running away from at all possible speed) the only ones I can tell you for sure get crucified practically daily ARE women.
If being a Christian means following Christ, some logical constructs would say that means following him to the cross? Most women’s lives would make them Christian as all get out by that definition. They suffer, they self-sacrifice, they bear the load for sinning men ALL the time. I cannot be Christian, I never “found” Jesus. I found Marian Catholicism and the idea of a nigh divine Female was what lit the candles in my brain.
Soon we will be inundated by stories of Mary’s “submission” to the Divine. We will be told how perfect she was doing so. To me, that part of the story always sounded like an abuse of power — I mean, for pity’s sake, even in the old ancient pantheon tales — everyone knew girls who told gods “No” didn’t fare very well. Women have been being told to submit to presumably more holy dicks <snerk> ever since. If the “only” divinity still “standing” is male, “Hey Girlie,” you better be f’ing submissive or else.
Women are already being given plenty of messages about how submissive they need to be or else in Trump’s America. A woman in a headscarf for health reasons, not religion, has her car vandalized in a national park. No, the misogynistic bigots are not emboldened at all by the election of someone who likely thinks the height of charm is groping you in the elevator. Every woman in America should wear a headscarf. There should be a day or a week picked — and every woman should wear a headscarf. Or maybe it should be utterly random? What if every American woman just picked two or three days of the month to wear a headscarf? Would it confuse the bigots, the idiots? I know pagan women of some goddess-centric traditions who both scarf and veil. I often wrap my head and neck in one of many scarves I own because of my cold-plagued touchy fused vertibrae. How long before some jerk tries to put me on his personal cross for doing so?
Well, hey, I’ve got the necklace for that. And some pointy boots I know how to use.
Change is the only constant in life. That which stops changing is usually dead.
Since the election, aside from much depression and anxiety, there has been endless discussion about the forgotten white “working class.” What they really mean, of course, are the working poor – those working and yet never catching up at all. That is a topic about which I know something. I grew up as “trailer trash” – some would say that is the same as “white trash”; a label I heard my mother apply to other people, but deny for us.
Let me be clear: my life was difficult enough that I defined my “wants” mostly in terms of things I wanted to avoid. I wanted to not be hungry or homeless or beaten. I wanted to not be the girl with only one pair of shoes, shabby and too small at that. I wanted to not be the girl who had to spend her self-earned lunch money on paper for school. My favorite color is red and it has nothing to do with political affiliation — I love the color I was forbidden to wear throughout my girlhood because “only whores wear red.” I love braiding my hair because I was never allowed braids because “only n—–s braid their hair.” We were such trailer trash that we finally didn’t even have a trailer, it was re-possessed and we lived in a bunch of really crummy apartments for a decade.
So I know something about the people we “damned liberals” are being told to take into consideration now that “they” have handed the American White House to the worst person since Andrew Jackson. I know how my father lost job after job because he argued about everything from who he had to work beside to why the hell he should have to “update” his job skills with more training. I know what hunger felt like skipping all but one meal a day so that my younger siblings could eat all three meals. I know what it felt like working and giving most of my pay to my mother –all the way until I got married in my mid-twenties. And she was furious with me for marrying and thus stepping into a life of my own.
Life and technology move. That which isn’t “quick” — in other words both moving AND alive, is not going to stay alive. Nothing stays the same, change and continual education and upgrading IS the way of life. For pity’s sake, bacteria and viral cultures EVOLVE; so what the hell is with people who pat themselves on the back for finishing high school and resolve to never pick up another book, take another class, or make any change whatsoever? It is more than poverty guiding that “resolve” — it is a sense of entitlement. White entitlement. Because my father was white, he felt sure he should get the job he wanted without proving any exceptional ability to DO said job; if there was a hint of a better applicant, specially one of color? He was not going to stand for “that bullshit.”
So instead, the small college funds left for me and a sibling by a grandmother who worked hard her entire life were used to continuously bail the family out of dire financial straits. We moved more often than most military families after his exit from the Army, running from creditors. When I had no more money to access, when it was all gone when I was 19? My family moved state again, leaving me behind working and supporting myself, if only barely. I was used up and discarded until I joined the Army myself to get out of that lousy little town; then my mother was interested in me again. I was going to have a bigger paycheck!
I met lots of people once I left home. Black people who worked hard and did all they could to gain more education, who never argued with bosses about the white assholes they worked beside — because they cared more about feeding and clothing their children than MY father did. To survive and thrive was more important than pride and entitlement. So NO, I don’t feel much empathy for the “left behind white working class”. They put the brakes on their own lives in so many cases that I witnessed.
I am not alone in feeling that they are denying even partial responsibility for their own sorry state. They are not dead, and they were not quick — they were sullen and entitled. Now, they are like zombies — staggering, ravening, raging, destructive, and largely brainless. I don’t sound very sympathetic, do I? Well, I was THERE, ok? I saw the handwriting on the wall and got myself in gear. I took every class I could without spending money I didn’t have, I volunteered, I did military service. I stuck with my husband and supported him through a somewhat zombified existence as a PTSD survivor. I kept studying, working, fighting — I did jobs I was told “no white man would take,” as a white woman.
I cannot make excuses for the people bitching about no more coal jobs, no more lumber jobs, no more fishing jobs. Coal is killing the planet, trees are all cut down — as the environmentalists SAID would happen and warned against. Fishing stocks are depleted and the oceans are imperiled no matter how much denial one tosses back with the cheap generic beers. The world itself does not CARE about the tiny denizens on the thin green and blue skin; all the praying in the world cannot (and frankly should not) bring back the era of white guys knocking shit down, taking what they want, and getting away with it scot free. Quick or dead. Zombies are a temporary manifestation of something that will sooner or later drop dead. So what do YOU want to be?