Monthly Archives: April 2013

Intra v. Inter

logo--grn shadow The attack on the Boston Marathon left a lot of nerves rattled myself included. I feared the crazies would come out of the woodwork demanding the heads of those who would attack a peaceful event that the Boston Marathon is. I looked to my deities for comfort just as millions of others did around the world when they heard two bombs had been set at the finish line.

I was gratified to hear there was to be an interfaith service. The service included “Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley joined Rev. Liz Walker from Roxbury Presbyterian Church; Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Methodios; Rabbi Ronne Friedman of Temple Israel; Rev. Nancy Taylor, minister at Old South Church ; Nasser Weddady, chair of the New England Interfaith Council and director of the American Islamic Congress; Bishop John Borders III, pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church in Mattapan; and the Rev. Roberto Miranda, pastor of Lion of Judah Congregation in Roxbury on the altar as the service began.” (source). I listened to the service as I headed out to an appointment.

What I heard on the radio was intrAfaith: that is, the faith of three God fearing religions. Jews, Christians, and Muslims have a lot of work to do within their three faiths when it comes to getting along and not using Mother Earth as their pulpit. But I don’t like the use of the word “interfaith” do describe the work the Big Three participate in. Rather, I call that intrafaith.

Interfaith would have included Hindus, Buddhists, and Pagans. I’m sure there was at least one Hindu, one Buddhist, and one Pagan ran the marathon out of the 26,000+ runners that Patriot’s Day. It would’ve been nice to have been acknowledged for the fear we felt, to be comforted in our time of need. So if — when sadly — this happens again let the leaders of a myriad of faiths come together instead of just the Big 3 so we can all heal collectively. When putting together interfaith events please make sure they are interfaith and don’t just represent the three most dominant religions.

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Eat-In At The FDA!

Occupy the FDA – April 8, 2013

Our “day” started off at midnight as we boarded a bus in Hartford, CT joining up with riders who arrived from Northampton, MA. It was interesting that when I arrived at the bus station I met several people with whom I’d only had email or Facebook contact and yet our shared cause made it feel like I was meeting old friends. The sense of community was almost instantaneous. I can’t say the bus ride was either comfortable or restful but I kept reminding myself of the importance of our trip. Confronting the FDA on its own turf was too good an opportunity to pass up for the sake of a good night’s sleep.

We were due to arrive at the FDA in College Park, MD around 8:00 am. Getting in earlier than expected, Marty, our coordinator extraordinaire, called ahead to a diner to see if they were open for breakfast so we could at least fuel up on coffee before starting our day. The Silver Diner opens at 7:00 am but agreed to open at 6:30 to accommodate us. Good people! An even better surprise awaited us once we got to our tables and saw the menu: “Farm to Table”! While we had no thoughts that the menu was GMO free, we appreciated the steps the diner was taking toward a healthy, local and community sustaining menu. What were the chances that this is the place that would open early to help out a band of food activists?

Sitting across the table from me was James, a dedicated and excited member of our group. What made his presence special for me is the fact that he’s eight years old and had requested to join his mother on the trip. It is heartening to see that moms like his are educating their children not only about the health issue surrounding GMOs but also about the importance of publicly speaking out. It was an honor to share my day with James and his mother.

Arriving at the site of our picnic lunch and demonstration, the crowd seemed small but it grew throughout the day. Estimates range between 250 and 350 in total. Everyone had brought a contribution to the Stone Soup we would be sharing later in the day and many brought GMO free or organic seeds to share at the seed swap table. Many of us took the opportunity to take the mic and share our reasons for having made the trip. Reasons included wanting labels on all GMO foods, calling for the ousting of Michael Taylor from the FDA, boycotting anything containing GMO ingredients to send an economic message to Monsanto that we won’t buy what they are peddling and finally an end to GMO foods all together. There were other, less expressed reasons for some us to be there. Sharing solidarity, community and ideas for the future was motivating, empowering and validating. Sometimes when the struggle seems overwhelming, those things can keep me going with a renewed sense of determination.

In late morning, the fire was lit under a 50 gallon pot into which we put a stone to get us started followed by the wonderful ingredients brought by the crowd. By the time it was finished we had a wonderful meal – delicious in spirit as well as taste.

Homeland Security had quite a presence at our event in the form of no less than a dozen vehicles and many uniformed officers. Alas, they spent a very dull day patrolling an event that gave no cause for them to take any action. Quite the contrary, some of us shared food with them and my own conversation with three of them after lunch was very pleasant. The “enemy” isn’t always an enemy.

After lunch people took to the mic once again to express their personal visions for our food future and then informal sessions were held to talk about a variety of related subjects. A picnic lunch followed by discussion groups on the sidewalk and lawn of the FDA… quite a site.

As the sessions wound down, those of us who had traveled a fair distance got ready for the return trip. Once on the bus I began to go over the day’s events and evaluate our effectiveness for having been there. The local news station showed up and broadcast a segment which made its way to Facebook (of course!), pictures and stories were shared by all of us through social media and email which got the message out to many beyond those of us who were there and we all had a chance to meet up with people from other states to share ideas for actions and support. My final evaluation… it was a great day! It was a day worthy of an almost 15 hour round trip bus ride and being totally useless the following day from lack of sleep.

Would I do again? Certainly. Will you join me? I hope so!

Have a Seat

This weeks post comes from the illustrious Peter Dybing. His own blog A Pagan in Paradise is an inspiration to Pagans across the planet.

steel-chair-Reinier-de-Jong-2-537x402 Recent posts in the community have pointed out activism is home grown in nature. Those wishing to engage in activism must first find their voice in their own community and be able to “stand” their ground and call the community to self-reflection on how our own actions do or do not reflect our values. ‘Standing up’ and risking negative discourse, social consequences and sometimes-hurt feelings is at the very center of the activist archetype.

There comes a time when activists, after having attended a plethora of protests, writing letters galore and donating to many causes, realize it is time to sit down. This need arises from the realization that the many causes we support do not manifest their actions from spontaneous protests, letter writing and eloquent speeches, but from tactical planning, event coordination, coordinated effort and building alliances.

Ultimately, it is those who take a seat and engage in these less than high profile activities that are at the core of making a difference in the causes they support. Long nights are spent writing and re writing calls to action. Extensive conversations are held with allies in attempts to engage them in direct action. Planning around logistics including transportation, sanitation, permits and food takes considerable time. It is in these mundane efforts that causes make progress, attract attention and influence public discourse.

At the core of these activities are skills that set uncomfortably with activists. In order to achieve what we want it is necessary to negotiate, compromise, cede space to representatives of other causes and allow our vision to be refined in ways we never imagined. We as an activist community are long on the ability to shout from rooftops and sorely short on the ability to sit down, keep our own council and deeply listen to those who have different, yet complimentary visions.

The skills mentioned above are central to building effective actions in ways that far exceed showing up with a sign at a protest. The most critical of these skills is the ability to build a Web Of Mutual support within the progressive community. At the center of this skill is the acknowledgement that we are promoting a minority position and it is necessary to engage supporters of other progressive causes in order to affect real change.

Recently, this concept was on full display as organizations such as Greenpeace USA changed their internet profile to the HRC equity symbol while the Supreme Court heard arguments surrounding marriage inclusivity. In the case of Greenpeace, for example, this social media action suddenly was displayed up front and center before tens of thousands of progressives who believe environmental action is the top issue of our times. The leadership of many organizations made a tactical decision to suspend their own agenda, for a short time, in order to support a worthy cause in the community. Building mutual trust, good will and the possible engagement of the marriage equality community in future justice related actions of their organizations.

It falls upon activists of all stripes to engage tactical thinking, sit down and do the real work of activism and recognize that issues of justice, social, economic or environmental are interrelated. It is only by manifesting a Web Of Mutual Support through hard work that we have a chance of achieving the results that we imagine for our selves, our community and the world.

We must both stand up and be heard and sit down and do the real work of activism!

Why I am a pagan activist

For those of you who do not regularly read Patheos, the site has set out a challenge for many of its writers to sum up their religious beliefs in 200 words. This has run the gamut from conservative Christian to my good friend Sufenas summing up es path. I decided I wanted to try my hand at this, after often questioning if I have a place here.

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I have a voice. My gods and spirits encourage me to use it. I cannot be quiet seeing our Earth and Cosmos mistreated.
Not when bees are dying because of shortsightedness.
Not when plastic flies through the air like leaves.
Not when nutritious food and clear water are seen to be a privilege.
Not when the dominator paradigm, the Ism and Phobia brothers are the default mindset.
Not when so many people do not have a roof over their heads.
Not when the talk around energy is about more production instead of less consumption, and oil spills invade suburban back yards.
Not when states are trying to enact laws to make one religion the law of the land.
Not when I do not have autonomy over my own body in the eyes of the law.
Not when I cannot be out about my personal or religious life for fear of losing friends, family, job.
Not when people must worry for their safety and for their lives because of their gender.

I must live within ma’at and be mindful of wyrd. Let me lay down words and actions to boost both and make the lives of all people better and brighter.

No, I will not take Cakes and Ale from your Styrofoam cup

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— by Shauna Aura Knight

If activism is about standing up, then I’m pulling out my soap box and standing on it. Sometimes activism is holding boundaries and saying no. If you offer me cakes and ale in a plastic, Styrofoam, or otherwise disposable cup, I will not take it.

No.

I will not add to the huge load our Earth is already groaning under. I will not stand and silently support the hypocrisy of supposedly Earth-centered folks who toss out ecological sustainability when it’s inconvenient.

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