Monthly Archives: December 2014

The End of 2014

2014-2015-year-end-pic2014 is coming to an end and with that we Pagan Activists offer up our words from previous posts.

I asked each of the authors of Pagan Activist to choose their favorite self-written article and a paragraph or two about it. Here are their responses:

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I’m not as young as I used to be…

Triple Goddess altar with Ganesh incense burner. Photo by RevKess

Triple Goddess altar with Ganesh incense burner. Photo by RevKess

(by RevKess)

I’ve spent most of the last three months trying to figure out what to write about for my fourth entry to Pagan Activist. Since September I have traveled out to Colorado to visit my Mother Coven, I’ve spent time with my mother. I’ve worked long and hard at my bills-paying-job, and I’ve spent many hours putting together programming for both my podcast and the community radio station I volunteer at. Since September the United States (and recently Australia) has seen protests, mass shootings, hostage situations and police brutality. Since September the Pagan world has seen many wonderful things, and many not so wonderful things. The New Alexandrian Library has completed construction on the first dome, Raven and Stephanie Grimassi have seen the love (and indifference) offered up to them in a time of need, my old pal and brother Zaracon has seen the miracle of funding a dream for his dying sister.

I could write on any of these topics and many others. I could write about the Winter Solstice (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere).  I could even go about writing something predicting changes and wonders in the Pagan community for 2015. But I’m not going to do that. You can go just about anywhere in the Pagan blogosphere and read about any and all of these topics. That’s not why you come to PA.

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Pagan Activist Starter Kit

(by Courtney Weber)

There is no shortage of Pagans willing to make their world a better place. There is a shortage of practical how-to manuals that can show us how to do this work. Whenever I share a story or a statement about something that I believe needs the attention of my community, I’m often met with a worried or even cynical face that says, “But how???”

I don’t have perfect answers, but I have woven in and out of different grass-roots activist causes over the years and now I work full-time for an institution that equips faith leaders for social justice work.  I made the list below in hopes it might help a few willing people get started!

The Pagan Activist Starter Kit: If you can acquire these things, you are good to go!

1.)   A local cause and concrete goal

“Think globally! Act locally!”  It may sound cliché, but it works. No one person can collect all the carbon emissions from the atmosphere, but one person can push a local initiative to enforce stricter fuel emission standards in their state. For years, it infuriated me that same-sex marriage was not legal in most of the country. Federal battles take years and most often respond to the will of the states. I couldn’t force fifty states to do what I want, but I could work to force my own state of New York to get on it! Once gay marriage was attained in New York, many other states followed suit. The country I live in is one step closer to being the one I want to live in because these states allow same-sex marriage.

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The Ethics of Second-Best Choices

Crossing out Plan A and writing Plan B on a blackboard.It’s not a perfect world. I’m reminded every day of my own imperfections. As I gossip at work when I know I shouldn’t. When someone is insulted and I don’t stick up for them, because I fear being thought of as difficult or a goody-goody, or I’m just too tired to bother.

The Pagan Activist blog exists because it’s such a deeply imperfect world. Acknowledging that is one of the first steps toward creating justice. People with a Candide attitude that we’re living in the most perfect world possible aren’t doing anything to make the world a better place.
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Small Victories in 2014

written by Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez

2014 is coming to a close and for me it won’t be a moment too soon.  One problem with being an activist is that having work to do means something is wrong and this year has had few dull moments.

Times are so tumultuous that I have found myself battling very real, horrifying bouts of depression.  Financially it’s hard to imagine that any poor or middle class person will ever be out of debt.  Discrimination against women continues especially in regard to our reproductive rights.  I find myself worrying that any day now women who live their lives as they want will eventually be required by law to wear t-shirts branded with a giant letter “A”, myself included.  I have lost more than just sleep as I’ve followed many instances of police brutality across the country, especially those involving men of color.  My LGBTQ friends still battle for equality and I fear I will never see an end to that during my lifetime.

I spoke with my father about this.  He’s one of the wisest and kindest people I know.  At the time he visited me, I was having a hard time convincing myself to get out of bed.  I could not sleep.  Food was making me ill and while I meditate regularly I could not quiet my mind.  My father told me that I needed to look at what was going well and put out more positivity.

I would not have paid that much mind if that advice had come from someone else.  I think many people put stock in blind optimism to keep from feeling frightened or depressed, but that is also self-deception and sooner or later reality sets in.  But I know Dad better and knew he wasn’t telling me to fool myself.  He was telling me to recharge and remind myself of why I was doing what I do.  He was suggesting a that I hit the reset button.

So that’s what I’m doing here today.  I’m hitting the reset button for myself and as many of you as I can.  I want to prove to you that your efforts are not going unnoticed and that we are making strides; perhaps not as quickly as we had hoped, but the results are there.  I want to show you that continuing to try is worth it and how many other people are trying alongside you.

1) Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize

Malala Yousafzai is an incredible young woman who is lighting the way for girls’ equality.  In 2012 she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban on the bus which was bringing her home from school. Malala has fought her way through recovery and continues to promote the importance of education for girls everywhere.  She is the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel peace prize.  She is an inspiration to those of us trying to persevere.

2) Marriage Equality is making great strides.

Years ago when we were protesting Proposition 8, I was reduced to tears worrying that marriage equality would never be passed.  I attended numerous protests, signed petitions and educated as many people as I could in hopes that my friends would be given the same rights as I have to marry the person I love.  But this year has given me hope.

The Supreme Court has addressed marriage bans in numerous states.  It’s also been wonderful scrolling through my Facebook feed to see photos of my friends and their weddings from all over the country.  There is still a lot to do but if you look at the map above you can see how far we have come.

3) The Peoples Climate March was the largest march for climate change in history.

On September 21st, I was honored to take part in the Peoples Climate March in New York City.  Marching through Manhattan with fellows Pagans, my partners and over 400,000 people was surreal experience.  It seemed that everyone was there.  People of all races, religions and walks of life gathered for the day to draw attention to a very real problem.  And we were heard.  It’s hard to ignore nearly a half a million people.  And it’s hard to just brush off what a phenomenal achievement it was to get so many people gathered peacefully for a single cause.

4) The Maetreum of Cybele wins their case after almost 10 years.

After years of fighting what seemed like a never ending battle with the Town of Catskill for recognition of their tax exempt status, the New York Court of Appeals found for the Maetreum, a Pagan church located in upstate New York.  This case sets the stage not just to assist other Pagan organizations in New York attempting to create brick-and-mortar locations, but for reference for Pagans in other parts of the country in how to better advocate for the recognition of their rights as well.

5) The Senate votes against the Keystone XL Pipeline

Admittedly this is a temporary win.  New representatives will be taking their offices at the beginning of the next calendar year and that this item will come to a vote again but, considering all of the information presented about the pipeline and what it would do (or not do as the case may be) for Americans, this gives us time to educate others and give them the tools they need to contact those representatives.  Knowing who voted against the pipeline may also be useful in gaining the assistance of some very knowledgeable and well connected allies some of whom may not be holding office this term.  Part of visualizing a better future is recognizing opportunity.

6) Chicago votes to accept a higher minimum wage.

Inflation in our country is nothing short of madness.  The expectation that anyone working for the national minimum wage could possibly afford to live  reasonably on that alone is just as absurd.  I’m glad to see that some cities are responding to this issue.  For each city that implements a higher minimum wage, we have access to new information to help us in addressing this on a national level and allow for a better quality of life for minimum wage workers. I believe that if someone is working full time, they deserve to be able to afford a decent place to live.

7) Ft. Lauderdale homeless feeding ordinance is temporarily suspended.

90-year-old Arnold Abbott has been arrested numerous times for feeding the homeless residents of Ft. Lauderdale but a judge has called for a 30 day suspension of enforcement on the local ordinance which prohibits feeding the homeless in certain locations.  Being homeless has been criminalized in many cities across America setting an ugly and counterproductive precedent to addressing homelessness.  Many thanks to Mr. Abbott and others like him who continue to do what’s right even with the threat of arrest.

I think that it’s difficult to see that we aren’t alone in our causes especially if you happen to be separated from others who share your views. Good things happen all the time. These are the things that prove that our voices are being heard.  Often times progress is a series of baby steps.  But every day we are given proof that we can affect our world and improve it. While we do the hard work remind yourself of why you try.  The spark within that encourages you to speak out against what is unjust is fueled by knowing that better days are possible.

You have to imagine the world at its best and believe that it can be achieved.  That vision is a map and even if we have to take a different route to reach our destinations, there’s always another road.  Even if you can’t see it right away, even if the route takes you through the woods, it’s there.

Many blessings to all of you for the upcoming Yule and may the new year be full of opportunities to change to world for the better.

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2014/yousafzai-facts.html

http://www.freedomtomarry.org/states/

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/11/06/3590096/breaking-marriage-equality-just-got-a-first-class-ticket-to-the-supreme-court/

http://peoplesclimate.org/

N.Y. Top Court Rules In Favor of the Maetreum of Cybele

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/senate-narrowly-shoots-down-keystone-xl-pipeline-bill/

http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/city-council-poised-raise-chicagos-mimimum-wage-13-hr/tue-12022014-943am

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fort-lauderdale/fl-homelees-feeding-ruling-20141202-story.html

http://www.msnbc.com/hardball/criminalization-homelessness-the-rise-us-cities

And Then Ferguson Happened….

The national conversation about racism and police brutality in America, when discussed at all, has been going on for decades. There remains an ever growing list of young Black men who are no longer with us and police officers whose names have faded from memory as they returned to their lives as if nothing happened. Headlines, if there were any, reminded us that change remains illusive but within days usually returned to other matters and our attentions were focused elsewhere, usually closer to home in both a figurative and literal sense.

And then Ferguson happened.

Michael Brown was killed by a police officer. Many of us prefer the word murdered. What makes this case even more explosive was the promise of an investigation into possible grounds for an indictment against Darren Wilson, the police officer who ended Michael Brown’s life. We waited. We waited. We waited. And we waited some more.

We were all braced for the Grand Jury’s decision, few of us doubting that no grounds would be found to indict Darren Wilson. Even before the decision was handed down, talk began of the reactions to be expected in Ferguson and beyond. As usual, Facebook became a community board and at times, a battle ground of opposing views. News media took their expected positions. The conversation now taking place has an added dimension, that of whether or not the resulting looting and burning outbreaks in Ferguson are riots or the logical and understandable reaction of people who are feeling the ultimate degree of hopelessness that results from having been abandoned by justice and reason. This conversation is a most necessary and vital one that needs to be happening now. The decisions made about how to move forward will have a profound effect on our ability to really make change.

I understand, to whatever degree is possible (and many will say I can claim no understanding at all because of the color of my skin and privileged experience within the system), the rage and contempt felt by communities who are the usual recipients of police brutality. But it isn’t hard to imagine myself in a position of powerlessness and responding violently to a situation such as the Ferguson debacle. I also know that what I am about to write will not be taken too kindly by many who live that reality every day but I hope that it can at least be part of the conversation in which we must all participate.

The scenes of over a dozen building ablaze brought questions that may not have easy answers. What purpose does this serve? How does the destruction of property that belongs to people who are in no way responsible for the despicable behavior of the police do anything to move toward a solution? At least in the case of over turned police cars that were eventually totaled by fire, the target dealt a blow to the enemy. But burning and looting stores only brings more destruction to a community that needs so desperately to stay together, act together, stand together, fight together, resist together, gather allies together. I most certainly support all who resist the insanity that is the Ferguson experience but is it not a waste of energy to burn down a beauty shop when that resistance energy could be used for the occupation of the court house instead? Couldn’t that energy be used to haunt the police department with a daily presence taking the forms of silent protest or civil disobedience? Violent reaction allows momentary release of rage (maybe) while other paths address the problem by bringing the kind of attention that could draw allies willing to join the number. I offer as an example the June 2013 Silent March against New York City’s practice of “Stop and Frisk”. As thousands of us marched the long blocks of the city, holding signs but not saying a word the message was intensely palpable. The police who stood along the route knew we were saying that we would not allow the practice to continue. To be sure, that march did not deliver a panacea of reform but in non-violent silence and solidarity, the people spoke and drew the attention of media and allies from both within and without the city.

Michael Brown’s family issued a number of statements after the murder of their child. Following the Grand Jury’s decision their statement was one of profound disappointment that Darren Wilson would not have to face the consequences of his actions. But their statements from the very beginning of this tragedy called for a non-violent response. Is it possible that further violence is not what the family wants as a remembrance of Michael’s legacy? Is it possible that they are hoping for something infinitely better to result from his death?

I believe this conversation must take place. We must hear more and feel more about the daily experience that drives some to react with such rage following events such as this one and the disenfranchised and system abused must hear from all of us that we stand with them. We must deliver a credible, measurable and immediate message that we are willing to participate in protests in a multitude of forms which, rather than destroying communities, makes them stronger, rid of oppression and respected in ways that are long overdue. We must do this because until we change that daily experience, Ferguson is bound to happen again.

I attended a vigil in Harford CT. We heard from religious leaders, we sang, we filled the church with awareness. But the most important thing we did was to give people a chance to make a statement about what they intended to do starting right now to make change happen. There are things that everyone can do. Give it some thought and if you need ideas, let’s use this space to communicate ideas with each other. I’ll start the process now with an idea we’re already planning in Hartford. If you have concerns about police harassment or worse yet, brutality in your town or city, file a FOI request and get hold of your police department’s policies and procedures for the use of all “lethal and less
than lethal weapons”. Study them. Determine first whether they are reasonable and if they are, whether or not they are being adhered to. If they aren’t reasonable, work to change them. “Power to the People” requires people to act. It’s time.