Let’s End Rabbit Season on the Newbies

I truly dislike writing about topics like this. However, as often as it keeps cropping up in my Facebook and Twitter feeds over the last year, I realize that is a very timely discussion to have. So what is this all about? Well, it has to do with what I consider to be “bad leadership” within the Pagan community. The newest post concerning all of this came through my Twitter feed and pointed me back to Asa West’s blog post over on Witches & Pagans. In terms of length and discussion, Asa is concise and straight to her point concerning the power dynamics that play out publicly and privately, as well as providing some links to recent examples of this taking place within the Pagan community.

Gizmo
Gizmo hiding…sort of

Abusive individuals within the Pagan community is certainly nothing new. Back in 1986, when I started on my Pagan journey, I heard the stories about individuals in authoritative positions withholding promised magickal training for sexual favors. I have watched people that I had understood to be ethical and appropriate visages of leadership crumble into unethical and criminal activity when money entered the equation. There are others who have utilized their positions of community derived authority to enforce their way of approaching and communing with certain Gods and Goddesses as the “only way” to do so. And the stories and examples can literally go on and on and on and on…

I think that one of the issues here is the ease at which people hand the mantle of leadership and authority to others without blinking even once. I remember starting on this Path, how difficult it was to find any Pagans in the open after the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. I also remember how cautious the coven I eventually decided to work with handled me. They were in Plano, Texas. I was on the other side of the metroplex at Carswell Air Force Base in west Fort Worth. A trip to visit with them was a one hour trip in one direction for me, and that was when the traffic was favorable. Until I was trusted, everything was on a first name basis only. I was even told to not completely trust what I was being taught. “Trust your instincts when dealing with magic” I was told. That was a piece of advice I have maintained since that day, and even applied it to dealing with others.

Look, I have my bad days. There are times I let my emotions get the best of me in any conversation. I expect anyone else has the same issues in their own life. In one of the examples that are linked from Asa’s post is a moment where a person in a position of authority allegedly slapped someone who had deferred that aspect of authority to the individual. Publicly. Now, I do not know the details of the entire exchange nor do I really want to. However, I will supply this: unless an agreement has been made between myself and the other individual that such an exchange – publicly or privately – was agreed upon – that single moment would be the only time that person would have. The same would hold true with someone that would degrade me in a verbal or emotional exchange. For me, the moment that this happened would be the end of any agreement, magickal or otherwise, that we had. This is my methodology for handling situations like this.

But let’s be a little realistic for a few moments. Let’s affix our little fluffy bunny tails to the seat of our pants, and place our fluffy bunny ears on our heads – and take a short trip back to the beginning when we were full of saccharine, covered in glitter, and crapped magickal rainbows. A person that is currently on a Pagan path for the first time may have gone to some really drastic lengths to find that teacher. Unfortunately, they found an abuser. Would they not be willing to let a lot of things go by the wayside? After all, sex magick is just another part of magick, right? And if we don’t reach into our darker parts of who we are, we won’t be ready for some the less pleasant things, right? Yeah. Welcome to the manipulative mannerisms of the abuser. Yes, sex magick is a part of magickal workings. But it is not a moment of getting laid, and in my mind, it is not a road to go down with a novice. AT ALL. As for the darker side of magick, it certainly is there. But making you feel like you are ten inches tall through a barrage of verbal abuse… ::sigh:: And these are just two of the many, many manipulative things that abusers do within our Pagan community. And no, beyond this single sentence, I am not traveling down the pedophile trail – it is there, it does happen, and I will beat the ever-loving shit out of any abuser I find doing this.

All right. ::deep breath, Tommy::

My advice for anyone who finds themselves being abused like this…get out. However, you have to – short of taking someone’s life. Find help. Read up on the signs of abuse. Read up on what leadership SHOULD look like. Shauna Aura Knight has two excellent books on this topic:  Pagan Leadership Anthology, which contains several excellent essays from various folks on leadership. And her book The Leader Within: Articles on Community Building, Leadership & Personal Growth. Furthermore, if you have aspirations to be a leader within your community, know this stuff inside-out, be prepared to step between an abuser and the individual they are abusing. Remember, before you do something, know what you are getting into.

Me? Well, I am a solo Pagan, for a lot of reasons. One of these is so that I am not tempted to abuse whatever authority is handed to me by someone else. Seriously. I am always willing to show folks where my starting points in Paganism were, but I am also cautious to remind them that (a) that was back in 1986, a really long time ago, and (b) just because that worked for me, does not mean it will for them. That old starting point; however, might give them a hint where things might work for them as a starting point. I am no master theologian, top-notch Priest or craft Magician. And anyone suggesting just that about me will make me very, very nervous. Now, a Leader?? Maybe. I have been told that I have leadership qualities and traits in nearly every facet of my life. Usually, I lean to Edgar Friendly’s perspective from the movie Demolition Man: “I’m no leader. I do what I have to do. Sometimes, people come with me.”

Remember, trust your instincts. If it does not feel right, in all likelihood, it would be better to remove yourself from it. if a teacher or a leader asks you to do something you are uncomfortable with – you have every right to say no. You have every right to leave. If they threaten to withhold knowledge or teachings from you – leave. You can get that training or knowledge from somewhere else or someone else with a better set of ethics. There is not a single person on this planet that has sole custody of any truth, except where that applies to themselves alone. One of these days, I hope someone comes up with something similar to a Seeker’s Bill of Rights. Because our wider Pagan community could certainly put something like to good use, particularly for those fluffy bunnies just coming on to the scene. It certainly never should be Rabbit Season…

 

 

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Unpacking My “Hippie-ness”

I am not a fan of labels, particularly when applied to people as a “broad-brush”, “paint-by-numbers” descriptive. However, those same labels tend to help cut to the chase when trying to provide explanations for one’s own perspective – provided that everyone agrees on the wider definitions applied to those terms. When I get asked to describe myself to a group of strangers (or even people who only know me in one contextual aspect), I have a tendency to fall back to those labeling adjectives of “Pagan”, “Druid”, “Coder”, and “Hippie.” All, when utilized under the definitions I apply to those terms, are very accurate depictions of who I am. But not everyone uses the same definitions applied to the same symbolic terminology set. And therein lies the rub of it all.

27858032_10155057913836751_1589891266989413670_nPagans, Druids and Coders tend to provide some of the similar aspects of modernist symbology. Pagans are tree-hugging, over-reaching environmentalists trekking through suburban environments in their sandals screaming about saving the environment while waving their Starbucks coffee in their gesturing hand with their iPhone firmly grasped in the other. Druids are those guys that dress all in white, let their beards grow down to their nether regions, and meditate under the small sapling that the city planted on the urban street environment. Coders tend to sleep during the day, wear clothes that haven’t seen an iron since Romeo Muller won a Peabody award for “The Hobbit”, and walk around the hallways of their work environment in search of caffeine while muttering about WHILE loops and broken hierarchical tree structures. Am I right?? Accurate depictions?? Of course not, but all are somewhat accurate (if not comical) depictions of who I am to one degree or another.

Yet, it is the simple term “hippie” that gets most “mainstream” people (I tend to call them “squares”) bent out of shape, if you will. Thanks to some rather repugnant campaigns to malign and impugn the hippie counter-culture of the late 1960s, the usage of the term immediately shoots the image of the drug-addled, unkempt individual just sitting in the middle of wherever, focused on nothing at all. In fact, the hippie is generally viewed as an individual who has “turned-on and dropped-out” of regular society. The comedic overtones of this rather cartoon-ish image has been quite pervasive. Coupled with the accuracy of some aspects of this perspective, the wide brushed painting has completed the immediate coloring of an individual identifying with the hippie perspective as being just that – someone who is more in-tune with smoking weed, and not wanting the harshness of reality impinging on those emotions and feelings that are induced by whatever high is available.

However, while the drug culture is a big part of the conversation concerning the hippie, it is certainly not all of that conversation. In fact, it is small enough that the drug aspect is not even the truest aspect of what a hippie seeks within existence. That would really be the perspective of “freedom” which immediately begs the question – what does it mean to be free?

The answer to this, in my mind’s eye, depends on the person. However, I believe it can be boiled down to an essential element that a person is allowed to do as they see fit, within the bounds and limits of societal concepts, as well as limits placed on us by law. Now, the right-ness or wrong-ness of those laws can be debated to one degree or another, but that is a discussion for another blog post. But a hippie, from my own personal understanding, just merely wants the freedom to do as they see fit – and be left alone to do those actions. That doesn’t mean that every hippie is just waiting for people to leave them alone at their campfire in the woods, so that they can blaze up a fat one. Not every hippie wants or needs drugs. However, they should be free to do so, provided they do no harm to others when doing so. Essentially, a ‘live and let live’ theory to life, if you will.

In his book “Hippies and American Values”, Timothy Miller stated the hippie ethos, in terms of a religious movement, was meant to move beyond the limitations that were experienced within the mainstream religious institutions. In this, I would agree – this is what the reference towards being a hippie is about for me. Hippies, for the most part, were unafraid to try something new, to move outside the barriers created by monolithic institutions and binary thought. Miller also denoted that “…like many dissenting religions, the hippies were enormously hostile to the religious institutions of the dominant culture, and the tried to find new and adequate ways to do the tasks the dominant religions failed to perform.” That one quote really embodies what I believe is a dominant theme within the Pagan systems that have grown since those emotional moments in the late 1960s. There is no “war” to speak of, merely an abandonment of religious practices that no longer held any formative meaning for those wanting and needing more from their Spiritual lives and practices.

When I am asked how I feel that I am like the hippies of those difficult times of the 1960s, this is the area that I have staked out as my own reasoning. I was raised as a Protestant, sent to all-boys Catholic schools so that my experience of the Christian faith would be widened and deepened, as my father relayed to me about three years prior to his passing beyond the veil. My parents were not devout religionists of any flavor. We never attended church services. I was not encouraged to look beyond what was offered, because it was mainstream and acceptable – exactly what my parents wanted of my life. I wanted something different. I wanted freedom. I wanted something where I belonged. Where I felt like I was who I am. Where I could believe what I believed in my heart.

So I am a hippie. I am not ashamed of that label or title. But what it means to me, freedom, is far different than the ramshackle image of a cartoon-ish, drug-addled, munchie-driven Maynard G. Krebs that society has attached to the term. Rather than being driven away from the term….or cringe when squares flash a “v for victory” sign at me with their fingers and murmur the stereo-typical “peace, man” slogan…I am reminded of the meaning it holds for me – the Seeker. The individual driven by the need to find ways of connecting with the world around me in ways that have meaning and depth for who I am.

Mind Your Head, Mind Your Step

A few years ago, I took a trip to the United Kingdom with the college where I work. For many of the folks on the trip it was a new experience. For me, it was a trip back to England. Moreover, it was quite the experience for me. One I will not forget anytime soon. When we were down in the tube – the subway, in American vernacular – I remember seeing the signs all around – ‘mind the gap” – which referred to the area between the subway train and the platform. This notorious little no-man’s gap was where many an unwary traveler’s leg would wind up causing a great deal of embarrassment and potential pain. As I watch the gyrations of Americans over the current political state caused by the current resident of the White House, I continually see similar signs in my own mind’s eye stating, “Mind your head” and “mind your step.”

gapThe signs that I see in my own mind’s eye are essentially visual reminders and cues to not be too caught up in the whirlwind that has become America’s favorite past time: restlessness, hand-wringing, consternation, and general panic over politics. Yeah, forget baseball and football, America’s past time is being glued to their TV sets for the daily broadcasts of the news on their preferred spin-cycle. Staying glued to those news spinmeisters is precisely what the current President wants. Your attention, complete and undivided. Even if you are completely outraged and angry – your focus is still him, what he says, what he does, what he does not say, and what he does not do. I will hand it to him; he certainly knows how to command a publicity campaign. However, I believe it is time to mind one’s head.

Peter Coyote wrote in his book ‘Sleeping Where I Fall’ – “High ideals and visionary brilliance [are] no substitute for daily practice grounded in spiritual insight.” Spending all of our time worshiping at the television, grinding our teeth and wringing our hands over what one single man thinks pays homage to what he desires the most – attention. Positive, negative, indifferent – that matters not to him, so long as you are talking about him, his words, or his deeds. I cannot speak for you, what you do or what you manage or handle within your life, but I just do not have the energy capital to spend on this person in that manner. I have many other things that need to be handled and dealt with on a daily basis. Moreover, to be frankly open and honest, I have wasted far too much of my time on things that do not provide a return of any sort. In minding my head, I need to bring my focus back to my own daily Spirituality, to the areas where I should be focusing, and not on something that lauds and flatters some individual’s narcissistic needs.

Granted, there are things that this guy does that need to have an eye kept on, an understanding of what is being done, which provides a watchful gaze on what may cross into the our own lives or the lives of the ones we love. We do need to be ready to mind the gap, and stand in the way of potential tyranny. However, we also need to make sure we do the daily things that work in our own spirituality, the things that keep us moving forward in our own lives and our own devotional practices. In this manner, we need to insure that we are minding our own heads, finding that balance between watchfulness of things that do nothing directly for others or us and those things that we need to do in our daily Spiritual practices.

For me, part of my daily routines were to go outside and recite my daily prayers as the night skies started to darken the world around me. Rain or shine, hot or cold; I made my way outside. Then one night, I did not. I remember the night quite well. It was the night of the so-called St. Louis riots. People were taking to the streets to protests the police shooting of a young black man. I stayed indoors, riveted to the television. When I finally looked up, it was 11pm and time for me to go to bed. I never made it outside. The next night, I was again riveted to the television of news coverage. And then over the next few months, I made fewer and fewer trips out to the stone circle during the evening. I knew it was not a bad thing to miss a few days here and there. Nevertheless, part of handling a daily practice is continuing the same routine as best as one can. Moreover, getting back into the same practice is becoming more and more difficult. Yes, it seems like a small thing – and it likely is. However, it is a part of my daily devotional process with Crow and Coyote, and I let too many other things get in the way.

Recently, I have been reorganizing my own life. Somethings that I gave priority and privilege to within my life needed to be set back in their proper places. It had turned into a one-way street. I poured all the energy and effort into these things, and received nothing or extremely little in return. The only people benefiting from all of this were those who showed no appreciation for what I was trying to do. Thus, the change was necessary. I started examining many parts of who I am and where I am at and came to the realization that those things that I did get benefit and return from were the very things that I had set off to the side as items that I could do later. I certainly needed to take some time and mind my head.

watchforsnakesI use politics, the issues with Donald Trump and the issues I have with the media as a whole as examples because everyone can readily understand all of this. All of these have some reach into our lives and the lives of those we love, as well as strangers we have never met. Yet, when we pour our energy into being outraged, being angry, being depressed…we get nothing from all of that, except the warm glow of those feelings. Those that protest, write letters, make phone calls, and even confront governmental representatives over these issues can wind up feeling empty when the day is done. In addition, when you expend all the hours of your day, and ignore the aspects of your daily Spiritual life, your daily devotions and other aspects – you can feel your life spinning out of control. I know I have. I did. I continue to feel that.

Minding your step is about coming back to those things that helped uplift you. Your daily devotionals to the Gods. Minding where and how you spend your energy and time. Because if we do that, we can find that, we can do more than one thing. We can be outraged without worshiping at the television for hours on end. We can also do our daily devotionals. We can add aspects of our outrage into our devotionals, asking the Gods for advice, assistance and even inspiration. We do not have to choose how we resist over how we manage our Spiritual lives. However, in trying to combine the two, we once again have to mind our heads, to make sure that we find a balance between mindfulness and outrage, so one does not overwhelm and drown out the other.

Mind your head? Certainly. Keep an eye on your own thoughts; your own emotional state. Learn when to back off. Explore where your limits are. Push those boundaries when you can. Moreover, realize that those limits and boundaries can change daily, hourly. What you are capable of today may be more or less tomorrow. That quantity is malleable. What it is or is not is completely up to you. You know you.
–T /|\

 

Trying to Reason the Why of It All

Why is that some people attract all the drama into their lives? All the bad stuff happens to them? They just cannot seem to get a break? Why?

Yep, I got asked this on Facebook. And my answer is that I have no damn clue. If I did, I would understand why I had to put my middle-cat Gizmo to sleep, less than two weeks ago. And before the weekend was done after that nice Thursday moment, my youngest cat, MY cat Kaylee was being diagnosed with bone cancer. Just five days after having Gizmo put to sleep. In-between all of that, I got written up at work for asking questions “with attitude” through a series of text messages. Why did all of that happen to me in my life? I have no damn idea, and if I did – I would bottle it and sell it to cover my house payments.

I honestly have no idea why stuff happens. I hear the obligatory stuff

God is testing you.
The Gods are angry with you.
You did something that the Gods did not want you to do, so now you’re being punished.

Huh. You really think so? Because I don’t. Things happen. Sometimes, you make a decision between choices a through z and you just pick the one that brings you to where stuff happens in a way that is devastating. Destiny? Sure, if you want to move within life that way. I grok that, but I don’t believe it. I live life in the vein of a programming flowchart – you reach a decision point on the tree, and you make one choice or the other based on the logic and information you have. Sometimes, it can be a bad choice. Sometimes, it is a good one. More often than not, it is kinda meh. And eventually, you come to another decision that has to be made. You can make hundreds of thousands of decisions in a twenty-four hour period. Sometimes you can only make three. Or some other arbitrary number.

IMG_0095
My baby girl Gizmo. I still miss her so much and always will.

I would love to lay all my ills and bad choices at the feet of the Gods and tell Them: “Your fscking fault! Fix it!” Except that I know there were choices in there that I made. Some innocent, some not so much. But those were my decisions, not the Gods’. Did my decisions cause Gizmo to have a cancerous tumor in her throat? Maybe. But I can never be sure one way or another. I do know that I had the choice of picking her over five other kittens when she first came into my life. And even with the crappy ending to her life, we still had nearly fourteen fantastic years together. We loved each other, had family adventures together and were there for one another in ways I could never really articulate in written or spoken words. I can grab hold of the good and keep those memories sacred in my memory or I can wail to the Gods about how unfair it was for Them to pull her out of my life this way. I would rather keep those happy, most sacred memories than spend my time slamming my fists on the wall recalling all the pain I watched her go through in that last week.

Some folks do have a run of bad luck or make a series of bad choices for whatever reason. At times, they might even feel like they were related to Schleprock. I have seriously been there. And it was really easy to fall into the “woe is me” mentality. That is really understandable. The key for me was reminding myself that life was still worth moving forward through, on my own momentum instead of the current dragging me along. But that’s me. Other folks react differently. For me to say that they are doing it wrong would not only be cruel and heartless – but ignores the fact that every person is their own individual. The way that they react to situations is, can and will likely be different than my own. I will not negate those experiences, feelings, and emotions that they are going through. That shit is real.

I really wish I had a better answer than all of this, but I really don’t. I do have things that have helped me get through painful times – including what I am going through now with Gizmo’s passing and Kaylee’s troubles.

Prayer. Believe it or not, as a Polytheist, as a Pagan, prayer is a strong tool. I prayed to Brigid for healing for both Gizmo and Kaylee. I sought Her assistance as a healer and said chants over both of my girls while I was at the vet with them. The prayers helped me to focus on being strong, loving and in that moment for both of my girls. Brigid is not a typical Goddess for me to work with (in fact there are no typical Goddesses that I work with, I have yet to form a strong relationship with any single Goddess), but I knew of Her healing aspects and asked Her for help.

Finding things to do to keep my mind off of troubling issues. I do data retrieval coding for a living. Some of it gets really complex and requires me to turn off most everything else in my brain to concentrate on what I am doing. I have purposefully worked late a few times, just to keep my mind occupied. Usually, when politics get a little too front and center for me, I tend to dive into code in order to turn that stuff off for me. Working and solving these kinds of coding problems is a form of therapy for me. Some folks I know get out their knitting. Others get crayons and coloring books. Anything to distract the mind from the issues directly at hand, particularly when things are beyond your control and you feel helpless to do anything.

Walk. One of the most relaxing things for me to do is to go walking or hiking. Particularly where there are a lot of trees. Just putting one foot in front of the other, and listening to the wind in the trees is the most calming, relaxing thing I can do for myself. Plus, there is also the aspect of getting some physical exercise. And my Fitbit thanks me for the extra steps too. 🙂

I cannot tell you what is the right way for you to deal with stuff. I can make suggestions, but the real solution-maker is going to be you. As for what to do when bad stuff continually happens, the only advice I can really give you is to just slow things down. Make your decisions carefully – that includes whether to eat at Taco Bell or McDonald’s. Don’t beat yourself up when a decision brings you to bad stuff. Sometimes, it is inevitable. If yelling and screaming at the Gods and laying the blame at Their feet works for – go for it. That is not my style of preference, but I can only answer for me. Simple as that.

Do Not Feed the Troll

As I continue to pull back from a lot of online areas – mostly due to the constant barrage of “what Donnie does, what Donnie says” – I have noticed that internet trolling is becoming more and more common. As well as open criticism without regard for what is being read. We’re a good worldwide society at complaining, sniping, and criticising other perspectives. The internet provides a lot of cover for those that decide to hide behind a pseudonym or fake profile to achieve their means.

I’ll admit, getting the zinger in does feel good. I do it all the time with the President’s Twitter account. Well, not ALL the time. I do have a life. But I do toss in a zinger from time to time.

Tweet

I would love to think that the President of the United States actually reads my trolling efforts, but I sincerely doubt it. Besides, I am not trying to provoke a response from him. Since this is a communications medium tied to a Presidential administration, that means that when he finally does leave the White House these will be part of his Presidential archive (by law). I just wanted to be sure my voice was added to that for future reference. 🙂

But let’s come back to the area I am wanting to work with here – how we communicate. Or rather, how we choose to communicate within an open, online “forum”. I am sure you have seen the “battles” that take place on Facebook, and I am sure there are a lot of you out there who, like me, are tired of watching the energy that gets expended in these exchanges. These exchanges that solve nothing, and change no one’s already well-set perspective.

For some, these exchanges are what they get off on. They enjoy spreading the anger by cajoling others into an interaction. When one responds in an angry fashion about what a waste of human excrement that this “troll” is, the “troll” gets fed precisely what was desired – your emotional response. The result is that the “troll” will fire off another retort or statement that is even more incendiary than the first, expecting an even greater expenditure of emotion from you. And when you respond, in that same fashion again – the cycle begins with even more bombastic rhetoric. I have seen this cycle. Nine Hells, I have even participated in it – from both sides. But long before the internet.

Back in the late 1980s to sometime in the late 1990s, I participated in Bulletin Board Systems, more commonly referred to as “BBSs”. I had my local favorites here in the DFW area. “Pandora’s Box” was an adult-oriented system. Renaissance BBS was when dedicated to discussions of all sorts, and one of the places I “published” my poetry on. Dark Side of the Moon was themed after the Pink Floyd album of the same name but was geared towards philosophical discussions. Malkuth BBS was a Pagan-oriented BBS where the ability to participate was by invitation only. And then there was The Church Mouse. Run by a devout Christian, it was here that I played the role of the troll. I jabbed and punched at various Christians in rolling debates, along with an Atheist and a Chassidic Jew. Some of the discussion was actually serious, but most of the time, I played the role of hit-and-run troll. Looking back, I realize that my interactions were childish, at the very best. All I was trying to do was make someone angry. And when that individual did respond in anger, I felt I had won the battle.

“Won the battle.” What in the Nine Hells did I win? A short emotional response that made me feel more superior to someone else. Last night, in a discussion with a much younger individual (early twenties), he made the remark that he had won plenty of “battles” with folks in a discussion. I asked what he had won. He told me that these folks did not like him, as if this was a trophy to hold. I told him that for me to participate in such antics – there had to be a prize, like money or an actual trophy. of course, I was being sarcastic, but I doubt my point had any application for him. I remember feeling invincible at that age too.

But I actually did win something during all those trolling moments. Like my young friend, I earned the disdain of quite a few people. Furthermore, I assisted those individuals into thinking that every Pagan that they would meet was an angry, combative individual. That all a Pagan could accomplish in a conversation is an angry derisive commentary against their beliefs. Or maybe they merely came away from those thinking that directly of me, and not broad-brushing against all of those who were also Pagans. I certainly hope it was the latter.

All of which leads me back to my semi-constant barrage against the President’s Twitter account. The above tweet that I sent is one of my “cleaner” tweets. I have sent some really nasty tweets to Donald Trump. I’ll admit, it is not one of my more adult things to have done. But sometimes, you have to fire back at someone who is using power provided to him under a social contract such as the Constitution of the United States to harm other people. I cannot drive up to the White House, knock on the front door, and slap the wig off his head while admonishing him for all the hurtful policies he has implemented as “Executive Orders.”

What I can do; however, is to vote in every election. For politicians who will vow to be more socially conscious with what they should be doing. Regardless of the level of the position that they are seeking or even the political party that they are part of. So long as they follow the social contract that is what government is. I can publish blog posts like this, asking others to follow that lead. Ask. Because I do not command you. “I am no leader. I do what I have to. Sometimes people come along.” Yes, I am quoting Dennis Leary’s character from the movie “Demolition Man” because it is a direct understanding of what I am and who I lead. I only have one follower – me. Anyone else who chooses to follow my example does so because they decided for themselves to do so.

As one of my fellow Pagan bloggers said quite a while back (I am not sure who or when – just that I read it on a Pagan blogger’s site) “words do matter.” I would also add that what we decide to accomplish with those same words matters as well. Internet trolls only stick around, so long as you feed them. React to them, you provide what they want. They will attack with even more force, more names, more derision…because they want another reaction from you. The idea is to force you off your center and balance so that you flail back constantly. You are not harming their assumed personae. You are just wildly lashing out. And for them, that is laughable. Try not to feed the trolls. It really is not worth your time or effort. Take it from someone who was a troll before there were internet bridges to sit under.

do_not_feed_the_troll_by_veilx-d38viyi

Be a REAL Patriot…Vote.

It is the 4th of July…another day. I am not a flag wavin’ type of individual, so this is essentially a normal day. Except that folks feel the need to fling gunpowder into the air and ignite it. But that’s their problem, not mine. And if anyone wants to question my “patriotism” over my lack of glee on this day – let me remind you, I gave up my rights as a citizen for eight years to serve in the military. Please, don’t thank me for my service, I don’t want or need to hear it. Not in the current environment we live in.

No, my reference is not to the fact that the Sunkist Dictator is currently the elected President of the United States. Rather, my reference comes to the state of how we do politics in this country amongst ourselves. Rather than just disagreeing, we make it personal. Rather than discussing, we talk past one another, while attempting to speak louder than a Manowar concert. We hold these “discussions” as a form of battle – having to “win” at all costs, even finding appropriateness in hurling extremely insulting terminology at the other side, in much the same manner that military forces hurl napalm into theaters of war. We are not mindful of what these words do or even what that means to the people that wind up hearing them. Because we have to “win” the argument. Because no one can have a differing political point of view from our own.

MeYesterday morning, I saw a news report where a woman and child were united after two months of being apart. The mother relayed a statement that was essentially a warning to anyone wanting to come to the United States: “Do not come here. These people are heartless.” I can completely concur with her statement. No, I am not being sarcastic here nor am I advocating for tighter border security. Rather, I concur with her statement that people in America are heartless when it comes to immigrants fleeing the terrible conditions in their own country. The United States is not seen as a pot of shining gold, where currency falls from the trees like leaves. Rather, it is seen as a place of refuge, a place of safety, where an individual can work hard for their family’s needs, and eventually have a better life. And that better life would be one where daily violence is not visited upon them as it is back in their home countries. At least that is the hope.

Here in America, we seem to have started a new un-civil war. Violence is slammed against those that do not see the world through the same jaded worldview. Granted, we do have a President that is pushing against the laws that rightfully restrict the powers of a single individual in a triad of governmental control. To call this man an adult with reasoned understanding is a flat-out lie. He is nothing more than a petulant child that only sees his own needs before those of anyone else. And that is a bad thing to have for a position that is to be a representative of all the citizenry of this country. He also comes from a position of significant privilege that has been afforded him by his significant wealth. In other words, he is used to getting his way on everything. Laws be damned. Money speaks. Except when you’re a government official. And we watch him constantly rage on Twitter about it.

The bad thing here? He rages, we react. Essentially, he calls the tune, we dance. Maybe – and I am just spitballing into the wind – if we stopped letting him call the tune and we stopped reacting to his pied-piper act on Twitter, we (the collective citizenry of the United States) could drive the narrative. I think we all forget that whether you voted for the individual or not, government officials work for us. But to make that statement have any bite whatsoever – Americans need to do what they do not – vote in EVERY election. As I pointed out earlier, what if the other person shows up to vote? Who knows how the election might have actually gone in the last Presidential cycle. It might have made things interesting. But it all brings up another point – when do we start getting people that are WORTHY of our vote to run for elected office?

I will admit, I was unhappy with the individuals that were offered up by either of the two major parties. None of the Republican candidates were to my liking. I would not vote for Bernie Sanders – not a democrat – at any point in my life. I think I agree with Sanders about five percent of the time. And while I loved Bill Clinton as President, I was not as enamored with his wife, whose politics do not mesh well with my own. I found a third-party candidate that was a better fit for my beliefs and provided my vote there. To be completely honest, as John Beckett noted to me in a Facebook comment: “…if someone is looking for a perfect candidate, they will never find one.” That is not a direct quote, but it is close enough. A perfect candidate is likely to never occur. My vote for the third-party candidate was for an individual that was not a perfect candidate for me. Because that individual does not exist.

So how does all this relate to my Druidry? Well, my concept of Druidry is that I find connectivity to the world around. Politics and all the gnashing of teeth that is currently underway is in that web of connectivity. I do not like that it is, but to deny that existence would be to remove a part of what I sincerely believe. I am connected to a lot of people on Facebook. Here, people post links to articles, badly created and worded memes, and even long statements on how today’s political affects them or other people that they know. I’m not a massive empath, but all of that stuff does hurt. I see people in distress over what is being done.

Done by a single individual, the petulant child I mentioned previously. I do not completely agree with the ferocity that others provide to this Twitter Dictator. To put those kinds of feelings and emotions into the hatred of one individual gives power to that person. The true power that he holds is somewhat limited under the powers provided to his office through the Constitution. And those limitations are enforced by the other two branches of government. One is an appointed position that is granted after a process between the President and the Congress. The other – the Congress – is voted in by the citizenry of this country, as their representatives. Elections have consequences, folks. Sure, turnout in droves for the Presidential cycle. In the meantime, less than ten percent of the voting populace turns out for all the other cycles. There are officials and government representation that gets voted on here – including Congressional representatives and senators. These are the folks that have the representative power to keep the President in check. And you let ten percent of the voting populace determine who that will be. Let that sink in…ten percent. One out of ten voters makes that difference.

Politics does not figure into my Druidry or my Spirituality. But community participation does. And I honestly cannot think of a more community focused activity than voting. I could care less who you vote for or the reasons you put behind it. That is your personal business, not mine. I am not telling you who to vote for or what proposition to vote for or against. Make yourself an informed voter and educate yourself on all of that prior to making it to your local polling location. That is a part of connectivity. Knowing the issues, and participating in your community elections. For me, that is a part of my Druidry. And that type of connectivity, in my opinion, means far more than slamming poorly written memes up on your Facebook wall or having insult-laden arguments with others in whatever venue or medium you choose to do so.

You want true Patriotism? Forget the flag waving. Forget the hollering “America is the best country in the world” at the top of your lungs. You don’t even have to wear a military uniform to be truly patriotic. Be a true Patriot, participate by casting a vote in ALL of your elections. Your local, county, state and federal elections. All of them. Be involved enough to know what the candidates stand for, and what voting “yes” or “no” on an issue will mean to you. Be a real Patriot: be informed, and for the love of the Gods…VOTE.

But that’s really just my own perspective. I can only do me. You have to figure out you.

 

If The Other Guy Had Showed Up

I was reading a recent article with Mark Hamill, and he was relating an aspect of his role as Luke Skywalker that raised an eyebrow for me. It was actually rolled up into using the backdrop of Star Wars – starting with Episode IV with the years of “modern” society played up against. The quote that caught my eye was:

It is tragic. I’m not a method actor, but one of the techniques a method actor will use is to try and use real-life experiences to relate to whatever fictional scenario he’s involved in. The only thing I could think of, given the screenplay that I read, was that I was of the Beatles generation – ‘All You Need Is Love’, ‘peace and love’.

I thought at that time, when I was a teenager: ‘By the time we get in power, there will be no more war, there will be no racial discrimination, and pot will be legal.’ So I’m one for three. When you think about it, [my generation is] a failure. The world is unquestionably worse now than it was then.

I literally sat there speechless, it was an angle to this last Star Wars I had not really contemplated. And one that will likely completely change my perspective on the movie img_9688the next time I sit down to watch it, this coming weekend. But the quote also had me replaying what life was like for me when I graduated high school back in 1984. My generation was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed – ready and willing to take on the challenges of finding peace in the world, finding equality for all, and yes – the acceptance of marijuana – just not as big a point as the first two.

We all came out of high school, full of hopes and dreams – and fattened by the broad-spending to keep up with or better our neighbors in the amount of crap we had. We took that mantra, and stepped eagerly towards debt, changing jobs every few years, moving from apartment to apartment every six months. And we expected no different from our various government entities. After all, we were raised under that mantra…why shouldn’t the government practice it as well?

Racism? Equality? We saw enough of that on TV. With JJ Evans hollering “Dyno-mite!” every episode, the Jeffersons were moving on up to that deluxe apartment in the sky, and Roots was there to remind us of the terrible tragedies that the blacks had gone through. ‘Blacks’ – what a terrible racial naming concept. Except we do the opposite of using the term ‘whites’ as well. But we weren’t running off to hang someone over the color of their skin. Nor were we burning down their homes either. We were on the way to achieving equality. Except that we stopped with finding monetary equality in the corporate job environment. Promotions were harder to find for minorities, and women as well. And there really wasn’t much of a push to make things better. Once we spent ourselves into debt, we literally fought tooth and nail to make a living – essentially becoming a statistic. And eventually moving home in the mid-1990s with our parents…that literal mid-aged lifeboat. We were focused on saving our own skins…not enough time and energy to push for corporate change.

When the 1990s came to a close, the next generation was a larger force in the workplace. Just not in numbers. They learned technologies much quicker, after all they had a longer exposure to technology when they were younger. And that particular notation has continued with each new generation – more technology savvy, quicker with technological concepts. So, once again, my generation found itself focused on competing in the work-force with younger workers who didn’t come with all the burdens we had – family, kids, medical needs, debt. They worked cheaper and were willing to work longer for those lower wages. No push for change coming there.

So now, we are where we are. A political environment that is so divided that the hatred between both sides is thick enough to squeeze out an 8oz glass of vitriol and have enough left over to freeze as ice cubes. The newest generation entering the work-force is having to deal with an aging work-force ahead of them – mostly my generation working for lower-paying positions to just get by. As a rough example, I make a little over 40k a year at my job. Not great pay for a technology-sector worker with two Masters degrees and a Bachelors. Luckily, I work at a job where I believe in its overall mission, and this amount of money is just enough to get me by with a little left over each month. I know many others with the same degree credentials that I have, including my thirty-four years in Information Technology, who make far less than I do, and some work two or even three jobs to get by. All of that clogs the work-force for the younger workers just coming in, which becomes part of the problem.

Now, I am not laying all the blame at the feet of my generation. There are a lot of contributing factors that I am leaving out. But Hamill is correct. My generation failed. And the resulting mess is what we are looking at. There is a lot of clean-up that is going to have to be done, starting with the move towards complete equality. And Gods, I have no idea how we get there. Just looking at my country, America, which likes to style itself as the leader in everything around the world (it is not – and that arrogance is also part of the problem) – we have issues that stem from political issues, from learned hatred of those that are different from us (pick one), from lack of equality, from a lot of things…and people are completely fed up. They are ready to tear shit up over all of this and have in a few instances. We have police officers that abuse their powers of protection. We have politicians that enact laws that are harmful to others over some perceived issue that masks what is essentially racial prejudice. We have laws that are twisted to suit one demographic of people and no court system willing to put the law back into its neutral position. How in the fuck do we fix all of that? Well, let me rephrase this a bit…

How do the younger generations fix all of this? No, this is not “kicking the can down the road” – though it does sound like it. This is a touch of realism. The younger generations are driving the war-cry for change, for an overhaul of the system, for complete equality. Sure, there are those in my generation that have picked up a protest sign and joined the front-line. However, their words are the loudest. Except at the ballot box. The younger generations have a strong mistrust of the system. They are not wrong to have it either. The system is literally set to provide for the “haves” and ignore the “have-nots”. But the ballot box is an area where honor and correctness continues.

Yes, there is voter fraud that happens at the ballot box. Not in the numbers that conservative firebrands at Fox News claim, but it is there. There is also increasing apathy from the block of individuals that are eligible to be registered to vote and are currently registered to vote. The system seems to not really change. Democrats and Republicans (and even many of the third-party candidates) are essentially the same types of politician. They will canvas for the votes of the people, and then swear complete fealty to the political party. Essentially, they are beholden to their donors rather than to the registered voters.

How do you change that? You find candidates to vote for that reject that kind of thinking. They hold their fealty to the people rather than the party. Except that to get on the ballot, you NEED the party’s assistance in all states and territories. And to get that assistance, you need to show that you are in their boat – ready to do their bidding on the various governmental floors when the time comes. And nearly every point that gets made has a counter-point to place it in check. And the outcry of the system being rigged becomes louder.

::sigh:: Hamill is right. We failed. But all is not completely lost. Yes, the storm clouds look dark, and the wind is starting to whip the rain like watery, steel nails into your flesh. But failure is not the same thing as complete loss. If you watch the last Star Wars movie, the individuals playing at being “rebels” are the children. These younger generations are the hope. Yes, we are only going to be around for some of the clean-up of the mess we have created. But we can provide the example of what didn’t work. What needed to be formatted differently to achieve the change that was necessary.

I already hear the words:  “What about Trump?” flying through my Email box. What about him? He represents the last gasps of what needs to be changed. Yes, it certainly is an uphill battle. But I would like to remind you – Clinton won the popular vote 48% to 46%. And that was with only 56% of the total voting populace turning out. Essentially, that means that every other voter did not come out to the polls for that election. It makes me wonder what might have happened if that other guy HAD showed up?