Life as a Long Hike

As I noted in a previous post, some of the minor themes in a talk given by Starhawk at Pantheacon this year have brought interesting conceptual thoughts to my mind. One of the more interesting ones was looking at one’s life-time journey as a hike. A really long hike.

Now, I enjoy walking. I get a chance to wander and accomplish what I call “walking meditation” where I can literally turn a single thought over and over in my mind as I walk. Lately I have not done a lot of these, and I really do need to change that. But that is a thought for another time. Using a hike as a metaphor for life was certainly an intriguing thought. There are all sorts of things that can be utilized in hiking that can be brought over to looking at one’s journey in life.

Pathway in Mesa VerdeFor instance, probably the easiest one to bring into focus is the ups and downs of life relayed into the hiking of hills and valleys on a path. I walked a rather long trail in Mesa Verde National Park. The start of the trail was up a steep hill to get closer to the cliff-side nearest to me. Once there, the trail hugged against the cliff-side, and narrowed considerably. The drop-off into the valley below was extremely steep and at times a sheer drop-off. At other times, the path passed through very narrow passageways between large boulders and the cliff wall. It was along this pathway and through one of these passages that I encountered Crow, which I can describe in no other way than an initiation of sorts. At one point, the trail scaled straight up a cliff wall, which – for me, as an individual with an acute fear of heights – was quite harrowing indeed. But thinking back along the lines of a hike as a metaphor for life….makes perfect sense.

The steep climb at the start of the hike, is quite similar to the initial steps one takes in life or even a Spiritual Path. We do not necessarily know exactly where things are or how definitions to certain terminologies or concepts can map into our own lives; so there’s a rather acute struggle. Or if you prefer, a climb of sorts. As we accumulate knowledge and understanding, we build on each concept and build and grow our application of that to our own lives.

But hills and valleys can have other meanings as well. The height of a hill can be a positive moment in our lives. Where we reach the pinnacle of some aspect. Everyday life seems to be in harmony with anything we do or try. We feel the awesome joy of accomplishment, able to look outwards at all that is our life, and survey the beauty of everything that is there. The valley, with its downward momentum, can have the feeling of riding in a vehicle without brakes. Gaining speed at every moment, careening dangerously along the path; a certain painful, and sudden stop that may certainly be in our very near future. Our demeanor reaches depths of sorrow and despair, as if our immediate world is being torn asunder. And we know that once we reach the bottom with our painful, injurious stop accomplished, that our future will require a slow, difficult climb to reach the heights. At times, we can feel like laying at our stopped location in the valley, staring up at the sky with despair that we will once again have to expend the energy to achieve what we once had. And we know that the top of the coming climb will provide a different vantage – similar to the previous one we had – but different all the same. Each individual person will have to determine whether they feel that such a climb is still within who they are.

And then, there is the narrow pathway that I found along my Mesa Verde walk. There were places where the path lead down a very steep, and short dirt path to the cliff edge. The drop off was certain life-threatening. A single misstep could potentially spell outright doom for me. Every step was carefully determined, each handhold was carefully tested to insure I had a strong grip, and that the handhold would hold enough to keep my pudgy ass from pulling me over the edge. Believe me, that the cliff edge was very much on my mind. We do much the same thing throughout our lives. We make plans for this or that; we make preparations for how we are going to accomplish these tasks. We make plans and preparations for our rituals. We decide where and what we are trying to accomplish. And sometimes, that narrow Path is the only way forward we have. Its not the yards-wide Path with smooth dirt or concrete or asphalt that we would prefer. Its rocky, uneven, and fraught with ways for us to trip and fall. We take our steps slowly, trying to keep our balance, and our footing. We navigate our way through some aspects of our lives in careful, measured steps. Where we have walked many times before, we might make quicker steps – faster decisions – sure of our footing or our position. And we might find an unknown root in our way, ensnaring the toe of our boots, and sending us sprawling face first into the Path. What else is there to do, then pick up our wounded pride, check for injuries, dust the dirt off our clothes, and move forward – looking more carefully?

So, there are certainly ways to see Life as a long, long hike. We get a little cocky on our walk, trip and fall in places where we seemed to be certain of our footing. In other areas, we are acutely aware of the drop-off at the cliff’s edge, and tread far more carefully. But the true measure of our hike is not how far we’ve managed to walk. That comes from looking around us. Seeing the environment within which we’ve walked. During my walk along the Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde, I was struck by how beautiful the views were from my side of the wide valley. The land rolled outwards from my vantage point, moving hundred of yards in distance until the other side of the valley rose sharply from the ground. Once I got far enough away from people, I could see deer – or they might have been antelope – down in the valley below me, searching for food and water in the brush far below. Crows cawed from the trees above me, and Hawks soared on the thermals in the skies above. There is so much to what happens around us in Life as well. People come and go in our lives. Some stay and walk the Path with us from time to time. Some stay longer than others. All of them touch our lives to some degree, even if just momentarily.

Life is a long hike. But its not the distance that matters most. Its what we experience along that distance that matters the most. Those experiences make us who we are. Steep climbs; long valleys; thin trails; deer trods that we can barely see; extremely wide, paved paths – all of it provides the trail. But what we encounter on the trail, and just off the trail adds to what makes our Life experiences. And from my own perspective, those experiences are the treasured aspects of who and what I am.

 

Circling Back to Pantheacon

So let us take a few steps back. Its not that far in time – just back to Pantheacon of this year. I do enjoy attending Pantheacon to meet people and see folks that I don’t always get the chance to. But I also get the opportunity to sit in on panels and listen to people talk about topics that I normally don’t twirl around in the pink mist. this year, there was a lot of talk about death, change and renewal – which only slightly touches the areas I would normally think of. Turns out, each one of those panels and talk were precursors for a lot of study that I am currently wading through. Yah for team Synchronicity! But there was a lot of talk about difficult times as well, and one panel in particular proved to be quite interesting:  Starhawk‘s “Crossing Stony Ground”.

Much of the panel was geared towards the current political upheaval that is going on across the United States. But I am not a terribly political animal, so much of that was material that did not quite call to me. However, pieces of these little mini discussions did have threads that I pulled away…and I am going to try something different here. Usually, I try to condense all this into a paragraph that talks about each point. Instead of that, I will recreate the bullet-point notes that I took.

  • “create a circle” – watch chaos
  • do not compartmentalize your Spirituality
  • band together – work together – build what we envision
  • take action for your environment
  • do not divide Spiritual and Political – use together for action
  • restrengthen Druidry connections with your environment
  • Add your passions to your daily life
  • Ups and downs in Life are like hiking trails
  • Practice your grounding daily
  • Put your devotionals at the forefront of your mind when doing those
  • Find your center and your calm during tumultuous moments
  • Feel your anger and your sorrow when they occur but do not dwell on them for too long
  • No “us” – No “them” – there is “We“. There is “All“. We rise together – we survive together – we fall separatedwe fall individually.
  • PLP – Plain Language Programming – watch what you say or repeat.
  • Empty your backpack! Carry only what you need. Do not anticipate issues – carry only for issues that you know. Improvise for unknown situations. “We travel lite – we hunt!”
  • The Storm is here. Be ready to help where you can. The Storm affects everyone.

Now, all of these are what I gleaned from the conversations. Very little of what is written here is what was directly stated. Much of it is parts of conversations that meant something to my mind when I heard it, and written as it pertained to me. Well, I guess I should explain a bit more of why I wrote these things this way.

This was the one panel that I had circled in my conference book let and had a single note written next to it: “Clear your mind, open your senses.” What I was reminding myself was to ground, center, and clear my thoughts prior to the start of the panel. I wanted to listen carefully to what Starhawk (and others) had to say. I also wanted to open my thoughts to allow what was said to form in my mind as I wrote notes. My intention was to take these notes and bring this into my daily routines, rituals and practice. What I wound up coming away with was some of that, but also a lot of reinforcement for what I was already doing. I wasn’t really prepared to hear all of that. I was expecting to get a list of “new”, “shiny”, “unknown” things that I had never thought of before.

Circles and Chaos

The first point that is written here comes from the very first moments of the panel. The chairs were all lined up on opposite sides of the room, and Starhawk asked all of us to move our chairs into a circle. After a few minutes of people moving chairs, trying to find appropriate spacing from others, and a few others attempting to direct the process, she called for everyone to have a seat. What we accomplished was much closer to the shape of a football than a circle. Her ensuing point was that vague directions – “make a circle” – will provide vague results. The panel’s concept of “crossing stony ground” was about moving with intention and purpose through chaotic times. Intention and purpose will never find results from vague instructions, weak wording, and open-ended definitions.

From this point, she pivoted into an area I have far too much practice at – compartmentalizing. For a long time in my life, I have had two sides of me – two compartments of who I am. On one side is who I am to the outside, public world. Just an average working schmoe. I live a generic life in the eyes of these people. I do my job, I go home at night and watch tv. On the weekends, I hang out with friends, and watch baseball or soccer on tv. When I am away from work, I get to be the Pagan that I am. I can openly embrace my beliefs around my friends, who are more like my extended family. There’s nothing to set off to the side. There’s no barrier there. But that double-life, the two “me”s are constantly in conflict with one another. Until I decided to start letting the two aspects merge into one. But only to a point. I don’t talk about the Druid I am at work. Many people would not understand, and there would be too many things to try and explain. So I still compartmentalize to a degree here. But I no longer hide the fact that I am a Druid, or the fact that I am a Pagan. I just choose not to advertise it openly. Its not a perfect merging, but its better than it was – and I have removed some of the stony ground that I walk upon.

Much of the rest of what I wrote is stuff that I already handle within my life to some degree or another. I’m not the greatest in the world at some of this stuff. But I certainly do try my best. However, three things really stuck out for me, and I will write more on these in the coming days:  Life as a Long Hike, No Us/Them, and Plain-Language Programming. Each one of these points has led me down some interesting deer trods in my mind. I’m looking forward to exploring these a little further with all of ya’ll here in the blog.

–T /|\

Lead, Follow or Make Your Own Way

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

When I was in the military, my first direct supervisor imprinted this in my mind as the best way to make my way through the United States Air Force. And honestly, it is quite a true statement. Making my way through a regimented society – and the military most definitely is a regimented society – was most easily accomplished by either taking charge, following those in charge, or stepping aside and letting others handle the situation. My biggest problem was dragging this into the civilian world when I left the military.

Occasionally, I hear this same concept handled in regards to dealing with one’s own Spiritual Path. Either step up and take charge of being within a group, step aside and follow the lead of others in a group or just don’t be a part of things. And generally, particularly for people new to Pagan groups, this is taken to mean that they should just quit being a Pagan and find something else.

Been there. And to be brutally honest, it is a moment that just sucks pop rocks. Being given an avenue that offers only a pair of choices, neither of which is palatable or workable, can feel rather limiting. So can being given the similar binary choice of either those two choices or get out. That is a moment that can send anyone down the endless spiral of doubt as to whether being a Pagan was a good choice or not. After all, you find this wonderful Path that provides freedom of thought and choice in a manner you never dreamed would be possible. Excitedly, you find a Pagan group to discuss this with, and you find there’s only these choices provided to you. An absolutely terrible ice-bucket-challenge moment.

My senior year of high school, I had some classes that I had to take because I had not done my freshman or sophomore years in the state of Louisiana. Taking these classes meant that I would be on a class schedule similar to that of the first two year students, placing me on their lunch schedule. When I was at lunch, all the other senior-year students would be in their classes, while I ate lunch. I would be the only senior on that lunch bell. Effectively, I found myself ostracized from my fellow classmates, and being a senior, I was keep at an arm’s distance by the under classmen. It was a very disheartening experience for me, because I found myself on the outside looking in for most of the functions for my class. And as a result my experiences and relationships with the people I graduated high school were thin in nature and strength.

It is not quite the same thing as finding a Pagan group, and realizing you have nothing in common with them – and realizing there are no other Pagans to be found to talk and discuss things with. However, that sense of loneliness and disillusionment can be quite similar.

My way out of the issue in high school was to seek friendship with people outside of my school. I went to a private Catholic all-boys high school, so it was a little easier to find a cadre of friends outside of the school. I found mine via the Friday night showings of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the St. Vincent mall in Shreveport. The friends I made there accepted me for the awkward, semi-shy person that I was. They encouraged me to grow in the things that I enjoyed, even when they didn’t completely agree with it. In this instance, I was exploring my musical tastes by delving into hardcore metal – and while they didn’t really care for my musical tastes, they did discuss some of the merits of bands such as King Diamond, Exodus and Slayer in comparison to some of the musical tastes they had. In essence, we were a band of misfit friends. We were all very different from one another, banded together over our desire to be free to explore.

The same can be said for how I approached my Paganism. I went through the rejection aspect too. But I also found ways to connect with Pagans elsewhere. Through message board systems on local BBSs, I found folks in PODSNet, the Magick SIG, and other places where I could talk about what I believed. Through this, I found people who were willing to listen, respond, and assist me in growing myself into who I became.

To put it a different way, I realized that sometimes the path or deer trod through the forest is not always the best way to travel. Sometimes, you have to tighten up your cloak around you, step off the path and enter the forest proper. Granted, there’s a huge degree of caution that one has to take. You have to be careful of your footsteps so that you don’t slip and fall down a steep embankment. You have to be aware of your surroundings, making sure that you don’t run into any animals that may find you to be an intruder that must be repelled. But the experience of blazing your own trail through the forest can be exhilarating, sobering, and intense.

To be upfront and blunt, I do not recommend making your own way to every single individual that is out there. Sometimes, when you get rejected from a group or when you find a group just does not fit who you are – keep looking. Keep knocking on doors. Keep looking for those others.

If you find yourself on a trail on your own, or you find yourself needing to wander off the trail and finding your own way in your own Spirituality – take that chance. Again, be prepared. It can be a lonely path. You will find yourself doubting what you are doing. You may find that you really do need to go back to the trail – and there is not one thing wrong with that. Blazing your own way through the forest is not for everyone. Don’t feel ashamed or upset over it. Cherish the experience, and set it off to the side. You might be able to utilize that experience in something else. And if you do manage to blaze your own trail (and even if you don’t) – be sure to record your experience of it somewhere. In a journal. In an audio recording. In a video recording. Somewhere. So that you can come back to it. Recorded experiences are valuable tools in future learning. And I honestly wish I had done the journaling that I do now back in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the meantime, it is time to pick up my pack, grab my staff, and continue walking my daily Path. Whether you choose to walk a trail or blaze a path of your own – remember this: leading groups and others is hard work. Following others is hard work as well, as you need to watch, listen, and feel to make sure you need to keep following. Getting out of the way, merely means you are standing still. Nothing wrong that. Just get moving eventually. Make a choice, experience it, embrace it, and eventually stop. Evaluate what’s going on. If its still working, stick with it. If you need to adjust do that. If you need to change, do that as well. It is your Spiritual Path. It is your walk in Life. Only you can choose where your footfalls will wind up.

 

Walking the Same Stretch of Pathway

Normally, I don’t write in the evenings. My brain goes into an unwinding mode during this time, and my thoughts typically do not flow as naturally as during the mornings after the first cup of coffee. Yet, here I am, hacking away at the keyboard, drinking water, and listening to the thunder and rain outside my window.

I still get a little flabbergasted when people recognize me. “Hey, you’re TommyElf the podcaster!” is something that I hear from time to time. Not as often as people think it might, because podcasting is not a huge medium whatsoever – but it does happen far more often than I ever thought it might. On a trip to East Coast Gathering a while back, it happened on a crowded flight from Denver to Philadelphia. Its happened a few more times at Pagan Pride Day events as well. And for an individual like me, who shuns the spotlight, it can be a very jarring moment.

The podcast episodes of “From the Edge of the Circle”, and “Upon a Pagan Path” were never meant to thrust me into the spotlight. I have never had a desire to be a well known individual or “Big Name Pagan” as it gets tossed around in some circles (and was applied to me and another person quite recently). I do not write these blog posts to get my name out there either. All of that is done to give back to the wider arching Pagan community or as John Beckett would say, the Big Tent of Paganism.

The reality of who I am, is that I am quite shy with people. Its very difficult for me to approach people and just talk with them. As the first podcast hinted at, I prefer to be at the periphery of things. And as the beak that smacks the back of my head, the paw that smacks my behind, and the soft fingernails scraping against my neck remind me – Crow, Coyote, and Fliodhas prefer it otherwise. There is no desire for me to become infamous and well-known; rather that I communicate with others better. I have mentioned before about how far into the background I melted during Pantheacon. That’s instance of where I have been taken to task over.

See, people wonder what it can be to present yourself as a follower of a God or Goddess. This is only part of it. Fliodhas continues to drag me out of my self-created shell by placing me into situations and locations where I must interact with others. Coyote continually reminds me not to take myself too seriously whenever I feel an astonishing sense of accomplishment or importance. And Crow. Crow is about communicating better. More often. With better frequency and consistency. And believe me, each of these three can be stern taskmasters when there is failure on my part.

So why serve Gods and Goddesses that are stern about you accomplishing the tasks that They want? Well. Because I want to. I know that sounds somewhat smart-ass in nature, but it is true. Crow, Coyote and Fliodhas ask things of me; I can always say “no” to what They want. But I say “yes” because I want to. I have the Free Will to accept or reject, just as anyone else does when they hear the call of their own God/s. I am not a slave to Their needs; I am there to help and assist where and how I can.

And service to a God or Goddess is not for everyone. Nor should it be. Every Pagan has their own unique Path to walk. Every so often, we share footfalls on parts of our Paths, but the overall journey is unique to each individual. For some, the Gods make Their choices and ask. For others, the Gods may not speak directly to. Having a God speak directly with you or not speak directly to you at all – does not make you unique or “not good enough”. It makes you that person – the Pagan that you are. And in the end, that is what matters most. Your own journey. With Gods and Goddesses speaking with you or not – your journey is important. That journey is how you grow. That is how your Spirituality connects with the world around you. It is unique to you, and you alone. Some aspects of it you will share with others, some of it you might not. But the sum of it all is uniquely yours.

Yes, I have areas where I need to grow. I have some things that are being asked of me that I have done poorly. Thankfully, my three Gods are being patient with me to this point in getting better. And all of that, frankly, is between me and Them. Just as your journey on your Path is for you, and you alone. Let’s walk together for a while, and talk together. Perhaps, if you are reading this and you will be at Pantheacon or Many Gods West? If so, I am looking forward to getting the chance to spend time with you. If not, invite me out. We can talk over drinks or coffee or even a meal. Or even a short walk in the park. At least we can make our Paths similar in that moment – walking the same stretch of Pathway.

….and There Were Mountains….

Yes, I am on a much needed vacation. Away from work, out west in the Idaho/Wyoming corner. As I sit here, looking out the window into the darkened sky, I see fat white snowflakes in the headlights of passing cars on the road just outside of this wonderful Bed and Breakfast – The Fur and Feather Inn, just outside of Victor, Idaho. In the background is the Vice Presidential debate on the television. I have my headphones on, and am listening to several Rush albums on shuffle. As I start this post, the song “Tai Shan” is playing. My mind is drifting to that mountain in China that I am working towards climbing in the future. And my mind wanders to what I have seen over the last two days.

The first day was spent in Grand Teton National Park, and the second in Yellowstone. Today, Tuesday, was spent in Jackson, Wyoming doing lunch and some tourist shopping. Tomorrow is a return to what is sure to be a snowy Yellowstone. And the final day will be spent on a return to a snowy Grand Teton.

Yellowstone was interesting, and in many places downright awe inspiring. Old Faithful geyser, on the other hand, was not nearly the attraction that folks make it out to be. It certainly was interesting to watch. But in terms of beauty and awe – well, I was not as impressed as I was with the beauty of Grand Teton. Perhaps a lot of that has to do with the fact I love mountains. Regardless, the majestic beauty of the Grand Tetons, as the clouds rose over the top of them, and began to encase their heights in the misty curtains that would bring the start of snow….for me, that was a completely magickal moment.

At the visitor center for Grand Teton, I found that some of my connection with Crow comes from the Shoshone tribe. Tonight, while doing some quick research on the Shoshone tribe, I found that part of the Eastern Shoshone tribe eventually moved southward into Texas (forced by pressure and warfare from the Plains tribes), and became the Comanche. I happen to live in a part of Texas that was Comanche country at one time. My connection with Crow continues to become clearer and clearer, at least for me.

img_9688There was a point where I pulled the car over for this particular photo, and could just feel the moment. Theses clouds were the advance guard of those that are currently raining and snowing all over the region. Watching the clouds come over the top of these mountains, and then begging the ascent halfway down the slopes that I had just seen was a completely unbelievable moment. In a way, I felt I was watching a horror flick, where the man-eating mists descend upon the town, searching for the hapless victims that happen to be caught outdoors.

The smell of moisture was very real. I could smell the sweet, heavy scent of rain. A scent that I can not describe in any other way. I knew that moisture of some sort was on the way. And depending on the ambient temperature, it was going to be snow or rain.

My ancestry comes from the mountainous region of Germany. I have a severe love for the Rockie mountains. Glacier National Park has figured into many of my dreams. The pull of the “spiritual” pilgrimage of climbing Tai Shan is strong. I know that mountains are a part of who I am. Its only taken three days here for me to feel the change in how I feel. Yes, the statement does apply to me….

The mountains are calling, and I must go.  –John Muir

Renewing and Recharging – Fleeing to the Mountains for a Week

Medicine Wheel
Medicine Wheel in Wyoming…one of the most magickal and alive places I have ever been.

So, starting tomorrow morning, I trek to a place I have never been – Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. I’ve driven near it…just to the east, in fact, when I visited The Medicine Wheel in the mountains of the Bighorn National Forest. From what I have been told, it will be precisely what I need – a huge break from work, and a chance to refresh my soul with time in the wilds.

Being a Solo Pagan, there’s always the missing factor of fellowship with other Pagans. There’s not a ton of people that I can talk Spirituality with…and definitely not without the blanket of Christian definitions being imposed upon things. Essentially, concepts such as “Priest”, “Fellowship”, and even “ritual” take on conceptual differences when tinged with the definitive aspects of Christianity. Trying to discuss topics such as Gods, Spirits of Place and Spirits of Ancestor all get met with frowns and scoldings that “you are doing it wrong.” If I were a Christian, that would be true. But I’m not. So, for me, staying out of these types of conversations is usually the best tactic.

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013
DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013

This is why gatherings such as Pantheacon, Many Gods West, Pagan Pride Days, East Coast and Gulf Coast Gatherings, and many, many more are such joyful places for fellow Pagans. Many of us are not just excited about seeing old friends, and making new ones; but we also get to discuss topics that are typically taboo in “polite company” around our non-Pagan friends and family members. Honestly, I don’t always get invited to the big-people’s tables for these conversations…but I do get the chance to talk with other folks one-on-one (or a few-on-one) for quite similar topics. It is refreshing to have conversations where you don’t spend most of your time trying to define terms for the first thirty-minutes so that everyone is on the same page.

A lot of that is great, but really there is no substitute for being in areas where there’s not a lot of people. Just wide-open spaces (to borrow from the Chicks of Dixie), lots of high sky, and the sounds of everyday life in an area not normally inhabited by humans. Granted, in places like Yellowstone – just as it was in Glacier National Park – there will be tourists and visitors all over the place. But still, there’s plenty of time to find a bench or a rock, and just drink up the environment. Nothing can replace that. No offense to any of my Pagan friends that I look forward to seeing at the various gatherings, but being outside means everything for me.

But this vacation is more then just recharging and renewing myself. Its about relaxing, removing some tension, and just forgetting about work-related issues for a short while. I’m lucky enough to have a job that allows me to do things like this from time to time – as well as making the various Cons, festivals and gatherings that I can. And I am quite thankfully for all of that. I can remember times when Life definitely wasn’t that way for me.

The vacation also allows me to step away at just the perfect moment. October 1st is the end of my fifty-first circuit around the Sun. I don’t measure my life in the concept of years – merely the number of times this planet has made its orbit around the Sun. Because…well, time is an illusion. Each day that the Sun rises is a chance to start a new adventure. Each day the sun sets is a chance to reflect on what has just occurred, and to greet the rise of the Moon, and the inviting comfort of the blanket of night. For me, Life is Life. Each footfall is precious and treasured. Even when things don’t quite go the way I expected them to. Life is a daily celebration of who I am, the Gods I commune with, and the people who continually make an impact on my Life…even when they don’t realize it.

I will be posting to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram when I can. And of course, I will have a slew of new photos that will slowly find their way into the blog.  🙂 In the meantime….step outside tonight into your backyard. Look up in the sky. Find the moon and just stare. If its cloudy, look at the clouds. Try not to have your mouth open if its raining. You don’t want to be the first person to drown standing on land. 😉

 

It Really is a Rigged Political System….

….just not the way you might think it is. No, its not rigged like the Donnie thinks it is. It is; however, fairly close to what Senator Sanders said.

For those of you outside of the United States, I understand that this particular post might not be your particular brand of meat. I promise not to linger on American politics much more than this single post though. So, please forgive me this one transgression.

The American political system truly is rigged. It is not rigged so that Secretary Clinton will get elected. It is; however, rigged so that the Republican and Democratic parties will remain in favor.  As well as pull down the most monies in the “matching funds” pot from tax refunds, among other goodies, including a permanent stranglehold on Congressional (and thus budgetary and legislative) powers. That’s right. Third parties are essentially frozen out of the entire equation. From impossibly high hurdles to gain a spot on the national stage for debates, to aggressively impossible tasks towards getting candidates on state and local ballots – third parties are kept at bay by the two powers in charge.

But before we all start charging out of our houses, affixing bayonets to the ends of our staves, and trying to take the local courthouse by force. Let’s take a quick look at how to fix the system. And it is easy. Believe it or not, the Tea Party showed everyone how it can be done. They just never followed through on the end result. The way to make this work is local grassroots. Local elections. Win the bottom of the ballot offices. Show that candidates of your third-party choice have the ability, desire, guts, and yes….stamina… Wha?  Its true…stamina. In it for the long haul. Show other folks that party (x) candidates have what it takes to hold offices, make PROPER changes, and then move up the ballot to the county, and state. Eventually up to the National Legislature, and…eventually the Presidency.

The Presidency. The weakest, but most well-known political position in the United States. Congress holds the budget strings. Congress holds the legislative strings. That’s where the real power lays. But holding Congress, along with the Presidency – that’s a pure mix for getting legislation through. That’s the formula for making change. But that’s getting ahead of where we need to be. The mistake that the Tea Party made. They pushed through the local, county and state. They provided their viable candidates. When they started taking the National offices, they started not paying attention to the base that got them there – local, county, state (lcs)….and they lost a lot of their support. Now, they are playing catch up to resolidify their movement. But they have shown themselves to not be caring about the lcs aspect, and that’s cost them some voting support.

So….now for my formula for how to handle an election where the candidates that are offered are so bad, you just can’t make a choice between them. My solution?  Don’t. Leave that part of your ticket blank. But be sure you vote your candidates in the lcs aspects of your ballot. If the congressional stinkers have a candidate you can support, vote there too. But if you just look at the Presidential candidates and cannot find a good reason to vote FOR any of them. Then don’t. Or, if you prefer, pick the least worst candidate and vote for them. Don’t fall prey to the mantra my late father tried to feed me time and time again:

If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.

My response to him, much later in life than when I was eighteen and voting for the first time in my life:

That bullshit. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. Your vote, my vote, falls under that right. Its our opinion being tallied. And if we choose not to vote, we are voicing an opinion. Just not one that is being tallied directly. Its our CHOICE to vote. Our vote is our voice. Our freedom to voice that choice, voting or not, is our RIGHT.

Don’t worry. If you feel I haven’t swayed you, that’s all right. It wasn’t my purpose in writing this. Besides, it didn’t sway my father’s opinion either. And the world didn’t end then. Its not going to end this election, either. But I really do believe…if we want to change the system. If we want to get more choices. If we want to get better choices. We have to start small, and allow things to grow. And nurture the movements we believe in. That’s how we are going to change the system. Not by electing a President. But by electing a whole bunch of people to a whole bunch of political offices. That’s the way we make the system change.