Revisiting “Hashtags, Labels and Bias – We Are Not Talking to One Another”

These past few days, I have spent some time and effort looking through some of the older posts that I have. As I read through these posts, two things occur to me – (1) my writing has gotten better over time, and (2) in a lot of those posts, I did a fairly poor job of getting my point across. Thus, I created these “revisiting” posts, along with the category tag here on the blog. The idea is not to rehash what I wrote, but to provide some clarity, as well as expanding on where I was headed on those topics. The post I picked for this treatment works on a topic that is a particular pet peeve of mine – labels.

This particular post is not all that old, having been published back in July of 2016. However, it does represent a particular frustration of mine – categorizing people into convenient little buckets which are then provided vague, sometimes categorically racist descriptions. For instance, in American history, the prevailing understanding of African Americans were that they were “lazy” and “incapable of intelligent thinking” – both holdovers from an America that had created institutional slavery throughout the southern states (and elsewhere in the north, though this is rarely discussed openly). Descriptive labeling such as this continues even to this day, and America, as a society, continues to struggle with this perspective.

However, this post is not about racism, its about the convenience behind the perspective of labeling and categorizing people. Its about the slippery slope that I believe labeling can set us on. My approach to politics is fairly well known. I am an unaffiliated voter, meaning that I choose not to self-identify with any political party. My understanding of how the American government *should* operate in regards to the Constitution and the American society as whole, is much closer to that of the liberal aspect of things than that of the conservative side. However, I not only see and grok what the conservative perspective is – I even agree with some aspects of it. My middle-ground stance has had me labeled by some of my friends as a “liberal” or “Republican” – depending on who you talk to. I have been called some rather colorful Anglo-Saxon terms over my approach, with some friends actually deciding that I was no longer someone that they wanted to associate with.

In many of these instances, I have been told that I do not love or want my country to survive the current Constitutional crisis taking place in the halls of Congress (the impeachment process of President Trump). Where I am branded as a liberal, I am accused of wanting America become a communist state. Where I am branded as a conservative, I am accused of letting America slip into the world of a tyrannical dictatorship. The reality is that I have absolutely zero desire to see America move from a Federal Republic to a Communist state. Nor would I sit back and let America slip into the hold of a tyrannical dictatorship. My oath of enlistment into the United States Air Force was to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Though I have been out of the United States Air Force since 1994, I do believe that my oath is still in effect – and will be until the die I pass beyond the veil.

So, how to deal with this labeling stuff? How can I make a difference on this? Well, I am not sure. I treat people as individuals, and desperately try not to lump groups of people into a single category based on some vague descriptive. I am human. I wish I could say that I am one-hundred percent perfect in doing this. I am not. I have caught myself doing exactly what I am describing here. But I do try my best not to fall back to this default programming that has been sustained for many more years than I am alive, thrice over (or more). I do not make my friendships or relationships based on some political scale. That is a lousy way to live life, in my opinion.

Liberals, Conservatives, and everyone in-between – they all love this their respective countries. They just differ on the ways it should be governed. The reality is that what really works is somewhere in the middle of the two – in a place where compromise can be found. In our current political climate, where it seemingly is more fashionable to be offended than it is to roll up your sleeves and step forward to work *together*, its hard to see where compromise can be had.

Sitting here listening to Rick Springfield (yes, I’m a fan), I am reminded that the current political fight is like watching two people fight over what gets played on a stereo. Other folks might like to hear some Tool (not a fan) or maybe some smooth jazz or rap. let me relay this a bit more with a story from my past…

When I was in Non-Commissioned Officers’ School (yes, there is a class that teaches enlisted personnel how to be a Non-Commissioned Officer), I was placed in charge of playing music during class breaks. In the entire six weeks of class, I never brought in a single CD of my own. The other twenty-four members of the class brought their CDs instead. I placed these into an order of when each was received. We played everything. Jazz, Country, Rap, Rhythm and Blues, Hard Rock, Pop, Metal, and even some Classical music. All of it got played. You knew that your music might not get played during a particular class break, but eventually it would be played. Furthermore, everyone was exposed to other music types – even the types that they might completely hate. The point was not to expose us to various types of music, but to realize that compromise means that you don’t always get your way, but eventually – you will. You merely have to build some patience to wait for your turn. And that for this process to work, everyone had to respect their classmates’ musical choices while waiting their own turn.

Respect. In my very biased perspective (yes, I have bias – I admit that), this is what is lacking in today’s “modern” society. Like spoiled toddlers, we scream and yell because our choices are not being chosen. We draw lines in the sand (figuratively) and claim a hard-line, instead of seeking compromise. We berate others’ perspectives because it does not line up completely with our own, rather than trying to find ways to get some of what we want while giving the other side some of what they want. So, what do we get? Here in America, we have a populace that is divided over political perspectives. We have folks we no longer have as friends because they voted for the “wrong” person – when voting is an opinion. Perhaps, we really should slide into a Communist environment or a dictatorial government. Then, we might be able to move forward without having to fight over getting “our” way *only*.

A little too fantastical? I mean, is there any way that a world-power such as the United States devolves in such a manner, just from the overuse of labels? Perhaps. But as I noted, labels are just a convenient way of describing those who are different than we are. We have never done anything as drastic as changing our government over something like that, right? Tell that to the First Nations children who were forced into government run institutions, such as the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, where they were forced to abandon their cultural heritage, in order to change them from being “savages” into “civilized” humans.

That is just a singular example of what labeling can bring about, when taking things into the beyond. I am not saying that society is on this Path….yet. Sure as the lowest level of the Nine Hells, I hope we are so far down this Path. I’m old. I’m not in the greatest of health. But I will fight to my dying breath to keep stuff like this from happening. And to keep it from happening, in my opinion, it all starts with respecting one another…again.

We Have Got to Get it Together

I started to write about a different topic this morning, but Cat Treadwell’s recent post of “Quiet Rebellion” got my mind started in a different direction. Now, I have set back from all the politics, mostly because of my job. But seeing that is not an obstacle any longer, well I’m stepping into the water again.

Divide to Conquer

One particular line from Cat’s post really hammered a point home for me:

We could run away, or as one fine Tweet said this morning, ‘Fuck off into the EU that you love so much.’ We could give up and flee.

Most of the right-wing rhetoric here in the States throws a similar sentiment out. “Send her back” chants erupt at Donald Trump rallies, essentially wanting Representative Ilhan Omar, a US citizen, sent to another country. Those rallies are scarily similar to the rallies held by Adolf Hitler and his political party in Germany in the 1930s. The rhetoric of throwing people out of the country that do not have similar thoughts to a particular group, or are the wrong skin color, or practice the wrong religion, or like the wrong type of sport, or wear the wring color shirt…that’s divisiveness. That’s the process of separating people into small categories. And then using those categories as a basis of who gets to be part of the country. That’s weak thinking, in my opinion.

Diversity is More Inclusive Than You Think

We all inhabit this same ball of dirt. The damage we do to the environment affects everyone, not just folks in one distant corner. To solve this looming crisis, which gets closer and closer to global catastrophe every single day, we will need everyone working together. Sure, I have heard folks say that it is time to find a way to achieve space travel, to jump into rocket ships and find another planetary home. But for who? Currently we cannot even find ways to stay cohesive on small patches of land here. What makes out there any different? Or do we just become similar to the aliens in the movie “Independence Day”, where we go from planet to planet and strip the resources from it, like a plague of inter-planetary locusts? And here’s the thing, to be able to do that, we would have to be a cohesive group of people. Look around you, that’s just not likely.

Human beings are essentially the same creatures, regardless of birthplace or skin color. We have many different cultures that we grow up in. We have traditions, familial and cultural, that we adhere to. All of that makes us who we are – the inhabitants of this planet. There are other inhabitants as well – plants, animals, organisms that we cannot see without a microscope – all living here together. And all dependent on one another for survival. We remove enough plants, we won’t be able to breathe. We kill off enough of the animals, and we alter the symbiotic relationships that keep the “circle of Life” going. But how can we think of diversity in regards to plant, animal and microscopic life when we can’t get past aspects that make us seemingly different from one another, like skin pigmentation?

Power Plays Need to Go

If you watch politicians, particularly those like Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, and Vladimir Putin you will find something in common between them. No, not the mutual love fest between them. They are about power. Power for themselves, and the people that they hold close to themselves. They are about making an elite class of people that control everyone else. Theirs is a politic of power and control. Remember, these are elected officials (yes, even the sham election in Russia means that Putin is an “elected” official). Their sworn duty is to the people of their respective countries, not to a specific one percent. To all, even the people who don’t agree with them and/or didn’t vote for them. If you listen closely to their language, they are not talking about inclusiveness within their voting populaces. They are driving wedges between people based on their voting preferences. All of that runs counter to what representative governments should stand for.

Sadly, here in America, the “loyal opposition” has bought into that paradigm. Trump supporters are treated in the same manner that they treat others. All that does is increase the perspective that control is power, as well as the Us v. Them perspective. Governmental control should not be about power, but about the prospect of care-taking. Our elected officials should be arguing about the differences in how to manage governmental processes for the peoples of their respective countries. ALL of the people. All treated fairly and equally.

Is Revolution Here?

Is revolution here? Maybe. I know many folks feel that we have been backed into a corner, where violence may be the only answer. I, for one, am not convinced. Resistance does not have to be violent. Resistance can be a refusal to buy into the Us v. Them paradigm that is currently rising higher and louder throughout the respective echo chambers of social media and the internet. Honestly, its very easy to scream in anger and frustration, hidden behind a keyboard, monitor, and alias. Where the rubber truly meets the road is getting out into the world and doing something. As a Druid, I commit myself to the concept of “Peace throughout the whole world”. I use that phrase in a lot of my ritual work. I use that concept by refusing to step into the Us v. Them paradigm, as well. Does that mean that I stand by passively while my government seeks to build a divisive wall on the southern border to keep people out that are seeking a better life? To keep out people that are doing what I would do, if our perspectives were reversed? Of course not. I write my representatives, imploring them to do something more sensible with my tax monies. I implore my local governments to not fall into these divisive perspectives. I write them, I call them, I attend their council meetings. Not to get into fisticuffs with anyone who is an advocate of these positions. But rather to provide a logical, impassioned perspective of why these concepts are a bad idea.

Call the instigator
Because there’s something in the air
We’ve got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution’s here

And you know it’s right
And you know that it’s right
We have got to get it together
We have got to get it together now

–the late Tom Petty

Final Thoughts

I am not a violent person. I would rather solve issues through discussion than through the use of my staff. I would rather use my staff for steadying my old, worn-out body while I stand or walk. Resistance is more than beating in heads, and slamming yourself into barriers not of your making. There are more peaceful ways to not participate in the constant hate-fest that takes place. Granted, when forced into a corner with people that mean to harm you, violence may be the only means you have to protect yourself, certainly utilize your abilities in that manner. However, I believe that step to be a last resort, an implied threat that I hope to never undertake. I prefer diplomacy as my first – and hopefully, only option. I resist, just probably not in a way that many would agree with. But I do so because when we stop talking…there’s nothing left.

“Be Ready,” He Said…

“Be ready.” Our Vice President has now warned graduates at a Christian-based University that they will be targets of the “left” after their graduation because of their faith. To quote the USA today article:

Pence… …warned graduates that they have to stay strong against the challenges they’ll get from Hollywood, the media and the secular left. “Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs,” Pence said. “Be ready.”

That’s a rather odd statement to make, since people of faiths that are not Christian are also having to fear quite a lot from the Christian “right” and its a lot more than just being challenged over their beliefs.

When I first started on my Path within Paganism in 1986, it was the height of the Satanic Panic. So-called Christians such as comedian/preacher Mike Warnke, and author Lauren Stratford, both of whom (among many others) had claims of a highly structured underground Satanic conspiracy within the United States. These claims were later debunked by investigations (separate in the cases of Warnke and Stratford) by Christian magazine Cornerstone. Those investigations took place in 1992. But the damage from Warnke’s and Stratford’s “testimonies” had already been done, particularly to the Pagan community.

I recall several Pagan families in the DFW area behind pulled apart by Child Protective Services (CPS) over allegations of Satanic Ritual Abuse. In one particular case, the children caught wind of CPS coming to the house to take them out of the house. The children stole money from their mother’s purse, and as a group ran away from home to stay out of the system. I’m more than positive that similar scenarios took place in other parts of Texas, all fueled by allegations of the parents being a part of this so-called Satanic conspiracy that was alleged by “credible” sources such as Warnke and Stratford.

A portion of a “Peace Wall” in Belfast, Ireland. An example of what happens when we partition by religious belief.

One early morning run to a base Post Office to pick up my mail, after my late-night shift in the command post had ended, found me being confronted by a pair of individuals who had seen my picture in the Stars and Stripes. It was centerfold article entitled “Practicing Pagans” and detailed the efforts of several Pagan groups in the European theater trying to establish themselves as a religious group that needed assistance from the Chaplain Services. I was slammed face-first into the metal post office boxes and told that I was going to Hell. Luckily, someone entered at the other side of the Post Office before anything more could be done.

I have talked with several individuals who have lost their jobs because employers stated that their co-workers were afraid that these Pagans would curse them. I have also talked with several folks who have endured physical beatings at the hands of others, simply because they are overtly Pagans. I have openly been a Pagan for approximately thirty-three years now. During that time, from 1986 to today, I have known Pagans that have had to hide who they are and what they believe to protect families, and jobs.

Vice President Pence says that Christians have something to fear for being Christian? Well, the sarcastic part of me says – welcome to the club, bitches. But the more rational side (is there one?) of me laments the fact that anyone, anywhere has to be “ready” to defend who they are and what they believe. And yes, that includes Vice President Pence and his anti-LGBTQ version of Christianity. I do believe they have a right to hate, dislike, shun, whatever – other lifestyles, SO LONG AS THEY DO NOT INTENTIONALLY HARM others. Now, before I get sidetracked down that road, let’s take a small step to the side of the road and let the traffic pass.

Vice President Pence is talking about the intolerance of the tolerance crowd. Essentially, his point is that people are tolerant of other perspectives so long as those perspectives jibe with theirs. Well, I hate to call the Vice President a fucking hypocrite, but I will. He’s a fucking hypocrite. His belief teach intolerance of those who do not conform to their extremely narrow view of Christianity. In their version of Christianity, Jesus ben Joseph would greet homosexuals (among others) with a flying drop-kick while wearing a pair of brass knuckles on each hand. Essentially, condemning the individual along with the perceived sin, rather than following the biblical standard of loving and accepting the sinner while rejecting the sin. In other words, showing love to the sinner while hating the sin. Unless, their version of Christianity is a rather wicked version of BDSM. Then we have a whole other perspective we might need to take.

The sad perspective of this, is that anyone has to fear for their lives or livelihood over what they believe in Spiritually. Yet, here we are. We know the Pagan side of this story all too well. Over the last thirty years, many of us have lived this daily. And while it can seem comical that Vice President Pence is preaching a victimization of his brand of Christian faith before these students leave the shelter of their university lives, it does draw a particular cloak of darkness over the way personal Spirituality. How it has been moved from something that comforts us on an emotional and intellectual level to being weaponized as a way to differentiate between “us” and “them”. I can only hope and pray that we can all, collective as the peoples of this planet, find a way to locate common ground and peace on a topic that has literally ravaged our planet in wide-ranging wars in the past.

Another Political Rant, Sort Of…

Election season is almost upon us here in the United States. What that means is that the rhetoric will start to get revved up between the various candidates. They will spend time differentiating themselves from one another, as well as the current President of the United States. The commercials will hit the airwaves and inundate viewers with negative ad after negative ad. To be honest, I gave up on the entire political process after the last Presidential election cycle.

Now, I’m not about to tell anyone how to vote. Nor am I going to sit here and go off on any of the candidates – though I dislike the majority of them. Why? Because I am not going to participate in what the American political process has become – a high school popularity contest. For those looking for me to do so, sorry to disappoint you.

What the entire political process has gotten me to do is look at how people make choices. There is a tendency to look for slick advertising, the polished candidate (or product, if you will) that can be connected to whatever social media movement is currently in progress. Upset about the environment? (and you should be) Then the idea is to show the candidate in a light where support of environmental causes is paramount. Pissed off that corporations seem to be able to trample the rights of the individual? Then the candidate is positioned in a manner to be anti-corporation. Like your candidates to push a strong capitalist point of view? There’s a stance for that.

But campaign promises are like wisps of fog. Candidates can promise the moon to their constituents, but never make any moves that bring those promises to fruition. When their lack of progress gets noted, they point out that they are only one voice in the wilderness of Washington DC politics. And for once, those politicians are telling the truth. Add to that, the fact that corporate (and other types) of lobbyists have far better access to your political representatives, and it becomes a wonder why we don’t see the entire process as being rigged (or corrupt, if you will).

So, how does a process that has more stains on it than the typical bowling shirt, get fixed? I have no idea. That’s right. I have no solutions or suggestions. Nor am I about to run for a political office. I am not built for something like that. I’m not the kind of person that others would want representing them. I have no ability to try and please multiple segments of society. But, like any other tax-paying citizen, I do have the ability to keep an eye on the process. I also have the ability to choose not to participate in the constant barrage of this candidate being better than that one. I have watched the process too long to be fooled by that garbage any longer.

So why participate? Why bother voting? After all, if the candidates are no different, why keep going to the polls and putting your vote in? Perhaps, it would be better to just drop out of the process completely and find ways to overthrow the system? Well, I actually believe the system is better than any alternative. Everyone has a voice. In practice, those voices are equal. The people running for office need to be held to a much higher standard, and that’s the onus that is placed on everyone to vote. Want to change the system? Yes, complain. Complain loudly. AND VOTE.

Did your candidate not follow through on their promises? Are their excuses weak and easily seen through? When they come up for election, vote against them. Find another candidate to vote for. Then watch what they do when they do vote (provided they managed to win the election and take the office that was up for election). Beyond that, what you do, how you do it, who you vote for and why – that shit is up to you.

My choice? I choose not to participate in the hyping of candidates, jumping into the pit of rhetoric or endless online debates on the merits of this candidate or that one. There are folks who will see that as me “doing the work of the opposition” and so be it. Define me in whatever political terms that you want. My feelings won’t be hurt. I won’t get mad. Shit, I won’t even look at you differently as a friend. Why? Because its simple. Your political affiliation means nothing to me in terms of our friendship. I didn’t make friends with you based on who you did or did not vote for. From my perspective, if I defined our relationship based on that measure – that’s pretty shallow of me.

Like I said earlier, I am not about to tell anyone who to vote for. Nor am I going to tell you that your vote was a waste because you voted for candidate (x) or that you hate a certain segment of society because you voted for candidate (y). I’m not about to judge you if you decided not to vote at all. Its your vote, your choice. You do what you feel you need to. No judgment from me. And as your friend, I’ll back whatever you decide to do – vote or not vote, whatever candidate you decided to vote for – to the very end. Even if I thought it was a poor choice or reason. Because you gotta do you…otherwise, you wouldn’t be who you are. And regardless, I like you for who you are…perceived faults and all.

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.

 

Just Because I Said It Doesn’t Mean You Have To Listen to Me or Do It

Within a lot of the more openly activist circles that I am in, I tend to get blasted for the perception that I am not “on-board” with a lot of the activities that tend to occur. I don’t attend the marches or protests. I don’t blast meme after meme after article after article denouncing the President and conservatives all over the country. I’m told that I am the problem with what is wrong.

I have no desire to sit here and refute each of those particular perspectives or justify how I am “with” what the protests are aiming to achieve. Why? Because I think its nonsense to have to justify who I am and what I do and what I believe. I can; however, tell you what I believe, and demonstrate that on a daily basis by continuing to be who I am. Without apology. Honestly, if that is not enough for some folks, so be it. I don’t live my life or walk my beliefs daily for others. Who I am and what I do is not some reality television show that needs to be placed on display to prove something to others. Nor should yours be, in my opinion. I cannot do you. You have to do you.

One of my favorite graphic images is currently making the rounds as a Facebook meme. tankgirlIts an image of Tank Girl pulling on her boots, the cherry on her cigarette beaming brightly as she makes her statement that things cannot be this way, that we can be wonderful. We can be magnificent. We can turn this shit around. And that statement is so very true. We can turn things around. We can be magnificent. We are wonderful. We just happen to be going through a difficult moment in our collective history. One that we have visited before, and forgotten. We have seen a lot of the issues that are currently taking place. Terrible treatment of others based on the pigmentation of their skin. Hatred and resentment of others because of who they love, or how many they choose to love. Codification of minimizing people who are different than those who happen to be in charge. Human history is littered with examples of this from every corner of the planet. And no matter how much you show these examples to those choosing to be on the inhumane side of things, it will not change their minds. They will find “holy” writings to utilize religious beliefs to justify their actions. They will flat out ignore those examples, utilizing the “we’re in charge because we were elected” mantra. They will point to laws as justification for what they are doing – its legal to do so, the law says we must. They will utilize invented morality to state their correctness. “Those people are sick in the head.” “I don’t want to see them in my everyday life.” “I don’t want my children to be like them.” Their children. Irrational hatred of those different than yourself is a learned behavior. Done through observation. The observation of their parents. Gods be damned, I certainly do not want my actions or behaviors to be the catalyst to having children hating others.

So why am I not out in the streets trying to combat all of this? Why am I not picking up stones and hurling them at police? Why am I not following politicians in their daily lives and shouting at them? Well, for me it is a simple thing – I am not willing to discard my humanity. Because when things are brought to an end, I would prefer to be an example of how we – that collective we thing – should act towards one another. I would rather be the force of calm and reason even when standing in the jaws of the maelstrom. And if that makes e into someone that is the “problem” then I will gladly wear that mantle.

I have sympathy and compassion for those that are being mistreated because of their differences in society. And I will gladly and willingly step between those swinging the riot batons at them. I will take the blows for them. I will not return those blows. I will struggle to defend myself and others. I will not take the offensive. I believe that once I have taken those steps, to visit chaos on others simply because they are conservatives or part of the current governmental administration – I will have lost the very ground I seek to defend.

Tank Girl’s point is a good one. We, again the collective we, can turn this shit around. We can be magnificent. We can be wonderful. Yes, we can fight the battles. We can achieve the legal equalities that we seek. We can win those battles. What happens after that? When fascists and conservatives are defeated and beaten. What happens then? Those same fascists and conservatives will continue to be a part of society. That collective We were screaming hatred, anger, and attempting violence (in some cases) against those very same people.

Once the collective We win, once the collective We are in charge – I guess it will be back to tea and crumpets at the Red Hen, eh? Collective history suggests that this is not usually the case. All of this is far closer to a civil war than a country v. country war. We will all live within this collective society together. Even when capitulation happens, the battle will likely continue in our immediate environment. Perhaps not openly, but it will be there.

We can turn this shit around. We can be magnificent. We can be wonderful. But I would submit that the collective We need to be a little more careful with the how it is accomplished. Lest we come back to do this again in another forty to fifty years. And maybe then, reason may no longer be available to curb some of the more despicable and disgusting methods of forcing one aspect of society to come to heel under the boot of another. We’ve done that chapter of history a few times before. And right now, we are only a few steps away from it happening again.

Nearly a year back, folks asked what #TheStorm would look like. Well, the edges of it have already passed. We are staring straight down its gullet now. Except that the description of a storm might not be an appropriate metaphor to use. Because this is a more like a Dragon. And it is the same Dragon that has visited our village before. Last time, before the Dragon left to slumber in his lair, our village was a smoking ruin. And now, as the battle rages around us, we squabble amongst ourselves over the choice of weapons that others bring to the battle or the manner in which they swing their swords. And yes, I am aware of how this statement relates on to what I am stating here – the cyclical aspect of it pointing directly back at my own words.

I am not a commander of troops in any of this battle. I manage me. I realize that my approach is open to criticism, ridicule, and disdain from others. Anything that anyone does in life is open to such. But as I noted before I know how to do me. You know how to do you. Far be it from me to tell you that you are doing it wrong. But I might comment that I certainly wouldn’t do it that way. Just because I said it, doesn’t mean you have to listen or change what you do. All it means is that I said it.

 

 

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?

I am “Woke” – Just Not in the Way You Might Assume

Early in 2017, I started hearing a concept that I had not heard since the first release of the movie “The Matrix” — being ‘woke’. Back in 1999, it referred to the status of human beings like the main character Neo, who had been removed from their connection to the Matrix environment created by the machines, and were now aware of the true reality of the Earth and human beings. However, the term was not being used in that context, and seemingly meant something different. Being curious about it, I decided to try and find a definition of what this new terminology might mean. Eventually, I found that it applied to some of the aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement, but had been branching into other areas from there. A quick check of Urban Dictionary found a handful of descriptives:

  • A state of perceived intellectual superiority one gains by reading The Huffington Post.
  • Although an incorrect tense of awake, a reference to how people should be aware of current affairs.
  • Knowing what is going on in the community.
  • Being completely deranged, hysterical and seeing racism/oppression in virtually everything.
  • Being aware of the social. and political environments regarding all demographics and socio-economic standings.

…and the list goes on and on. Utilizing Urban Dictionary’s perspectives, being “woke” aims towards political and socio-economic statuses, being aware of how various aspects of society press against a perceived state of equality for all.

Now, most folks know, I have my own political stance in life. It bleeds through in everything I do – blogging, talking, working, reading – because it is part of who I am and what I believe. I hold no allegiance to either of the major parties within the United States. Rather, I see validity on both sides of that equation, as well as what I consider to be idiocy from both sides as well. Thus, I hold no party affiliation, as neither of the two major parties – or even the smaller third-parties for that matter – really speak to how I perceive the world around me. I have been told that my non-affiliated stance only means that I am not seeing the world as it should be – by both staunch Republicans and Democrats that I know. To be honest, I am not arrogant enough to believe that what I perceive and what I believe is correct for anyone else, other than myself. And here in the United States, I am merely one of many, all with different and sometimes diametrical opposed ideas of how to proceed and/or process concepts and information.

Perhaps I am not “woke” in the area of politics and socio-economic standards as provided by other “woke” individuals. However, I am very cognizant of the social under-currents within society. I am also aware of how the laws, as applied by some corrupt and morally bankrupt members of law enforcement, can be utilized as a hammer against certain aspects of human society. I am also aware of how our current political system is being utilized by a few to construct a potential society of upper-class individuals that meet a certain requirement of enrollment that subjugates others to work for their benefit alone. Yelling and ranting about it on Facebook, and on Twitter, from my perspective, does very little about the issue – thus I tend to hide political sites, and individuals that tend to post nothing but politics and social memes railing in this manner. Perhaps, that means that I am not “woke” by someone else’s standards. So be it. But then again, I do not live my life for the approval of others.

Sounds rather heartless, right? I can grok that perspective. But if all you know about me is this screed that I am posting here, and you make a final judgment on who I am and what I believe – you are not digging deep enough. If you go back far enough in this blog, you will find posts where I disdain the concept of labeling people. That applies here as well. Essentially, society tends to fall to a grouping of people into two categories: “Us” and “Them”.  The “Us” crowd, we are comfortable with, we grok their perspective, and their ideals line up and fit quite nicely with our own. The “Them” crowd is to be resisted, attacked, and belittled as much as we can. In wars, human beings do this all the time. The Japanese were considered inferior because they could only copy what had been created, not create on their own. The Germans were vilified as blood-thirsty fighters who mindlessly followed their leader towards world domination. All Germans hated the Jews and were thrilled to have the concentration camps around to rid them of these sub-humans. And lists like this can be compiled from the annals of History. The reality is that there were many people in Japanese society who were/are creative and can create new materials. Most of the German citizenry had no idea what was happening within the concentration camps and were horrified to find out the truth when the war unraveled for them. Plus, there were those Germans who tried to find a way to save as many people as they could from being arrested by the Gestapo – risking their own lives to do so. Painting with a broad-brush of generalizations is a lazy way to deal with people who have differences from your own.

So, I will divulge one secret about me. And it is not really a secret, I just do not talk about it that much on social media. I loathe the concepts of ethnic labeling that occurs within our society. The Grants system within the collegiate environments in America is rife with this concept. Entire aspects of funding collegiate education are built around characteristics of race, ethnicity, gender, economic status, and even age. The idea is to “level” the playing field between the “haves” and have-nots”. I get that. I would rather that we fund people’s collegiate education based on the needs of our work-force rather than these factors. I do realize that there are Grants and funding centered around just these things, but I would rather categorize people by their desired field of endeavor than by things such as their gender and skin color. I would prefer to classify people as “human beings” rather than “Black, White, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, International, and Multi-race.” But again, I am just one person. And these classifications are mandated by the Federal government.

Being “woke” tends to be focused on how one perceives and/or agrees with whatever perspective of the individual judging the perspective “woke” person. Again, I do not live my life for the accolades applied by others. I am a Pagan, a Polytheist, and a Druid. I am a Priest of Crow. How I live my life is determined by me. Under the ‘woke” definition from Urban Dictionary is the notations of “how people should be aware of current affairs”, “knowing what is going on in the community”, and “being aware of the social. and political environments regarding all demographics and socio-economic standings.” From my own perspective, I feel that I absolutely do fulfill these aspects of the various definitions. Perhaps, the problem with being labeled as “woke” does not come from any particular meaning of the term, but rather whether your understanding of the issues relating to community, political, and socio-economic standards is in conjunction with the individual labeling you as such. To that, I can only smile to the individual that claims that I am not “woke” and move along. If I am perceived as not being “in-tune” with how politics effects me or how it affects others…that’s all right. If you have ever heard me sing, I’m definitely off-key.

#TwoQuid

–T /|\

Divided We Fall…and Falling We Are

The time of Samhain is a time of change, at least for me. The colors of the foliage turn from green to golds, reds, and browns…the temperatures begin to grow colder (supposedly – it is nearly a perpetual Summer here in Texas), and the Wheel of the Year begins the change to a new year. There are those that will call this time a “thinning of the Veil” between here and the Otherworld, which I believe to be misleading – but it is a  common descriptive to describe an overlap between the Otherworld and here. The point is not about the difference between There and here or what the transition between the two should be called – merely that the blending of the two seems to be more visible to many more folks.

…and to be honest, nearly the entirety of this year has seen change. We, here in America, have elected a moron to be king – not that the choices were all that great, but that is a debate for another time.

Tell me when the stars begin
Or is there an unending place?
Or is there a guiding ship of Dreams
Floating at the edge of space?

There are no words
There is nothing you can say
But this whole world
Is turning night and day

–“This Whole World“, Coast

One of the bigger changes I have seen in myself is further distancing myself from the over-permeation of politics that I have been watching.

Not a day goes by where I have not hidden some political meme or post that someone on my Friend’s List has shared. I watch less and less of the news. Everywhere I look, there is one sub-group or another that is proclaiming some aspect of being “victimized” or trying to find some manner in which to shame some other sub-group of people. We keep hearing about “making America great again”, or how this group of people shouldn’t be included in the Democratic process because of this or that reason. Various sub-groups of people demonize others for one reason or another. And as we, as a collective society, continue to categorize and herd others into groups – the compartmentalization of everyone has begun. We find more reasons to be aggrieved over one thing or another. And we only laud our efforts to remove these divisions when a tragedy occurs, and we make the efforts to save others from natural disasters or some twisted individual in a 32nd-floor hotel suite with a cache of rifles.

A few days ago, I was talking with a co-worker about the way that nearly every grant at the college focuses on compartmentalized factors such as race or gender when dishing out monies to students that need assistance with the ever-rising costs of a collegiate education. “It is rather depressing,” I noted, “To think that students get the extra funding that they need to get an education based on their skin pigmentation or their gender. A collegiate education should be helpful for a student to develop their critical thinking skills, and help them to understand that skin pigmentation and gender mean nothing in defining a person for who they are, and what they are capable of accomplishing. Yet, here we have an entire system of collegiate monies tied to those two factors, providing meaning to something that should not have any such distinction.”

Sure, I have heard the concept of “White Privilege” or “Male Privilege” or a combination of the two thrown at me many-a-time. My response has always been the same – sure, society provides me a degree of privilege because I am a white male. That does not mean that I accept that concept as being the driving force of where I am today. Nor will I accept that this same concept will stop anyone else that does not fall under the “white male” umbrella from accomplishing anything they set their hearts and minds to. And to be honest and blunt, if there is a manner in which I could utilize that so-called “white privilege” to assist anyone that is not under that umbrella….point it out to me.

Depeche Mode said it best….

People are people, so why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully?

Indeed. I look around and watch people search out for things to be outraged by. People taking a knee at the National Anthem. Instead of asking “why”, people got mad at the action and never left that to find out more about the reckless abuse of police powers that happens all over the United States. People getting pissed about statues that were put up during the “Jim Crow” era and demanding the statues be removed and destroyed – without trying to find a better way to tell the other side of that story. Instead of listening to other opinions, intentionally derogatory terms such as “white-‘splaining” and “man-splaining” get hurled back. And the complete dismissal of an individual’s perspective by labeling it as “liberal” or “Nazi” (depending on your side of the political spectrum). To some degree, civil discourse certainly seems to be dead.

I really hate writing stuff like this. Perhaps I am too much of an idealist and believe some sugar-coated version of the world. But. I do have faith in human beings. I firmly believe that the concepts of compartmentalizing human beings on factors such as skin pigmentation and political perspectives – and believing others to be inferior because they do not fall into your particular compartment — it is a reflexive way of thinking that is taught. I also believe that when this compartmentalized way of thinking is removed, and people begin to see each other as equal human beings – we become far stronger and capable of tackling real, extinction-level issues – such as global warming. However, so long as we bathe in divisive natures….

–T

Magick and Intent versus Politics – Batter Up

Every once in a while on Facebook or some other social media platform, I see something about working a hex or some other bit of magick against Donnie. I smile to myself, gently shake my head, and pass the post by. Not because I am against finding some manner of getting Donnie to shut up. That would be most ideal, in my mind. For me, magick working is not something I toss around lightly, in fact, it is usually an instance of last resort in trying to do anything. And to be perfectly honest, I see politics as being a waste of precious energy, time and intent – especially in trying to change the perspective of firmly entrenched politicians and political zealots. And I certainly do consider Donnie to be a political zealot.

For me, politics is an area that I rarely cross my Spiritual life into. But make no mistake about it; political stuff does bleed over into all aspects of my life, whether I like it or not. I firmly believe that people love who they love. Some political leaders would have us all believe that in some instances, that is against some “natural law” that is laid out in a particular religious tome. Here is politics, tinged in religious zealotry, bleeding into the lives of people that I care deeply about. Still, magick working would be the very last option for me in trying to combat this type of political and religious motivated thinking. Participating in rallies, marches, writing campaigns, talking to my elected representatives, working to actively replace elected government representatives with those that believe differently – these would be the areas that I would (and have) work with to ensure the rights of people to love who they love. Magick might be a “go-to” for others; for me, its usage comes when all other measures have not produced results.

Politics is not a defining factor for me. I have heard many folks say that everyone should be into politics. I disagree. Everyone should be informed enough to cast a vote with knowledge behind “why” – but that does not mean you have to be into politics. You just need to know enough about an issue to vote your conscience. You just need to know how a candidate stands on the issues that concern you most in order to determine your support (or lack thereof) for them at the ballot box. And honestly, if you vote because an individual is part of a particular party…and solely for that reason…well, it is not how I would go about determining how to cast my vote – but each person needs to do what works for them, not what works for someone else. I get to define me, not you – and I do my best to live by that.

Now, it can be said that I have a bit of an aversion to magick working. I do. I will not mince words when it comes to that. First, I do not believe that I am particularly good at working concepts like spells and the such. Like a pitcher that throws a good fastball, but has not managed to grasp the mechanics of a slider; I would tend to throw my best pitch and not rely on a weaker pitch. Second, I believe there is some aspect of spellwork in just rolling up your sleeves and pant legs and wading knee deep into the stream. I am not sure if it really qualifies under the various meanings of magick working, but I know it tends to get results. Just not always the results I intended at times.

However, while I have an aversion to magick working, I certainly do not turn my nose up or scoff at those who turn to spells, hexes, curses, and prayer as their primary starting point in dealing with issues. I actually respect them for the strength and value they place in those abilities. Obviously, they have managed to get results from those actions, and therefore they are going with their best pitch. All I can hope is that their intent is similar to my own…because I don’t want to be in the batter’s box against that pitch.

All Means ALL

I don’t normally dig too deep into politics, or even into everyday events. Which is why you won’t hear me driving too deeply into the Charlottesville mess. At least not directly. Nor will I dig into Donnie’s responses and the lack-luster part of those responses. Because while politics of all kinds of levels touch my life – daily and otherwise – I refuse to let any of that tinge what I am or who I am. I don’t really care about race arguments, debates, and fights – not because I’m thrilled with being a white male with privilege. But because I refuse to join in on the label game. For me, people are people. We should all be treated equally – in life, how the law is applied to us, how we are taxed…what have you. We treat one another differently, in my opinion, because we are taught to do so. We are conditioned into a variety of ways to not only see differences between one another, but to also glorify those differences in any manner that we can.

I like to call this the “Us v. Them” complex. We want to be different than everyone else. We want to stand out. We want to be noticed immediately as being different. We want privilege to automatically apply because of those differences. Sometimes, we want to set the standard of what this or what that is. We want to be the epitome of that standard. Or we rebel against the standard by dressing differently, acting differently, talking differently. We want to create our own group where others cannot enter – particularly if they are not like us. We develop these cliques in high school, we continue to create cliques at our churches, our social functions, at work, in college – nearly everywhere we go. We look at those not like us with disdain. Who wants those people for friends? They aren’t the “right” people to be around me.

…and I have talked about this before. We label people. We place everyone into convenient containers that allow us to quickly determine what type of person that individual is or isn’t.

They wear all black clothing, dark lipstick, and makeup that makes their complexion look pale. They smoke clove cigarettes, and wear anklets or bracelets or collars adorned with spikes. Women like that have loose morals. Men like that are aggressive and just prefer to be violent all the time.

Nine Hells, if I followed that advice, which incidentally came directly from my late mother, I wouldn’t have half of the friends that I have now. And I would be missing out on some of the people that I treasure deeply in life today. All because I followed some inane labeling concept of what a person was or wasn’t. But I decided, back when I was in my late teens, that I just didn’t want to be in a world that was so monochrome. Painting people with a broad brush of stereotyping would get me nothing. I would miss out on the Punks that I became friends with. Or the Goths. Or the Preppy types. Or the Rednecks. Or the Loners. The Geeks. The Freaks. The Nerds. The Jocks. All because I let a set of labels and definitions divide me from them.

Sure, there are a few people that fit the stereotype and definitions associated with that. So what? Talking with these people allowed me to see a different side of the world. And you can change all of that into the racial labeling that goes on as well. If I had paid heed to why this person wasn’t worthy to talk to – I would have missed out on some very special friendships that I managed to work with.

Tony – whose name is changed here – was literally a card-carrying neo-Nazi skinhead when I met him. He never had a kind word for me. He even beat the smeg out of me one night. I had nearly given up on the concept of having a semi-intelligent conversation with him. But he eventually he stopped doing things, and asked what my deal was. See, no matter had happened the previous day, when I passed him in the dormitory hallway, I always said “good morning” to him. So, I asked him to come over to the end stairwell, and have a sit, a smoke (he smoked, I didn’t), and a conversation. We talked, we disagreed on a lot of things, we agreed on very few things. Five cigarettes later, we got up, shook hands and went different directions. The next four years there were lots of times to talk. We never changed one another’s minds. I cared about everyone regardless of skin color, he only cared about whites. Twenty-two years later, I ran into him in a bar called The Bomb Factory in Dallas. We talked a bit to catch up, and I asked about the racist attitude. “Dropped it,” he said. “Didn’t fit with what I turned into.” “What’s that?” I asked, literally on the edge of my bar stool. “I became a human being. Everybody’s gotta make their own way on this ball of dirt. You taught me that back at college.”

If I had heeded the labels and definitions that we create for ourselves and within society, I would never have had that conversation with Tony. Was I the one to change him? Nine Hells, no!! Tony changed himself. I only provided a different window for him to look out of. And I honestly doubt I would have ever made a difference, if I spent my time shouting at him, or trying to bash his skull in with my staff. People in Charlottesville didn’t want to talk…they wanted to shout over the other side. Loudest side wins, ya know??

Except that it doesn’t. Simple, plain discussion is what gets heard. REALLY gets heard. All of this started with the desire for the removal of Confederate statues. Absolutely. Let’s remove the statues. Let’s put these things into a museum, where they really belong. Where all of this can be noted for what it is – the adoration of a group of people that decided to step away from the union of the United States over a myriad of differences…the easiest of which to understand was the subjugation of people into a lower class based solely on the pigmentation of their skin. Its not the sole reason for the parting, and to truly understand the reasoning behind the Civil War is a complex, difficult thing. But overt racism was one of those reasons. And there were those that adored these leaders of the Confederacy for just that reason. These statues are the proof of that.

Much like the concentration camps of World War II are still open to the public to tour…these statues need to be set somewhere in a museum so that we don’t forget. Not that we don’t forget who these men were, and what they stood for, but rather for what the statues came to symbolize as our country got further and further from the Civil War. And in that same museum needs to be statues of those who fought for equal rights. Equal rights for blacks. Equal rights for women. Equal rights for all. Because that is the struggle that I keep thinking today is losing the sight of. Instead  of fighting the Civil War all over again….let’s change the narrative to fighting for equality for all. So let’s keep one set of labels:

ALL: which means everyone.

Human Beings:  which replaces all the racial, gender, etc etc labels out there and applies to ALL [see first label].

#TwoPence

That’s Me

The past two days, I have been talking about the “abridgment of Ann Coulter’s free speech rights” by the University of California at Berkeley. Or at least, that’s the way that Coulter has been spinning the narrative. The reality has been that UCB was trying to keep their campus in a state of a “safe environment” for their student populace – a number one priority for any University or College. What has started to come out of all of this conversation – both in face-to-face discussions and online – has seemingly come down to a labeling of me by quite a few.

So let’s get a few things out in the open.  I’ve talked about labels and my dislike for them before. I even wrote a poem about it. Yes, I know the world works via labeling. Its convenient to pile a lot of these similar things over here. And some of those things that are similar to one another, but not the first group in another pile over here – and so on. It makes it easy to understand what we believe is the basic nature of this, that, and those others. Except it doesn’t.

I have been labeled a lot of things. Crazy. Odd. Hippy. Old. Out of touch. Headbanger. Punk. And so on. The reality is that I ascribe to three labels. Pagan. Priest. Druid. For me, these three labels are who I am. These three labels are what I am. What I say, what I do, the way I do it – all reflects, in my opinion, on who I am as a Pagan, a Priest, and a Druid. As I told Scott (I’m sorry to throw this into the post, Scott – its not a reflection on you, but on what I am saying) earlier today on Facebook:

I don’t identify myself as much. I’m a Pagan, I’m a Druid, and I’m a Priest. My personal perspective of politics tends to lean towards the assignment of being a liberal, but liberal doesn’t define me. Its an ideology that I utilize from time to time. That doesn’t make me a liberal, it makes me….well…”me”. My actions, words, and personal worldview aren’t defined by politics. Its framed by my beliefs, by the way I serve my Gods, and the by the manner in which I find my connections in the world around me. My political striping is merely a singular – and honestly, rather minor – connective string in all of that.

I’ve mentioned before my aversion to the label of “Priest” – and then came back to revisit the concept a second time. So, in a way, this concept of defining labels is something I have talked about quite a bit. But there’s a reason for that. I don’t believe a word, which has a meaning ascribed to it by our wide-ranging concept of “society”, can truly be a complete descriptive of a single person. I’m a Druid – an Ovate grade student in OBOD. Cat Treadwell is also a Druid. So is John Beckett. So is Damh the Bard, Philip Carr-Gomm, Kristoffer Hughes, and so many other people I know. Not one of us is the same Druid. We all bring our own individual persons into what we are. To utilize a single descriptive of “Druid” and apply a wide-ranging, generic descriptive to all of us captures *some* of who we are, but it by no means is a complete descriptive of who we are. We are all individual human beings who approach our beliefs, approach our understanding of the Gods, and our perception of connectivity differently. And this unique approaches are what makes us the people we are. Not some singular, generic descriptive of a singular aspect of who we are.

Most interesting in all of this, it seems that politics – particularly American politics for me, are what showcase the nonsensical concept of singular word descriptives of people. Its almost as if politics takes the labeling concept and wraps it in the dull, glowing light of flash-fired neon lights down the Vegas Strip. Are you a conservative? Are you a liberal? Well, honestly I have liberal leanings, as well as some libertarian theories, and some aspects of classic conservatism wrapped up in my politics. So what does that make me?

Well, damnit, it makes me who I am. A Pagan. A Priest. A Druid. That’s me.

Against All Aggressors – Foreign and Domestic

Well, tomorrow is the “big” day for the little-hands guy. And I get where folks are fearing the worst. Donnie’s definitely got that in him. There’s folks that will be marching in protest. Awesome. All the folks denigrating these marchers – shut up. They are doing what they feel they need to, and in a manner of their choosing. They have that right, and they are exercising it. Let them do so.

Me?  Well, I won’t be marching. I won’t be protesting. But I will be watching. See, I’m ex-military. My enlistment oath had a line in it concerned with the protection of the Constitution against aggressors – foreign and domestic. At this point, Donnie’s made noises about bending the Constitution and the basic rights of peoples in this country. If I were a wolf, my ears would be perked up, and I would be watching over the field. Let’s just say that this is precisely where I am. I am watching. My interest has been increased because of some of the nutty things he has said. But anyone has the right to say nutty things. Its when he puts those nutty things into motion, where he actually fractures, breaks or flat out places himself above the Constitution – that’s where I go from watching to action.

What would I do? I honestly have no idea at this point. But I certainly will weigh my options and determine a course of action. Violent overthrow or violent action against the government? Not really. Not yet. That would be the ultimate last resort, and like President Obama I have faith in the American citizenry to keep its government in check.

So Donnie will raise his tiny hand and swear an oath similar to my oath of enlistment. I take my oath very seriously. I left the United States military services back in 1994. My enlistment oath, as far as I am concerned, continues to apply to me to this very day and beyond. I keep a very keen eye on the various governmental entities that provide governance to our daily lives. I measure what they do, and see where it holds water as being within the guidelines set forth by the US Constitution. I have seen where the US Constitution has been severely bent, but very rarely broken. As a citizen of my own state (Texas), I have made my voice known on various issues from time to time. Sometimes with no discernable action taken on the part of my elected representation, and sometimes definite steps on their part. My vigilance, along with the same on the part of everyone else, is what our government needs to understand. The statement that our government should fear its citizens, not the other way around, is true. But it shouldn’t fear an armed and violent overthrow. Our governments at every level should fear that its citizenry is watching, armed with knowledge at the next election cycle.

It will take a while for newer voters, the younger generation coming into the voting rolls, to understand how this concept of eternal vigilance as a citizen will come to be. In the meantime, much like the wolf at the edge of the forest – I wait. I listen. I weigh options in my mind. And when the time comes, I try to influence wrongs with the slightest of nudges. The howl of the wolf in the night places fear into the individual at the fire because a single wolf howl may mean more wolves are about. Silent. Watching. Waiting. When I voice my perspective to a representative, I remind them that I may be single voice writing or calling them – but there are many more who think the same way that I do.

I watch. I listen. I calculate. I act, when I need to. Donnie might not understand that right now – though I suspect he does – but one misstep across the unforgivable line of Constitutional rights is all it will take. And people have every right to fear what they are perceiving. That’s only natural. But remember, I am only one. A single sentinel that watches from the prairie lands of north central Texas. There are many, many others that are watching too. That is the checks and balances that are in place between government and citizenry. So long as we protect and cherish the rights and freedoms we have been given – individuals such as Donnie need to be fearful of the ever watchful citizenry.

Tomorrow is his day in the sun, so to speak. This weekend will be the time of citizenry here in the United States to voice support or opposition to his Presidency. The next four years will be another period of vigilance and observation by many others, myself included. Against ALL aggressors – foreign and domestic.

Too Little, Too Late? I Can Only Hope Not….

Well, hello. It is a cloudy, cold day here in Texas. Wait five minutes…that might change. However, it is a new calendar year. And eventually, the long cold of Winter will take hold. I hope. When I was in Ireland at the end of this past year, and the beginning of this one – it was warm there (in the 40f to 50f range) compared to the 20f range back here in Texas. Arriving back in Texas, it got into the 70f range here. ::sigh:: Winters have always been weird here in Texas.

So, with my return back to Texas, it is time to get the blog rolling again. And there is a lot to talk about. With a new President-elect stumbling into office like a drunken thug…times look to get contentious and “interesting” here in the States. But as I have posted before, we will make it through – together. Then there are the recurring dreams….well, let’s start there – shall we?


 

Dreaming is one of the strongest connections I have with my two Gods and my singular Goddess. I have many, many entries in my Dream Journal about moments with Them. I also have many other entries about odd dreams, and recurring ones. The latest recurring dream deals with something I have already posted about during my time in Ireland. The wall. Not Donnie’s idiotic dream of separating the United States from our Mexican neighbors. No, this wall separates parts of cities and towns. Where “good” citizens are protected from those not like them.

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What I am referring to is something similar to the so-called “Peace Wall” in Belfast, Northern Ireland. When I first saw the wall, I heard a very distinctive voice in my mind – Fliodhas – telling me that this a glimpse at a future that could be. Once the bus stopped along a stretch of the wall, I was able to stand across the street from it and realize the starkness in its existence. Painted up with graffiti like a prototypical streetwalker, it seemed to be a semi-sweet reminder of days gone by. After all, attacks between Catholics and Protestants have been on the decline for quite some time. Both sides seemed to be making friendly. Belfast is quiet.

But that makeup is a farce. If there were peace between the two sides, the electronic gates that close up streets that run through this saccharine emblem would no longer close at night. People would be free to travel both sides of this division at any time of the day or night. Peace? Calm? No. You can feel the Storm’s rise in the city. The issues that divide these two sides still fester. The energy from that fouls the entire atmosphere of this city. Politically, there’s a left/right divide that mirrors that of the United States. The difference between the States and Northern Ireland, is that Northern Ireland is more well schooled in the physically violent aspect.

During Donnie’s run towards the Presidency, the political rallies that he held were tinged with protesters trying to make a point of how dangerous his regime may be. And those rallies were also tainted with the often violent responses to these protesters by his followers that were in nearby seats. And all that was done with Donnie’s encouragement from the podium. Now, with Donnie getting ready to set his bum on the highest seat in the American political landscape – images of divided communities staring at walled off areas where non-conformists are kept is not difficult to discern. Those images are easily found in my dreams.

There is no cute and colorful graffiti found on those walls. No statements written by visitors who are presented this stark reminder of what divided society can look like. There is nothing but the cold, stark, gun-metal grey of walls made of steel and metal. The top is graced with razor wire, and watchtowers on the “good” side blot the linear skyline that the wall provides. This wall does not separate two populaces from one another to avoid fighting. This wall is designed to separate “wanted” populations from those that would pollute the “good” society.

We, humankind, have built walls like this before. Remnants of this can be found throughout Europe, where the Nazis walled off parts of the cities to create the Jewish ghettos. As Roger Daltrey belts out in a Who song called “Eminence Front”….

The news slows
People forget
Their shares crash, hopes are dashed
People forget

Yes, we forget. We forget what we have done to one another – in the name of ideology, in the name of religion, in the name of Big Oil, in the name of skin color….in the name of so many things. And one day, we will wake up, look around us and see what’s been done in the name of….whatever. And we will remember that was done before. And we will vow to never do it again. Until the next time.

When I heard the Gods telling me that the Storm was coming, I could not see a reason to grab my staff and utilize it for more than assisting my old ass in walking. The Storm arrived, and I was ready to fight, but still did not understand what I was fighting. I arrived in Ireland in late December, still unaware of what there was to fight. Then in Belfast, Northern Ireland…standing at the Peace Wall and seeing what a divided society looks like, I understood. I can only hope that my effort to help is not a measure of too little, too late.

One Step at a Time, One Issue at a Time.

I still remember the mantra.

One step at a time. One issue at a time. Take things in the order you need to. Solve each issue, so that you can solve the next issue.

Back in Air Force Basic Military Training, this was the mantra that one of our drill instructors taught us. TSgt Moody was a very strict disciplinarian. Her point to all of us – fifty-two young men – was that we could beat the Confidence Course (an Obstacle Course that we had to finish in under a specified time), if we tackled each obstacle one at a time. If we were focused on the Tower (the obstacle I hated because of its sixty-three foot height), we might make mistakes on other obstacles ahead of it.

In the end, I finished the course with two and a half minutes to spare. I did so by following her mantra. Each obstacle had to be overcome, beaten, conquered before I could think of the next one. When I finished the course, I felt that I had accomplished something with a tool set I had never realized I had before:  my own sheer will.

Not even a year later, I found myself applying the same mantra to doing something that completely terrified me. My first duty assignment was at Carswell Air Force Base, and my first job was working in the base telephone switchboard until my clearance would be granted. Aside from answering and placing telephone calls, as well as providing phone numbers for folks that asked for various base locations, I also had to conference commanders together for radio and secure conference calls. These were people with ranks like Colonel and General, extremely high-placed individuals on the base. Trying to insure that they were pleased with my performance was stressed by both my duty section supervisor and the civilian workers who had been in this position for years. My first attempt at making a conference using both secured telephone connections and over-the-air hand-held radios was a sheer disaster. I was literally terrified of these upper-level commanders yelling at me. Shortly afterwards, it dawned on me, this was just another obstacle to overcome. I studied the steps needed to make the conference calls. I learned each motion. And when the second call came in, I connected all the commanders in what was considered record time. One step at a time. One issue at a time. Until resolution. That methodology has allowed me to remain calm in the face of most issues. Some people think I’m frenetic, but the reality is that I am calm inside. I solve one step at a time, and move on to the next one. I try to resolve the issue at hand.

On the morning of November 9th of this year, I woke up and checked the news. What I had realized the previous night had turned out to be true:  Donnie and Mikey had been elected to the positions of President and Vice President of my country. It was an election I had somewhat feared, but had braced myself for, nonetheless. I was in a state of shock for about three days. To this day, I still refuse to acknowledge the Republican nominee as being my President. Sure, some can see that as childish, but its no different than what was done when President Obama was elected to both of his terms. Its now the end of the month of November.

Many of the people I know are scared and upset over the election of this turd as President. And with good reason. He made statements during the election about changing laws regarding the equal treatment of people. He made demeaning statements against people of color, people in non-traditional lifestyles. Since he has been elected, he has made statements about changing laws regarding free speech rights. In short, he has turned the concept of human rights in this country back to what is nearly the 1950s. But that’s just his statements. There’s still the changing of the laws.

Remember the mantra?  One step at a time. Sure, Donnie can make the statements that he wants to. That’s free speech. Changing the laws?  That’s a different step. And that’s where I, as a veteran and a taxpayer of this country, draw the line. He can make all the statements that he wants, but when he starts to change the laws – that’s where stuff gets real.

Right now, I am grounding myself into my own daily practices. I venerate my Gods and Goddess daily. I continue to draw experience and strength from the connections with my local area. In short, I have gotten back to doing the things that make me the Pagan, the Druid, and the person I am. I wear a safety pin to signify that I am safe for those needing me. I will also not stand by when someone is berated or even physically attacked by others. I will step in. I will let the blows rain on me rather than them. I will fight back to keep us both safe. That’s my first steps. Where the next steps come from, I’m not sure yet – but I am ready to take those that are necessary. I won’t speculate how far that might be – I’ll worry about that when the situation comes about. In the meantime, I focus on the now.

One step at a time folks. That means assessing where you are now, and what needs to be done now. Once that is completed, what is the next step to take? Or is the issue resolved? If there is nothing there to take action on, reaffirm who you are. Be the person that you are. If you are a Polytheist, connect back with your Gods and Goddesses. Reaffirm those things that make you the Polytheist that you are.

Some of you are stronger into politics and stuff like that than I am. Be sure of what steps you need to take in that world as well, if that’s where you are. For me, its time to start scouting through all the people out there to find a political candidate I can believe in. Someone who stands with me on the issues that are the ideological pillars of what I believe. And once I locate someone who is close to that, I will begin trying to see how to get this individual to the forefront of the Presidential run in 2020. The race for 2020, as far as I am concerned started on November 9th. Time to handle the first step — find a candidate to support.

Remember….one step at a time. I cannot change who is President. But I can resist to the best of my ability. I can be a protector for those that need it. And above all, I can continue to strive to be the Pagan, Druid, and Priest that I am meant to be, which will keep me grounded in the right direction for everything else. Because THAT is what I am. No apologies. No explanations.

#TheStormIsHere

So, its November 9th. Depending on how you voted, either your revolution came true, or you heard the iron gates of the concentration camp slam shut. Overly dramatic? Reading through posts on nearly every social media platform, I would say it certainly is not.

Quite a while back, I asked what would happen if your candidate does not win? Would you ask for proof of how an individual voted before you helped to pull their vehicle out of the ditch on a snowy night? Apparently, there are some folks hitting that knee jerk reaction. I have seen several statements of “if you voted for [x] delete yourself from my friend’s list now.” Look, I understand that kind of angry response, especially if you were pinning all your hopes for changes in our government to a single individual running for the Presidency of the United States. But the President is only one small piece of that puzzle. The position is the forward-looking face from this country to the rest of the world. Legislative, money-related decisions, treaty-work and even the function of declaring war belongs to the Congress, which gets far fewer looks from the public in any election year. Its because the position is a whole lot less sexier. Nobody in the rest of the world cares about Representative Cattlegrazer whose constituency is the several dozen of folks living in eastern Montana. No international glitz, no sexiness to the position. This is why the Presidency gets such a strong look, or I should say one of the many.

So, Donnie has become the President of the United States. Great. No seriously, great. We survived eight years of Reagan, we will survive four years of Trump. Last night, before I went to bed, I wrote the following on my Facebook status:

….many of us have heard the words from the Gods and Goddesses we work with. We have heard the whispers on the wind. We have seen the signs. We are past the time of preparing. The leading edges of the coming storm arrived a while back. Now the teeth of that storm are here. Now its time to shelter. Now is the time to look out for those less fortunate than you. And for you warriors out there, you know quite well what is going to be expected of you… Be prepared, be aware, be wary, fight when necessary, flee when necessary to survive, help those that cannot defend for themselves. Its time. #thestormishere

Its definitely true. I have written about the coming Storm before. Now, I am not saying its going to look like 1980s communist Russia, but there is a chance that freedoms for many of us are going to be tightly curtailed under this coming administration. Some have prepared for all of this, others have waited until recently to get ready. However, with this coming administration, we – Pagans, LGBTQ, “fringe” religions, and many others – must live our lives being very aware of our environment. We are going to have to be ready to stand up for those who cannot do so for themselves. We are going to have to check on our Elders more frequently. We are going to need to band together in communities of solidarity. We were wanting change, we got some of that. Now, we cannot rely on our government or our political allies to do this. We want change? We are going to have to make that change ourselves. That means taking a stand where we have been in silent reserve to issues. If we want change, we are going to have to this TOGETHER.

Running to Canada might be option for a few. I joked with Mojo and Sparrow of the Wigglian Way that they would meet me at the Washington/Canada border with a duffel bag. They could stuff me in the duffel, and then smuggle me across the border. But that’s wishful thinking. I have a home here, in north Texas. I have three cats that rely on me for their safety and meals. I am not about to leave my furry girls behind. I have friends and extended family here within the United States as well. I will be here to help and harbor them as best I can. I am no warrior, but I will not leave those that I love to be defenseless.

No, running is not the answer. Being completely cutoff from the larger community is not an answer either. I live a long way from either the DFW or OKC Pagan communities. But now is the time to reach out and connect with them. If we are going to make it through the next four years, we are going to have to do it together. Through Solidarity, not being apart. It is far easier to beat an opponent when you can take on a small piece here or there at your leisure. We must stand together, if we are to manage through the storm.

Pointing fingers of blame as to why Donald Trump pulled out a victory for the Presidency does no one any good. Looking at a Clinton candidacy against Trump versus a Sanders candidacy versus Trump does no one any good. Being prepared for the potential curtailment of freedoms for various peoples that do not fit “comfortably” into a Trump vision of America is a better way of looking at things.

I asked before….what would you do if Trump were elected? We are past the point of answering that. His presidency will be here in January as the duly elected individual. The questions that we need to face now are far different. What would you do if the rights of Muslims are curtailed in the name of the war on terrorism? What would you do if the freedoms of LGBTQ individuals are curtailed – simply because of their status? What if the marriages of that same community are considered to be null and void? We have always look to our government o stand for the rights of these individuals. What if the government is the one that is coming to remove the rights of those individuals? If we want change….real, honest, permanent change. We are the ones that are going to have to do it.

In Babylon 5, when the Centauri conquet the Narn for a second time, G’kar issues the following statement before he is forced off the Babylon 5 Council by Londo:

No dictator, no invader can hold an imprisoned population by force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power tyrants and dictators cannot stand. The Centauri learned that lesson once. We will teach it to them again. Though it take a thousand years, we will be free.  –G’kar

…and then there’s my version of that….

….when you push a populace further down, you foment rebellion. Even the most logical individual will lash out at the curtailment of their freedoms. Republicans and Democrats understood this before…after this election cycle is done, its up to us, the citizens of this country to teach it to them again.

We need to take care of each other. We need to look out for those that cannot defend themselves. We need to make sure that those who are less fortunate among us have what we can give to them. You want change? You want permanent change? We have four years to plan to the next election cycle for President. Lick your wounds today. Tomorrow, we need to find a new way.

Yah…the Election is Coming to a Close

Well, election day is coming here in the United States. From my perspective, vote how you want to vote (or not at all). You don’t need to explain your choice to anyone beyond yourself. For me, my interest in the election cycle is really starting to wane the closer we get to election day. In fact, for me there’s a lot more important issues to deal with. There’s the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline protest, for one. There is the perspective of working on my own Spiritual Path, and following what Crow keeps pointing me towards. Yes, all of that matters far more than an election.

See, no matter who gets elected, America will continue to function in the form it currently has. The Democrats are not coming for your guns. The Republicans are not going to abolish the Congress and create their own vision of America under a reformed Constitution. There are checks and balances built into the system. Plus, there’s a military that’s sworn to protect the Constitution at all costs. Yes, there are orders to follow the President, but the protection of the Constitution supersedes that. Nearly every military member – part, present or future – will tell you that the oath concerning the protection of the Constitution is the primary mission of the military.

Now, do I fear an election of a presidential candidate with whom I disagree? Not one bit. Do I fear a foreign policy of a candidate I don’t agree with? Definitely. But I also know that Congress and the Supreme Court are the checks against a President that commits combat troops on a whim. Should a government change the rules, illegally amend or suspend the concept of the Constitution, I’ll be one of the first to take up arms to overthrow such a government. My oath of enlistment still pertains, long after I have left the military. And that is precisely why I do not fear a Clinton or Trump presidency. I know that whichever one gets elected, there will be enough eyes on them to keep an abuse of power from happening. And should such an abuse occur, there are many who have sworn to protect, defend and preserve the Constitution of the United States as the guiding principles to what this country is about.

So, go and vote for whomever you want. I might disagree with your choice. So what? Its your choice. Make it. Vote it. And remember, you don’t need to justify it to anyone. Except yourself.

 

The Hippies Were Right: Be Kind to One Another

I have taken to not writing much on the weekends. Typically, I use the two days I get off from work as ways to try and replenish who I am. Walks. Spending time at my circle in the backyard. Reading. Listening to lectures and music. You know, just generally avoiding the television and the insane twenty-four-hours news cycle that seems to permeate everything.

This morning – a Sunday – finds me sitting here at the keyboard of my Mac, drinking coffee, scratching the ears of the youngest cat (Kaylee) and listening to a concert from September 2015 by Phil Lesh, the former bassist of the Grateful Dead. Yeah, I have more Grateful Dead, and Grateful Dead related music material than anything else. I definitely am an individual born into the wrong generation.

I kid people at work, and tell them constantly that they don’t want my input on projects. I would only infect it with my hippie perspective. Except that I am not kidding about that. I bring a hippie perspective to nearly everything I do. Yes, I was born to the wrong generation, I firmly believe that.

img_9678Now, when my coworkers hear that I am a hippie, smoking weed immediately comes to their minds. Or doing some form of consciousness-altering drugs. Nothing could really be further from the truth. I smoked weed once in my life, in the parking lot of Hamel’s Amusement Park in Shreveport. After one pull, I promptly barfed my toenails up. And harder drugs just never appealed to me to even try. I had friends that got hooked on cocaine. The aftermath of what it did to them was warning enough to me. But I do enjoy whiskey…just a little too much. I’m a mean drunk, so I watch my alcohol intake very closely. And I know how I am around whiskey, so I don’t venture too far from a couple of IPA beers for the night – provided I am not driving. But the mythology of hippie culture being nothing more than drug-soaked indulgence…total nonsense, at least from my perspective.

But. The hippie culture was about loving one another. And not just in a sexual way. Mickey Hart made the proclamation of “Be kind to one another” at the end of the 50th anniversary concerts in Chicago last year. I have quoted that many, many times here in the blog. And for me, that is the one driving mantra of the hippie culture – to be kind to one another. You saw that in the Burning Man festivals from a few years ago. People who needed something to eat were provided that from nearly anywhere. Sadly, Burning Man became something that was “hip” – and the folks that have come to this event now bring their own security, and keep out people that they consider to be “undesirable” from their camps.

For me, the hippie mentality is one of inclusion. After all, we are all part of the same human race. Skin color means nothing. Height, weight, hair color, eye color, personal musical preferences, sexual orientation, gender identity, even political affiliation – none of that excludes you from the being a human being. And somehow, we manage to forget this every four years – particularly here in America.

Its called the Presidential election cycle. And every four years, we divide ourselves into smaller factions and make proclamations about how bad the other side is. We resort to insults. Yes, even I have done this in this political season. I am not fond of what the Republican nominee stands for. Not so long ago, I posted a picture on Facebook of the zombies from the TV series “The Walking Dead” wearing the “Make America Great” hats and carrying some of the yard signs for the Trump campaign. Shame on me for doing that. In essence, I got caught up in the “Us v. Them” breakdown that happens in every Presidential election cycle.

Ok. Take a moment, and close your mouth. Don’t be in too much disbelief over what I just said. And here’s why. On November 9th, what are we – as a collective nation going to do?  Think about it. There’s a fair chance that Donald Trump could be the President of the United States. There’s an equal chance that Hillary Clinton could be President of the United States. What are you going to do when the candidate that is not your choice, wins? Riot in the streets? Grab your gun and shoot every supporter of that candidate until you feel satisfied with thinning out the gene pool? Board up all the windows in your home, and wait for an inevitable nuclear strike? What are you going to do if YOUR candidate DOES win? Are you going to gloat over how your candidate was really the ONLY choice that Americans could make? Or maybe, you might consider a different tactic…

What about going on with your life as you did on November 7th, just before the election? What about extending a hand to your neighbor who voted for the OTHER candidate? Are we going to start checking voter affiliation and asking who people voted for President before we provide assistance to them in their time of need? Maybe, we do go that route of pure political division. But I have faith in human beings.

I do believe we can put aside our political differences. We can stop regarding one another by the color of our skin, or how much money we make doing our mundane jobs. I have faith that we will eventually figure out that we are all part of the human race. That all the other divisions that come about from birth or from personal choices and preferences, won’t be seen as factors that keep us from working together. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. And by the Gods, I share in that dream. But to get there…as I regard our current election….we have a long way to go.

I want to thank Nadia for planting this into the foreground of my thoughts. Sometimes, it is the most controversial topics that can bring about some of the most inspired thinking. Thank you for planting that seed of thought….

 

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.

The Whispers From the Four Directions

Do you hear the sound on the wind?
The beating wings of crows?
Do you hear that on the wind?
The whisper of Andraste and Segomo
Do you hear the spears and swords beating on shields?
Teutates! Teutates! Teutates!
For the protection of Land!
For the protection of Tribe!
For the protection of kindred Spirit!
Standing Rock is the battle line.
—Robyn Birchleaf, 9/7/16

Its been a while since I have dusted off of my old poetry moniker. Back in my early days as a Wiccan, this was also my “Craft” name. Eventually, Wicca faded as a part of my life, but the moniker continues as my writing name.

This piece of poetry I wrote last night. I had set some music from the Johnny Whitehorse series of albums on rotation, and pulled on my headphones to block out noise. As I listened, I let my mind wander to my inner grove, while watching my stone circle in the backyard being bathed by the sprinkler system. It eventually brought my mind to the perspective of water, which naturally led my mind to what is going up in North Dakota. People were protesting, as peacefully as they could, the building of an oil-transport pipeline underneath the Missouri river. Any leak at or near this point threatens the clean drinking water source for the peoples of this area, and everyone else downstream. This includes farmers, whose crops feed the markets of this country where people shop for their food. Odd how all of that is so interconnected when you think about it, right? Not really, to be honest.

There’s nothing truly odd about the interconnection of all of us. What we do to the environment, our communities, ourselves, others, the animals, the air, the water, the land….it affects all of us to one degree or another. That’s a huge part of what I have come to understand and relate deeply to within my Druidry. There’s more than a “Circle of Life” – there’s an interconnected web, where everything finds harmony to one degree or another with everything else around. Everything that is, except mankind.

As human beings, we have managed to be arrogant enough as a species to consider ourselves above everything else in Nature. As a collective species, we have even managed to excuse that arrogance with “divinely inspired” spiritual perspectives that categorize the earth, the animals and everything else to the position of a giant grocery store for our use and abuse. We place ourselves above everything else, and then excuse our abuse and overuse of resources by declaring that there will be an end to this Earth, and the righteous will be flung up into the heavens to enjoy a plentiful and never-ending paradise. The wicked will be sent to a place of eternal damnation. And the planet and the animals?  Who cares? Its use will be finished. We can just wade it up, and pitch it over our shoulders. After all, we’ve managed to create a very disposable society in the same vein. But I digress slightly…

lakota-siouxWhen I wrote that last night, I was remembering that time and again, the clarion call of the Wild Hunt’s horn in my dreams and meditations. I remember a few meditations that were filled with whispers on the wind. “The battle draws closer”  “I do not ask for war. But I do ask you for to defend when the time comes”  “Remember, your staff is not just for aiding you in your walking”  Those were some of the louder whispers that I heard. For me, a determined peace-loving Druid, to speak of hearing whispered words of war is a difficult thing. I don’t like violence of any sort. I prefer to find peaceful, negotiated manners of dealing with conflict. But many times over the past months, I have been reminded that sometimes physical battle comes to one’s doorstep despite your best efforts to quell it.

The issue at Standing Rock is starting to resemble those moments where one has to reach for your staff because peaceful resolutions cannot be easily found. Last weekend, during a three-day holiday stretch, the corporation building the Dakota Access Pipe Line decided to bulldoze a large swath of burial ground that is part of the area that is to be built up. The protesters there immediately started to attempt to stop what was happening, only to be met by a “security” detail with poorly trained (if at all) dogs. The protesters were attacked by dogs that were encouraged to attack by their handlers. Protesters, including children were bitten. Many other protesters were maced by these same “security” folks. All the protesters had to defend themselves with were a makeshift flag on a stick, and their bare hands. What they really should have had in their possession were mace canisters. Not to attack with, but to spray at both the “security” detail and the dogs once the attacks against them (the protesters) had started.

I have always lived by the perspective that being non-violent and peaceful in protesting is the key to getting one’s message across. But just because you are being peaceful and non-violent does not mean that you are not prepared to defend yourself with forceful means. Trying to resolve issues with words and negotiation is the appropriate measure to take, but always be prepared to defend yourself against violent action. Defend, not retaliation. Retaliation belongs in the realm of vengeance, and that is a business that is far more serious, and should be far more thought out and appropriately measured.

From my perspective, and my interaction with Gods and Spirits….there’s a palpable anger on the wind. And return is coming…like I said, vengeance is for deeper thought, and far more measured response. I leave that to the Gods. Should They decide to utilize me as part of that response, I’ll know when They tell me. Until (of even, IF) that time, peaceful, non-violent, legal protesting is the call for the moment. Standing Rock is the battle line.