Party like it’s 1929

I think the Witches’ Pyramid can be understood as a cycle: being silent and listening to the answers to tough questions, like “Why does the commissary take food stamps?,” is a way to gather knowledge to move into a new cycle of action. As I listen, this is what I hear:

It’s 1929 again. The only question is whether it’s 1929 in the US or in Germany.

We have the knowledge to deal with situations of extreme economic inequality and resulting social unrest. And we also know what can happen if we don’t use it.

The Tea Party and similar sentiments are a pack of lies peddled by rich and powerful interests who are succeeding in getting the 99% to actively work against their own best interests. Falsehoods about anyone being a “self-made man” and relying on no one but oneself are not just lies. They’ve been transmuted through political alchemy as bad as the worst of dark biology, weaponized into memes that infect the general population and replicate themselves, hijacking otherwise good and reasonable people and making them into agents spreading a disease that will cripple nearly everyone – especially those infected.

I mentioned previously the myth of how anyone can succeed in American society. Myths are valuable; even when they’re not precisely true, they can inspire and lead us to do more and be better, especially by giving hope. Today, that myth is a lie and it is being used not to give hope but to take it away. It is being used by the 1% as a weapon to hurt people, to ignore the 99%, to try to get the 99% to buy into the status quo, to continue being the 99%. That story is as mythical these days as “winning the lottery,” and a society where success is a lottery is an unfair, unjust society. As Noah Smith wrote:

A winner-take-all society is not very conducive to hard work; I’m not going to bust my butt for 30 years for a 1% shot at getting into The 1%. But I am going to bust my butt for 30 years if I think this gives me a 90% chance of having a decent house, a family, some security, a reasonably pleasant job, a dog, and a couple of cars in my garage. An ideal middle-class society is one in which everyone, not just anyone, can get ahead via hard work.

The fact that this is a winner-take-all society – and is becoming more so – is why conservatives can’t get people to work hard, and why progressive action towards social and economic justice is the only way to make hard work fashionable again – by making it worthwhile. That means social and economic justice.

The hard-core conservatives who are driving the movement these days aren’t just looking back to the (mythical) 1950s. They don’t just want to conserve the status quo. They want to undo the last century of progress and take us back to the Gilded Age, to the time of obscene economic inequality and injustice that gave rise to Hoovervilles and the Bonus Army. They’ve had tremendous success at doing so, and the news coming out of Occupy encampments reads eerily like the stories of a century ago, updated with pepper spray instead of WW I-era vomiting agents. Better living through pharmaceuticals, I guess.

Economists can give you thousands of charts that show the regression to 1920s-type income inequality, lack of social mobility, and so on. But I know that history doesn’t just go backwards. People will not simply submit to rolling back the last century, and when I look at what happened after that previous episode of upheaval, I am sore afraid.

We have the knowledge to work with this kind of situation. We’ve done it before. Back in the day, being progressive – meaning making sure that people weren’t sold chalk-water instead of milk – was a Republican value, and Teddy Roosevelt signed the law that created the FDA. (Incidentally, this is why I have zero patience for the forms of libertarianism – especially in the fusion form of the Tea Party – that would have us all pretend we can be Jeffersonian small farmers again.)

Back in the day, being progressive meant making sure that old women didn’t end up eating cat food just because they had the temerity to outlive their husbands but be too weak to work. We invented Social Security to prevent situations like that. Fred Clark has investigated one aspect of what it means, ethically, for someone to argue that “he who will not work, neither shall he eat,” unless that person actually believes that some people should starve to death, but the sad truth is that some people can’t work. You can either accept that reality and get busy coping, or deny it and get busy helping to kill those people.

We have the knowledge to deal with these problems. But many powerful groups are actively working to ensure that we don’t use it. This deliberate obliviousness is one of the most dangerous currents in contemporary US politics.

If we don’t use that knowledge, if we pretend obliviousness to the actual problems or their potential solutions, someone will have to come up with an alternate story for how and why so many people are so bad off. The 1% are already using their expert narrators to create a story about how it’s Those People’s Fault, to turn the blame on anyone but themselves.

We know from history that it is entirely possible for them to use social unrest as an explanation for why society must become even more militarized, more authoritarian, more unequal, and more dangerous for everyone. I do not want to see that happen.

That is why, as a Witch and as a citizen, I stand with the Occupy movement. I will continue to support calls for economic and social justice with all the means at my disposal: economically, personally, and magically. I put my will and my daring in action in support of badly-needed reforms and continue to follow the Witches’ Pyramid.

What will you?

Maybe in Avalon, but not here

I was not impressed by the statement that the Officers of Avalon, an organization for Pagan police and first responders, released through the Wild Hunt. OoA acknowledges that political decisions to enforce curfew and sanitation laws by directing police to remove Occupy camps:

…has resulted in confrontations where a few officers have crossed the line and used unreasonable force. Let us state clearly, Officers Of Avalon believes that the use of excessive force on peaceable protesters is a violation of the rights of protesters, clearly immoral and in extreme cases felonious.

The rest of the statement is OoA expressing concern over the tone of conversations going on in the Pagan world. They say:

It is not the police who are the enemy of this movement. … Holding local officers accountable for the decisions of politicians is both unreasonable and illogical. It is no more reasonable than blaming your local bank teller for the actions of their CEO’s on Wall Street.

I agree that the police are not the enemy of the Occupy movement. But the end of that paragraph is a non sequitur. Asking people not to blame the cops might have been a reasonable thing to say a month ago, or even a week ago. But after recent events like the pepper-spraying of peaceful protestors at UC Davis, the analogy there completely falls apart. I’m not blaming police officers for political decisions; I’m blaming police officers for  tactical decisions that hurt people.

In these circumstances, laying the blame for police brutality on anyone besides the police is both unreasonable and illogical. It is no more reasonable than blaming the dogcatcher for the actions of the bank teller who robs me at gunpoint.

And to be clear, I am not blaming “the police” as a monolithic institution. I have studied combat psychology and am familiar with the massive unfairness of the American reaction to the military as a whole during and after the Vietnam war. I am more than willing to identify isolated incidents and so-called “bad apples,” and to recognize that they are not representative of police as a whole. I am also willing to acknowledge that tactical situations develop incredibly quickly and that split-second bad decisions are not necessarily a sign of malice aforethought.

But.

But when I see the worst examples of police brutality and abuse of power in a generation, and I see them being repeated in city after city across the country, I begin to be concerned. When I see a clear pattern of undeniable on-the-scene evidence that at least some police officers are making reasoned decisions to use unreasonable force, and that the first reaction of the police and the government is to protect those officers and blame the victims, I begin to doubt. When I see that police forces as a whole are not being held to the same standards as our troops on the battlefield are, I begin to be afraid.

I doubt that the problem is isolated to a few individuals or a few tactical mistakes. I am concerned that the increasingly para-military culture of policing is not serving its officers or the public well. And I am frankly afraid that if we don’t address this issue now, it will only get worse.

Along with Officers of Avalon, I too call on the community to avoid vilifying an entire profession. But I am disappointed that OoA spent the majority of their statement making such half-hearted efforts to appease everyone, let alone tone arguments, because that’s not the way to convince me that you’re on my side; forceful statements disavowing the actions that you find reprehensible and reaffirming the values that you represent are. With the news the way it is, what OoA wrote might have made sense for an audience in Avalon, but not here.

From the trenches of the war on women

If in some aching dreams you too could pace
sleepless with the choice we find ourselves in,
and hear the fear and loathing we will face
as people tell us aught we do is sin;
If you could feel, with every cramp, the blood
ready to gush forth from ectopic wound
to salve your conscience in its crimson flood
and leave behind my lifeless form marooned,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To women ardent for a martyr’s glory,
The new lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro blastocyte mori.

With homage to Wilfred Owen and respect to veterans, I would like to point out that the war on women is still going strong. So-called personhood was defeated in Mississippi. Almost 60% of people voted against giving fertilized eggs all the rights of corporations  people, which would take away fundamental rights (like life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness) from the real, live people who would become little more than incubators.

I’m happy that it was defeated, believe me. But that vote was the result of tremendous work by women’s rights organizations, and even after major investments of time and money, somehow 40% of voters still thought the bill was a good idea. Why are we even having to fight this fight in the first place?

But fear not! Personhood USA is going to expand its efforts and bring similar legislation to more states. Satan won’t win every time, they insist. Others are misappropriating the history of the Holocaust to try to convince people that it’s a good thing to let women die. And in the next election cycle, graphic, gory ads may be coming to a TV near you – but they won’t show the horror of the pre-Roe days.

That’s my war today. It’s one I was drafted into the minute I was born with a uterus and a disability. And in that metaphor, I desperately want to become a veteran, to lay down arms (and coat hangers) and rest secure in my person and in my right to appropriate health care. So I pray, today, for all the veterans of the past, and for current wars to end so that there are more veterans and fewer soldiers, and I reflect on the value of life and how I fight for it.

Pagan Protest in DC: October 30th

On October 30th, Pagans will gather in DC to celebrate the Divine Feminine and to protest the increasing efforts of religious fundamentalists to influence government. I’ll see you there!

DC Pagans to Hold Halloween Ceremony Countering the New Apostolic Reformation Cursing Prayer Campaign

On October 30th in Lafayette Square Park

Silver Spring, MD, October 19th, 2011   Priestesses and priests from the Washington, DC Pagan community will hold a Celebration of the Divine Feminine and Religious Freedom in Lafayette Square Park across from the White House on Sunday, October 30th, 2011, as a protest to the New Apostolic Reformation’s 51-day prayer campaign targeting Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Heathens, and other Goddess-worshipers nationwide.

The New Apostolic Reformation is a Dominionist group of Christians preaching that all feminine forms of deity are demonic.  The NAR is engaged in a 51-day campaign of imprecatory prayer to create a fundamentalist Christian theocracy in the USA.  Republican presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry are influenced by the NAR agenda.

Reverend Barry Lynn, United Church of Christ minister and executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said, “Some people think the Dominionists and the New Apostolic Reformation are a newfangled movement. I call them what they are: the Religious Right in a new gown. They’re not fooling anyone. This is the same old bunch of theocrats we’ve been dealing with for more than 40 years. It’s the same crew that believes only its narrow version of Christianity is acceptable and pleasing to God. It’s the same collection of people who believe their religion gives them the right to run everyone else’s lives.”

Rev. Lynn went on to say, “I have news for them: Wiccans and Pagans are part of the American religious mosaic, and they’re here to stay. Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison gave us religious liberty – and that means religious liberty for everyone. The followers of nature-based faiths are going to use it because they don’t want to lose it. What could be more in keeping with the great American tradition?”

Katrina Messenger, a writer, teacher, blogger, poet and Washington, DC native, will be the main celebrant in Lafayette Square Park.  Ms. Messenger said,  “The methods used by the NAR and other Dominionists are founded upon hate, fear, and ignorance.  Their demonization of our Gods and Goddesses uses inflammatory language that can lead to violence and discrimination against followers of minority religions.  We have choices in how to respond to this threat to our freedom and our faiths.  Many are resorting to prayer, some to writing letters, and some to defensive strategies.  We decided to honor the Queen of Heaven, the Goddess Inanna, in a public space, and demonstrate the very freedoms the Dominionists seek to destroy.”  Ms. Messenger is the founder of Connect DC and the Reflections Mystery School in Petworth.

Event organizer Caroline Kenner is a Washington, DC-born shamanic healer and teacher who now lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.  “Nationally, many in our community are appalled by the scurrilous lies about our Goddesses spread by the New Apostolic Reformation.  We Pagans are proud American citizens entitled to all the religious freedom granted by the Founders of this country in our Constitution.  We are dismayed by the hate-filled rhetoric the New Apostolic Reformation uses, and we wish to show the public that our Goddesses are beneficent and peaceful deities.”

The event in Lafayette Square Park begins at noon and ends at 5pm on Sunday, October 30th, Samhain eve to many Pagans, leading into one of the most holy days of the Pagan year. “Samhain, or Halloween, is the Feast of the Ancestors in some of our Pagan religions.  We will invoke the Founding Fathers and Mothers of our nation during our ceremony, along with a multitude of Goddesses from pantheons both ancient and modern.  Among our Goddesses will be Lady Liberty and Columbia, the Goddess who stands guard atop the Capitol Building,” said Ms. Kenner.  “The New Apostolic Reformation people would topple Columbia from Her pinnacle, and rename DC the District of Christ.”

There will be a number of people offering prayers during the ritual, including a Unitarian Universalist minister and celebrants from several Pagan faiths.  After the religious ceremony, there will be drumming, dancing, chanting and energy raising designed to protect people in all fifty states and DC who support freedom of religious belief and practice for everyone.  People of all faiths or none are welcome to join the event.

Sacred Space, an annual conference on metaphysics, mysticism and magick, now in its 22nd year, is the sponsor of the celebration in Lafayette Square Park on October 30th.  Supporting organizations include Connect DC, Reflections Mystery School and Gryphons Grove School of Shamanism.  Individual supporters include Washington, DC Pagan bloggers Hecate Demeter, Literata and David Salisbury.

For more information or to read the NAR curse against Pagans, visit: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildhunt/2011/09/the-new-apostolic-reformation-message-to-pagans.html

CONTACT:    Caroline Kenner

301-384-8455
301-412-1760

mythkenner@aol.com

Hate groups helping sway voters towards theocrats

Known anti-gay hate groups sponsored a major gathering in DC at which multiple Republican nominees will speak. One pastor there has already urged evangelical Christians to vote for Rick Perry – and he knows the numbers of voters he’s trying to rally.

The Values Voter Summit took place this weekend, and the major news was Rev. Robert Jeffress’ endorsement of Rick Perry and his statement that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is “a cult.” Although that has captured headlines, and Romney’s condemnation of “poisonous language” has made a smaller splash, the larger context of the Values Voter Summit provides an informative example of how the extremely conservative Christian agenda is driving Republican politics today.

The two primary sponsors of the VVS, the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, have been identified as anti-gay hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center for their unremitting anti-gay propaganda and lies. Yet somehow the five major candidiates for the Republican nomination were willing to speak at this event.

There’s a very specific set of “values” at the core of this event. Even though the first two imperatives on the VVS’ website banner are “Reduce Government” and “Limit Spending,” members of these groups and the politicians who pander to them have shown absolutely no concern about increasing government in order to regulate women’s rights and marriage, and have insisted on wasting money defending unconstitutional laws.

The third imperative, “Champion Traditional Values,” is clearly the predominant one. And their version of traditional, ’50s values has more in common with the 1850s than the 1950s.

As Fred Clark points out, the Values Voter Summit is not staged by liberal bloggers conspiring to foment hysteria. (Honestly, in a million years I would never have dreamed up guys in suits holding up plastic dinosaurs.) The conservatives with extreme agendas are highly influential, and they’re working to become more so.

To me, the most illuminating element of Jeffress’ follow-up interview with CNN was this little factoid that has been largely ignored:

Look, when it gets down to it, we need to remember this. In 2008, 30 million Evangelical Christians sat at home and didn’t vote. Barack Obama won by 10 million votes. Whether you like it or not, Mitt Romney will not energize Evangelical Christians.

I have no idea whether his numbers are accurate. The point is that he’s calculating the numbers. He’s not just praying, he’s not just preaching, he’s counting votes and working to get voters “energized” to swing the next election. Let me say this as clearly as I can:

Even people who are working towards irrational ends often use perfectly rational means.

Others with similar goals in mind are using highly sophisticated means to try to increase voter registration and participation among people with the “right” “biblical worldview.” They are also counting the votes, and working on mobilizing millions – not just thousands, millions – of voters to support their increasingly hateful and vile agendas.

This is about a lot more than “poisonous language.” It’s about a toxic and addictive mix of hatred and politics. As Pratchett wrote, “Poison goes where poison’s welcome.” All the candidates who attended the Values Voter Summit showed that to them, this poison’s welcome. If the hit comes with a rush of voters, they’ll take it and be jonesing for more.

More importantly, the significant numbers of voters actively engaging with the conservative movement as it grows ever more radical are showing that they continue to welcome the poison, too. And there are plenty of people – like Jeffress – working to push it to them, to get them hooked on ever-higher doses of hatred so that they’re willing to take increasingly extreme actions to get their next fix.

And although the pushers may themselves be high from taking offense one too many times, they have calculated the angles and are running their racket shrewdly to expand their market.

Authority and apocalypse

The interesting thing in Wagner’s interview on NPR that is pretty obscure to people who haven’t been intimately acquainted with this subculture is the view of authority. I’ve mentioned before that the NAR is obsessed with legalisms (almost as much as with sex). That comes from a foundational concern about authority. The NAR and Christian Dominionism in general are all about authority and power.

They operate off some fundamental assumptions that are seldom stated explicitly but that frame everything – absolutely everything – that these believers think about and do. Here I am trying to put these pre-rational beliefs into words, based on personal experience, so don’t expect to see these kinds of things stated explicitly by members of the groups, especially not in open fora. If you doubt my explanations, take some time to see whether they fit the overall worldview expressed by Christian Dominionists, especially when they’re being more honest (sermons, speaking privately, etc).

First, everyone is in hierarchical power relationships all the time. All relationships have a power dynamic and that power dynamic is dictated by their god. A disrupted power dynamic is the source of most evils and needs to be corrected immediately.

Second, those power dynamics aren’t just metaphors. They are, deep down, about force. Mostly spiritual force, mostly allegiance, but if necessary, force. Again, military metaphors run deep in this rhetoric because they’re not just metaphors. They are often taken literally. (This lack of metaphorical thinking is not unique to Christian Dominionism, but it takes on an especially dangerous tone here.)

In this worldview, democracy is sort of a surface phenomenon. It can be used as a kludge when not everyone accepts their god-given place in the power dynamics (especially unbelievers). It can be used as a compromise, or a temporary expedient. But it’s not a long-lasting solution. It’s not a fundamental idea, it’s not something to work for, and ultimately, it’s un-biblical.

With that in mind, read what Wagner has to say about the roles of self-proclaimed apostles and prophets in the NAR:

WAGNER: The Bible teaches that apostles – related to prophets and also teachers – should form the basis of the government of the church. Now, up till now, recently, most churches in America functioned on a democratic system, so that the authority in the churches and the authority in the denominations resided in groups of people.

And, of course, that’s what we’re used to politically in America, so that fits in very well with our culture. But in terms of the role of the apostle, one of the biggest changes from traditional churches to the New Apostolic Reformation is the amount of spiritual authority delegated by the Holy Spirit to individuals. And the two key words are authority and individuals, and individuals as contrasted to groups. So now, apostles have been raised up by God who have a tremendous authority in the churches of the New Apostolic Reformation. And I think this is the most radical difference between the old and the new.

When he says, “that’s what we’re used to politically in America,” I hear the unspoken statement, “but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.” When he talks about how the NAR’s authority structure is a “radical difference,” I connect that to the kind of “transformation” that he wants to see in American culture and American politics.

Wagner also made a point of saying that the NAR is “working with whatever political system there is” in each country it’s engaging. But he strictly disavows any mention that they want a “theocracy,” which he specifically links to states like Iran or like Constantine’s Rome. He is telling the truth there, but it’s a specific kind of truth based on his ideas about authority.

I believe him that he doesn’t want a “theocracy” where there’s an institutionalized church that runs the institutionalized state. He wants to meld the two, indistinguishably, because his religious ideas about authority and power are so all-encompassing that they would make a separate institutionalized government redundant.

It is irrelevant to him that this is exactly what I mean by “theocracy.” He has redefined the word, so he can be truthful. You have to know how to listen to this new vocabulary in order to make sense out of his double-talk.

And his double-talk is attractive: he wants to make a world “characterized” by “the blessings of heaven:” “We don’t want racism. We don’t want poverty or divorce or corruption or child abuse or crime.” When the host points out that most of his compatriots also don’t want homosexuality, Wagner hems and haws and says that some other things are more important first.

But that’s precisely the problem. Wagner is imagining heaven on earth – and he does literally believe that if he and his followers can make these changes take place, Jesus will return and the world will end. But like so many people who are utterly fixated on another world, he completely ignores the realities of this one. His biggest victory in the NPR discussion was avoiding talking about how all these changes are going to take place.

Because they won’t. They can’t. In his tradition, this is called original sin: there will always be things wrong, there will be people who are hurting, who hurt others, there will be sickness, and death, and fear, and anger, and all the ills resulting from them. Wagner wants to pretend that when people convert to his flavor of Christianity, they become perfected and none of these things ever happen any more – divorce becomes unnecessary, child abuse nonexistent, homosexuality a fiction. (Ted Haggard can speak to that last one, and his wife can speak to the first one.)

Wagner wants a post-apocalyptic heaven without going through (or talking about) the apocalypse.

Many of his fellow enthusiasts, however, are aware of this, and have actually thought and talked about how to get from here to there, and their conclusion is that it’s up to them to make it happen. The ones who are truly committed to this believe that it is their heavenly mandate to make that apocalypse happen here on earth, using all means of power available to them. In fact, they think that restoring the correct power dynamics – men over women, Christians over non-Christians, prophets over scientists, and so on – is the first step to making that apocalypse happen.

They’re not sitting around waiting to be taken away in the Rapture. They’re bringing heaven to earth – for those eligible for their heaven. And they’ll get rid of those who aren’t. Call it reverse-Rapture.

That’s what they mean when they talk about re-instituting Biblical law. They have realized that they can’t just wish away or pray away all the gay people. After taking a long, hard look at this situation and their perceived god-given roles, they have concluded that the solution is stoning.

If that’s what it takes to get to their imagined holy land, they’ll do it. They’ll do it with what they think is love in their hearts, a psalm on their lips, and blood on their hands.

Janet Porter wants me to die

That’s the message she rallied her supporters to send to the Ohio legislature today. And Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Mike Huckabee all agree with her.

Trigger Warning: difficult pregnancy, death

I used to live in Ohio. If I were still there, this bill would scare me out of my wits. I have a disability which means that trying to carry a pregnancy to term would kill me, probably long before a fetus became viable outside the womb. As a result, I did the smart thing: I had my tubes tied.

Tubal ligation is the most reliable form of contraception available for women, but it’s still not perfect. There’s a minute chance that I could get pregnant. If I do, with my tubes tied, it will be an ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancies are a medical emergency; they cannot be carried to term. The only treatment is to end the pregnancy, medically if possible, surgically if necessary. If left untreated, an ectopic pregnancy will cause the woman to have severe internal bleeding. She will likely die.

I would likely die – because Porter’s “heartbeat bill” and the “personhood amendments” would make it illegal to treat ectopic pregnancies, as well as ban in vitro fertilization and certain kinds of birth control. When Porter and the politicians who support her argue for these pieces of legislating, they are arguing that if I, or any other woman, ends up in that situation, she should be left to die.

This is worse than the occasional audience member yelling “Let him die!” when the Republican debate turned to the topic of helping the uninsured. That’s bad enough, but this is worse. This isn’t just about not providing financial support. This is about making it a criminal act to give me the necessary health care to save my life.

Don’t be fooled by the slick language and the “heartbeat” schlock. If this bill passes it will not only be a tremendous setback for women’s rights, it will put women’s lives in danger. Maybe your mother’s, maybe your sister’s, maybe your daughter’s. Maybe yours. Definitely mine.

NARAL was right when they called on politicians to “stop the war on women” by supporting Planned Parenthood earlier this year. This is another front in the same war, a war I was conscripted into when I was born, by virtue of having a uterus and a disability. Janet Porter and her supporters want to strip away the little bit of protection that modern medicine has been able to devise to keep this accidental confluence from killing me. If they do, by the vagaries of chance, I still might dodge that bullet. But not everyone will.

By the way, Janet Porter is in with the Christian Dominionists up to her eyeballs. So when they talk about praying for a “culture of life” in the US (a dogwhistle for outlawing abortion and probably most birth control), they’re talking about wanting to let me die. My opposition to Christian Dominionists isn’t just religious: it’s about protecting my own life and the lives of others. When these folks have support from and influence with several of the contenders for the Republican nomination for president, I can’t sit back and ignore them any more.

Pluralism in action

In contrast to the previous post, I’d like to point out the way pluralism was an essential element of the Canadian state funeral for politician Jack Layton which took place Saturday. As mmy writes:

The first blessing at the funeral was given by Shawn Atleo (national chief of the Assembly of First Nations) in an aboriginal language. He concluded that blessing by giving a white eagle feather to Olivia Chow (Jack’s widow.)

Rev. Brent Hawkes explained that he was wearing his academic gown to officiate at the funeral in order not to give precedence to any one religion. Later on in the service Hawkes made reference to his own husband, John.

The program for the memorial is available and includes readings from both the Bible and the Qu’ran, all focusing on the theme of social justice. But most of all, I’d really encourage you to watch the video of Shawn Atleo’s blessing. I found this incredibly moving. Atleo is a gifted ritualist, working in the style of a master storyteller. He made a moving tribute to Jack and gave a white eagle feather, a special blessing, to Jack’s widow Olivia.

I asked mmy for some more detail on her reaction to the memorial and whether she felt included or excluded by any or all of the religious elements.

Nothing was presented as “you must believe” rather as “this is how I celebrate Jack,” and so one could feel included in the spirit of love and celebration without feeling the least bit proselytized. At no time were people called upon to pray or speak to any god.

mmy also pointed out that Jack’s memorial had been designed in concert with the family’s wishes, and that it remained focused on Jack and the family, rather than featuring prayers for Canada or specific honors to other current politicians in attendance.

The message that I got from the memorial and mmy’s reaction was that it successfully communicated that Jack had been a politician on behalf of many different people, celebrating the pluralism and variety among them while working for social justice for all.

Canadian newspapers treated this memorial as perfectly normal. Contrast this with the way the right-wing media in the US mocked and whined about a Native American blessing given at the memorial service for victims of the Tucson shooting earlier this year. Even including a brief acknowledgment of  Native American practices in the Southwest, one of the areas with the highest Native American populations, was described as bizarre and inappropriate.

As Jason at the Wild Hunt has ably pointed out, conservative Christians in the US see anything less than complete Christian hegemony as depriving them of their rights. They want there to be Christian religious elements even at at funerals for non-Christian veterans, regardless of the family’s wishes. They see pluralism as an outright affront.

Many Pagans and other members of minority religions in the US would look with envy on the situation in Canada while we struggle to have even basic respect paid to non-Christian religions, let alone a full celebration of pluralism. As we continue that effort, it helps to have examples of what our desired outcomes might look like. To me, Jack’s memorial was a beautiful example of the kind of respect for religious pluralism I strive for.

The last paragraphs from one of the eulogies were:

We’re all shaken by grief but I believe we’re slowly being steadied by a new resolve and I see that resolve in words written in chalk and in a fresh determination on people’s faces. A resolve to honour Jack by bringing the politics of respect for all, respect for the Earth and respect for principle and generosity back to life.

My wife Michele reminded me of a perfect quote from the celebrated Indian novelist, activist and feminist Arundhati Roy. Jack doubtless knew it. He might have seen it as a mantra. “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.”

I can hear her breathing, too, and working to acknowledge religious pluralism and to be inclusive of all people, especially at state events, is one of the things that brings us one step closer to her embrace.

I would like to thank mmy for bringing this news item to my attention in the first place and for providing such insightful analysis.

The Bedamnitudes, or, Curses from the Speech in Galt’s Gulch

A satire on the attitudes of the extreme right-wing in America today:

Cursed be the poor in spirit: for they desire affirmative action.
Cursed be they who mourn: for they expect government death benefits.
Cursed be the meek: for they mooch to inherit the earth.
Cursed be they who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they are socialists.
Cursed be the merciful: for they are soft on crime.
Cursed be the pure of heart: for they are naive.
Cursed be the peacemakers: for they shall be called bipartisan compromisers.
Cursed be they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for they promote victimhood.

Why the individual mandate is absolutely essential to changing our health insurance model

Skylandia has this great post up about how health insurance is not like car insurance. This is a false equivalency that’s just as bad as the idea that government budgeting is just like household budgeting, and resistance to changing the model puts women at additional risk.

I wish I could put this in front of the legislator who said that women should not get assistance paying for abortion, even after rape, because he makes sure he has a spare tire on his car. False equivalencies and wrong models like this are putting women’s lives and health at risk.

I’d like to take Skylandia’s conclusions one step farther in terms of appropriate comparisons with in the US political system. She says that a closed model – with everybody in – is the appropriate approach for health insurance, because everybody is going to need it at some point. In US terms, this is like saying that health insurance should work more like Social Security – everyone pays in, automatically, and it’s there for everyone (in reality, nearly everyone).

That’s what makes this, as Skylandia says, reliable insurance, and not a bet or gamble, like car insurance is. This is why the individual mandate is absolutely essential to improving health insurance and health care in this country. A public option would have been better yet, but it got killed off by the same people who want to get rid of Social Security. Do you see a trend here?

“Every man for himself” is not the best approach when it comes to health care – especially women’s health care, which is already under-protected.