You can read my latest musings on Pagan politics over at the Pagan Square.
Picture found here.
President Obama’s choice for this year’s Inauguration is Richard Blanco, the first Latino and the first openly gay man to have this honor. In addition to writing poetry, Blanco is a working civil engineer, and I like the touch of having someone who works on infrastructure. Here’s the title poem from Blanco’s latest book, Looking for the Gulf Motel:
Looking for The Gulf Motel
Marco Island, Florida
There should be nothing here I don’t remember . . .
The Gulf Motel with mermaid lampposts
and ship’s wheel in the lobby should still be
rising out of the sand like a cake decoration.
My brother and I should still be pretending
we don’t know our parents, embarrassing us
as they roll the luggage cart past the front desk
loaded with our scruffy suitcases, two-dozen
loaves of Cuban bread, brown bags bulging
with enough mangos to last the entire week,
our espresso pot, the pressure cooker—and
a pork roast reeking garlic through the lobby.
All because we can’t afford to eat out, not even
on vacation, only two hours from our home
in Miami, but far enough away to be thrilled
by whiter sands on the west coast of Florida,
where I should still be for the first time watching
the sun set instead of rise over the ocean.
There should be nothing here I don’t remember . . .
My mother should still be in the kitchenette
of The Gulf Motel, her daisy sandals from Kmart
squeaking across the linoleum, still gorgeous
in her teal swimsuit and amber earrings
stirring a pot of arroz-con-pollo, adding sprinkles
of onion powder and dollops of tomato sauce.
My father should still be in a terrycloth jacket
smoking, clinking a glass of amber whiskey
in the sunset at the Gulf Motel, watching us
dive into the pool, two boys he’ll never see
grow into men who will be proud of him.
There should be nothing here I don’t remember . . .
My brother and I should still be playing Parcheesi,
my father should still be alive, slow dancing
with my mother on the sliding-glass balcony
of The Gulf Motel. No music, only the waves
keeping time, a song only their minds hear
ten-thousand nights back to their life in Cuba.
My mother’s face should still be resting against
his bare chest like the moon resting on the sea,
the stars should still be turning around them.
There should be nothing here I don’t remember . . .
My brother should still be thirteen, sneaking
rum in the bathroom, sculpting naked women
from sand. I should still be eight years old
dazzled by seashells and how many seconds
I hold my breath underwater—but I’m not.
I am thirty-eight, driving up Collier Boulevard,
looking for The Gulf Motel, for everything
that should still be, but isn’t. I want to blame
the condos, their shadows for ruining the beach
and my past, I want to chase the snowbirds away
with their tacky mansions and yachts, I want
to turn the golf courses back into mangroves,
I want to find The Gulf Motel exactly as it was
and pretend for a moment, nothing lost is lost.
Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.
Picture found here.
I don’t generally post stuff from Rachel Maddow because I figure that if you read my little blog you already follow important people such as Maddow, Jon Stewart, Atrios. But last night Maddow was so on-point that I think it’s worth posting what she had to say.
Of course, Maddow’s assertion that there are real problems in the world and that the country could benefit from an engaged Rapeublican Party is the first hurdle. At the moment, there’s a huge disconnect between the Rapeublican Party’s list of problems and the list of problems that actually make life worse for most people in America. Tax levels on millionaires (which are currently far lower than they were during, say, the rather productive nineteen-sixties) are not a real problem for Americans and, as Maddow says, lowering taxes on millionaires has never been shown to create more jobs. Pensions for teachers and fire fighters aren’t the problem with our economy. Gay people being allowed to marry does not in any way, shape, or form harm the marriages or families of other people in this country. Allowing women access to (some currently, frankly, quite limited) reproductive health care does not create problems for Americans, one third of whom will either have or have fathered a pregnancy that will end in abortion and the vast, vast majority of whom engage in sex in which at least one partner uses birth control. Separation of church and state does not cause problems for any Americans, even those who believe that their religion is the “true” religion. Under the most stringent separation of church and state, members of even minority religions are (I would know) free to worship as they please. “Illegal” immigrants are not the reason that Americans are out of work. And as for President Obama’s birth certificate, Jeremiah Wright, Sharia law in America, etc., well, Maddow handles those. I could go on, but you already know what I’m saying. The list of “problems” that the Rapeublican spin machine has thrown up over the last couple of decades are none of them actual problems. What they are is distractions, designed to convince the gullible people in Kansas not to look at that man behind the curtain and wildly successful attempts at “othering,” which, again is designed to distract the gullible from the real problems.
And, for quite some time, the Great and Powerful Oz has been successful. The gullible, the frightened, the disenfranchised have been spun up into a frenzy over non-issues that allow them, at least for a moment or two, to ignore how little control they have over their own circumstances. Democrats, who should know better, accept the Rapeublican framing and discuss “tax cuts” instead of “revenue increases,” try and position themselves as not-too-in-favor of “icky” causes such as marriage equality, access to medical care, and protection of First Amendment freedoms (see what I did there?).
During WWII, the U.S. prepared a psychological profile of Adolf Hitler (pace, Godwin) and said that one of Hitler’s primary rules was that:
people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.
And, you know, Hitler was right.
Until he wasn’t.
Eventually, your lies catch up with you and you wind up mad inside a bunker, getting advice on the most efficient way to kill yourself. The Karl Roves of the world, who are the people who actually never think, in Ayn Rand’s words, beyond the “range of the moment,” are always surprised when Ohio gets called for Obama. It’s not surprising; Rove is reported to be the guy who insisted that conservatives could “create” their own “reality.” Well today he’s hiding from a loose affiliation of [angry] millionaires and billionaires.
I love Maddow’s call for all of us to re-engage with “the factual lived truth of the world.” Sadly, the need to stay present to the factual lived truth of the world is one that we all share. Think of the Pagan organizations that fall apart because they want to believe that enthusiasm can make up for a lack of bookkeeping skills, or fundraising expertise, or the need to talk an egotistical leader back down off the window ledge from which s/he alienates all who are not “true believers.” Think of the Pagans you know who are sure that their Pagan bookstore, Reiki practice, crowd-funded blogging experiment will allow them to support themselves as professional Pagans. (I’m not trying to discourage anyone from following their one, true dream. I’m just suggesting that a realistic business plan, adequate advance capitalization, and a partner with a day job are not bad things.)
Each of the times when, in my own life, I have really fucked things up (and there have been, trust me, many) it’s been due to my attempt to ignore the factual lived truth of my world and to imagine that, if I just want and believe hard enough, an unacceptable partner will be a good partner, a dysfunctional job or organization will be turned around by my best efforts, a budget that can’t work will somehow stretch because I’m a really nice girl and I try really hard. And my life has only turned around when I’ve finally been willing to sit down, have a good think, admit that the fantasy I’ve been living isn’t working any longer, and decide that I’m going to actually begin to address my own factual lived truth. It’s a good question to ask yourself each morning in daily practice. “Which factual lived truths am I trying to ignore?”
Maddow’s discussion of how the Rapeublicans couldn’t believe that they were losing the election, even as it was happening to them, follows directly from their refusal to face factual lived truths. For quite some time, the Pagan group can continue to believe that their badly-organized board will pull the failing community center out of debt. For quite some time, I could keep telling myself that if I just tried harder, he’d stop being angry over every little thing. For decades, conservatives have been able to say with a straight face that global climate change doesn’t exist, that tax cuts will “trickle down,” that marriage equality will destroy America, that women who want access to birth control are evil sluts.
But eventually, we’re all Karl Rove sitting there on national television demanding a few more minutes before Ohio gets announced for Obama, even when there are only Democratic counties left to count. The community center has to close, I have to leave the abusive relationship, global climate change rips up New Orleans, New York, and New Jersey. All the tax cuts in the world don’t put Americans back to work . . . . In the end, the factual lived truths of the world will win out over even our most cherished fantasies. If nothing else, reality will eventually pop the factual bubble that Maddow urges needs popping. People who eat their seed corn don’t live to propagate the notion that eating seed corn is the way to thrive.
I hope that conservatives will follow Maddow’s advice. My dad loved, I think, the First Amendment more than life and he raised me on Milton’s Areopagitica:
[T]hough all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?
My dad often shortened that to say, “Whoever knew Truth put to second best when scattered to the four Winds?” I think that he, and Milton, and Maddow were getting at the same thing.
Joanna Colbert, the artist behind the Gaian Tarot, has created a Tarot spread that is, I believe, a powerful tool for this sort of political action. I thought that, here on the day after an historic election, I’d do this Tarot working for America, for Columbia’s country.
1. Offering: What or who is dead or dying, that you need to honor?
Six of Air. “You are gaining clarity by spending time with others of like mind.”
2. Challenge: What task does the Elder of Fire ask of you?
Ace of Water. “It’s time to follow your heart’s desire, instincts, and intuition.”
3. Center: Where do you find your center of power?
Nine of Earth. “You’re enjoying a time of accomplishment and comfort.”
4. Opening: What new sweetness is wafting in on the scent of burning herbs?
The Moon. “Learning to trust one’s intuition.”
5. Wisdom: What secrets do the ancestors whisper to you during this season of All Hallows?
Ten of Fire. “Does it feel like your dreams have gone up in smoke? Are you overwhelmed or burdened by loss?” Remember that new seedlings grow and flourish in the ashes of a spent fire.”
Let’s spend some time together seeing if we can piece together what that means for America. Can you do this Tarot spread for yourself? Post the results in comments and let’s all apply our collective intuition to those readings.
Picture found here.
I voted this morning at my local community center. Please tell me in comments once you vote.
* One of the things that I’ve noticed is that when you do magic at the home of an experienced Witch, especially if she has lived at her current address for a while, she’s quite likely to invoke her building — the physical structure of her home — often during Grounding, but sometimes when invoking Earth or one of the other Elements. It’s a bit of a step beyond just being in relationship with your landbase — more like being aware of the building’s presence on the astral plane, and its life and awareness here in the manifest world. Have you ever noticed this? Is your house a presence? Do you have a relationship to it?
* You probably don’t need me to say this, but, please, go vote on Tuesday, even if you do have to stand in line to do it. Our Beloved Dead went through a lot to make sure that we could vote. I’ve been very disappointed in President Obama and expect to be so again, should he win. But he’s demonstrably better for women, the planet, and America than Mitt Romney would be. If I lived in a safely blue state or in an irredeemably red state, I’d vote for the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, or I’d write in Elizabeth Warren. But I live in Virginia, a swing state, so I’m going to pull up the already-almost-stretched-out elastic on my big girl panties and vote for Obama. And there are down ticket races and ballot initiates that need my vote, as well. I shan’t be gone long, you come too. Please tell me in comments on Tuesday that you voted!
* I’m listening to this over and over since reading about it in comments at The Wild Hunt:
Picture found here.
I have a theory, which is mine, that there is a huge divide in America between people who “get” the internet and people who don’t. We saw an example several years ago when George Allen turned to a young man who was filming him and entertained the campaign crowd by laughingly calling the young man “Macaca.” Why did that young man stand there and keep filming? Because he understood YouTube and Allen didn’t.
Today’s blockbuster is a Mother Jones release of Mitt Romney talking to a group of “his peeps” at a “private” fundraiser. He says things that he’d never say in public. Romney, like Allen, doesn’t “get” the internet. He doesn’t understand that someone in the audience with a cell phone can record everything he says and release it to Mother Jones, who will release it to the internet, from whence it will show up in millions and millions of Twitterfeeds. It’s kind of like magic.
I’ve seen this before. Years ago, I worked for a guy who was considered the very best lawyer in his field. He knew everyone, knew every case and statute like he knew his own hand, and could strategize his way through anything. Plus, he was just plain brilliant and he had a folksy manner than made everyone sure that he would take care of even the worst pickle. He refused to learn email. And, at first, it kind of added to his cachet. Old X, he’s too important to send emails. You want his advice, you jump through his hoops. But, eventually, he realized that, by the time he’d had his secretary print out his emails, he’d read them, and he’d dictated to her the response to send, the case had moved on and people were no longer discussing the initial question. He hated it, but he learned email.
Literata and I were talking last week about the idea, and I apologize for not remembering who said it first, that the real illiteracy of the 21st Century is going to be the inability/unwillingness to re-learn systems. I sympathize with the illiterate; it bugs the googlygoddess out of me when my firm “upgrades” our word processing system. But it’s true: those who won’t or can’t learn new systems and new technologies are doomed to fail.
Some politicians, and it seems to me that it’s often Republican politicians, don’t get “the internets,” as George Bush famously called them. They think that they can deny saying things that they said or that there is such a thing as a private fundraiser.
Those days are over. Time to learn.
*I think that the affordable health care law, upheld today by the Supreme Court, is exactly, precisely, almost, maybe, just a little bit better than nothing. I’d have preferred single-payer health care that didn’t involve a huge give-away to insurance-company-middlemen who provide NO benefit and who simply skim off profits and payouts to CEOs.
As a breast cancer survivor, the part of the law most likely to impact me, personally, is the part that makes it illegal for insurance companies to refuse to cover “pre-existing conditions.” A few years ago, I was considered for an interesting executive position that I might have accepted, at least for a few years as a way to gain experience and contacts, but was reluctant to take due to the then-existing ability of insurance companies to deny me care because they could have claimed that a new occurrence of breast cancer was a “pre-existing” condition. That, the prohibition on charging women more just for having wombs, the limit on total life-time care, and mandatory mammograms are good for me, personally, even though I make a good living and could spend more than I do on health care.
As a lawyer, I worry that Chief Justice Roberts just set a ticking time-bomb that will go off, in years to come, blowing up Congress’ ability to do good things pursuant to the Commerce Clause. I’m still reading and digesting the opinion, but I will admit to being worried. Roberts is young, virulently conservative, and capable of taking the long view. He didn’t just look at this law, listen to the arguments, and decide, “Well, gee, I wouldn’t have voted for this if I were in Congress, but, on the merits, I guess that it deserves to be upheld.”
As a feminist, I will note that all three of the Justices with Vaginas voted to support health care. As Pelosi said, “Being a woman is, now, no longer a pre-existing condition.” I’ll also note, having spent my entire adult life in these situations, that Obama did fuck-all to get this law passed, staying far above the fray. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi worked like a washerwoman to get this law passed. And, today, Obama stepped up to the mike, took all the credit, and never bothered to mention Nancy Pelosi. Been there. Done that. Have the t-shirt. Have the scars. May it be not so for the daughters of the daughters of my DiL.
I’ll say one other thing about today’s decision. People like to win. People like winners. Democrats, IMHO, live far, far, far too much in the Element of Air and ignore, to their detriment, passion (Fire), and emotion (Water), and the tribalism (Earth) that comes through our ancestors, and the interconnection that calls to the angels of our better nature (Center). We are but Warriors for the Working Day. And how thou pleasest Goddess, dispose the day. This was a win for those of us, and I was one, who didn’t support Obama in the primary, but supported him in the general election. We should enjoy it.
Framing. It matters.
*More amazing art, here. Hat tip: Sia.
*In this heat, I am glad to have several kinds (spear, pepper, chocolate, lemon, lime) of mint. I am happy that my rain barrel is full. I am happy that DiL & G/Son are taking me to see Brave. I’m happy that I have a lot of legal (Air) issues to think about.
Fire Rules: Energy, spirit, heat, flame, blood, sap, life, will, healing and destroying, purification, bonfires, hearthfires, candle flames, sun, deserts, volcanoes, eruptions, explosions.
Water Rules: Emotions, feelings, love, courage, daring, sorrow, the ocean, the tides, lakes, pools, streams, and rivers, springs and wells, intuition, the unconscious mind, the womb, generation, fertility.
I came home last night to see a glorious waxing Half-Moon hanging in the Western sky. The Half-Moon represents a time of balance between the promise of the New Moon and the Fulfillment of the Full Moon. I sat in my garden, full just now of flowers — daisies and white day lilies, Queen Anne’s lace and silvery sage — that are especially lovely in the moonlight, and meditated upon balance.
When Witches cast a circle, we strive for balance among the Elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.
And, yet, it certainly seems that Mama Gaia is out of balance.
Too much fire in some places, too much water in others. Record-breaking heat waves covering much of the country, even though it’s only June. My own watershed is technically in drought, but, when we do get rain, it comes in a deluge and brings with it winds that rip the roofs off of buildings. Editors are running out of adjectives; floods are now “biblical,” and fires are “unlike anything ever seen.” And, beyond the irreparable loss of huge forests, liminal wetlands, precious plants, and endangered wildlife, there’s a huge amount of property damage and even loss of human life. A dear Sister who does mental health work in disaster-struck communities has been educating me about how the emotional damage caused by these “natural” disasters lingers for years after the actual event.
As a Witch I grieve and I try to hold Mama Gaia in my heart and rock her as she burns with fever and sweats and cries and rages with too much rain. As a magic-worker, I send healing energy to the affected landbases and watersheds and hope for renewal. I call to Brigid, Hestia, Pele, and Stata Mater to protect Colorado. I call to Chalchiuhtlicue, Vellamo, and the Nix to protect Florida. I burn incense and I make other offerings.
As a citizen of Planet Earth, I am outraged. For years, every single suggestion for controlling our out-of-control population, for decreasing, via conservation, the amount of carbon-based fuel that we use, and for substituting less-polluting forms of energy for coal and oil has been fought tooth-and-nail as “too expensive.” Every day I read a round-up of energy-related news and every day I see corporations and Republicans (but, then, I repeat myself) and, sadly, even Democrats, insisting that moving to renewable energy will “kill jobs,” (it wouldn’t; it would create them) or would make it “too expensive to do business in our state,” as if the expense of re-building after a flood or wildfire were negligible.
And, so, my magic does not stop at meditating on balance, grieving with Mama Gaia in her death throes, or sending healing energy to the mountains and the swamps.
My magic includes my vote. My magic includes protests, and letters to my representatives, and speaking up for the environment whenever I can. My magic includes my decision to have only one child. My magic includes my rain barrel, and my hybrid car, and my decision to not run the air conditioner. My magic includes my efforts to buy food and other products from local merchants.
Yes, I do understand, as Derrick Jensen so eloquently says, that we can not consume our way out of this problem. But I can recognize the first rule of healing which is: Do No Harm. It’s significantly close to the Wiccan Rede: “An’ it harm none, Do what ye will.”
Tonight, I will sit at my stone altar and breathe, and center, and ground. Tonight, I will send all the energy that I can send to Mama Gaia. Tonight, I will conserve all of the energy that I can conserve. Tonight, I will write a letter to my representatives, on paper that I have blessed, with ink that I have spelled, under the waxing Moon which adds increased energy. Tonight, I will move what magic my old, broken body can move in order to help re-balance the circle.