Framing the Issue on the District of Columbia

The Pagan blogosphere is producing many new posts about DC40, a Dominionist Christian attack on the Goddess Columbia and planned spiritual invasion of Columbia’s district, Washington, D.C. The Wild Hunt is doing a great job collecting posts and suggestions concerning how to deal with this threat to Pagans and our religious liberties. Literata is doing yeowoman’s work uncovering information on the people involved in this attack. David Salisbury at Capital Witch blog is covering the event with an emphasis on Columbia’s district.

I’ll add a few points now and hope to have time to write my planned third post on Conversations with Columbia later this week.

First (and I know that I sound like a broken record on this, but I’m going to keep saying this until people get it), framing your message matters. This attack, with events planned in all fifty states and Columbia’s district, may well lead to Pagans interacting with the media. Pagans in a number of states are already planning counter demonstrations/rituals supporting religious freedom. Getting publicity for that kind of event may mean issuing a press release, being interviewed by local media, or that you get contacted for “the other view” when the DC40 warriors come to your state. And DC40 begins in early October, when many Pagan groups are already conducting Pagan Pride events. So, here we go again.

When talking to the press, framing matters. Your message is that local Pagans, whose heritage goes back to some of the world’s first democracies and who are soldiers, police, fire fighters, doctors, teachers, business owners, parents, and citizens, are standing up for traditional American values including tolerance and religious freedom. Your group will be doing that by [gathering and reading the Constitution, collecting canned food for people of all religious backgrounds who have been hit by the bad economy, chanting and praying, whatever.] You’re saddened that one group of Americans would attack other Americans over their religions. You hope to remind America of the religious toleration that our Founders believed was such an important American value.

Your message is NOT that Pagans don’t worship Satan, eat babies, etc. Repeat: your message is NOT about what Pagans don’t do.

What if, after delivering your positive message, you get a question from the reporter: “Well, don’t members of your group worship Satan?” First, you need to have practiced your answer to this and other likely questions, preferably with a friend or two and preferably while being recorded. Second, the reporter is NOT your friend and is not being helpful. I don’t care what you think; s/he’s not. Third, you’re not too clever for them. They do this for a living. And they get to edit and you don’t. So your goal is to deflect that question and get back on track with your positive message. So, for example, “Of course that insulting old myth is false. In fact, Pagans are your neighbors, colleagues, co-volunteers, friends. In our community, Pagans are good citizens who [clean up local parks, volunteer at the local animal shelter, serve on the local interfaith counsel, etc.] That’s why we’re gathering next week to stand up for religious toleration and . . . .

It helps to dress in a way that is congruent with your message, appear in front of a poster for your event, bring a fact-sheet with you that you can give to the reporter at the end of the interview.

I’ve blogged about this topic a number of times before and I hope to do a more thorough post closer to the actual events. But if you’re thinking of being involved publicly, now is not too early to start preparing yourself for dealing with the media. (Going to put up a YouTube? All of the above applies and, for the love of the Goddess, make sure your titles are spelled correctly.)

Second, a deep thank-you to the Christian commenters to my first post who make clear that this group does not speak for them. It means a lot. I’ll echo Dan Savage on this. It’s great for you to say that to us. But it would be really wonderful for you to say it to them. One reason this small percentage of the population has the power that it now has is because too often other Christians don’t loudly denounce them.

Third, I’m generally ranting about NOT acquiring “stuff,” but Chas Clifton reminds me in comments that the U.S. Capitol Historical Society sells a reasonably-priced replica of Freedom, the bronze statue of Columbia that stands atop the United States Capitol. The replicas contain “some of the original marble from the East Front of the Capitol. The marble is crushed into a fine powder; resin is added to hold the fine particles together and molded into the classic shapes.” Now I can think of uses for that.

Fourth, Fern notes in comments that a group of Pagans, including Fern, Isaac Bonewitz, and the Zells, gathered around the statue of Columbia when She was on the Capitol lawn during the dome’s refurbishing. They:

got together to charge Her up before She was returned to her big-ass pedestal. There was probably about 3 – 4 dozen of us. . . . At any rate, we charged Her up, invoked Her blessing upon the land and Congress.

Many of us who lived in the area have continued to do that on an annual basis, as individuals and as small groups. Not, as the Isaac had suggested, on July 4 (Isaac, not being a native, didn’t understand 4 of July on the Mall!).

So there is already an egregore built around that statue that can be worked with by other Pagans, with, one would hope, logarithmic increases of effect.

Finally, one very good suggestion made in comments to the Wild Hunt’s first post on this topic involved putting a together a fifty-state list of local deities, land spirits, etc. I think it would be fantastic, not only for this event, but in general, for people to be in touch with their own polis, landbase, watershed. Virginia, for example (aside from being a state that most any virgin Goddess might be glad to patron), features a state seal with the Roman Goddess Virtus on one side. (Our wingnut AG recently tried to cover up her bared breast, a la John Ashcroft. These people are crazy.) Wikipedia explains that:

The reverse of the seal pictures the blessings of freedom and peace, as represented by three Roman goddesses. In the center is the matron Libertas the goddess of individual liberties. In her hand she holds a wand showing her magical gifts, at the top of the wand hangs a Phrygian Cap, also called a Liberty Cap — later made popular by French revolutionaries.

To the left of Libertas stands Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture. In her left hand is a horn of plenty overflowing with the abundance of Virginia’s harvests, while in her right hand is an enormous stalk of wheat, representing one of Virginia’s leading crops. Aeternitas, representing Virginia’s eternity, stands at the right of Libertas. In her right hand is a golden ball, an emblem of authority, and atop the ball is a Phoenix, symbolizing immortality. On the Virginia seal, the phoenix represents effective government.

So when they come to Virginia on Nov. 13, 2011, I think we’ll be ready.

Picture found here.

8 responses to “Framing the Issue on the District of Columbia

  1. Oh, mad props to Chas Clifton, for finding where to buy the replicas of the statue! I looked at the Smithsonian Institution gift shop site hoping to find it there, and failed.

  2. Ready to protect & defend in Maryland!

  3. I’m organizing something in New Jersey:

  4. Thank you for passing on the link to the statuettes from the Historical Society. I’ll have to find a spot to set up a grid with one of them so I can add my energies to the mix. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Framing and giving energy: How we work against DC40 matters | Works of Literata

  6. As a Pagan journalist, I found this extremely helpful and informative. Thanks for sharing. I think putting things in the larger context of individual freedom, rather than focusing narrowly on us as a group, is a sound approach. Harvey Milk used it to great effect in advocating for LGBT rights.

  7. Pingback: DC40 and the New Apostolic Reformation | A Witchy Life

  8. Pingback: Counteracting DC40 | A Witchy Life

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