Tag Archives: Framing

“Religious Liberty.” You Keep Using That Word. I Don’t Think It Means What You Think It Means.

You can read my post on conservative Christians’ framing of their attempts to impose their religion on everyone else as “religious liberty” over at Pagan Square.

Picture (showing what actual religious persecution of Christians might look like) found here.

An Old Witch Tells the President What to Do


I’m not a girl given to bragging, but I didn’t do too poorly in law school and I’ve managed to make a rather nice living swimming with the big sharks in the grown-up pool, taking on “billions-with-a-b” cases. I pulled A’s in a lot of law school classes, but the class in which I did my absolute best was Negotiations 101.

Of course, unlike our President, I didn’t go to Harvard Law School and I was only assistant editor, not editor, of Law Review. I’ve never taught ConLaw and I’ve never held elective office. But I have had cause to wonder, more than once, if Mr. Obama may not have been busy doing something else on the day they taught Negotiating 101 at HLS.

For most of his presidency, he’s shown a disappointing tendency to engage in a practice that lawyers call “negotiating against” himself. He stakes out a position — generally one that’s already far to the right of what his followers want — and then, without obtaining any concessions in return, simply volunteers to move closer to the Rapeublican position. More than once. Sometimes, even after he’s won, he’ll change a program to make it more palatable to the other side. (There may, in our history, have been Congresses with which this policy would have worked. But Mr. Obama came to town with a Congress radicalized by conservative ideas, animated by a deep racial hatred of the President, and convinced that compromise of any sort is a sign of weakness. With this Congress, Mr. Obama’s negotiating strategies have been disastrous. They simply believe, generally with good reason, that, eventually, he’ll cave to them.)

Of course, Mr. Obama will go down in history as our first African American President and that’s quite an accomplishment. Thanks to his willingness to run, G/Son has essentially grown up knowing only an African American President and his generation will likely accept as given that race plays no role in who may lead our country.

But, sadly, other than a health-care law that seriously disappoints his base (which would have preferred a clean, single-payer program), and having caught Osama bin Laden (whom George Bush never found), Mr. Obama can claim few important achievements beyond his election. (If Syria’s chemical weapons can be destroyed without war, that will be an achievement, although perhaps more due to Mr. Putin than Mr. Obama.)

So it’s been interesting to me to watch Mr. Obama finally begin to develop a spine (which, Goddess knows, may still turn to jelly at any moment) over the Rapeublicans’ most recent, desperate attempt to defund Mr. Obama’s health-care initiative.

First, let’s be clear. This law was passed legally and was upheld by our currently-conservative Supreme Court. The Rapeublicans made getting rid of the law the centerpiece of their 2012 election campaign and they lost — badly. So the “will of the people” has been pretty well expressed. (Even polls that show some dissatisfaction with the law often fail to distinguish between those who hate the idea of everyone getting health insurance and those who hate the idea of insurance companies getting a big bite out of the pie.) Second, let’s also be clear, the Rapeublicans are willing to attempt the desperate and unpopular gambit of shutting down the government to eliminate the health care law because they know that once millions of Americans can get insurance, once people with “pre-existing” conditions can’t be denied insurance, once parents can keep their college-age children on their insurance, once insurance companies have to spend at least 80% of what they take in on actual services, well then, it’s all over but the shouting. Americans will never agree to surrender those benefits. Nor should they. Every other developed country in the world manages to provide health care for its citizens and there’s no reason why the richest country on Earth shouldn’t do so, as well.

So, I’m an old woman who didn’t go to HLS and wouldn’t presume to imagine that I could lead the United States. But I’ll still, as someone who’s actually been in the field, practiced law, and successfully negotiated good outcomes for my clients, presume to give Mr. Obama some advice.

If I were sitting today where you sit, Mr. Obama, almost at the confluence of the Anacostia River, the Washington Chanel, and the Potomac River, here’s what I’d do:

I’d announce that, now that the government’s been closed for two days, I’m unwilling to sign anything but a clean bill to fund the government, except that now I also want the Rapeublicans to approve all of my judicial nominees who have been languishing in Congress lo these many years.

Tomorrow morning, I’d eat breakfast, put on my nice suit, walk out into the Rose Garden (it’s gorgeous in DC this week) and announce that now that I’ve slept on it, I won’t sign anything except a clean bill with approval of all of my judicial nominees and statehood for DC. I’d wave to the reporters, go play golf (include a woman this time, Mr. President), review their homework with my daughters, and get a massage.

On Friday, after I had lunch at the Palm with my wife (have the crabmeat cocktail and the steak salad, rare), I’d walk up to Dupont Circle and say that I’d been discussing it with Ms. Obama and, now, I’m unwilling to sign anything except a clean bill with approval of all of my judicial appointees, statehood for DC, and a new bill of Elizabeth Warren’s choosing.

I’d take the weekend off, go to Camp David, let the girls and the dogs run around and enjoy Indian Summer in Maryland, have dinner with some crazy, wild-eyed liberals, and make sure the press knew who they were and what we ate (include arugula and craft beer on the menu).

On Monday, I’d wait.

On Tuesday, I’d give a speech and announce that, having thought about it over the weekend, in the calm of Camp David, I also need a new program of really strong controls on financial markets.

You get the picture.

Right now, the only people upping the ante are the Rapeublicans. In order to “meet in the middle” and appear “reasonable” Mr. Obama has to move towards their position. That’s no way to negotiate.

Rapeublicans who are watching the polls go even further down on the notion of shutting down the government (they’ve already crossed that Rubicon — another river reference — so what the heck), need some additional motivation to move towards Mr. Obama. And they need to see that continuing to hold out will cost them even more.

Maybe, in the end, Mr. Obama shows what a reasonable guy he is by compromising on a new bill of Elizabeth Warren’s choosing and half of his judicial appointees. That’s how negotiations work.

Rant off.

Mr. President, What Have You Got to Lose?

Picture found here.

Pagan PotPourri


* Now here’s something that you don’t see every day: Christian ministers debunking the idiotic notion that procedures that prevent fundie Xians from imposing their views on everyone else constitute a form of discrimination.

Let’s be clear: Christians in the military are not under threat of constant, widespread persecution. Existing military regulations are in place to deal with any problems. Many, if not all, of the cases that Perkins cites as attacks on religious freedom are in actuality the opposite — they are actions taken by the military to ensure the religious freedom of everyone.

If anything, they reflect the military’s appropriate and admirable respect for the diversity of the armed forces and by extension, the diversity of our nation.

To give just one example: Perkins complained about the removal of a painting with a Bible quote in the dining hall of Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. That quote may hold meaning for some, but not all, of the airmen stationed there. Its presence in a chapel during worship would be wholly appropriate, but its placement in a public dining hall is an implicit endorsement of that religious perspective by the base’s military leadership. We doubt Perkins would have been similarly supportive if the base hung up a quotation from the Quran or a comment by a famous atheist.

The religious right has a skewed definition of religious freedom — and their interest lies only in preserving religious freedom for one very specific sectarian point of view. This is not what the Constitution calls for.

Religious freedom is our first freedom, the first clause of the First Amendment. Historically that freedom has been understood to protect an individual’s right to practice their faith freely up until the point where it interferes with someone else’s same right. It has meant that government should strive to stay out of matters of faith — and vice versa — for the better of both institutions.

The far right is making a concerted effort to redefine religious freedom as a catch-all concept that gives “authentic” Christians the right to do what they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. They seek to use positions of authority — including in the military — as platforms to proselytize their faith while seeking to limit the ability of people of other faiths to take a different perspective. When challenged, they present themselves as victims or martyrs and claim the mantle of religious freedom as the ultimate defense.

This is not what our Founding Fathers [Dear Ministers, “Founders” would be less sexist.] intended for civic life or for the military. Our government and our military must protect the rights of all members of the armed forces regardless of faith or belief. And they must be blind to the virtues of any one faith over another. All service members should feel comfortable practicing their faith — or not practicing any faith — as they protect our nation.

More. Like. This. Hat tip: @sarahposner

* My new guilty pleasure is Larkrise to Candelford. If you are as big a fan of late Victorian, early Edwardian fiction as I am, it’s great fun. One thing I’m enjoying is the matter-of-fact inclusion of Pagan cultural artifacts in the life of the villagers. Just one example: Queenie, the Larkrise wisewoman who keeps (and talks to) bees and who uses herbal remedies to heal sick children and help women hoping to conceive. In the second episode of the third season, Queenie leads a ritual to free the spirit of an ancient witch from an old local tree. Her invocation of the elements will be familiar to most modern Pagans. When the town god-botherer becomes upset about this display of “Paganism,” the postmistress, heroine of the series, explains to him that “Pagan” can simply mean a country-dweller.

* Speaking of “Pagan,” it may be time for me to repeat my regular rant about capitalization, especially as more and more Xians boost the signal on the use of “Pagan” as a slur. In English, we capitalize the names of umbrella religious groups and the names of specific religions. Thus, for example, we capitalize “Christianity” and we capitalize “Baptist,” “Methodist,” and “Lutheran.” We capitalize “Judaism,” and we capitalize “Reform,” “Orthodox,” and “Conservative.” We capitalize “Buddhism,” and we capitalize “Theravada” and “Mahayana.”

Thus, we capitalize “Paganism,” and we capitalize, for example, “Wicca,” “Asatru,” and “Kemetic.” As more and more of us are called to respond to media inquiries about the use of the word “Paganism,” it’s a great opportunity to educate members of the media. Paganism is an umbrella term that covers a variety of religions (not “faiths”) and it, and the individual religions under that umbrella, should be capitalized, just like other religions.

*Here’s Charles Loeffler‘s A Pagan Poem. Sit back, close your eyes, and enjoy. Listen for the trumpets; they’re the best part.

Picture found here.

Framing, for a Change!

It’s been some time since I blogged about Pagans and issue framing, but the above video, featured on the Wild Hunt Blog, provides a really nice opportunity for me to point to some Pagans doing good framing. First, the situation in Florida is different from the typical Pagan Pride Day announcement or other instances when Pagans want to publicize an event, a new book, the opening of a new business, etc. In those typical instances, my offer to personally slap anyone who volunteers that, “We don’t worship the devil or eat babies,” still stands.

Here, however, Rev. Dybing and Lady Liberty League are responding specifically to statements that the proposed festival will bring the devil into the town, that it will teach people how to hex, etc. And so it’s necessary to respond to those charges.

I really, really like the way that Rev. Dybing approaches this task in the above video. First, and I know this makes some people angry, but before he even opens his mouth, he’s gone a long way towards positive framing. The message that he wants to deliver is “Pagans are just normal people.” So it’s helpful that he looks just like a “normal” person. (I know; I know. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t judge other people by how they dress or wear their hair. We’d celebrate diversity and personal expression. But in THIS world, embodying the message that you want to send helps.) In fact, he looks more “normal” than the Baptist minister railing about dancing around fires and the stones, hexes, and the devil.

Second, Rev. Dybing starts out not denying the Christians’ charges, but by positively stating what he wants to convey: “I’m a firechief. We’re normal. We’re nurses, doctors, people who deliver your mail, waitresses, etc. We’re peaceful and, just like other people, we simply want to have our religious events without any kind of problem.” He then obliquely refutes the Christians’ charges not by trying to negate negative framing (which only reinforces it), but by suggesting that people who have only gotten their information about Pagans from Hollywood (a favorite target of Christian conservatives, so this is an especially nice bit of ju jitsu) are misinformed. (I might have analogized this situation to people who’ve gotten all their information about Native Americans via old Western movies, rather than analogizing it to the movie Alien, but that’s a small quibble.)

In, out, and done within just a very few minutes. Positive, succinct, and to the point. He avoids trying to be cutsey or make jokes and says nothing that, even if clipped out of context, is going to hurt his message.

All in all, nicely done.

NB: The Wild Hunt reports that Rev. Dybing also said that Pagans would welcome the local Christian community’s prayers and consider all prayer a good thing. I’ve explained in comments at the Wild Hunt my reasons for disagreeing with that statement. IMHO, a much better response to the question of whether Pagans would welcome Christians’ prayers for us would have been to ask the corresponding question: “Would you like us to do magic for you?” And we all know what the answer to that question would have been from this group of Christians.

Framing the Six of Cups

Usually, when I write about framing, I’m talking about the way that we choose to present ideas. Tonight, however, I was engaged in a slightly different framing activity.

Ever since she first painted it, I’ve been begging Joanna Powell Colbert to sell me Six of Cups, which was used for her Gaian Tarot. I love the five naked women (with real bodies!) circling in the water and I love the selkie who makes the sixth. Joanna finally consented to sell the painting (Hecate’s Yule present to Hecate!!) and I took it this evening to be framed.

One of my oldest friends was an artist and art teacher and she taught me that matting and framing really, really make the picture. I have a giant painting by Christopher Vacher hanging in my living room, next to a poster that I got for free from a book store (it’s amazing what you can get when you ask), which is next to an art print that I bought at a museum, which is next to . . . . Well, you get the idea. The common element is that they all have great mats and frames.

Different matting and framing can make the same picture look quite different, just as different framing can make an idea effective or ineffective.

I started out thinking I needed a grey/blue mat to pick up the colors in the painting.

It’s not a large painting, but this frame is still too small.

The Final Choice

I’ll take a picture next week when I pick up the finished product. What’s your favorite picture?

Framing on the Eve of Lughnasadah

Literata is asking some good questions. Discussing some of the nefarious myths that circulate about Pagans, Literata says:

On a broader level, it means things like pushing back against the “demonic possession narrative” as Jason points out. It may mean pushing back against misperceptions about divination, about symbols, about wearing black and going to the woods at night.

But I don’t know very much about how to do that well. This is a place where I would really like to get more advice from people who have experience countering this kind of defamation.

What I do know is that if you pay attention to Hecate’s rules on framing, this is the one time you should talk about what Pagans are not. But it still means you shouldn’t pile on other examples in an attempt to debunk as much as possible at one time; Pagans get so little media exposure that we need to counter the specific problem at hand and make a positive statement. In speaking to the public, the point is to challenge the frame and try to reframe, rather than accepting the frame and debating around it.

This is where I think the Bad Jackie [aka, the person who won’t believe evidence when it conflicts with their prejudices] idea comes in. When you work to counter the frame, you should put it in terms that highlight exactly how ridiculous and contrived the libel or defamation is. “You believe what?” Make it dismissible: how can you believe that in the face of an official FBI debunking? In the face of common sense? In the face of reality?

If you can’t change the minds of the Bad Jackies, at least make it obvious that they’re the ones who are out of touch with reality and who, at some level, choose to stay there.

What do you think? Is that a helpful way to think about this? Is it a good place to start? And how else should we do anti-defamation work well?

Framing isn’t easy, but Pagans still need to learn it. Framing to win depends heavily upon the context of each situation and varies depending upon the tactics employed by the opposition.

One hard and fast rule for successful framing is that you need to understand your own objectives and you need to frame your message in a way that is congruent with your own objectives. Pagans too often, IMHO, fail to do this. We accept our opponents’ framing and try to work from there.

However, you generally want to avoid framing your message in a manner that adopts your opponent’s framing. Because, as George Lakoff has explained, when you attempt to refute your opponents’ framing, you reinforce their message.

Consequently, when Pagans are framing their messages for Pagan Pride Day, I get down on my knees, grovel, and beg, beg, beg them not to say, for example, “We’re sponsoring Pagan Pride Day so that people will understand that we don’t eat babies.” Because that adopts our opponents’ framing. Instead, I plead with Pagans to say, for example, “We’re sponsoring Pagan Pride Day because we want our community to know how proud we are of Pagans who invented democracy, theatre, poetry, music, architecture, and farming. We want our community to know that local Pagans are business owners, parents, fire-fighters, lawyers, teachers, computer programmers, consultants, and farmers.”

But Literata isn’t asking about how you frame your notice of Pagan Pride Day. She’s asking how you frame your message when some nutjob says, for example, that the shooting in Aurora is due not to a lack of gun regulation, but to the fact that our society suffers a Witch to live.

There’s, not surprisingly, a field of law devoted to that sort of “containment,” the people who get paid a lot of money to consult with companies and personalities who have to refute disparaging rumors. These lawyers break their job down into two broad categories: (1) the rumors are true or have, at least, a large element of truth, and (2) the rumors are completely untrue.

So, for example, let’s imagine that you represent Mitt Romney and it’s true (and this is simple speculation on my part, heh) that he not only didn’t pay any taxes in some years but actually got tax returns. The best practice in that case (i.e, the rumor is true) is generally full disclosure. Release the tax returns. Get it over with; move on to a point where you can frame the message. Admit the truth, explain why it was adopted, and then, for the love of the Goddess, begin to redirect attention. “While Mr. Romney may not have paid taxes in prior years, our campaign focuses on job creation in this century. And Mr. Romeny has a four-point plan to create jobs by . . . .”

But what if the rumor isn’t true? You can deny it, prove the truth, and hope to move on. Ridicule can be effective in some cases, as Literata suggests. But what do you do about the “bad Jackies,” the people who will persist in their belief no matter what you say. So you invite them into your rituals, show them your Book of Shadows, give them interview with members of your group who completely disavow eating babies (show them all of your tax returns if you’re Mitt Romney), prove to them that even their own scientists believe that humans cause global climate change, etc. And that has no effect. They just find other reasons to disbelieve you.

Here’s the hard thing that lawyers who do this kind of damage control understand and that lots of Pagans don’t want to acknowledge: you’re not going to reach some people. Their own shadows, their own fears, their own need to “other” you will allow them to deny all of your evidence. Sure, your members deny eating babies, sure your Book of Shadows has nothing in it about eating babies, sure you say that you’re just about worshipping the trees and the brooks. And they say:

That’s what Satan would TEACH you to say, and it’s all lies.

OK, listen carefully to me. No matter what you do, you’re unlikely to reach those people. Even when you clean up the mess in New Orleans, do reiki on injured children, raise money for local veterans, and feed abandoned kittens, they are going to say that you’re evil.

Here’s what Pagans need to get and it’s what the lawyers who do damage control on these issues get: That’s life. Shrug. Move on. At some point, and any lawyer who’s ever written a brief knows this, refutation stops working. And then it’s time to being pounding your own drum. Start to, once again, get out YOUR message. Eventually, your positive message will more or less drown out their negative one. You know:

We are the intellectual heirs of the ancient Greek philosophers who invented democracy, poetry, philosophy, the Olympics, etc. We’re going to be holding a Pagan Pride event on Sept. 23rd to emphasize how local Pagans contribute to our local economy by farming, creating jobs in local businesses, supporting our local schools by donating books to school libraries and . . . .

Stop letting your opponents define your message.

Picture found here.

Heat Wave PotPourri

*I’m working on a longer post on the importance of art in the lives of Witches and other magic workers. Here, via the brilliant Rima, is a great video about transforming manifest spaces with art.

*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.

*Crones Rock. That is all.

*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.

Picture found here.