Tag Archives: Framing

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

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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

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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

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* 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.

Me, In a Bad Mood

Several years ago, a bunch of white men got together and limited women’s rights to abortion:

Today, a bunch of white men got together and talked about limiting women’s rights to birth control:

I am just saying.

There’s a lot of chortling in the Twitterverse and the Blogosphere over how the Republicans are really stepping in it by going all out against birth control. After all, women vote and about 98% of them use, or have used, birth control. Goddess knows, I hope that’s how it plays out.

But I’m not so sure.

One thing you can say for the Republicans and the Dominionists is that they are masters at moving the Overton Window. (And one thing you can say for Democrats and Progressives is that they give new meaning to the word “lame” in this regard.) And what’s happened over the course of just a few weeks is that the argument has shifted from keeping abortion legal and accessible (an argument that we’ve been losing, BTW, up until Komen went too far, too fast) to whether it’s a vile intrusion of big government onto the religious rights of fundies for women to have access to birth control. I may be a bear of little brain, but it’s difficult for me to see how that’s a huge win for women.

The brilliant Sarah Posner warned us about this some time ago when Newt Gingrich began ramping up his rhetoric about the poor, persecuted Catholics. Christians are v good about insisting that any time they’re not allowed to impose their (completely unworkable, anti-woman, anti-reality, sex-negative) worldview (I won’t call them morals, because they’re not) on the rest of us, that means that we’re picking on the Christians. Honest to Hera, Mobius had nothing on these guys; they’re that good.

Charles Pierce is one of the lone voices suggesting that maybe we ought to be concerned instead of celebrating.

Seriously, does anyone here expect any prominent Democrat to come out and take a stand to protect women on this “icky” issue? I don’t. Not Barack Obama. Not Catholic Joe Biden. Not Katheleen Siebelius. None of them. Nancy Pelosi made one statement today and then shut up. In fact, I expect Obama and the Dems to do what they always do in the face of these entirely-predictable negotiating tactics by the right: retreat some more. Keep negotiating against themselves. Pretend that there’s a middle ground and keep running after it as the fundies snatch it further and further to the right.

Meanwhile, there are a few expressions that no one dares to utter in this entire debate: (1) Population Explosion. (2) Planetary Carrying Capacity. And the fact that those terms dare not speak their names is a HUGE part of the problem.

And, yes, for all that many of us have been saying for years that these people really wanted to abolish birth control as well as abortion, I can’t say that I’m enjoying being right.

I’ll just add that there’s no reason for some of these insane policies to stop with women. Maybe gay men should have probing anal exams before they can get access to drugs for HIV/AIDS. Or to condoms. Sure, it has no medical purpose and is done simply to shame, humiliate, increase costs, and hurt. But we’ve apparently crossed that Rubicon. Maybe immigrants should be subject to humiliating medical exams before they apply for citizenship. Maybe people who apply for unemployment insurance should be waterboarded once a month. Maybe women and children claiming to have been raped or abused should be thrown into a lake. If they sink, they were telling the truth; if they float, they’re lying and should be punished.

I have an idea. Let’s leave the tender consciences of the Catholic bishops (who aren’t worried when their own priests bugger little boys, but who faint and cry at the thought of having anything to do with providing birth control) intact. The government, via single-payer health care, can provide birth control and abortions (fuck the Hyde Amendment), free of cost, to women who want them. As to the argument that Catholics don’t want their tax dollars supporting something they find abhorrent, I’ll simply note that war is against my religion. Torturing people is against my religion. Drilling for oil and cutting timber on federal lands is against my religion. Holding people without charges is against my religion. Tasing people is against my religion. Breaking up peaceful demonstrations is against my religion. And my tax dollars get used for all of those things and many more that I find abhorrent. So unless we’re going to add about 500 pages of check-off items to income tax forms, the Catholics can either suck it up or become tax protesters, facing jail and foreclosure as serious anti-war activists, Quakers, for example, do.

Damn. I’m sick of this bullshit.

Occupy the Paradigm Shift


When I moved from the world of education to the world of law, I encountered a new phrase: “in real time.” For a few years, I kept asking, “As opposed to unreal time?” (Of course, as a Witch, I regularly deal in non-linear time. And there’s chronos and chairos, but I was pretty sure that the lawyers, MBAs, and engineers to whom I was talking weren’t discussing either of those.) The expression just bugged me, but, bright girl that I am, I’ve been acculturated and now I’m about to use it.

As events unfold in real time, we’re often so busy processing everything that’s happening that we don’t stop, stand back, and realize that we’ve just witnessed a paradigm shift. Mary Oliver talks about this in one of her best poems when she says:

Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun’s brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can’t hear

anything, I can’t see anything —
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker —
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing —
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet —
all of it
happening
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.

If you garden, you know what Oliver and I (but I, less eloquently,) mean. For a few weeks, I’ve been checking the cottage garden for the first snowdrop. I looked this morning as I went to my car to go to work and there were none, not even any green leaves. When I came home this afternoon, there it was, in all its snowy splendor: the first snowdrop, peaking out from under the lirope.

All of which is a rather long wind up to my point (and I do have one). This week, I think that we got our first indication of just how amazingly effective the Occupy Movement has been. It slipped in almost unnoticed, in the real time cacophony of noise about Tim Tebow, Beyonce’s baby, the resignation of one of Obama’s bankster friends, and the attacks by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum on Mitt Romney’s activities as the CEO of a private equity firm.

Discussing Romney’s experience in business Gingrich, for example, said:

“Look at the one example from The Wall Street Journal story,” Gingrich said on Fox. “To put in $30 million and get back $60 million would have been a fabulous return. To put in $30 million and get back $90 million would be a fabulous return. Did they really need to take out $180 million if, leaving $30 [million] or $40 million, if the company would’ve survived, the people would’ve been employed, the jobs would’ve been there? These are places where they made money while the company went broke.”

Bain Capital specializes in providing financial and management advice, often taking over distressed companies, which in some cases means massive layoffs. Romney contends that the companies Bain turned around more than make up for the layoffs, and that he helped create more than 100,000 jobs during his time there.
But Gingrich likened Bain to so-called “vulture capital” groups that pick weak companies clean.

“The question is whether or not these companies were being manipulated by the guys who invest to drain them of their money, leaving behind people who were unemployed,” Gingrich said on Bloomberg. “Show me somebody who has consistently made money while losing money for workers and I’ll show you someone who has undermined capitalism. … That’s an indefensible model.

The darling of the New Apostolic Reformation, Rick Perry, made similar comments.

And, no, I don’t for one moment believe that either of these politicians really have an iota of a problem with private equity firms ripping off pension plans and shipping jobs overseas. Heck, they’ll both take all the campaign bribes donations they can get from such firms, will support policies that make the work of such firms easier, and will generally do things that hurt working Americans.

But I’d like for us to stop for a moment, ground, stand still, sniff the wind, listen to the way that the insects and birds have all become quiet, pay attention to the angle of Moonlight on the frozen ground, and notice the paradigm shift happening all around us. Just as fish are unlikely to discover water, we, so immersed in the internet and the day-to-day changes in the narrative of what Thorn Coyle calls the “overculture,” are unlikely to discover this instant when everything changes.

If you’d asked me last January, last Beltane, last Lammas, whether Republican candidates would ever criticize any form of aggressive capitalism, I’d have laughed at you. Heck, Barack Obama, the Democratic president, even today, wouldn’t do such a thing. No one in polite company would dare to suggest that there might really be something wrong with making millions at the expense of mill workers, and toy store employees, and blue-collar workers. Suggesting that it was less-than-patriotic to ship jobs offshore would have gotten you labeled as a dirty-fucking-hippy WTO protester, smashing Starbucks windows in Seattle. Yet, today, even Republicans are rushing to jump on the bandwagon and assure their followers that they, too, are against “vulture capitalism.” (Which Newt, et al. are carefully trying to distinguish from “real” capitalism. Good luck with that, Newt.)

Somehow, someone involved with Occupy tapped into the zeitgeist and managed to perfectly frame the correct criticism of the overculture. And, like all good magic, once it was articulated, it spread. Someone managed to get the framing right, in spite of, or perhaps because of, all the criticism of Occupy’s lack of “specific” complaints. (In the end, “Shit Is Fucked Up and Bullshit” may have been the best articulation.)

Of course, the danger — and it’s real — is that Gingrich, Santorum, et al. will appropriate the paradigm shift and suck it dry of all real meaning. But at the moment, that’s not what worries me. What worries me is Obama’s emotional need to distance himself from Occupy, to imagine that he can show that he’s a better friend to the vulture capitalists than Gingrich.

Regardless, that sound that you just almost didn’t hear was the sound of a paradigm shifting. Can you amplify it?

Poster found here.

Putting the “Pride” in Pagan Pride Events


Star Foster has written an important post: Why I Love Wicca. It’s especially important for anyone involved in organizing Pagan Pride events and/or interacting with the media. You should read the whole thing, but here’s a taste:

We are a religion of many sects, many cults, many expressions. From the “hard Gards” to the solitary eclectics weaving their own magic. We are each full of the same awe, wonder, mystery, and joy. We cast the circle, call the elements, honor the Gods, celebrate the Mystery and send our energy to make a positive change in the world. This happens in rituals containing hundreds of people. This happens silently in candlelit bedrooms of closeted solitaries. Our words may be different, our mythos vary and the details be different, but as Wiccans we are all calling forth the same Mystery. Maybe this Mystery is something passed down in secret from the ancient Pagans of England and Italy, maybe the distillation of the grimoire tradition, the torch of the Neo-Platonists passed down over the centuries, or a bit of divine inspiration as a goaty old man in England crafted a new Eleusis out of thin air.

We adore a Goddess as silvery as the moon, who despite her tough, craggy, pocked and cratered face shines with grace and beauty. Delicate and gentle in the night sky, those who underestimate her forget she can make the sea itself beat against the shore. She pours her love out upon the earth, on every sexual and gender identity, on every skin color, on every age, every level of ability. She gives us her acceptance and love, for we are born from her blessed, without blemish or sin. Then she charges us to make the absolute best we can with the current life we are given, to recognize our power and rise to every challenge, before we return to her, like a rain drop returning to the boundless sea. It is she who brings the dew, makes verdant the seed and excites all the earth to fecund glory. She is the changing woman, always moving, always perfectly herself and never quite who you expect.

We adore a God who is hunter and hunted, who is the dark forest and the baking desert, the deep blackness of death and decay and also the white hot heat of the blazing sun. He is the keeper of the dead and the guide to rebirth. Maybe you see him antlered, horned and hooved, as a crowned solar king, as a child of promise, as continually battling siblings, or as the dark lord of death. Maybe he is just that still point when you find the rhythm of your work, or the spark of vitality as you glide across the dance floor. He is the insistent drumbeat of the wild hunt, tearing through the night skies and dancing round a sacred bonfire, and the quiet stillpoint where you face your own darkness and mortality. He is the one who rises to fall, then in triumph to rise again.

Consider the Circle, this round temple under the night sky and beneath the radiant sun, this energetic expression of our worldview. The Circle surrounds us. It arcs over us, and dips below us. We are encapsulated by energy, both to keep our energy within, and to keep the spirit equivalents of “rubber-neckers” away. It takes a lot to build this Circle, to have all the pieces in place, and you really only notice that because when you begin to bring it down there is an energetic domino effect. You pull that energetic string or shift that energetic keystone and it all cascades down, returning to the earth. It’s really beautiful, this temple that is a place that is not a place, a time that is not a time, that is the same circle, that same shape, all the world over.

Regular readers will know that I harp, a lot, about well-meaning Pagans who bungle interactions with the media. I’ve been happy this Autumn to get the chance to highlight some examples of Pagans using good framing when they announce their events. I’m seeing (thank the Goddess) more examples where people don’t go on about what Pagans don’t do or who Pagans don’t worship. And that’s all to the good, because, as Lakoff teaches us, when you invoke a negative frame, all that you manage to do is to reinforce that frame.

I also harp a lot about knowing your why, being really clear on your own objectives and intent before you send out a press release or agree to be interviewed. Star Foster’s post is a great example of a Pagan discussing what it is about her Pagan religion that makes her proud. I’d love to see more of that sort of discussion in, for example, announcements concerning Pagan Pride events. What if, instead of saying, that the purpose of your local Pagan Pride Day was to educate the public about Paganism, you said that the purpose was for local Pagans to celebrate and share some of the things about Paganism that make them feel happy and proud? What if you said, as Star Foster does:

This is what Wicca means to me. This is what I’m in love with, the dance, the tension, the sorrow and the joy. It’s what I discovered as a young girl that made me feel as if I’d finally come home.

Of course, use your own words. Include examples from the broad spectrum of Pagan religions in your local area. But a day devoted to pride, ought, don’t you think, to focus on what it is about this path that you most want to celebrate? Do that, and you’ll (almost like magic) create a positive frame for your message.

Picture found here.