I strongly believe that a big part of maintaining our sovereignty is setting our own agendas. We need to focus on doing the things we want to do and are called to do and not on reacting to every outrageous thing Trump and his minions do and say. Yes, we have an obligation to bear witness and protest and let the world know we’re not OK with anti-science, anti-anybody-but-white-men, nationalistic fascism.
But if we spend all our time responding to Trump we won’t get our own work done.
I was halfway through writing a post titled “How Should Pagan Clergy Dress?” It’s not the most urgent issue in the world, but it generated some interesting discussion on Facebook last week and I felt like weighing in on it. My blog, my agenda – I’ll write what I want to write about.
Then the inauguration began. I was at work, but I saw a few Facebook comments from friends. By the time I went to lunch Trump’s speech was posted and I read it. Those who have compared it to a speech by the Batman villain Bane aren’t wrong. In 1980 Ronald Reagan said it was morning in America. For all his problems – and he had many – at least he brought optimism to the country.
Trump says it’s midnight in America. He makes the promise of every fascist strongman in history: “only I can save you.” He promises to “drain the swamp” but his cabinet appointments are more of the same. He has succeeded in making us fearful – some so fearful they voted for him, others so fearful their lives are paralyzed. These fears allow him to set the agenda.
No, Mr. Trump. I’ll set my own agenda.
I’m going to maintain my devotion to the Gods and ancestors. Marx was only half right. Weak religion is the opiate of the masses. Strong religion is nourishment and sustenance. It reminds us what’s most important, what’s worth fighting for, and what isn’t worth our trouble. Through devotion we build and maintain connections to our strongest allies and we are imbued with their values and virtues. This is where I have found meaning in life. My prayers, offerings, rituals, and study are what keep me going in good times and in bad.
I’m not interested in mouthing the words of Christianity like Trump so I can fit in. I’m a Pagan, a Druid, a polytheist – and an American. I will exercise my rights to practice my religion as I see fit, and I will support the rights of others to do the same.
I’m going to maintain my relationships with my friends and family. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could have voted for Donald Trump. Unless, of course, you thought Hillary Clinton was more likely to start a war. Or unless your manufacturing job went away and you thought Trump could bring it back. 60 million people aren’t all racists, misogynists, and fascists.
I advocated strongly for Hillary because for all her faults she would have made a far better President than Trump. Still, when I went into the voting booth, I held my nose to vote for her. I didn’t give a damn about her e-mails, but she was too much in the pockets of the 0.01% and too likely to start a war.
If I had to do that, I’m sure there were millions of people who did the same thing when they voted for Trump. They didn’t like him, but they thought Hillary was worse.
I never had a lot of friends growing up, so I held tightly to the ones I had. I’ve got a lot more now, but I still value each and every one, and I don’t throw them away because we disagree about politics or religion. A lot of them think I’m a hell-bound fool for being a Pagan and they still haven’t walked away from me – I owe them the same consideration. At times in my life I’ve changed because someone different was in my life – those changes have been for the good. I hope I can be that different person for others.
There are lines that cannot be crossed. I don’t care who you are or how long I’ve known you – if you promote blatant hatred I won’t keep you in my life. But if your choice of lesser evils was different from mine, let’s have a beer and talk about it.
I’m going to keep building my local communities. We all need a place where we can be who we are, where people accept us despite – or because of – our wounds and our warts, where we know that someone cares enough to reach out if we need help, and where we care enough to reach out when others need help. Online communities are great, but there’s no substitute for a community of people you can see and touch and talk to without electronics being involved.
Not everyone at Denton CUUPS or Denton UU shares my religious beliefs. Some don’t share my political views. But they all share my values: freedom of religion and of conscience, respect for different sexual orientations and gender identities, equality in marriage, and the sanctity of Nature. These groups were there for me when I needed them in 2003. My job is to help insure they’re there for those who need them in 2017 and for years to come.
I’m going to keep promoting Paganism and polytheism. Proselytization is unnecessary and offensive. But my Paganism has been good for me, and it will be good for some other people too. I want those who need and want what I have to be able to find it, learn it, and take it up for themselves.
Science can show us that climate change is real, but it’s going to take religion to get people to accept the facts. Saying “we’re all God’s children” has utterly failed at stopping xenophobia – I think it’s time to try “different Gods call different people to worship Them in different ways.” Dominion, hierarchy, and patriarchy have gotten us into this mess – I think sovereignty, reciprocity, and equality will show us a better way.
Though I sometimes speak of preparing the Way of the Gods, I have no expectations that Paganism and polytheism will ever be more than minority religions, and certainly not in my lifetime. But a majority of the population doesn’t have to become Pagan in order to have a meaningful impact on the culture. A small percentage will do – and that is possible.
More relevantly, though, there are individuals out there who are reluctant Christians, unsatisfied atheists, and unaffiliated seekers who would be happy Pagans, if they knew Paganism was a serious alternative. I intend to make sure they know they have a choice. Whether they make that choice is up to them.
As for Trump’s agenda. Maybe it is midnight in America. There’s certainly plenty of trouble in our country and it didn’t start on January 20 (it didn’t start on January 20, 2009 either). Those of us with an eye for spiritual matters have been seeing disturbing things on an increasing frequency. I do not think those two trends are unrelated.
But here’s the thing. Witches, Druids, Pagans in general – midnight is our hour. We aren’t afraid of the dark. We know there is safety, restfulness, nurturing, and glamour in the dark. Yes, there are scary things in the dark, but some of those scary things are our friends.
And some of those scary things are us.
There are many things that need to be done over the next four years. Some of them continue our previous work. Some lay the groundwork for future success. Some will need to be done in response to Trump and his minions – he holds too much power to completely ignore him, much as I recommend trying.
But we are Pagans and others who insist on maintaining our sovereignty, and we will set our own agendas for the next four years.