Last Friday I was at a rally for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson. I was supposed to be the PNC photographer for Nels Linde, but my haphazard packing meant I packed my camera, but not my SD card or USB cord, and this camera is apparently finicky about cords. So the lovely pics I took are trapped on my camera, as if it were simply a high-tech ViewMaster.
However I got to enjoy Murphey’s Midnight Rounders (even though the sound guy couldn’t seem to keep their mics on), watch the tiny little college kids burst with adorable pride over organizing the event (which proves I’m getting old) and had the incredible pleasure of having Jesse Ventura sit in front of me and shed his jacket, revealing the most surreal and psychedelic tie dye Jimi Hendrix t-shirt staring back at me. The t-shirt actually had eyes floating in space over an electric guitar on the back, and so was literally staring at me. It was an awesome thing to behold and I wish I could get the pic off my camera to share with you. A harried Gary Johnson gave a speech with vigor and was repeatedly detained by supporters and press on his way to the airport to catch a flight.
A common theme at the rally was that Americans don’t have a choice anymore. The Republicans and Democrats have had a stranglehold on the presidential debates ever since Ross Perot proved a serious contender back in the early 90’s. If you consider that both parties are entrenched in the current corrupt power systems in Washington, then the idea put forward at this rally is that a vote for either major party is a wasted vote. Politics aside, this concept made me think. And like a desperate Church of England vicar grasping to make a moral out of reality tv, this concept made me think a bit of Paganism.
One thing all Pagan religions have in common is personal responsibility for the choices we make. Sometimes the choices we make are whether or not to give other people choices. Pre-election and post-Pagan Pride, I’ve been thinking a lot about choices. At Twin Cities Pagan Pride there was only one Heathen booth. Well, it was a combination Heathen/Shinto, but it was the only bit of diversity in a largely Wiccanate crowd. This isn’t a dig at Twin Cities Pagan Pride, or at Paganistan. You find the same thing at every Pagan gathering all across the country: a lack of choice.
In the end, is one form of Wiccanate Pagan truly radically different from another? If that forms the bulk of our festivals and events, is that really providing a choice? Is that representing diversity?
Part of the issue is that non-Wiccanate Pagans are reluctant to participate in these pan-Pagan events. They feel marginalized and left out. I’m not going to deny that they shouldn’t want to participate in something that makes them feel like they don’t belong, but I do think they have an obligation to present Pagans with a choice.
Whether or not you agree with their politics, folks like Gary Johnson, Ralph Nader and Ross Perot do the difficult work of reminding the country there is more than just Red VS Blue. They show up, speak out, and fight the good fight. We used to have more choices, and those choices helped create those amazing early years of our country.
So I think more non-Wiccanate Pagans need to show up and provide a choice. Not even groups. Maybe a few individual folks could set up a table where you could talk to a Houngan, a Hellenic or a CR person. Doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t have to participate in rituals or anything. Just show up. Show there is another option. Provide people with a choice.
Because as a festival goer, I can tell you I go looking for something different and unique. Not what I find at home. I actively avoid Wiccanate rituals and booths for the most part. I’m curious about what I don’t know. So the literature I picked up to peruse and research at Twin Cities Pagan Pride was Heathen and one really unusual Wiccan group. How would I have known about them if they didn’t show up and provide me with a choice?
And by that token, doesn’t that speak to our need to participate in interfaith events? To provide people with a choice?