Sooner or later there comes a time when it hits us: “oh, shit – this is real.”
And in an instant we have to make a decision. Do we accept what our senses are telling us and begin the process of rearranging our lives to accommodate the new reality? Or do we pretend we didn’t really see what we know we saw and go back to watching reality TV?
Some of us get this during a sacred ritual. Some get it when magic works despite our skepticism. Some get it in the immensities of Nature.
Over the past couple of weeks, all of us have been hit with this in the world of American politics.
Asylum seekers arrested. Families separated. An order to reunite them, only to find that many of them can’t be matched up. And while we were fixated on that (and rightly so) a bill to gut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, to “balance the budget” barely six months after a huge corporate tax cut.
Trade wars. Alienating allies. Photo ops with dictators.
A Supreme Court ruling saying a homophobic baker didn’t get a fair hearing because of his religion. Another ruling that said the Muslim travel ban had nothing to do with religion. Yet another ruling making it harder for public sector unions to do their job.
And then last Wednesday, the pièce de résistance: Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring, giving Trump the opportunity to put another young radical conservative on the Supreme Court who will be there for 30 years. Trump’s pick will be confirmed before the election and it is highly unlike the Democrats can do anything to stop it.
This seems to be the “oh shit – this is real” moment for most people. Anthony Kennedy is a pro-business Republican, but on social issues he’s been quite progressive. He wrote the majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) that overturned laws criminalizing same sex relations. He wrote the majority opinion again in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) that legalized same sex marriage nationwide. He’s been a mostly reliable vote for reproductive rights and a sometimes vote for affirmative action.
When Kennedy is replaced by a social conservative, Roe v. Wade (1973) is in serious jeopardy. And if the legal doctrine behind Roe falls, there is no more right to privacy and conservative states like Texas will pass as many regressive laws on social issues as they can get away with. There will be nothing to stop them.
Except us, that is.
We were warned this was coming
For the last seven years, many of us heard a warning: “a storm is coming – get ready.” I have four major posts on this, in addition to discussing it on an on-going basis in other posts.
2012: The Call of the Morrigan
It isn’t just me. All these posts have references and links to other knowledgeable, experienced Pagans and polytheists who heard and saw and wrote about the same things.
Did you think we were making it up? Did you think Loki or Puck or some mischievous spirit was playing us for a laugh? Did you think the Gods were lying to us?
I don’t want to berate those who are waking up screaming in terror, only to realize that it’s not a dream. I do want to gently chide those who heard this warning but ignored it because it was hard, or because it wasn’t here yet, or because they had been told all their lives that perpetual progress was inevitable. I want to not-so-gently chide those who ignored it because it didn’t affect them and dismissed it as “not my problem.”
If you prepared for this – spiritually, physically, financially – you’re ready. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s doable. If you didn’t prepare, you’ve got some catching up to do.
We don’t have time for blame
I’m seeing Facebook posts blaming Jill Stein, the Bernie Bros, the Russians, the DNC, and Hillary herself. I hope by now the DNC has thoroughly analyzed how they lost so they can do better next time, but unless you’re a candidate or a political operative, you don’t have time for assessing blame. Accept that the truth is some combination of all those factors and get to work on the problem at hand.
Instead, make sure that in future elections, you aren’t to blame. Vote, even if you have to hold your nose to do it. As we are seeing, the difference between the lesser evil and the greater evil is a hell of a lot of evil.
There is no silver bullet
Trump is the symptom, not the cause. If Hillary had won we would not have these problems – we would have other problems instead.
The core problem is the decline of the American empire. Our time is up, as time was eventually up for the Egyptians, the Romans, the British, and every other empire that’s ever existed. Our leaders can make the decline easier or harder, faster or slower, but they can’t stop it.
Remember climate change? It didn’t go away just because Trump ordered government scientists to stop talking about it.
Also remember that there are spiritual and metaphysical forces at work and they don’t give a rat’s ass about our politics. The initial warnings came from a Goddess of Battle and the aftermath of battle. I’m going to keep paying attention to Her.
This is a complicated situation and it’s a long-term situation. There is no quick and easy fix. It won’t be over by Christmas – prepare for a long campaign.
You start by surviving
I’m seeing some people who are panicking: “I can’t deal with this!” Yes, you can. Humans are resilient creatures – we can get through this. You can get through this. Even if you can’t see how you can get through it, you can get through today. And if you can get through today, you can get through tomorrow, and then the next day, and then the day after that.
Remember that it’s OK to check out from time to time. This isn’t a shooting war (and I don’t think it will come to that) – you don’t need to be on guard every moment of every day. Trying to stay on guard will drain you. Keep doing the things that bring you joy and pleasure and don’t feel the least bit guilty for doing them. And needless to say, don’t try to make others feel guilty for enjoying themselves when they can.
Then check on your neighbors
You aren’t going to get through this alone.
This bothers some of you. You bought into the American myth of the rugged individualist. Or you’ve been the victim of manipulative religious and political leaders. Or you’re an introvert who just doesn’t like people. Doesn’t matter. You aren’t going to get through this alone.
Oh, some of you will – you’ll become hermits and keep to yourself. If that’s your choice, so be it.
For the rest of us, check on your neighbors. For me, that’s my local co-religionists – the people I’m in circle with eight times a year, who I work with on roadside trash pickups, who I have dinner with from time to time, who I can call if I have an emergency – and who I’ll respond to if they call me.
I’ll be blunt. While I’m a good ways away from retirement and a longer ways away from being “elderly,” I can see it from here. I have no children. I have no blood relatives in the area. I’m going to need a community to help me get through my old age. And the best way I can be sure to have that community is to be a part of it now, while I’m physically and financially able to give more than I receive.
I really do care about my friends. I would do everything I can to help them even if I was planning to move away in my later years. But knowing that I will need them reminds me to invest in my community now, even when it’s not easy.
Stop purging your inner circle – start building alliances
I’m seeing far too many Facebook posts that say “if you support X / don’t support Y then unfriend me now!”
Purity is a luxury we cannot afford.
People who are actively working against you are your enemies. People who have other priorities are not. Those who are not our enemies can be useful allies where we have common cause. Life is more complicated than any one issue, even if your identity is bound up in that issue.
I will gladly work with Catholics to promote immigration justice. And I will turn around and oppose those very same Catholics on reproductive rights. But if I demonize them for their views on abortion, I close off the chance of working with them where we are in agreement.
There is a fine line between “sincere but respectful disagreement” and “actively working to harm others.” Differences that are easy for me to overlook may be difficult for you to handle, and vice versa. I’m not going to tell you where to draw the line.
I am going to remind you that division is a tool of the Right. If they can break us up into a hundred little camps who won’t talk to each other, we’re easy to pick off one at a time.
Stop purging your inner circle – start building alliances.
There are no house elves in a democracy
Let’s face it – most of us don’t really like politics. Oh, we have opinions on issues, but mainly we want to turn out to vote once every four years, then let the professionals run the bureaucracy so we can focus on our jobs, our families, our religion and arts, and the rest of our lives. We’re willing to pay taxes to support institutions to help others – and ourselves when we need it – but we don’t really want to get involved first-hand.
Unfortunately, there are no house elves in a democracy. Democracies require work. When we only show up once every four years (if then), this is what we get. Vote, in every election. Find candidates who reflect your values and support them with your time and your money. Call your representatives and make sure they know how you feel. Be a citizen, not just a resident.
And when institutions crumble and laws fail, be ready to take matters into your own hands to support yourself, your friends and family, and those who need you most. Abortion is already unobtainable in many parts of the country – it’s about to become illegal in some (though not all). Here’s a very good piece titled What To Do When ― Not If ― Roe Vanishes.
I’m a socialist and an internationalist at heart – I want to save everyone. But if I can’t save everyone, I’ll help my friends and neighbors save ourselves, and then together we’ll save as many as we can.
You’re a Pagan – act like it
Some of my ancestors (of spirit if not of blood) were Gaulish Celts, who when faced with immanent Roman invasion, disassembled their temple so it could not be defiled and then continued to worship on the sacred ground for 400 years. They did what they had to do to deal with the oncoming reality, but they remained committed to who and what they were.
We can do no less.
Honor your Gods. Honor your ancestors, and take strength from them. Honor the spirits of the place where you are, and seek to live in peace with all your neighbors.
And work your magic. If you want to participate in one of the large public workings, by all means do so. I prefer smaller, more targeted workings, and a progressive approach. If you need inspiration, go read (or re-read) Apocalyptic Witchcraft by Peter Grey. I work from a very different model of magic than Peter, but I’m in complete agreement with him when he says:
Witchcraft is the recourse of the dispossessed, the powerless, the hungry and the abused. It gives heart and tongue to stones and trees. It wears the rough skin of beasts. It turns on a civilisation that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
You didn’t spend all that time learning magic so you could impress your friends with parlor tricks. You learned magic for times like this. Use it.
The Gods weren’t lying
This is real. It isn’t a dream, it isn’t a delusion, and it isn’t a lie.
It isn’t what any of us wanted, but here we are. And so we will do what must be done.
We will take care of ourselves. We will take care of each other. We will be engaged citizens.
We will make allies where we can and enemies only where we must. But where others make themselves our enemies, we will fight them with all the weapons at our disposal, including magic.
Are the Gods on our side? That’s a rather presumptive question. But They warned us this was coming, and They have called many of us to Their service. I said yes. Many of you said yes.
That means we’re on Their side.
And that gives me all the confidence I need.