On Self-Preservation, Pragmatism, Politics, and Power

On Self-Preservation, Pragmatism, Politics, and Power October 29, 2018

Hello, beautiful creatures.

The US midterm elections take place on Tuesday, November 6th. As I write this, they’re a little over a week off. In the week preceding this post, the US has been rocked by acts of violence perpetrated by angry white right-wing men: the thirteen pipe bombs mailed to various Democratic leaders by a Trump supporter, the murder of two black people in a Kentucky supermarket by a white supremacist, and the murder of eleven Jewish people in a Pittsburgh synagogue by an anti-Semitic gunman. Just prior to that, the Trump administration actively initiated changes in national policy targeting transgender and intersex people. Prior to that… well, I’ll just refer you to Matt Kiser‘s aptly-named website What the Fuck Just Happened Today? for a breakdown of just how badly this country has disintegrated in the past 650 days or so.

My political leanings will be of little surprise to anyone who’s followed this blog for a bit, but just in case you’re new here: I believe that people belong to themselves, and that they have an intrinsic value and worth in themselves, independent of any “value” they might have to a capitalist system1. That makes me a leftist.

I also believe anyone who disagrees with either of those notions has some fundamental flaws in their thinking. That makes me a leftist with a side of grumpy.

Now, I’ve taken a certain amount of flack from certain quarters of the Patheos readership for being unapologetically political, and for stating unequivocally that what we do—whether we call it Paganism, polytheism, witchcraft, occultism, magic, or spirituality—is political, that it cannot help but be political. I’ve pointed out that power is political, that working with magic and devotion to deities is a negotiation with power, and that claiming to be apolitical is merely a way of throwing our power away or, worse, of disavowing responsibility for what we do with that power. I’ve suggested that there are certain political positions—white supremacy, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia—which are inherently incompatible with being a practitioner of ethical spirituality, much less an ethical human being.

Some readers have taken umbrage with those statements. A few have gone so far as to complain to my long-suffering editor here at Patheos that I should be silenced. That’s their right, of course. Those readers are advised that they might want to limber up those outraged-email-writing muscles, because I’m about to go one step further.

Ready? Okay, then. Here we go:

The Trump administration encourages these acts of violence.

The Trump administration enables these acts of violence.

The Trump administration is directly responsible for these acts of violence.

The Trump administration has named Muslims, Latinx people, journalists, transgender people, queer people, liberals, leftists, and Democrats as “enemies of the people.”

The Trump administration has aligned itself, implicitly and explicitly, with the white supremacists and nationalists of the so-called “alt-right.”

The Trump administration is expressly opposed to anyone who isn’t rich, white, cisgender, heterosexual, capitalist, male, and culturally “Christian.”

If you are poor, a person of color, transgender, queer in any way, not a capitalist, or female, you are a target.

And if you identify as a Pagan, a polytheist, a magician, a sorcerer, a witch, or in any other way a practitioner of “esoteric” spirituality, you are also a target.

There are no exceptions here. I know some folks are ginning up, even at this late hour, to assure me that Trump isn’t that bad, that things aren’t the nightmare scenario of American fascism I’m claiming. Others are jumping up to remind me that my lifty-liberal values aren’t shared by everybody, not even in the big tent of Paganism, and that conservative voices matter, and so on. Still others are bringing up cut-and-pasted walls of text proclaiming that Pumpkin Spice Hitler is their God-Emperor, that they know he has their best interests at heart, that their particular flavor of white supremacist Paganism/Heathenry/polytheism/occultism/whatever is a-OK with their political allies, the plutocrats and fundamentalists, and all the marching morons and jackbooted Nazi thugs of the alt-right.

Those people are being played for fools, all of them.
Pictured: checkmate, from the Persian shāh māt, “the king is left helpless.” (Image via Pixabay.)
We’re just over a week out from the midterm elections, and I am afraid: for myself, for my family and friends, for people I’ve never known. I’m a white, middle-class, male-passing university graduate in early middle age, and I am terrified that this is the beginning of the end of the society in which I’ve grown up, and the beginning of something malignant and evil, something which will hunt down and destroy me and everyone I know to be kin to me: queer people, people of color, weirdos, freaks, and so on.

If you’re reading this, that probably includes you. And if you identify as a “p-word,” or even just as an ethical human being who cares about yourself and the people you share a society with, you have an obligation to participate in self-preservation, and the preservation of everything around us.

Today, that means we have to swallow any principled stands we might have, overcome our distaste of the American political process, and vote every Republican in this election out of office. Specifically, it means we have to vote for whichever Democrat is running against the Republican, in every race. No exceptions. Don’t merely take my word for it, though; here’s The Atlantic, back in March of this year, underscoring the necessity of “boycotting the Republican Party.” It doesn’t matter if this or that Republican “isn’t that bad.” They’re still part of the Party of Trump: the party of immigrant children stolen from their parents and put into concentration camps, the party of white supremacy and unchecked violence and war without end.

To be clear, I’m not a fan of the Democratic Party. They’re gutless, feckless, and beholden to the corporate interests that have infected American politics like necrotizing fasciitis. They’ve forsaken the working class and people of color. Despite Republican protests to the contrary, they’re not the party of the left.

They’re also not literal Nazis.

What they are is a pragmatic choice. A Democratic party in power is easier to work with, easier to survive and thrive under, and to convince not to be evil. It’s far easier to hold Democrats’ feet to the fire of their own progressive promises than it is to convince Republicans to reclaim the souls they sold to Mammon. It doesn’t mean we have to marry them. We don’t even have to go to the prom with them. We just have to see them as a necessary stop-gap measure, a firebreak that will save lives—among them the most vulnerable—and possibly give us enough time to find a way to save ourselves.

That means we vote.

Politics is about power. Voting is power. If you have that power, you have a responsibility to own that power, and to use it well.

Vote them out. ♥


  1. As a natural outgrowth of that core belief, I believe that Black lives matter; that women’s bodies are their own; that feminism is for everybody; that trans women are women and trans men are men; that migration is beautiful; that patriarchy and capitalism are both irrevocably toxic and need smashing; and that Nazis, white supremacists, and all the other fascists should be driven back into their holes to die, alone, unloved, and unremembered as anything other than the disease they are.
About Misha Magdalene
Misha Magdalene (Seattle) is a multi-classed, multi-geek, multi-queer witch and sorcerer with a degree in gender studies and a slightly odd sense of humor. They're an initiate of multiple lines of traditional witchcraft, including the Anderson Feri tradition and Gardnerian Wicca, and have also been known to dabble recklessly in both modern ceremonial magic and grimoiric goetia. They've been blogging since 2001, negotiating the online world since 1987, playing Dungeons & Dragons since 1981, and listening to weird music since birth. They live on occupied Duwamish territory in the Pacific Northwest with their polymath partner, their precocious daughter, far too much coffee-making apparatus, and a long-suffering bamboo plant named Smitty. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram, or lurking somewhere around the Seattle area, usually hiding behind a cup of coffee. You can read more about the author here.

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