Getting rid of Donald Trump is not a cure-all. Both America and the Pagan Community still face several major problems in the aftermath of this Presidential election. Many of those issues are the result of not being able to talk to one another, and of people get swept up in misinformation.
I don’t have any answers when it comes to reconciling such things. But we won’t be able to figure out any solutions without first identifying the problems.
THERE ARE MORE CONSERVATIVE PAGANS & WITCHES THAN YOU THINK
Visit the Patheos Pagan Facebook and you’ll find that there are far more Witches and Pagans with a right-wing outlook than most of us think. We live in a divided America, why wouldn’t our community contain some of those divisions as well?
I would never suggest that we need to make room in our spaces for racists or transphobes. But I truly don’t believe that EVERYONE who voted for Trump is a racist or a Nazi (which is a number approaching 70 million people). Perhaps I simply don’t want to deal with the implications that suggests, but I’ve also met people who voted for Trump this election cycle that I believe are generally good people.
Why do individuals I believe are generally good vote against preserving the rights of so many of my friends? That’s a question I can’t answer. But I’m not sure that simply abandoning such people will do anything to change their opinions. Besides, I’m convinced that no matter how much you prune your Facebook account, there is someone still there who holds very different political opinions than you do that you probably care about.
Do we create two separate universes for conservative and liberal Pagans? You might think we are already living in such a world, but I know from first-hand experience that’s simply not true. There are covens that currently exist, and are thriving, with both left and right leaning folks.
There are a number of folks who are far more conservative than you or I who have done good things for the Pagan Community. Do we get rid of all of them? I understand wanting limited government and low taxes, and I don’t think such ideas are so terrible that people should be banished from our world for them. (Even if I don’t necessarily agree.)
Am I suggesting that you break bread with your folkish neighbor? Absolutely not. Again, there are some ideologies and beliefs that simply too abhorrent to engage with. But in many of our Pagan spaces there are people who voted for Trump, and at the very least, some of your friends are friends with them. Those individuals are part of our reality whether we want to admit or not. What’s the solution? I don’t know.
EDIT: Much of the reaction on social media to this post seems to be “you are excusing Trump supporters and telling us to play nice with them.” What I think is being missed, and I think this is my fault, is that people who voted for Trump are already in our spaces and are interacting with us. These individuals are not wearing Klan robes and spouting racist rhetoric, they are simply present and are mostly unnoticeable. I’m not suggesting we “make room” for racists, only that individuals who support a figure many of us believe to be a racist are already present.
It bares repeating that over 70 million people voted for Trump in 2020. Not all of those people are going to MAGA rallies and waving Trump flags. Most of them look like normal people. If you are practicing Paganism or Witchcraft in the American South or parts of the Midwest, you are most likely breaking bread with a Trump voter and might be completely unaware of it. END EDIT.
According to people I know on Facebook . . . . .
*Joe Biden is a pedophile, as is most of the Democratic Party
*There is a child trafficking conspiracy in the United States that starts at the top with people like Tom Hanks that has infiltrated every aspect of our society.
*The election was rigged, and not just for Joe Biden, but also for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
*Vaccines are harmful, and Bill Gates has something to do with them.
*Doctors and drug companies are intentionally making us sick.
None of this garbage is going away, and it’s not just a right-wing problem either.
Certainly there are far more conspiracy theories on the right today than the left, but my side is rapidly catching up. You have many left-leaning individuals in the “wellness industry” who are actively promoting practices that make us less healthy and less safe, and anti-vax ignorance was originally far more of a left-wing problem than one from conservatives.
Misinformation about our elections and primaries has infected both sides of our political divide, and many people no longer trust any news source. I have a friend who has come very close to being a COVID denier. Otherwise, I think he’s pretty sane. W
There’s an individual on my social media feed whose online space has become a daily litany of “Save Our Children” hashtags and proclamations that Joe Biden is a pedophile. I don’t know what happens to make someone fall down such rabbit holes, but this person is still apparently a part of the Pagan Community where she lives. I’m sure this person away from social media is delightful, as she’s friends with some of my favorite folks. But I have no idea how to engage with a person who believes that Joe Biden is a pedophile.
As misinformation becomes more and more prevalent many of us are going to be faced with similar situations. Someone you like or love is going to swept up in a conspiracy theory, and you are going to have serious trouble convincing them otherwise. What do you do? How do you deal with it? The conspiracy theories are not going anywhere, and they are only going to get stronger as COVID-19 ramps back up this Autumn and Winter (and it’s already started, nearly everywhere).
Misinformation has always been a part of our world, but the current crop of conspiracy theories erodes trust in some of our most important institutions. It also distracts from real problems, and promotes violent action. We can’t reach herd immunity status if people refuse vaccines because they’ve been duped by a conspiracy theory.
And remember, a whole lot of the Q-Anon bullshit is built on the idea that there’s a Satanic pedophile ring out there. People are going to associate (or confuse) such fictitious groups with us, making our spaces and events a whole lot less safe. Trump leaving office will only throw more fuel on that fire for at least the next two years. I want to be able to advertise Pagan events, Q-Anon gives me second thoughts.
THE LEFT VERSUS THE NOT QUITE AS LEFT
Since 2015 there’s been an ongoing battle between groups gathered under the liberal umbrella. I’m not even sure how much some of this is even about simple disagreements. Simply rejecting certain Presidential candidates can result in charges of sell-out. It will always be strange to me that people who agree on 99.9% of stuff think there is need to engage in major arguments with one another.
With the emergence of the Tea Party in 2009 a new attitude of “never compromise” has swept over American society. I don’t think attempting to find common ground is a bad thing, and the majority of people who disagree with me are not necessarily my enemies. (Proud Boys, Alt-Right assholes, those people are our enemies.) At first this was a right-wing phenomenon, but it’s increasingly showing up on the left as well. And to be honest, it’s frightening.
We rightly worry about so-called Pagan groups with alt-right tendencies, but what happens when things swing to the other extreme? Already we are hearing that things like Tarot Cards and Wicca are cultural appropriation, with people being removed from groups (and losing friends) over such illogical leaps. You might be chuckling and saying to yourself, this kind of thing is isolated, but I don’t think it is anymore.
I’m not sure someone owning a dream-catcher is a reason to cast someone out of a group. And much of the problem stems from us not talking about such issues. Instead of engaging in the “why” or “what” someone makes a pronouncement on high and it’s the end of the discussion. Certainly there are issues that are beyond discussion (racism, LGBTQ+ acceptance), but Tarot cards are not among them.
Instead of constantly searching for the small difference among ourselves on the left, let’s focus on the bigger issues that we all want fixed!
Getting rid of Donald Trump is a huge step in the right direction, but the problems he caused and exacerbated are not going away. As long as we are unable to talk to one another our differences are only going to cause more conflict.