Tragedy in Arizona: Pagan Perspective on Political Violence

Tragedy in Arizona: Pagan Perspective on Political Violence January 8, 2011

Like the rest of you, I’m glued to the breaking news regarding the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and several others at a public event in Arizona. I’m sad, I’m angry and I’m bewildered and I don’t even know anyone in Arizona. My grief is that of an American and cannot compare to the grief of the families and friends of both the victims and the shooter. I cannot imagine what they must be going through and I’m sure the media and speculation only makes this worse for them.

Most forms of Paganism do not prohibit violence. There are Pagan pacifists and of course Wiccans follow the Rede, although it’s interpretation varies. In fact, ancient Pagans were a more violent people than we are today. It was part of life to engage in defensive and offensive violence to protect your tribe. However, then, as now, there were rules about violence. If you had to engage in violence you wanted to do so in an above-board way so as to bring honor to your people. From wrestling and games to war, ancient Pagans created rules of engagement we still use today.

Assassination was not well-regarded. Do you know the names of those who jumped Ceasar on the Ides of March? You’re lucky if you can recall Marcus Brutus, and that’s only through the phenomenon of Shakespeare and his penchant for memorable one-liners. In a Republic that valued the political process and considered it sacred, political assassination was a cowardly act.

As Americans we have inherited the democracy of Greece and Rome, and we value the political process. We value the idea that the people elect people to represent them, that we choose our avatars to work for us at every level of government. Political assassination is not only cowardly, but it is sacrilegious. It violates that which we hold sacred. It brings dishonor upon us all.

Part of democracy is the very Pagan tradition of talking smack and rooting for our “own team”. It is good to take pride in your party and be loyal to their ideals. Yet I hope that at this moment we recognize that even as we engage in speculation and political gossip that this is an act that goes against the core of what we all hold sacred. Our battles take place at the voting booth and we all respect the score and hold the scorekeeper to a high standard. To attempt to “change the score” by an act of violence because you disagree with a representative’s views on politics or religion is shameful.

My heart goes out to the victims, their families and friends. May they receive the healing and support they need and the time they need to re-inhabit their lives after this tragedy. My heart goes out to the families of those who perpetrated this violent act, for the shame and heartache they must bear. My heart goes out to all who are frightened and disturbed by this violent attack on our political process, which we hold to be holy and sacred.

My prayers go to Nemesis. My call is for justice. There is a great debt to be paid for the suffering and loss in Arizona today. As a nation our Ma’at is askew. May Themis bring us back into right relation with each other and may Reason take her rightful place in our government. May the power and place of violence be respected.

The Managing Editor of our Catholic portal, Elizabeth Scalia, is also keeping tabs on the tragedy over on her blog: The Anchoress.

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