I do not feel much like celebrating Samhain this year, but there is a great deal to observe, and there are still Samhain Blessings to give. More has been lost this year than normal, on all levels, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, societal, globally, individually, and more. This year I observe and commemorate those losses, seek the strength and resilience to continue working in the face of ongoing adversity, and work to lay a foundation for growth and reversal of oppression in the year to come.
2020 Has Been a Particularly Difficult Year
I think everyone can agree that this year has been a walking dumpster fire, but what disturbs me is how many people violently disagree over what the sources of those problems have been. Then again, I suppose if everyone was capable of engaging with their fellow humans with compassion, we wouldn’t be in nearly this bad of a mess in the first place.
My existential dread and fear set in the day that Trump was nominated by the GOP in 2016. It was solidified the day he took the election. Everything that has happened since has been a predictable result of his election. I may not have anticipated every single horrible thing he and his sycophants have done, but as each action has come down like a hammer, it has been believable and understandable in the context of the depravity of those cheering on the oppression and destruction of their fellow humans.
Trump may not have created COVID, but he has used it as a tool for further oppression, manipulation, and make no mistake, genocide. To men like him, the quarter of a million American deaths so far is a feature, not a flaw.
The Good Things About 2020
I am not glad that we are here, and I do not think it is worth all the pain and misery. However, since we are here and not getting out of it anytime soon, it is worth taking some time to look at the good things that are coming out of all this anguish and horror. Many of the injustices receiving attention this year are nothing new. In fact, many of them have been an issue since the US was founded, and others have been issues for decades or years.
Whether you are talking about the injustices protested through Black Lives Matter, criticisms of TERFs and other transphobes, the appalling treatment of indigenous people, the shortcomings of attaching health care to employment, the failings of for-profit health care, lack of a functional social safety net, ever increasing tax and income inequities, stacking the courts, voter suppression, the prevalence of white supremacy (even in paganism and witchcraft), police brutality, climate change, the prevalence of conspiracy theories, wide support for fascism, and more, it has become increasingly difficult for people to stick their heads in the sand. No one sane can reasonably deny that these things are happening. Instead, the main sticking point seems to be whether or not those things are good or bad.
The USA is broken. We have been broken for a long time, but the maintenance of a status quo allowed most people to remain blissfully unaware. Finally, this year, amid all this misery and destruction and death, just about everyone can see and agree that it is broken, and desperately in need of fixing.
That is good, because if we cannot see the problems, we cannot fix them.
The Need for Compassion and Ethics
We need compassion and ethics right now. Those two things are always important, but right now, we are lost without them. Compassion shows us that we should care about the welfare of our fellow humans. Compassionate people want other people to do well and be happy and safe, because when everyone is well and happy and safe, that means everyone, including you and me. Compassion understands that we can all get further by giving each other a hand up, instead of fighting to knock down everyone else. Compassion leads us to a society which benefits everyone, not just a particularly privileged few.
As Misha Magdalene puts it, “Politics is about how we negotiate power, specifically the power to set and enforce societal norms. By contrast, ethics is about the content and philosophical underpinnings of those societal norms.”
I do, as part of my practice, advocate for specific political policies, but it is always informed by the ethics which I believe should underpin our society. I believe in ethics which are applied equally, to all people, no matter who they are, what they look like, how much money they have, who they love, what gender they are, what religion they practice, whether they are sick or healthy, where they come from, etc. I am terrified and disturbed by the normalization of the twisted idea that it is not only acceptable, but ethical to treat people fundamentally differently just because they don’t live or look or speak or act or believe the way you do.
If you are reading this and thinking it is ethical to discriminate, to hold some people up on a privileged pedestal while others are trodden upon, I honestly do not know what to say to you to help you understand how awful and morally deficient that perspective is. There is a profound level of disconnect and inability to be empathetic with your fellow human beings, if you can look someone in the eye and say children deserve to be in cages, that mothers deserve to die in childbirth, that transgender people deserve to be murdered, that black people deserve to be shot. Personally, I would not leave my worst enemy locked in a cage under the horrific conditions those children are being forced to endure. If you can look at that situation and think it is no big deal, let alone cheer it on, there is something broken in you that I am not sure can be fixed. But I do hope you will try.
This Samhain’s Blessings
This Samhain I am acknowledging and commemorating all that has been lost. It is not just the quarter of a million deaths so far from COVID, or the normal deaths which would happen any year. It is the loss of dignity, security, respect, safety, shelter, health, stability, and human rights. It is the overwhelming number of stressors acting on all of us, undermining our mental and emotional wellbeings.
I am also acknowledging my own frailties, and my own shortcomings. I am being compassionate with myself, that I may objectively approach the self-care which is necessary to continue doing the work during this most trying of times.
I am putting energy into my Sigil for the Continuation of Democracy, that we may use our new awareness of the fragility and mutability of American society to build a better, more compassionate and ethical future for everyone, no matter what minorities they do or do not belong to.
I am standing with one hand on the past, and one hand on the future, while I balance in this moment of profound change and uncertainty. That is a terrifying place to be, but I do not know what else to do but face it with as much strength and resilience as I can muster.
And so, I wish Samhain Blessings on the world, that we may all carry with us the lessons of the past as we move into the future to build a new world. No matter what happens this election, we have a long road ahead of us, with yet more difficulties and tragedies ahead. We will all need those blessings, for strength, resolve, and wisdom, in order to navigate the times yet to come.