For thousands of years we have marked the turning of the seasons, the progression of light to dark and back again. As with our ancestors and all that live on this planet we attune ourselves to this endless cycle and seek to find meaning in this gift of life. We now balance on the cusp of the Spring Equinox, moving again from darkness into the light and the promise of life. Here where the powers of darkness and those of light are engaged in the eternal struggle to find balance and hopeful renewal, we engage in our own internal struggles and those of the communities in which we live.
The winter’s darkness this past cycle has been particularly black and frightening for many reasons.
In the Middle East we have been forced to watch in horror as ISIS has sent us graphic pictures of the cruelty that one man, warped by religious fundamentalism, is ultimately capable of inflicting on another. And there are those in this country who have used these pictures to create a climate of fear and distrust of all of those who follow Islam. But ISIS is not Islam. It is not even close to following the actual teachings of The Prophet (Peace be unto his name.). Together ISIS and our Western fear-mongers have used these actions of cruelty to foster even more hatred and misunderstanding of the religion of the other.
Here at home we have been shown that the idea of racial equality is perhaps not as real as we had thought it was, or perhaps more accurately, as white Americans, thought it was. We were introduced to the dark underside of racial profiling as police departments in a number of states were called to task for the killing of black children. Even worse, where white officers gunned down innocent youngsters and were then either not charged with the offense, or were exonerated for their actions. A campaign was raised with the slogan “Black lives matter!” Yet for many that mouthed that slogan the true statement they were making was “Black lives matter….but.” Certainly not all black perpetrators are innocent. Certainly not all police are bullies or thugs. But does that excuse the cases in which both of the above statements are true? Yet where voices were raised either in defense of the black victims or in defense of the white policeman, it seemed that neither side was willing to consider the truths in the words of the other side. So America got to see the uncomfortable reality that racial equality is an illusion mostly held by us white folks to make us feel better so we don’t have to address the roots of the problem.
Across the United States we have been watching the struggle for equality in regards to marriage for the GLBT community. Again, as with the already mentioned situations, there have been many, many vocal fear mongers who have tried to make the concept of Gay Marriage one which will destroy the very fabric of our nation. And aren’t these the very same arguments that were put forward about inter-racial marriage in the 1960’s? Inter-racial marriage became legalized. The sky didn’t fall. The United States was not destroyed by a vengeful Deity. And nothing of the sort is likely to happen just because same-sex couples get to enjoy the same legal rights as every other married American. If you don’t believe in same-sex marriage, then don’t have one for yourself. Worse, we are now faced by judges in some states refusing to acknowledge the rulings of Federal courts. Here in Alabama the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court has said that the Federal courts can’t tell Alabama what to do. Wait…we fought a Civil War over this issue, and the outcome of that was that State’s Rights was a dead issue.
Those of minority religions continue to battle for equal treatment under the law. For those of you who remember, last summer my husband was denied the right to offer the opening prayer for the Huntsville City Council meeting. After standing up for our right to do that, and with the support of Americans United, my husband was invited back to give the invocation in November. But since then, the same Alabama Chief Justice I mentioned in conjunction with same-sex marriage, came to Huntsville and announced that all those who lived in Huntsville were going to Hell because they let a Wiccan give an invocation at a public venue. For Pagans, for atheists, for followers of Islam, and for other minority religions across this country true tolerance and religious freedom remains a dream that we have not yet been able to bring into reality.
Between the darkness of the season and the darkness of the events all around us during this winter it is easy to feel discouraged. It’s easy to feel that there is nothing that can be done. All we have left are our fears and our estrangement one from the other.
But the light outside is growing. The snows are melting and tiny flowers will soon raise their heads in spite of lingering cold. Can we not let the light bring us hope for a better future?
No, I make no claim that change will be easy nor that the road to change will not be fraught with difficulties. But I remember the words of John F. Kennedy; “…ask what you can do for your country.” In this case I challenge us all to ask; “What can I do for the world?” If that seems to overwhelming, ask yourself; “What can I, as one person, do for one other person?” Bringing light to the world doesn’t mean that you have to do it all yourself. But if we all reach out across religious differences, across racial differences, across gender differences then we can indeed make positive changes in our community, in our country, and in our world. Let us all look ahead to the light and deny the power of darkness to overwhelm us all.
(picture taken by myself in Cornwall in 2009)