A Pyrate Perspective
The thoughts and feelings of a Pirate Wiccan on Pagan issues and community.
Pagans, Guns and Politics
I felt the need to respond to Literata’s latest blog, “Toxic Weapons.” I was laying in bed at 2 a.m. and it just wouldn’t leave me alone.
The issue of guns is a devisive one. I’ve been traveling this past week and the issue of gun ownership keeps popping up everywhere I go. I generally find myself hanging out with extremely liberal people. I am extremely liberal myself; I am an avid Pagan, a nudist and a polyamorist. But I am also a gun owner and generally have a different opinion on the matter than most people.
I grew up in a household with guns, and I don’t mean just one or two. My father is a serious collector of WWII rifles. Hunting, shooting, smithing and reloading are his life. So guns have always been a part of my life. I do not consider them to be toxic. I also don’t consider myself to be toxic because of them. (This is my father and this was a typical Saturday in my childhood).
I do, however, agree with Literata that owning a gun changes your perspective on the world. And those of us that have grown up around them do think differently than those who have not.
As a Pagan, death is as important to me as life. Without death, life would hold no meaning. To me, death is not a negative, it just is. But to me, you have to equally respect Death and the things that bring it, as well as all the things that bring life and support it. And I guess, to some extent, Literata is right; I don’t always see the world as a pretty, wonderful place. To me, Death is always present and the possibility of violence is always real. Does this come from the guns that I own? No; I simply see these things in the society that I live in.
Any hunter will tell you what it feels like to watch life slip away. I knew Death at an early age. My father, avid Protestant Methodist that he is, always had great respect for the animals whose lives he took. He did not take needlessly, he took for my family to survive. As a Pagan, hunting still plays an important role in my world view. I come from a rural area, where hunting not only kept people fed, it was necessary to keep the deer herds culled so that we could grow the crops we needed.
One of the things that has become clearer to me as I’ve gotten older is that the more our society has gotten away from gun ownership, the more respect we’ve lost for guns and what they can do. Instead of respect, people fear them and, as with anything else, fear breeds ignorance. I knew, even as the smallest child, that a gun could kill. My father went out of his way to instill in me a deep respect for the possibilities that a gun could bring about. You never aim a gun, whether it’s loaded or not, unless you intend to use it. Guns are not toys. They are tools and no, these tools are not inherently evil. I understood this and I never feared them. It wasn’t until I started seeing my friend’s reactions, friends who had not grown up in a household surrounded by guns, that I started to understand how fear and lack of understanding leads to a huge lack of respect towards the possibilities that a gun represent.
Anne Newkirk Niven sent out a query a few weeks ago asking people to submit responses to her for the next issues of the print magazine discussing whether or not being a Pagan means to be political. I see all of these things tied together. Is Paganism political? Yes. To be Pagan is to be a minority. Being a minority means keeping an eye on what the majority is up to. On Patheos, Aidan Kelly’s article “Why the Craft Is an “In Your Face” Religion” addressed this idea in ways that I could never as adequately say. In it, he said:
To call oneself a Witch is to identify with those who were destroyed and to confront the heirs of the destroyers...It’s much nicer and easier to pretend that the Craft is just another okay religion among all the choices in the world today. But such pretense amounts to hoping that the problem will go away if one ignores it. It won’t.
Witches are rarely welcomed in this society and haven’t been for hundreds of years. In the United States, Christianity is still practiced by the majority of the population and I have found, more often than not, this majority does not understand, nor does it want to understand, the minorities that don’t practice the things that they do. We live in a society of fear and xenophobia. Anything that is other is unwelcome.
Here in Louisiana, we recently had a State Representative pull back her support from a bill that would allow the educational system to be overhauled by providing funding for private schools as well as public schools. Rep. Valarie Hodges, Republican, pulled her support from the bill when she realized that this would mean funding for all private schools, not just the secular and Christian ones. She said:
I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school, unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,' Hodges said. 'We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.
When we have politicians, who represent their communities, blatantly ignoring history and common sense, then we need to be even more wary in maintaining our rights to practice our religion freely. There is an erroneous idea in the Conservative party that our founder’s religion was Christianity and that the rest of our society needs to correspond with that idea.
Over the last few days, I’ve been watching the newest Republican vice-presidential candidate debacle unfold. If you aren’t familiar with Paul Ryan, he is not only known for his budget plans, but for his role in the current war on women’s rights. That bill in Virginia for forced ultrasounds? He was the one to propose it on the national level. The Personhood bill that was too extreme even for Mississippi? He also proposed that on a national level.
When you look at Paul Ryan, you see a young, good looking man who you couldn’t possibly think would carry such 1950‘s misogyny around with him. Well, very much like many pretty things, Ryan hides some pretty ugly ideals. Left to him, women in this country will have absolutely no right to make decisions about their own bodies.
When Hitler was legally elected in Germany, one of the first things he did was take away the gun rights of the Germans. When you have an unarmed populace, people cannot defend themselves against a menacing government: Hitler’s Germany no longer seems simply theoretical. When this comes up in daily conversation, most people tell me I’m paranoid. But when I live in a country where my politicians are systematically taking away my rights to make choices about my own body, I have to wonder what else are they capable of. My family survived Hitler’s Germany. I grew up with the stories of the horrors that people who were at the mercy of their government went through. One of my distant cousins came from Germany to visit us. She had lived through the war, and when she saw my historian father’s copy of Mein Kampf on the book shelf, she broke into heart wrenching weeping. Wounds like that don’t heal. I live in a country where The Patriot Act is in place; our presidential candidates are proposing the elimination of social services and of womens’ rights: my government no longer has my best interests at heart.
I want my government to remember that we are an armed populace and that if they take things too far, the people can stand up to them and say loudly and clearly “No”. Owning the same quality and calibre of weaponry that the government has is a part of that debate.
My family’s guns have put food on our table; they have protected our home; they have brought peace and security to us individually. We do not live in a nice world. We do not live in a world where the police can arrive on time every time. I have never met a gun owner who has not contemplated the responsibility and the repercussions of what would happen if they had to use their weapon.
I do not live in a world of fear. I live in a world where I understand that while bad things may happen, and I may not walk away completely intact, I will walk away. I have the ability to defend not only myself, but my family. I am responsble for my family’s well being. I do not have to depend on the police who may take ten minutes to reach me. I do not have to depend on the grocery store. I do not have to depend on my government. The guns that I own are not toxic. They do not make me an evil person. They do keep me aware of my surroundings and of the legal processes of the country that I live in. My guns do impact my environment; they keep me respectful. My target shooting keeps me in shape, so that if I ever do have to make that terrible decision one day, I will hit exactly what I aim at. If that day comes, I will not hesitate, I will not miss, and if my government ever shows up on my door and tries to tell me that they are going to take away all of my rights because I am a Pagan, I will be ready for that day as well.
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