Looking For Trouble
Undermining the Patriarchy Every Chance I Get. And I Get a Lot of Chances
Pagans! Politicize this Tragedy!
After the terrible shootings in Aurora, Colorado, proponents of allowing mental patients to buy and carry assault weapons warned Americans in favor of gun control not to "politicize" the tragedy. Similarly, after Hurricane Katrina, Bush administration officials insisted that "now is not the time to play the blame game." It's become an expected response anytime something bad happens: Don't Politicize the Tragedy!
Which is odd, when you think about it, because, in a democracy, politics is how we go about trying to address national problems. And when a tragedy brings some problem (gun violence, global climate change, underfunded relief agencies, etc.) to the forefront of our attention, that seems like a great time to start talking seriously about the problem.
And, of course, admonitions aside, tragedies do get politicized all the time. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blamed the ACLU and the First Amendment, as well as Pagans, "abortionists," feminists, and homosexuals for the September 11th attacks. Fox News has worked pretty tirelessly to politicize the deaths of Americans in Benghazi. And before Hurricane Sandy had even made landfall, the Christian right wing was blaming homosexuals for the storm.
What does all of that have to do with Pagans?
Pagans honor and, in many cases, worship Earth. Our religious holidays revolve around the seasons and we view trees, rivers, landbases, watersheds, and the Elements as sacred -- in many cases as alive components of a greater whole. We see ourselves as an interconnected part of this whole, not as separate from, and superior to, it.
And in most cases, our politics reflect these beliefs.
We tend to accept the science on global climate change, understanding that human activity and overpopulation are causing, or at the very least exacerbating, the problem. We tend to support policies that will help alleviate, for example, dependence on carbon fuels, a focus on perpetual growth as the basis of our economy, monculture as the basis for our food supply. For many Pagans, issues related to ecology are very important. We can, and certainly do, differ over the precise answers to these problems, but Pagans, as a group, are often more focused upon these problems than are the members of many other religions.
Yet both major political parties usually place these issues on the back burner. The recent set of debates between Governor Romney and President Obama failed to focus on global climate change, leaving a casual observer to imagine that the issue is unimportant. Even as weather events of the very sort predicted by climate change scientists become more and more frequent and more and more dangerous, our politicians sit by and do little more than debate whether the response to such events should be privatized or the cost of response offset by cuts to other government programs. A political issue of huge importance to most Pagans is routinely trivialized and ignored.
And, as Americans begin today to assess the damage done by Hurricane Sandy, anyone suggesting that now is a good time to start talking seriously about climate change is told not to "politicize" the tragedy. I think that's advice that Pagans would do well to ignore. It's long past time to begin to take seriously what our dependence upon, and gross misuse of, fossil fuels is doing to the planet. It's long past time to begin to take seriously what human overpopulation is doing to a finite planet with finite carrying capacity. It's long past time to being to take seriously the species of plants and animals that we are driving rapidly into extinction. It's long past time to begin to take seriously what we're doing to the oceans, the ice caps, the Amazon rainforest. And if a tragedy such as Hurricane Sandy can get Americans to focus on that, maybe it won't be an unallayed disaster after all.
So don't be muzzled by the "politically correct" notion that it's somehow wrong to politicize a tragedy. Now is a great time to get others to focus on an issue that has, for too long, been almost as ignored as Paganism, itself.
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