Monday, March 19, 2007

Pagans and the War in Iraq: Four Years Later

On March 19th, 2003, we invaded Iraq and began two wars, the one over there and the one over here. On April 5th, 2003 I offered this piece at The Witches Voice:

The Elephant in Our Circles: Pagans, Tolerance and the War in Iraq

I warned back then that we could "win" the war and loose the "peace", and to my horror, that is what we've done. I wrote about the screaming intolerance towards different points of view that came from all sides. Rabid rhetoric is meant to stifle thought and shame us into silence, and in many places, it worked. I noted with concern the lack of any kind of intelligent, informed debate about this war. I knew (as many others knew) that fear mongering, and ignorance would hurt this country, threaten our civil liberties and divide the Pagan community, and that has come to pass. Meanwhile, those in the political center were not being heard, and they soon stopped listening to the screamers. In the last four years many Americans, especially those who had no friends or loved ones serving in this war, stopped listening, and the youth protest never truly materialized. Unlike my own generation during Vietnam, collage age citizens were at no risk of being drafted and what protest there was, was ignored by most of the media. When people feel powerless and overwhelmed by events, they tune out. That has happened as Bill Cusak notes in his provocative article on Bush's God:

People rely on an all powerful combination of corporations and government to run the world and provide them with order and protection. In return for giving up control of our lives to this authority structure we get someone to blame when things go wrong (think Katrina) and an expectation of safety and security so we can pursue happiness. With all the big stuff out of the way we get to be little kids who can afford to get upset when they change Coke's secret formula and when Simon Cowell gets too mean.

What we give up for this dubious warm and fuzzy sense of security is responsibility for our government's actions and for our society's decisions. They overthrow other governments, pardon themselves, meet with energy companies behind closed doors, rig insurance laws and we complain and rarely throw them out of office. Most Americans want health care, gun control and to end the Iraq war now. Fat Chance. Authority doesn't want those changes, and we don't want to give up relying on Authority to give us security. So we take the scandals and call them assholes and move on from O.J. to Anna Nicole to who ever is next.

We no longer get to have it both ways. Authority is no longer taking care of us. Jobs are leaving, cities are dieing, health care is beyond nearly everyone's reach, we can't secure enough energy without being in a constant state of war. Authority's way is failing all around us. Refusing to take responsibility for ourselves is creating too many problems around the world and is stunting our growth as spiritual beings.

Some people emailed us in 2003 to say that The Elephant in Our Circles helped induce a bit of sanity into the mix during a time of crisis, hysteria and pain. If it helped, I'm glad. I have only said what a lot of other people were thinking.

Our job now is to stay active, support positive change, and to help others do the same. This is what I wrote in 2003:

Right now, courageous people in every country are working for the highest good of all. Each will do so in their own way...individuals can and will contribute in different ways while We, The People share a common vision of peace and freedom for all. ...let us honor those men and women who serve during wartime, support free speech and civil liberties here at home, lead by example, gather food and medical supplies for those in need, raise their children with love and tolerance, and work for peace and freedom worldwide. In closing, I will ask that we make our views known to one another in ways that are respectful, truthful, compassionate and honorable.

This is what I say today: Step up or step aside. Do what your heart and spirit compel you to do but do it with integrity and compassion or not at all. And if you do nothing but gripe at the current state of affairs, you can expect nothing from any of us, ever again. You will have lost our respect, our trust and our support.

I have never forgotten the meditation offered by Dr. Randolf Becker just days after we invaded, a meditation which I quoted at the end of my article in 2003. I have kept it in my heart every day of this conflict, and will continue to do so. I would like to share it again here:


I am mindful this morning of those among us who hold the lives of the men and women serving our country in their prayers, seeking the safe return of all who have been deployed;

I am mindful this morning of those among us who hold the lives of the civilian women and men and children of Iraq in their prayers, seeking their safety amidst the conflict;

I am mindful this morning of those among us who are filled with emotions - of sadness, of anger, of resolve, of doubt, of uncertainty - which seem to overwhelm them, as they seek a balance of spirit;

I am mindful this morning of those among us who feel disconnected, through their passionate understanding of either support or opposition, but who would welcome inclusive arms to embrace them even in their differences;

I am mindful this morning of our duty as a congregation to hold, in thoughts and prayers and hugs, all those who choose to walk with us along the path of life, not only those with whom we agree but even more so those with whom we differ.

So, this is my prayer for the morning: that in our own community we find the wisdom, the courage, the connection, the acceptance - ah, yes, the all- encompassing love which is the essence and source of peace - that none be afraid.

Amen and Blessed Be.

(from the Rev. Dr. Randolph W.B. Becker of the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists. Written on March 23rd, 2003.)

My thoughts today are with those who grieve, with those who suffer, with those who serve, and with all those working for a better world.

With love, sadness, and hope,


Off The Shelf:

The Offering (CD) by Mary Youngblood.
Native American Flute

War: The Lethal Custom (The New Edition) and Future - Tense
both books are by Gwynne Dyer (who warned us over 20 years ago that World War III would start in the Middle East)

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