(C) Pax / Geoffrey Stewart 2005, 2008
I have often said to friends in the local Pagan community that language is the single most powerful tool of magic. (Or magick, if you prefer)
That has been emphasized for me recently by some reactions I have seen recently to the word “Pagan” while arranging for the site for the Anchorage Pagan Pride 2005, I have been shown the power of invoking that word… and how far we have to go in the local community in terms of educating people about what it really means.
“There aren’t going to be any …uh sacrifices going on are there?!?”
That question was asked by one of the Municipal employees who had the power to approve or deny our use of the site. He is not a fundamentalist Christian, in fact I am not sure of his religious persuasion… if any, he is in fact and educated and intelligent guy. He’s never shown any odd reaction to my being gay. He’s a pretty worldly and generally a nice guy; he is also an acquaintance of mine. We’ve talked about a number of things and he knows me, a little at least. Yet he also asked me that question.
Needless to say I was a little taken aback!
After a moment, wherein I blinked and tried to invoke my sense of humor, I chuckled and gave said Municipal employee who asked that question some reassurances that it wasn’t like that.
Later I sent him a politely worded e-mail and attached some informational pieces that I found on www.paganpride.org ; I am told by a source on the inside that said employee read the information I provided. He has even apologized at the delay in getting approval for the site. He wasn’t bigoted or sarcastic, he was ignorant about Paganism. A lot of folks out there are.
One of the sad things about this episode is that I am not that surprised, it’s just the latest in a long number of encounters I have had with “The Fear”.
From my earliest involvement in Anchorages Pagan Community, and through the Net with the rest of the Alaskan Pagan Community, I have been disheartened by encounters with what I call “The Fear”. It is an insidious enemy, with a strange paralytic power, that I have often heard cited in one form or another.
“I can’t wear my pentacle at work because it might cause trouble for me.”
“I don’t want any trouble with the neighbors.”
“Well if we advertise our open solstice in the community events section of that alternative paper we might have a Fundamentalist attack?!”
When questioned as to details about what sort of trouble, or when offered ideas about how we could respond to a Fundie attack, I get responses short on facts or detail or logic. This is one of the many observable symptoms of “The Fear”.
“The Fear” has often caused my friends in the local Pagan Community to hold back from doing even very simple things in their own lives… including, in one case, asking their Fundamentalist co-worker from changing the office radio to something other than the Christian radio station!
“They might start asking questions and I don’t want trouble…..”
Sadly Pagans aren’t the only one who can be affected by “The Fear”. Take my friend, and his supervisor. They are two of the many people out there who have no problem whatsoever with Paganism once they know a responsible adult who practices it and can explain something of it to them directly; rather than relying on mass media misinformation and stereotypes and Fundamentalist propaganda to tell them who Pagans are and what they do.
The thing is, as someone who was born in the early 1970’s I grew up with a lot of that pro Democracy, patriotically painted U.S. History & propaganda as a kid. Including a hearty dose of the following…
(The following quotes taken from… www.usconstitution.net )
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
“Amendment I – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
As a man who was raised to hold dear the ideals embodied in, and over a tumultuous history enacted and even expanded upon those set forth in, the U.S. Constitution – I find “The Fear”, confusing. I have often tried to remind my friends that history shows that time and time again in that if you do not exercise your rights under the law, you WILL lose them.
As a Gay man who recently has had his status as a full member of “We the People” menaced and questioned by agents & allies of the current administration …I have am horrified and appalled by “The Fear” and it’s paralyzing powers.
It is true that there is a lot of Fundamentalist dirt-throwing propaganda about Pagans and Paganism. However it is also true that we often do ourselves no favors by hiding within the so-called Broom Closet. If we do not show others who and what we are then we are allowing those same Fundamentalist to define for the rest of society who we are.
Shouldn’t we, as a community, be the ones to define who we are?
I truly believe that you can only change the world one person at a time, person to person. I’d like to think I have started my own changing the world with my friend the Municipal employee, and his supervisor.
I faced a week-plus delay in getting confirmation that we had a site. Then I got the opportunity to politely educate his next-higher-up in the Parks & Rec department because both of them were freaked out by the word “Pagan” and obviously were more informed by Fundamentalist propaganda and Hollywood imagery than by fact on the matter.
So, again, I sent a politely worded letter and some information about our Community…
The good news is that once she read what we were about and what sort of an event we were really having, the higher up offered to move us to a Recreation Center that didn’t have a basketball tournament scheduled for the same night and give us a complimentary permit for the Park next door to the Recreation Center for our BBQ!!
In closing I would like to leave you all with a quote from another document that has touched and informed my life, my values, and my ethics and ideals.
“Sing! Feast! Dance! Make music and Love all in my praise and presence. For mine is the Spirit of Ecstasy, and mine as well is joy on Earth, and Love Unto All Beings is My Law. Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever towards it; let nothing stop you or turn you aside.”
- From the Charge of the Goddess.
Thank you all for your time.
Pax / Geoffrey Stewart