We all died a little this week.

I’m watching as the tweets and posts come in about Troy Davis, and it makes me angry, that, yet again, government has decided that it is acceptable to kill someone.

And then I read this.

For the record, I have always been against the death penalty. It has never made any sense to me. Theoretically, it’s supposed to deter people from killing other people by killing a person. To me, this doesn’t add up, and never mind the fact that it has never stopped people from committing murder, or any other crimes for that matter.

This isn’t about stopping crime. I don’t think it ever has been. I think it’s only been about revenge. About victims being so angry that they want someone to pay. Even if the evidence is flimsy at best. Even though they know that killing the other person will never bring their loved one back.

It is very easy to think of the criminal as a non-entity. The common attitude towards prisoners is “oh, well, they must have done something bad, so they deserve what they get!” In the case of murderers (alleged or otherwise), it is decided early on that, since they killed someone, they are not human.

The system as it is now treats prisoners as things and objects. There is no reform. This are no second chances. You get labeled a criminal for life. It’s near impossible to get a job, and for some crimes, you are even restricted from living in specific areas.

I don’t like what people do to each other. I do feel for the victims and their families. But I can’t get past the idea that killing someone to prove that a very broken justice system is doing something about crime when it isn’t. For some, it’s easy to talk about compassion for the victims, or for those who live far away, or for the poor or the homeless, but compassion for criminals? It’s unthinkable.

Let me put it this way:

If a murderer was dying in a prison and I got called to go and sit by their bedside, I would. They are no less human than I am.

My compassion isn’t dictated by the will of others, or the will of the state, or by what the person has done.

My compassion is for all beings.

I will serve the will of the Gods by caring for all beings who cross my path and are in need, regardless.

The Towers

In Tarot, the Tower represents great change, and sometimes catastrophic change that will change one’s life forever.

Ten years ago, two towers came down and changed our lives. Was it catastrophic change? Looking through the lens of the present, I think so. It’s changed the way our government works. It’s led us into wars we can no longer afford to be in. We’re in a depression and people are suffering, at home and abroad, because we’ve elected people to represent us out of fear of the other instead of doing what’s in our best interest.

Public figures have treated this crime, this blood sacrifice, as if it was a political rally, or a political event that was staged just for them. They use the deaths of over 2000 people as a political token, saying that if you don’t think like they do, especially about security, then you’re dishonoring their memory.

And every year the media plays, over and over and over and over, video of the towers falling. They play over and over people talking about their feelings, as if ten years hadn’t passed.

We are kept in a perpetual state of grief. This is not healthy, nor is it honoring the dead.

I remember that morning. I lived outside of Boston at the time. It was kind of surreal walking into work and seeing my coworkers around the television. I remember asking what was happening, and someone told me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I went to my desk and got on the internet to read the media reports as they came in. After awhile, the CEO told us all to go home. I don’t really remember the drive, but I do remember being home and watching TV. At first, like most people, I just watched because I was in shock. I kept flipping channels. I’d go outside, or open the windows in my house, and it would be eerie because you couldn’t hear the sounds of planes or helicopters.

But, after a few days, I got angry. Not only because the whole thing was senseless to me, but because the media was just repeating the same messages over and over. Talking to people who were trying to find their loved ones, and people who had confirmed that their loved ones had died. Hounding the ones who were grieving to “get their thoughts” on what this could mean.

They were grieving. I was grieving. Dammit, why couldn’t they just leave us in peace?

That night, I sold my TV to a neighbor for $30. He came and got it (it was an almost new TV) right away. Finally, I had peace. Finally I could sort out my heart and mind.

Every year since, I’ve avoided mass media almost entirely around September 11. For those who lived in New York, or knew people who died, this is a hard time of year. They get pestered by reporters to describe, yet again, their feelings about that day. Politicians ramp up using this tragedy as a political football, posturing and posing for the cameras, sporting flag pins on their collars in a contest to see who can be more “patriotic”. The media replays footage over and over again of the towers falling.

Enough. I say, enough.

I have mourned for the dead. I have lit candles. I do think about those who have passed every year. But enough already. I am tired of being bullied by the media into being in a perpetual state of mourning. I am tired of politicians using a tragedy for their own political ends.

Instead, I choose to turn off the media and say a prayer for those who have passed. I choose to honor the lives of the dead by working for social justice and world peace. I choose to honor the lives of the dead by doing interfaith work that counters religious extremism. I choose action and service over perpetual grief.

I choose to celebrate their lives and honor their memories by making this world a better place to live in.

I choose to celebrate life instead of glorifying death.

I choose.

Walking into Oblivion

I’ve been overwhelmed a bit lately with what is going on with the government these days. I listen to the news and it boggles my mind. A group of people are perfectly willing to let people suffer for their own perceived notion of political gain.

And in the name of God.

Doesn’t this sound familiar?

The same people that are quick to blame Muslims for the world’s ills are the very same people that are, at this very minute, holding our country hostage by a completely manufactured crisis. They are the same people that are compromising on the backs of the poor, the elderly, veterans, and the middle class by severely cutting government programs, yet are perfectly willing to keep waging war in the middle east.

Many of the people who are doing these things claim that God sent them to Washington to do this.

Bishop Yvette Flunder, who I saw preach last weekend at New Spirit Church, said it best: what they are doing is wicked and evil and we need to do something about it.

We need to use whatever talents we have to let them know that we don’t like what is going on with our government.

But here’s the problem: I have no faith that it will work. Unlike the UK, we have nothing in our constitution that allows for a vote of no confidence in our government. We have another year and a half before we get vote out the people who are causing these problems, and I’m afraid of what damage will be done in the interim.

And I have no faith that people will actually care or get angry enough to make change.

So, I ask Christians: what are you doing to counter the people that are causing this havoc in the name of Christianity and in the name of God. I know that they don’t represent all of you, not by a long shot. These are the extremists of your own faith, a good many of whom will allow people to suffer, starve, or die, in the name of Jesus.

And I ask the pagans: what are you doing to help the Christians that do care? Do you just grumble about “those damn Christians”? Or maybe rattle something off about the Burning Times? We can’t just assume that all Christians are going to agree with the extremists on these issues. We need to work together because, while we’ve been enjoying some mainstream success, we just aren’t a powerful enough group on our own.

Sometimes I wonder if this is the real consequence of 9/11. It was a gruesome blood sacrifice with the intention of bringing down the government. I think that, in the way blood magic does, it has worked, just not in the way the extremists who carried out the attack did.

As much as there were many of us that recognized what it was at the time, there wasn’t enough magicians to stop it from doing what it wanted. It was just too big.

And, now, here we are. I still don’t know what to do. I know what I think, and what I feel. I’ll try to do my work with the dying and my interfaith work. Some other pagans think I’m weird to work with Christians, but I think that more of us should. We should be learning from Christianity’s mistakes. We should be making a conscious decision to be better than what we’re perceived as.

But we’re human, and what’s sad is that, to some degree, we don’t realize that, as a group, pagans are making the same mistakes.

Extremism hurts everyone, not just “those people” over there.

About me being smart…

I’m taking some time from my paper to write this. I’m a little over halfway done with the first draft, but I have a lot more to do, of course. Writing papers are always a strong act of will on my part. It always seems to be that I have to convince myself that, I am, in fact, smart enough to do this damn paper, and that, yes, I actually have knowledge in this brain of mine.
 
People have always told me that I’m smart. I’d get decent grades in most things, but some things were a real struggle. I went to college and did fairly well, but not well enough for any awards or accolades. (Although, sometimes I wish that the effort I put in to some classes was given some credit.) Maybe it was the major I picked (biochemistry), or my procrastination, or because I had a difficult time on tests, or…well, I don’t know…And maybe there was a little jealousy, too, since a lot of the classes I was in had the super-intelligent students who never seemed to need to study all that hard.
 
It just never felt to me that I was quite good enough to be there, no matter what anyone told me. It’s not that people weren’t encouraging and supportive, it’s just the way I felt. No one ever told me directly that I was a crappy student, or stupid, or any of the things that go through my head. But grades aren’t forgiving, and standardized testing doesn’t really gauge where you are in the learning process. Never mind health and emotional issues (the first half of my senior year of undergrad was, to put it mildly, rough).
 
Then there’s being in the corporate world. In my 14.5 years (dude!) of working in the emotional cesspool that is office politics and hiring practices, I’ve learned that my intelligence is not really a factor. You learn not to cause trouble, you learn to watch your back, and you learn that being smart and reliable is not how you get promoted or how you get to do more interesting work. If you are somehow having issues outside of work, and explain these things to those in charge, they just don’t care. You are a warm body that does things, and co-workers are rarely real friends. You are reduced to a thing that makes money, not a person.
 
So, now that I’m back in school, I need to purge this kind of thinking from my system. I keep telling myself that they wouldn’t have admitted me if they didn’t think I could hack it. They did recognize my intelligence and my calling. They recognized that I wanted to learn. And, to be honest, there’s a part of me that knows she’s smart, otherwise, I never would have applied in the first place.
 
What I’m finding weird is that it’s taking a lot of work to convince the rest of my brain of that.
 
But there’s time, and there’s this paper, which I now need to get back to…
 
 
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