Words can kill.

Rev. Snark sent the 4M a link to this article in Rolling Stone about a town that has had 9 suicides of teens who identified as queer, or were perceived as queer.

That’s 9 suicides in two years.

Let me say that again: 9 suicides in two years.

Our society tends to think that words are something you can just brush off. You know the old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

You can’t just brush it off. If you’ve been told over, and over, and over, and over and over just how horrible, stupid, bad, or wrong you are, you begin to believe it. If you’re told that God hates you often enough, you believe it. If you’re told that you shouldn’t be allowed to live day in and day out, you’ll start to believe that, too. Then, over time, you’ll wonder if, maybe, if you did kill yourself, you’d do everyone, and God, a favor.

I know, because I’ve been there.

I was lucky because I still had a spark of hope left to listen to Spirit when it told me to turn around, go home, go to bed, and find help. I was lucky because I was in a place where I could ask, and receive, the help that I needed.

The teens who died in Anoka, Minnesota haven’t been that lucky.

As a witch, I’ve been taught that my words have power. That what I say can cause happiness, harm, pain, and many other things. Words, even more than actions at times, can cause serious harm, even if someone “didn’t mean it.”

It amazes me that there are fellow priests (in seminary and in the pagan community) who don’t understand this. Who don’t understand that even thinking in anger and hate can have an effect.

If you remember the work we did at Pantheacon last year, this is part of what we were trying to get across to the community. It’s not that we want to limit anyone’s religious freedom, far from it, but to make people think about how they present themselves.

If you used bigoted language when you present yourself and your religion, don’t be surprised when people call you a bigot. If you use racist, homophobic, sexist language in your sermons or writings, don’t be surprised when you get called racist, sexist, or homophobic.

And if you don’t think that your words can kill, try telling the kids in Anoka that you “didn’t mean it that way.”

Made of Fail

I was reading about Paula Deen’s announcement that she had Type II diabetes, and has been dealing with it for awhile. The comments I’ve seen have made me angry. It gets me that there are attitudes that put the idea forward that “Well, just look at the food she made! She deserved to get diabetes!”

Deserved? Because she cooked food she liked?

I’m not going to go into a thing about how correlation is NOT causation, and how genetics play the biggest role in who gets diabetes. I don’t deny the fact that food does play a factor in diabetes, because I know. Most of the adults in my family, way out to my grandmother, and I think further, have had this. I’m a former biochemist: I worked in pharma and healthcare for 13 years.

No, this isn’t about that.

This is about discrimination, privilege, and failure.

I get that I have privilege. I am a white, cisgendered, middle class woman. I’m extremely lucky to have my shelter, food, and clothing needs met. I go to seminary, and I’m lucky enough to have health insurance. I also fall into some categories that are discriminated against: I’m queer, I’m female, I’m Wiccan, and I’m fat.

I want to help in areas that I will never truly completely understand because I’m not transgendered, African-American, Muslim…

What’s frustrating is that it seems that even when trying to work for justice, I fail.

For example: When we went to the craft store, I picked up a book on crochet called “The Chicks with Sticks Guide to Crochet.” The book was innocuous enough, and neither Sarah nor I really thought much of it at the time. When I was talking to her about all of this earlier this evening, Sarah said that the title was offensive because it riffed off of “Chicks with Dicks” and that the book itself assumed that only women really wanted to do crochet.

She was right. To be honest, I felt bad, horrified, really. It wasn’t intentional on anyone’s part, but there it was.

The frustrated part of me wanted to shout and scream:

I try and try to recognize my own privilege, to work for social justice, to not hurt people, and no matter what I do, I still fail. No matter what good I do, no matter how hard I try to prove that I am an ally, I still fail. When I speak up, especially around size acceptance, I still fail.

The part of me that speaks out, like when I saw nasty comments and fat jokes about Paula Deen, it wants to scream:

Don’t you hear yourself? Don’t you understand what you’re saying?

“She deserved it because she cooked southern food.”

“She deserved it because she was transgendered.”

“She deserved it because she was wearing slutty clothes.”

“She deserved it because she’s fat.”

“She deserved it because she’s black.”

“She deserved it because she’s a bitch.”

And the part of me that wants to help? To make things right? To work for justice?

That part feels made of fail.

Who am I to speak out? Who am I to do this work?

And what comes to me is that even Jesus wanted to give it up at one point. In the garden of Gethsemane, he begged God to take his burden away from him: “[H]e threw him‐self on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me…’ (Matthew 26:39)” I get that. I get that it was just all too much. That he wanted to just give it all up and be done with it. But it’s the next words of that chapter that explain why he didn’t: “…yet not what I want but what you want…”

I can’t deny that there are seven deities (including Jesus) who have put me in the right place at the right time to do the work I need to do. I am the one to do the work because I am there, and I said to the universe that I would do it. I am the one to speak out because I am there and I have been called to do so.

I know that I’m human, and I am dealing with other humans. None of this is easy, and it’s a constant struggle to do what I think is right.

Sometimes I do good.

And, sometimes, I fail.

But I am there, and I try.

And I wish, with all my heart, that it is enough.

It never is.

Why? (#OWS #OccupySF #OccupyOakland)

I was going to sit and write an anecdote about a conversation I had the other day with someone who felt that charities could provide all the social services needed to help people out. I pointed out that, if it was a perfect world, and there was no discrimination (class, race, sex, gender, etc), then that might work.

But we don’t live in that society.

I don’t mind listening to opposing viewpoints, in fact, I love a good debate if the other person respectfully listens and thinks about what I’m saying.

Unlike the person I was talking to, most don’t. Most of the ones I’ve engaged with in some way have spouted things about “dirty, filthy protestors” or “well, they should just get jobs” or “they should come up with demands!” or “if they weren’t protesting they could find a job!” or “What are they protesting about?” They also spout things like “Oh, they deserved to be pepper-sprayed!” or “well, they shouldn’t provoke the police!” (when there is no evidence of provocation). My favorite is: “well, if they just worked hard enough, then they would be fine! I mean, I worked hard and have X, Y, Z, so they can do it too!”


I could give lots of examples about people getting sick and going bankrupt, or being denied services because they made slightly too much money to qualify for government assistance. Or people like my mom who was out of work for almost two years, who has a BA and MBA and got both while putting me through school and college as well. She’s lucky she found something recently, but there are many more that I know who are running into 2 or 3 years of unemployment. And those retail jobs that people tell them to get? Well, I tried that a few times after I got my degree, and I always get a “why are you applying here?” look, a pat on the back, and no job.

I could give all these examples, but I have a question for those who think I’m a cracked hippie seminarian: Why?

Why do you have no compassion for your fellow human beings?

Why are you willing to let people become homeless and poor just because they, supposedly, didn’t work as hard as you did?

Why are some of you so hot on claiming Jesus as your “personal lord and savior” and yet are so quick to spout hate at those who are different from you?

Why are some of you claiming to be doing the work of God and Jesus by claiming war and supporting violence against other religions here and overseas?

Why do you believe that your rights and privileges are better than those who are a different race, creed, sexuality, class, and gender?

Why do you think it’s ok to let people die by inches?

Why were tea party folks allowed to express their first amendment rights without issue, yet average people expressing their first amendment rights are somehow unpatriotic and un-American?

Seriously, do you really believe this? Do you really think that people are that expendable?

I want to know. I want to know why people think that even the rights of “dirty, filthy protestors” are somehow less than theirs? What makes your first amendment rights somehow superior?

Because, really, if you claim to have a morality of some sort (whatever religion you believe or don’t), the idea of people dying because of inadequate healthcare, or having to choose between food and rent, or food and heat, or food and medicine, or because they end up homeless, or being pepper-sprayed and beaten for their convictions, or being unemployed for no lack of trying on their part, or put in any situation where no matter how much they play by the rules, they just can’t keep up, SHOULD DISTURB YOU.

If it doesn’t, why?

Please, explain to me why you feel this way. Don’t give me the Fox News platitudes, or anything like that. Explain to me from your heart.

Explain to me, as a fellow human being, why you feel that these things are ok.

Weight, Weight-loss, and Health At Every Size

I got into the Fat Acceptance movement awhile back, and as many people know, I was really into it. I was excited about it, and was happy to find people who had the same disgust at societal body norms as I did. Anger at the diet industry, being a BMI and not a patient, and a lot of past stuff really came out for me. Yeah, and I did my fair share of “Real Woman Have Curves” bullshit, too.

At one point, someone rightly pointed out something that I bitch about quite a bit myself: hating at the skinny girls does just as much harm to them as what was being said about me. What makes me better than them, and what makes me think that they don’t get the same crap I do?

It was an eye opener, and it really made me think about what actually made me mad about the way we think of weight in this country. A little while later, I was having dinner with my cousin, who got the super skinny genes in the family. We realized that we get the same body crap from either end of the spectrum. We get similar issues with healthcare, bullying, and people nosing in on our business. It wasn’t really about how much we ate, or what calories either of us counted:

It was the societally recognized default that weight (whether low or high) is an indicator and predictor of health.

It makes us afraid of our bodies: too big or too small and you’re screwed. People tell us what food is good and bad and how much we should eat. We get advertising about diets that are supposed to be the next wonder diet. We believe that science backs this all up. The diet industry plays on our collective fears of not being “just right” and promotes methods that, scientifically, just don’t work.

What gets me, though, is that when I bring up this idea that maybe, just maybe, weight-centered health care is a bad thing, people look at me like I have two heads. Or that I somehow think that weight loss is the worst thing you can do.

No, actually, what I object to are doctors taking one look at a person and making health decisions based on body size. Or, using weight-loss as the immediate prescription for any health issue.

I object to the diet industry and their people trying to sell us diets that are based on playing to people’s fears and not unbiased scientific evidence. Or drugs and surgeries, that, without care and thought, could lead to worse health than before those things were used.

I object to seeing kids being so afraid of being fat that they are using these diets at very young ages.

I object to friends and family being so obsessed about weight-loss that they literally go crazy.

I object to advertising that perpetuates these obsessions.

I do think that the paradigm should change. That’s why I talk about Health At Every Size. I’ve looked and, when I see these products, procedures, and plans, I think: Where’s your unbiased scientific evidence that this even works? What clinical studies prove that something is actually bad? Who funded the research? How was it reported? Where is the evidence that fat is a cause, not a correlation? Being a former biochemist, I can tell you that a lot of what is paraded as “fact” or “healthy” is neither.

What about supporting others who are focusing on weight-loss? Well, here’s the kicker. I talk about HAES because it seems saner to me. I’ve seen way too many of my friends and family counting points, shifting little cards from one envelope from another, telling themselves how bad they are for eating a chocolate, substituting diet drinks for real meals, and many other things in the name of health that, in the end, drove them nuts. (And in some cases, into eating disorders, depression, etc.) If I talk about it, then people have information that there’s other options. I try, most of the time, to present it as alternative information. I don’t always succeed, but I try and remind myself that in the end, it’s their decision. What’s difficult is that when I present this information, the societal default kicks in and the talk turns to how much weight people have lost recently, or how many pounds before they fit into a piece of clothing. Sometimes I just give up.

Am I right in my way of thinking? Depends on who you talk to. My current doctor seemed to be really excited about it when I brought her the information about HAES. Is it right for everyone? I don’t know, but I think HAES makes much more sense than what’s advertised by the diet industry.

What’s so hard here? #OWS

I should be writing at paper right now, but I’ve been reading and watching a lot of the media in the wake of the Occupy Oakland protests the other night. I’ve been following a lot of the Occupy media on Twitter and Facebook. Clergy and seminary students from my school have been going to the different area protests. I’ve seen pictures and read about war veterans going to protect protestors. It’s been rather amazing and scary all at once.

I’ve also been listening to a lot of music, and Linkin Park seems to top the list right now. Their lyrics seem to match what I’m watching and feeling:

Try to give you warning

But everyone ignores me

[Told you everything loud and clear]

But nobody’s listening

Call to you so clearly

But you don’t want to hear me

[Told you everything loud and clear]

But nobody’s listening

— “Nobody’s Listening” by Linkin Park

The reason that this song is stuck in my head is that no matter how much the Occupy movement grows, it seems that all we hear from Congressional leaders and pundits is: “What do they want? We don’t understand why they’re protesting! They don’t have any clear demands!”

Really? I don’t think it’s that hard to figure out: The economy has tanked. People are losing jobs left and right. Legislators on both sides of the isle have pretty much ignored job creation in favor of creating false crises. Job bills that should have gone right through are being halted in the House by legislators who bow to corporate interests and can’t deal with a black guy in the White House. We have soldiers doing multiple tours in a war that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

The list could go on, but I don’t think this is that difficult: People are angry. People are tired. People want fairness and equality in jobs and finances. People want legislators to listen to them and not the money in their bank account.

I suppose I could recount tales of my own job experiences, but, well, while it was a pain in the ass, I was very lucky. I got paid (more or less) decently for what I did, and I had a roof over my head. But, even with that privilege, I still lived paycheck to paycheck. The only savings I have is my 401k, and there are a lot of people who don’t even have that.

And like I said, I’ve been lucky, both by the fact that I was born white and by the fact that I went to college at all.

A couple of years ago I was doing some divination work, and part of the divination started talking about the elections of 2010. What came out of that is that they could go either way: the first path was that those who were elected would be good for the country and things would improve. The other path was that the election would be a disastrous turn for the country. In the second path, it would get ugly before it got better, and it would cause a great change. It was a knife’s edge, and seeing how things are going now, well…

How it all ends is still up in the air, since those in charge have money and power at their disposal. It also depends on how we, as the angry 99%, approach this: We can take the high road, stay peaceful, and allow them to make fools of themselves, or we fight and prove their pundits right.

Either way, change is happening…

Wretches and Kings (#occupyoakland #OWS)

(This is a song by Linkin Park from their 2010 album “A Thousand Suns.” This song has been in my head all day because of the events last night at OccupyOakland.)


“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all” -Mario Savio

To save face / how low can you go

Talk a lot of game but yet you don’t know

Static on the way / make us all say whoa

The people up top push the people down low

Get down

And obey every word

Steady getting mine if you haven’t yet heard

Wanna take what I got

Don’t be absurd

Don’t fight the power

Nobody gets hurt

If you haven’t heard yet then I’m letting you know

There ain’t shit we don’t run when the guns unload

And no one make a move unless my people say so

Got everything outta control

Now everybody go

Steel unload / final blow

We the animals / take control

Hear us now / clear and true

Wretches and kings we come for you

So keep pace / how slow can you go

Talk a lot of shit and yet you don’t know

Fire on the way / make you all say whoa

The people up top and the people down low

Get down

And I’m running it like that

The front of the attack is exactly where I’m at

Somewhere in between

The kick and the hi hat

The pen and the contract

The pitch and the contact

So get with the combat / I’m letting ’em know

There ain’t shit you can say to make me back down no

So / push the button let the whole thing blow

Spinning everything outta control

Now everybody go

Steel unload / final blow

We the animals / take control

Hear us now / clear and true

Wretches and kings we come for you

Steel unload / fire blow

Filthy animals / beat them low

Skin and bone / black and blue

No more this sun shall beat onto you

From the front to the back and the side to side

If you fear what I feel put ’em up real high

Let’s not eat our own. (An open letter to uber-progressives.) #occupywallstreet

I’ve been watching the Occupy Wall Street movement today, and have been following it for a bit now. It’s been reminding me of the 2004 RNC Protests where I got arrested and held in NYPD custody for three days. I remember feeling the solidarity with those who were there with me, but it was what happened after that really pissed me off. I got told I wasn’t a “real protester/progressive” because I didn’t do whatever they thought I was really supposed to do.

But, you know what, not all of us can be out on the streets today:

Some of us can’t take the time away from jobs or family. Some of us can’t drive or even bus out to a protest because we are too far away. Some of us can’t go to a protest because of disabilities. Some of us can’t afford to get arrested or go to trial to protest our arrest. Some of us can’t go because we’re non-residents (legal or illegal) and are afraid to get deported as a terrorist. Some of us are partners of non-residents, and our actions could get our partners deported. Some of us work for the federal government and are not allowed to go for fear of our job. Some of us have kids and no one else to take care of them. Some of us can’t handle crowds and noise…


We are still supportive if all we can manage is to retweet information. We are still supportive if all we can do is write about it on our blogs. We are still supportive if all we can do is vote, or honk our support as we drive by, or send money, or just think positive thoughts about the movement.


To the uber-progressives:

Do not treat those of us who are not there like we are failures because we can’t march. Do not treat us like we’re not real progressives because we aren’t doing what you think all “real” progressives should be doing. Not all of us have the ways and means to do direct action. I certainly don’t. I can write. I can pass information. That’s about it.

And, more importantly: INSULTING THOSE WHO ARE MARCHING WITH YOU CREATES DIVISION, NOT SOLIDARITY. Telling us we’re not awake, or wrong, or not “real”, or bad because of whatever doesn’t make me want to support you. It makes me want to tell you to fuck off and stay home. Not all of us are in total agreement with you. Some of us are even conservatives! (*gasp*)

I feel like a broken record when I say this, but THIS IS DOING THEIR WORK FOR THEM. Those that are being protested against want us to fight among ourselves. If we’re focused on who’s right and who’s wrong in our own camp, we’re not focusing on what needs to be said: the 99% is really pissed off and we want to be heard! We want fairness and jobs. We want the government to do something about the economy, and we want the rich and corporations to pay their fair share.

Please, let’s not blow this one by fighting amongst ourselves. It gives them more of a reason to laugh at us:

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.