If Not Now? Pagan Leadership and Civil Rights

People raise their fists in the air and have a moment of silence for Eric Garner in Oakland.  Photo courtesy of KQED news

People raise their fists in the air and have a moment of silence for Eric Garner in Oakland.
Photo courtesy of KQED news

It’s been raining here in the Bay. Rain that is desperately needed in this drought stricken land. Waves of hard rain have been pounding the west coast for almost a week now. It’s glorious weather for us here. Weather that makes you want to spend evenings in warm homes, with food on the stove, and loved ones around you. A proper San Francisco Bay winter, wet and windy.

Last night started like that for me. I was comfortable, catching up on writing in a house full of writers, warm in my home, food on the stove, listening to the intermittent sheets of rain hitting the windows. I was happy with the thought that I didn’t have to go out again for anything, that I could enjoy a quiet cozy evening.

Then I heard the verdict of the Staten Island grand jury on the investigation of the well documented and recorded murder of Eric Garner by the police and my heart broke again. So soon on the heels of the decision in Ferguson and in the middle of a number of other cases of police officers extra-judiciously murdering black youth, the United States legal system makes its message clear. “If you are a black person in this country, your life is worth less than a white person’s life. We will treat you as a threat, and we may shoot you on sight with no consequences”.

I sat in stunned silence, my sadness shifting from despair to rage. I knew that after a decision like this, the streets in the cities of America will flood with angry citizens and a militarized police response. This is one way that anger and helplessness is expressed in this country, protests that often turn angry. Windows are broken, some cars are flipped over, things are set on fire, and some stores are looted. All in all, a drop in the bucket in comparison to the centuries of injustice, dehumanization, and violence that has been inflicted upon the communities of people of color.

I knew, that my city, Oakland, would likely erupt in anger over this latest attack on the communities human rights, and I knew that I should be there to support my kindred. But I was very comfortable, and it was definitely going to start pouring rain again, and I was recovering from a cold, and I really should be writing, and a thousand other reasons to stay warm, and cozy, and home ran through my head, rationalizations constructed to drown out that voice inside me that I knew was correct, that voice that screamed at me to do what I knew was right. The voice won out. I got off my ass, stopped rationalizing, and our family headed out into the streets to stand behind the black community and let our bodies swell the size of their protest to make their voices just a little bit louder.

The rain came, solidly soaking the demonstrators and police alike. It was a night of sadness and anger, wet rage and the noise of shouts and helicopters echoing off the tall buildings. The cars in the city, caught up in the chaos of the demonstration and stormy weather, honked their horns in support and gave us thumbs up and victory signs. We are all so weary of this, all people, all colors. We are tired of the violence, we are tired of the injustice, we are tired of the government’s lack of true leadership in these moments. We are tired but still we stand together. We stand together because no matter our differences, we are all kin, bound by the blood that runs through all of our veins. We stand because an injustice to one is an injustice to our combined humanity, We stand for love.

To stand alongside of our kindred during this pivotal moment in their struggle for equality is our duty. It’s not only the right thing to do morally, but as pagans, how we act on these very basic issues of human rights, such as racism, sexism, sexual abuse, and classism will define paganism’s relevance in people’s lives and in the world from this moment forward.

To be more than an eclectic sidebar in the history of world religions, the modern pagan movement needs its leaders to take some uncomfortable stands on “push button” issues and to publicly practice the moral philosophies that they hold dear. Now is the time to stand up and be counted in these struggles, to stand in support of all communities whose voices are not being heard, to stand alongside pagan people of color who want to know that their spiritual community is there for them for whatever they need of us. Now is the time to take rightful action and take our place in creating a more just world. Now is the time to lead by example.

Join with us.

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2 thoughts on “If Not Now? Pagan Leadership and Civil Rights

  1. Pingback: [Links] on Ferguson & Social Justice | of the Other People

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