Witches and Warriors in the Heart of Empire

January 3, 2016 — 36 Comments

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This month’s column for The Wild Hunt is called Bastard Children of a Slaughtering Empire. 

I woke into the world as an ‘American,’ not as a Shawnee, a child of Empire and Capital, descended from displaced peasants from many other lands. From my father ran blood of Alsatians, Swabians, French, Irish and Welsh; from my mother came more French and Welsh and a bit of English.

I was formed from the blood and semen of peoples without title, wealth or trades. Displaced and impoverished people crafted the homunculus of me, mewling in an aluminum trailer. I was born the bastard heir of Colonialism, suckling not at the teat of imperial wealth pumps but upon rags dipped in the vats of government charity.

I knew none of this then. Empire was a thing elsewhere, wealth the currency of cities on the other side of those low mountains.

Slaughter of peoples, when you are a child, is for the story-books and the 3 channel-reception of the small glowing screen: cowboys shooting Indians, Romans burning Heathens and Christians, Hitler marching Jews to ovens. Ancient peoples and their gods were all over-ocean and under far-flung skies, not by the low mound by which I played and napped.

Ancestors from over an ocean settled in untouched forests, unwitting footsoldiers of Imperial reach, pushing the descendents of mound-builders ever westward, as if chased by an unseen, voracious monster from which all peoples knew to flee. Wars fought between the settlers’ government and the tribal confederacies always ended poorly for the defenders, but what became of these lands cannot be described as glorious or even civil.

As I wrote in the preface to the piece, I consider it the shadow of my experience in Newgrange during mid-winter solstice in 2014.  Newgrange is a world-famous passage tomb, protected and celebrated throughout the world (and particularly by Pagans and Celtic Reconstructionists).  My experience there was profound, certainly (though as I mention, the time in Wales changed more of me). And it’s a beautiful, magical site.

But there are all these burial mounds here in North America that aren’t celebrated. When I was a child, I took a nap on one of them (it was in a rest-stop, actually) and had a series of dreams every night for ten days afterwards. A bit, I guess, like the Bardic tradition of sleeping overnight in a Tumulus, or the witch traditions of sleeping on graves.

I’m not sure if that mound is still there.  I know a few others are gone now.  One was paved over for a sporting goods store a year and a half ago.  In fact, I remember reading the news about it very close to the same time I received the selection notification for Newgrange.

It seems, sometimes, that our love-affair with the ‘old world,’ while understandable, keeps us from seeing the very real horrors of our existence in the ‘new.’  Even calling it ‘old’ and ‘new’ is a problem, but that’s European exceptionalism for you, and Paganism is soaked in it.

De-Colonizing Paganism

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’d been accused by a former colleague of ‘colonizing polytheism with anti-capitalism.’  I still sorta laugh at this, but actually their utter confusion of terms concerns me. There seems to be a general inability to see what parts of Polytheist and Pagan experiences in the United States derive not from spiritual, devotional, or magical practices but from our Americanism. And if anything, I’ve been trying to decolonize Paganism and Polytheism by pointing out awful things that we ignore about our American-ness.

This, of course, often looks like ‘politicization.’  Oddly, though, the political push to include Pagan and Heathen symbols of the headstones of military soldiers is not considered politicization, nor the demand to get recognition for Pagan organisations from the government.

Politics is merely the discussion of power relationships, the way we’re governed, the way we’re ruled, and the way violence and authority shapes and influences our lives. By discussing the political, we can interrogate what parts of our beliefs and practices derive from our relationships with the gods, the forests, and the dead, and what parts derive from our experience living as subjects of capitalist Empire.

One way that the de-politicisation of Paganism in American has strongly influenced our practices is in our relationship to the military.  I address this to some degree in that column, and I found myself in a very long discussion about this today with people I respect but disagree with vehemently.  Generally, we don’t talk about the role of the US military in the subjugation and slaughter of peoples (both here, as in the First Nations peoples, and in foreign wars) because, well, quite a few Pagans are in the military.

Also, just like in the larger American political scene, there’s a stranglehold on criticism regarding the military because of something rather unique to American Nationalism.

Notes on National(ist) Identity

This is how nationalist identification works: Authority plays upon familial, tribal, and community bonds to create an ‘imagined community’ of which we consider ourselves a member.

Americans (unlike Germans and many others) tend to say ‘we’ when talking about the United States.  Even leftists get caught up in this, making statements like ‘We bombed Nagasaki’ despite the fact that none of us actually did so.  It was merely done ‘in our name,’ or later declared to be the will of the people.

This nationalist identification is what allowed George W. Bush’s statement, ‘you’re either with us or with the terrorists’ to resonate so deeply and become so difficult to argue against during the Afganistan and Iraq wars.

Perhaps the most effective counter to nationalist identification during the last decade was the anti-war movement called “Not In Our Name.”  As Authority continuously played on collective identity, the only good way to counter their ploy was to proclaim, ‘no–you don’t get to kill people on behalf of me.’  In fact, it was a perfect example of anarchist theory, and it really appeared to frighten the warmongers.

But then those fucking yellow ribbons became a thing, Or, more importantly, the propaganda behind it.  Those who were against the slaughter of Afghani and Iraqi people suddenly found themselves needing to prove that they supported the soldiers who were doing the killing.  And those of us who had friends or family in the military suddenly found our tribal/familial bonds manipulated back into American Nationalism.

The resulting compromise (you can be anti-war but must support soldiers) is, as Annika Mongan pointed out to me today, evocative of the ‘hate the sin but love the sinner’ logic, the sort which is used by evangelical Christians to defend their disgust of gays but assure everyone that their hatred doesn’t extend to the body of the homosexual himself.

Saying

‘I’m against killing children in war, but I honor/respect/cherish the soldiers who kill them’ 

seems unsatisfying as a critique of US imperialism, and hardly solace to the parents of those dead children. Worse, it allow us to feel ‘moral’ twice: first by being against imperialist war, and secondly by not alienating those who get paid to fight in them.  It’s a perfect strategy, if the goal is to continue American Capitalist dominance of the world while also shutting down all effective criticism of that dominance.

For a Pagan soldier in any of those wars, what precisely does a Pagan critique currently have to offer them? We currently have nothing more interesting to say than the rest of society. We like forests and dislike pollution and slaughter (generally), but really, we don’t say anything that others aren’t already saying.

What if, though, we started saying the truth? Something like:

“thanks for killing on our behalf so we can keep up our addiction to oil and not confront the impending end of Capitalism.

Sorry you were poor and didn’t have many better options.

But, hey! we got you a pentagram for your grave.”

Or would that be too political?

The Heart Of Empire

The other complication I see with American Paganism is our inability to see quite where we happen to live.  The United States is the richest and most militarized country in the world.  Not only that, but it is the primary ‘policeman’ of Capitalist empire, enforcing the will of bankers and multi-national corporations through trade agreements, political pressure, and direct violence throughout the world.  Pagans in the United States are not just tree-hugging, crystal-using, peace-loving witches, but citizens at the heart of empire.

American Pagans might try to consume less than their neighbors and the rest of American society, but we still look like voracious hoarders and gluttons compared to the impoverished peoples in the southern hemisphere of the earth we venerate so profusely.  Our decisions to drive a little less or eat only organic certainly feel nice and make us a little healthier, but they don’t stop the fact that the United States government is sending poor people into the middle east to slaughter people so there’s more oil around.

We’re not just in the heart of empire, we are colluding with–and to some degree are–that empire.  Our complicity is part of the trick of nationalist identification: few of us would ever make these decisions if they were up to us. But we comply nevertheless, because we continue to enjoy the benefits of empire without trying to stop it.

How would we actually stop such a thing, though?

I donno.

But maybe it really is time we changed what we say to all those Pagans in the military.

36 responses to Witches and Warriors in the Heart of Empire

  1. 

    Shared this on Diaspora. I can see why people get uncomfortable with your texts, they tend to stick on my mind, like thistles on cloth, you can shake them off, but their prickly quality makes you wonder if you really want to. Especially this one is really resonating within, because the rhetoric of people fueling wars is something I know and really loathe for its insiduous nature.

    And you are right, none of my German friends would use “we” in the context of military strikes for various reasons. I feel that there is still collective shame and trauma from WWII although people tend to get really angry about it:
    “Why do we still have to suffer for the sins of our forefathers?” “Why can’t we develop a sense of national pride?”- Well, maybe because you’re falling for similar ideologies and rhetorics today – there is a lot of Chauvinism nowadays, spearheaded by German politicians and it seems that eventually some countries are not taking it anymore (hence the success of Socialist parties in Spain or Greece, but also the rise of the New Right (France, Poland, Hungary) If suffering means learning about the history of the Germany after the Weimar Republic – bring it – they’re should be more lectures today on how that Weimar was overtaken by Fascists, In my opinion there is something valuable in learning about that time and how easily people are being manipulated and being given a (false) sense of national identity. Saying that I look back on an education that was not only sated but overstuffed with facts about nazi-Germany I feel that urge to shrug it off, but today it seems like it’s getting even more important (also I’m really interested in my more recent past in the former German Democratic (haha!) Republic.

    And I am trying to understand how this could all happen because TODAY I’m worried by populists feeding rage and anger against other people based on their faith, origin, political beliefs, sexual orientation, sexual identity and succeeding with those strategies again.There is even a German politician who openly used Social-Darwinistic theories and there was the usual outcry in the media and that was that.

    Sorry for writing such a lengthy reply, but I could not stop myself.

    • 

      Please never apologise for lengthy replies…it’s always great to hear from you. 🙂

      • 

        You’re right. Some strange reflex obviously. No resolution but a wish: I will stop apologizing for lengthy replies. Thank you, great to be heard. 🙂 PS: Adding to this: not sure if you got my email from December 20, 2015?! – for some reasons my emails tend to end up in spam filters lately. (maybe there is a phonetic filter that concludes that geh sounds like gay and deems it pornographic or whatever)

  2. 

    I remember when I went to the USA to do my first bit of fieldwork – I went to a Pagan festival in Pennsylvania. I have to say, then, I was utterly *stunned* by how patriotic it all was. A lot of words and acts were done explicitly in honour of the sacrifice of soldiers (many of the members of the community were veterans). Even though people were vociferous in their criticism of the Bush administration (one staffer told me that Republican bumper stickers were so rare on cars, she had remembered the one she had seen), the attitude seemed very clearly one of “Love my country, hate my government.” Flags draped over altars, that kind of thing.

    In Britain, this sort of nationalism is conspicuous in its absence. Flying a union jack (unless you’re a government building or representing the country in sport) is basically a covert way of announcing yourself as right wing anyway, but British Druids show a heavy sense of anti-war, and anti-nationalist sentiment even in comparison to the general population. I remember when one soldier came to our camp, and his patriotic views resulted in awkwardness and led to him falling out with several people; he never came back. Another military worker was pitied, rather than admired. The last Royal Wedding happened during one of our Beltane celebrations – not only did people not care, but they started taking the piss out of the Windsors, and claimed that the handfasting we had a couple of days later was “The real Royal Wedding.”

    This isn’t to say we don’t have our own ways of forgetting our complicity in Empire and Capital, however. One of the major ways is that very British thing of just not mentioning it. I think there’s also a downside to the sort of antipathy between Pagans and the rest of the nation – namely, isolationism. I think British Pagans sometimes lapse into the view that there’s no point in being “political” and engaging with the wider world, because it’s all bollocks anyway. This, again, reflects broader social attitudes to activism in Britain, but I think it has a really profoundly negative view on the community itself – by not bothering to engage, our practices simply become a private matter, and we then merge back into the body politic as an entirely passive force.

    The end result, I fear, is much the same as what you see in America – lamentable complicity.

  3. 

    Hey Rhyd,

    actually the mainstream media in Germany is starting to use phrases like ‘We are in War’ now – but never about wars in the past, always about what is currently happening. Which then gives a lot of Germans the feeling: “WE are in war now? I wasn’t asked! I disagree. How do they dare making this decision over our (general populations) head?” And, sadly, this is where the protest usually ends with. With outrage in social media and some newspapers. Oh, we did a lot of public protesting back when we entered the war in Irak (scary and fascinating how naturally this ‘we’ comes when writing in English. In German I would have said: “When Germany entered the war.”) If nowadays Germany only sends some vehicles or bombs over there for others to use – it’s not that much of an issue. It doesn’t inspire protest so much. Probably because we (Germans) are glad that we didn’t send our people at least. Which means (feels like) we are not actually killing anyone, but others are. We just delivered the knife. Someone else is using it to stab people. And, German government is aiding war like that sadly way too often. It doesn’t shock anyone anymore. It mostly makes most of us (though not everyone) sad.

    And, the German government has turned more and more into an ally of capitalism and US-interests since Angely Merkel got elected. TPP and more and more police violence in response to peaceful protests (especially if these protest actually stop the machine if only for a few seconds) are another evidance for it. Many Germans aren’t happy about it, but so many are more concerned with stability and maintaining their current wealth (or what’s left of it) that they turn a blind eye. Germans are sadly still more likely to comply than revolt – so far. I believe this is slowly shifting and that younger Germans are more critical and feel more empowered in general – but it remains to be seen who we will actually become.

    In terms of military: I think it all comes down to the question of whether we prioritize keeping the current machine running (aka continue to take lives and resources from other places) or if we start focusing on building structures which will sustain themselves once the machine falls to pieces by working with the sustainable resources we have where we are. Structures we will probably still need to be able to defend – but soldiers or warriors focused on defending are different from military trained to invade. At least right now I’m willing to hold on to that theory.

    As usual thank you for your brilliant writing! 🙂

    Gwydion

  4. 

    Once upon a time, we – the collective society of the United States – did what you recommend here. It was called the Vietnam War. It was a long, unpopular war fought for the worst of imperial reasons. And when it was over, we – the collective society of the United States – took our anger out on the returning soldiers. The left despised them because they fought for Empire, while the right despised them because they lost.

    And so almost 3 million people – real, human people – were traumatized twice: once when they saw and did and experienced horrible things at the command of Empire, and again when they returned home to a public that blamed them for the failings of their political leaders.

    My brother was one of them. The Vietnam War is the largest reason he died at only 64, and might as well have been dead at 54.

    As the years progressed and the heat of the pro-war / anti-war arguments faded, we – the collective society of the United States – realized we had done an unjust thing, and we – the collective society of the United States – came to understand that while it is right (and at times, necessary) to vigorously oppose military action, it is never right to treat individual soldiers with anything less than honor.

    We understood that it is wrong to hold mostly poor 19 year old boys and girls accountable for the evil decisions made by rich and powerful emperors.

    If you want to argue that the military should only be used to defend the country against active foreign assaults, I agree. If you want to argue that the response to foreign assaults should be pacifism, I find that an honorable position. If you want to argue that Pagans should not join the military and that if a draft is reinstated we should actively resist conscription, I think that argument has merit.

    But if you want to argue that we should treat individual soldiers with anything less than honor and respect and support – as you appear to be doing here – then I will argue that your ideology has shouted down your humanity, and I encourage you to reconsider.

    • 

      Thank you for that John. I agree with some of the big picture stuff Rhyd has posted here, but I would never imagine saying that to anyone that has served. I’m not sure what good could ever come of it.

      I suppose I could understand saying it to a loved one that is considering enlisting/re-enlisting as an argument about why they shouldn’t, but even then I think there are probably better arguments to be made, or at least the same argument made in better ways. That would depend on the individuals though.

    • 

      I say this as someone who decided to leave active duty in large part due to ethical considerations: Perhaps some jobs should be discussed more honestly, in all their ethical muddiness, rather than consistently held up as more noble and honorable and etc. than many other jobs. Had I had more exposure to that before I signed on to begin with, I likely would not have done it at all, but I was a teenager, my parents encouraged it (to my shock and dismay), and I hadn’t thought it through much on my own.

      The -jobs- should be discussed, and what they support – not the -people- (I don’t think veterans, or anyone, should be treated as horribly as so many of them have been (and by their own employer, no less! it is shameful)) – though I realize that if you point out “that job is supporting a system that is doing terrible things” – it is difficult to separate the people doing the job from it, and what does it say about you if you willing do a job that you know is helping to kill or oppress people, or other innocent life? It isn’t an easy thing to think through even when you are aware that there isn’t as much free choice in being complicit as we might like to think. Many, many, many jobs support systems that are doing awful things because we haven’t made enough effort to stop doing those things, it’s simply that the awful results of most of our jobs are usually less newsworthy, and less obvious, than “collateral damage.” However, if we want to see a better world, those conversations must happen.

      • 

        It’s the protestant ethic that leads us to identify ourselves with the work we do, yeah? Even ‘good’ work like Social Work has led me to overly-identify myself as a social worker.

        I suspect we all derive meaning from work, but rarely get a chance to decide in a Capitalist system to choose work we find meaningful. And soldiering is meaningful work, I’m sure, but soldiering on behalf of a really awful, brutal, violent government (with the tacit support of the people) is maybe not the sort of meaning many would hope to find.

    • 

      How is telling a soldier the truth–that the US military exists to keep Capitalism going and our addiction to oil untreated–not treating them with honor, respect, and support?

      I’m suggesting not that we start treating soldiers poorly, but rather that we treat them like reasonable adults capable of making decisions about their contribution to the destruction of the earth and the slaughter of the poor. Right now, we’re coddling them, pretending they’re too stupid to make their own decisions and too powerless to do anything but follow orders.

      • 

        Eh, I don’t think it’s so much the people in the service who need to hear this, as it needs to be a much bigger conversation/acknowledgement of how it’s all working. I’d much rather hear, honestly, how much of the government’s military efforts are about making sure the United States has certain resources available, vs how much is genuine concerns about extremists fucking with political stability, than the same-old crappy nationalistic garbage, or oversimplified arguments, that just shuts down any kind of adult conversation about the complexities and whether we want to keep “supporting” it and what to do about it.

      • 

        Rhyd, how would that work? Do we tell veterans “you know you were duped into supporting an evil unsustainable empire, don’t you?” Do we encourage active members of the military to desert, with the severe individual consequences that brings? I can’t see how anything beyond discouraging people from joining in the first place could be anything other than abusive.

        Now certainly, we can and should point out all the ways our military forces are misused. We can and should advocate for greatly reduced military budgets, to limit politicians’ ability to kill people and break things to maintain the empire and to further “strategic” (i.e. – empire expanding) goals. We can discourage people from volunteering for military service, and we can work to improve opportunities so that the military isn’t a poor young person’s most attractive choice.

        But the military isn’t going away any time soon, and having seen the impact of the public directing their anti-war sentiment toward individual soldiers, I won’t support any approach that shifts the blame due powerful political leaders onto ordinary members of the military.

  5. 

    What if we started saying the truth more? You know, there’s a Norse myth about that . . . (which can be interpreted in a lot of different ways, of course, but one of them is that it tends to piss people off when they don’t like those truths).

  6. 

    Yes, it has something to do with Viet Nam. I understand how this touches a tender nerve. It does for all of us who lived through that. But I have to say the tale recounted above is not how I remember it. I remember the oft told tale of the hippie spitting on a Serviceman…( not unlike Mr. Trump’s partying Palestinians). I remember the gaping social void of awkwardness…whatever you say in the presence of a Vet will be wrong, not enough, so say nothing.
    I remember All social programs being dismantled and at the same time that whole agent orange thing had to be shut down and covered up. The Viet Nam Vets who couldn’t get it together were abandoned, ignored, regarded with pity and horror, not despised and certainly not by the “Left.”

    The Pentagon and the “Brass” certainly were much despised. I do remember this Left /Right narrative regarding the after math of Viet Nam starting to circulate around the time of the Gulf War.

    The danger is that by making a cult out of the suffering of soldiers, you can hold them hostage against any critical look at Militarism.

    I would like to know what pagans in the Military are thinking about all this.

  7. 

    One of my uncles went to Vietnam. the other went AWOL to Canada. The one who was in Vietnam says the one in Canada was much braver. He tells me that he misses killing people. The Army Rangers turned him into a weapon. He’s never recovered. He also has Agent Orange poisoning, which the VA denied for decades.

    I never bought into support the troops because they CHOSE to go, it’s NOT Vietnam. It’s very different. However, classism must be addressed. Many people were in the national guard, never expecting war. Poverty made that choice. However having known someone who went to prison for 3 years because he wouldn’t serve WW2 (he was Quaker) who fought to allow white and black prisoners to eat together and get a vegan who refused the leather shoes out of the Hole, I saw how much good he did in prison. If I knew my life was going to risked to kill for oil investments, I’d go AWOL. But I was highly politicized at a young punk age.

    Telling people who ate traumatized and have possible brain trauma they did bad doesn’t help bridge a dialogue. If they DIDN’T know what the war was about and had no idea they could leave, if they had jobs, support and better information, their choices may have been different. Veterans for Peace always get the place of honour, they know what war does firsthand.

    Telling them what they did NOW doesn’t change anything. As the VA fails them, as the PTSD and TBI and divorce and unemployment rates rise – we can engage with returning veterans who like my uncle feel betrayed by the military. We have common ground. Otherwise they’ll shut you out as the enemy. I’ve talked to veterans who just returned, people who never expected war. One friend was given a few books on PTSD before her husband came back and her husband got a 20 minutes lecture on the plane to not hit his wife. As someone with PTSD from rape, I’m not going to treat others harmed as the enemy when we now have so much in common. Judith Herman in her famous book on trauma says our culture initiates young men into PTSD with war and young women with rape.

    However I can’t see ANY way a Wiccan can be in the military. What An do no harm is always debated but killing generally is something we know causes harm. Having a pentacle on a military tombstone is nonsensical.

    Many polytheists model themselves on people who were mercenaries. Their values won’t be the same as yours. People believe they are doing good. So they’d say, “It’s regrettable life isn’t black and white. Humans die in war. I want oil.”

    Talking to people who are traumatized by what they experienced (which is often repressed for years) our goal is healing. Healing usually requires understanding why things happened, so the political truths can help, but they need to not blame themselves for not knowing then what they know now. Finding the common ground is the ONLY way people will engage with you. Otherwise you’re already done with the conversation.

    The education about the reasons for war have to be done BEFORE people join. To make joining the military something they’d never consider. Wiccans especially need to discuss and think of the one line of the Rede they still remember. Do no harm. What does that mean? For polytheists and pantheists etc, discussing the world today, how it’s not 800 CE and what the goals of the Deities would be today, or how war affects nature are reasonable requests.

    But addressing the classism, lack of education and support, the terrible home life, the conditions that cause people to enlist sounds more worthwhile. What is your desired outcome? To worsen the suffering of returning soldiers who often know exactly what you are saying is true and it’s WHY they’re traumatized? To prevent people from being tricked into the military? To have people united by the fact that it’s the same corporate socialism that kills children in Afghanistan, kills children in the USA in different ways, that traumatizes soldiers and civilians on either “side”? The last one at least offers a chance to get more people talking about the real issues. It offers community.

    I once emailed a long letter to Erynn Rowan Laurie about how can pagans be in the military and posted a blog essay much longer than yours about all the reasons I couldn’t understand why it could even happen.

    She is a veteran, who like 1 in 5 service women was raped by a service man. Her answer about why pagans would join the military was so obvious I never saw it: They don’t connect what they do to their religion.

    Like most people.

    I’m grateful you’re bringing this up because in.pagan ethics people tend to get vague and avoid looking at real concrete current events. They don’t look.at the world through their religious belief. Our culture separates spiritual from “real life.” No matter what religion. In discussing this, I hope that the causes for enlisting are addressed and action about those issues become more important. Ounce of prevention…

    • 

      I think your point about building dialogue and using that as a way to help is spot-on. My disagreement with the article really stems from those last three sentences:
      “How would we actually stop such a thing, though?
      I donno.
      But maybe it really is time we changed what we say to all those Pagans in the military.”

      They just struck me as burning bridges rather than building them, and I just don’t know what good would come of that in this instance.

      By all means, let us have these conversations with our friends and loved ones that are thinking of enlisting. If they still choose to sign-up at least they might be better informed about what they’ll have to face which might possibly help them cope with issues before they arise.

      • 

        I wouldn’t suggest we burn bridges with military pagans. No revolutionary would ever suggest that.

        But I’m wondering what it might look like if we made the same changes that we’re trying to do in the rest of paganism, talking more about capitalism and environmental destruction and racism, rather than a mere ‘thank you for your service.’

        If anything, they need to be brought more onto the side of the earth and the poor, not pushed away.

      • 

        I’m curious about what it would look like too, and I say that without any sarcasm. I think this is an important topic and I’m interested in figuring out ways to have conversations without alienating those we’re trying to ally ourselves with.

  8. 

    LOL I deal with doctors so much I meant An it harm none with the Rede! Not Do no harm, the first line of the doctor oath. I’ve wanted to hear Wiccans and doctors discuss that impossible moral rule together.

  9. 

    It was service as a Marine drafted into the Vietnam War that made me begin to question the society I had grown up in. I saw the way that we treated the South Vietnamese, our alleged ally, who obviously did not want us there, who we treated as less than human and called them derogatory names. I saw how divided we were, dividing by race in our camp arrangements. I felt no close feelings to my fellow Marines, never really part of a group. I was there because I had no choice, I was too poor to be any where else.

    I saw nothing in the various wars afterward to improve my impression of war, or of our military. I understand the veterans coming back are damaged and that they also were deceived, as no one would go to war, if they knew the truth of war.

  10. 

    If you’ve interested I wrote this about not supporting pagans in the military a few years ago. I would now change my smug comment “20 years ago pagans were smart” but in general it’s still what I think. Pagans, after working in famous pagan boutiques and seeing the capitalist system at work, don’t seem to care about racism, environmental illness or capitalism very much so why they’d be political about war I don’t know. The 80s were VERY political for pagans – Starhawk already covered all this then with many solutions. But I wasn’t around pagans not associated with Reclaiming. Your clique in paganism may (like mine was) be aware you can’t separate religion from life, but most don’t. Like most Christians don’t.

    I hope this makes you happier knowing lots of pagans HAVE been addressing these issues for decades. Many found solutions so we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

    But the majority of pagans are going to be like the majority of anything. Consumers. All the revolutionary stuff I thought all pagans knew when I was 14 was just because of who I associated with. Working in a pagan store showed me the mainstream.
    https://heatherawen.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/why-i-dont-support-pagans-in-the-military/

    Since this is something a certain type of pagan or Christian or atheist believes, that war supports corporate interests, there’s tons of stuff that’s been and is being done.

    Oh yeah and crystals, the Wild Hunt labels me controversial for writing about the mining industry and what ecological and human rights damages are done to get those.

    There’s a lot of us doing the work. We just don’t necessarily know each other. So hi.

    • 

      Keep at it. Otherwise the great quiet makes people think that they who do worry about are the only ones that think that way. They great quiet is as bad as strong approval of evil in our society.

      I no longer have ACTION. However a friend of mine does have Penton an online media in South Africa, who used to public some of my articles and he would like me to do bit of reporting for him. The ones that he published of mine started at four pages and sometimes went up to ten and twenty pages.

      They dealing with environmental problems and civil rights problems. So if you like I could arrange to do an interview with you. I probably will not do as many as I used to. I am now seventy, but some occasional ones might keep my mind functioning. Take a look and see what you think of Penton.https://www.facebook.com/groups/pentonmagazine/

      Then if you are interested I can have you point me to some background materials so that I can ask you logical questions. I will keep my personal opinion out as I always done so it will be your story as all my interviews were in the past.

      • 

        Wow! Holy crow! I’m honored. I have multiple chemical sensitivity severely (if anyone has an environmental activism that I can’t be part of, they’re not environmentalists LOL but true) and Lyme disease which has started its monthly flare of the many infections going hog wild including in my brain, so I’m out of it for 2 weeks I suspect. So my brain can’t take it in, especially with the malaria the tick also gave me for going on 7 years now. The parasites have taken over LOL.

        When I come to my senses I’d like to explore this possibility. I’m focusing more on multiple chemical sensitivity activism now which straddles dismantling ableism and all forms of greenwashing, especially in activist “community.” But I’ve been around the activist block for decades. Didn’t know there was another block actually. I’m happy to help others in our mutual struggles as the arguing egos and separation of issues has made activism focus on competition, cliques and ego fulfillment, as opposed to.dialogue, support and common ground. The means are the ends because there is no end. I’d tell people my.mother’s advice for being an activist for 50 years:

        Put your energy into what you are for happening, not what what you’re against.

        My experience: Also don’t try to take on an abstract system, focus on the oppression in your face and take action. I changed laws in my state fighting to stay alive with MCS. Smaller projects where you can get results prevents burn out. And we have far too.many messengers, we need more messages about Solutionaries. Above all self and general compassion helps because NONE of us can escape the system and beating each other or ourselves for not being “pure” helps nothing. Guilt is a terrible motivator and anger is a fuel that isn’t sustainable for health, although anger comes from love, anger about how things are isn’t negative emotion BS but focus on the love and have support at least from yourself for the grief. Plus we’ll never see the outcome so focus on today.

        Your name is incredibly familiar, like you’re famous to me in some circle I was in. I don’t know why. Brain fog? I think if I remembered I’d be shocked you’re interested in anything I’m doing. Famous from when I lived in London ages ago?

        I’m notorious for being unable to contact but email makes to easy for strangers to send hate mail or love letters without thinking or the work to make people think twice about if that’s important, plus being sick I don’t have energy for it. But try sorchalafey at Gmail please.

  11. 

    I am sending you an e-mail. If you don’t get it, that is if I make a mistake in the adress, here is mine. myrddin1@wildblue.net

    • 

      Heather,
      I am just curious if my e-mail made it to you.

      • 

        Having a terrible Lyme disease flare with the malaria worse so it’s all fevers and fatigue here, I don’t communicate with people when the parasites have my brain.: ) When the infections decide to move around , they have a 30 day lifecycle which I have to work around completely , then I can email and the Internet , right now I’m just focusing on dealing with the incredible pain .

      • 

        I understand. That sounds awful to have to go through. I am fortunate that pain is not a big part of my disabilities yet.

  12. 

    I interviewed Rhyd so he and a few others can vouch for me.

  13. 

    If there are people interested in educating pagans about the military, my mother was part of that 10 years ago or so, not sure what she did (she’s an Episcopalian priest liberation theologian who lives it). I did something similar at Pow Wows because some had military recruiters there to sign.up Native American boys into warrior culture. I’d suggest off the top of my head getting brochures (I saw them in L.A. libraries!) about how the recruiter can promise anything, but all terms of your ’employment’ like your of duty time can be changed whenever. All facts about unemployment, what skills you do get, TBIs and PTSD, divorce, suicide, rape (men and women are raped a lot), the VA services, etc are all there to counter any “personal gain” hopes. Then you have factual brochure about the war which doesn’t shut people out but welcomes them into knowing, no dogma or sloganeering or assumptions that they know what you do but assuming they are smart and want non propaganda information.

    People have booths at pagan pride day and festivals to distribute the info and talk reasonably with others. Train them in deescalation skills for angry people who don’t want to engage, but want to fight. Have the people hosting the event be aware you’ll possibly need protection and that they will make sure your rights to educate people are enforced by them.

    There’s one easy way to educate pagans about the war, prevent more pagans in the military, and get people talking. All it takes is a little effort. The best brochures have been written, training for deescalation is a necessity anyway for being effective and the venues are there. Someone probably has a folding table. Just don’t have someone alone at the table ever.

    I’m sure there’s many other ways. Obviously talking to pagan veterans who are against the war, Veterans for Peace and others who served and know what the war is about must be included or it’s outsiders Us talking down to a Them. No community likes the liberal well meaning savior. Disabled people HATE that. Having listened to returning veterans without saying my opinion has taught me a lot. I have to hear from them the issues or I can’t engage.

    Honestly many learn that they were duped and know what you’re saying. That’s a reason for the PTSD. They don’t need more shame. But they do need a community for healing. Rape survivors often work with groups educating about rape or supporting victims on trial as part of how we take back power. For a trauma survivor of war and betrayal of their own largest community,” their nation” they trusted, working to prevent others from the same trauma may be healing for EVERYONE. That’s the most obvious resource.

    • 

      We older veterans have to do our part as well. We are the only ones that might have the slightest idea what the newer vets are going though. However we also have to remember many of them will have gone to the battlefield a lot more often than we did, hence the problems maybe multiplied. We have to be their and let them know they can talk to us about the things that they feel the need to hide from the rest. We have to encourage and listen whenever possible. Even in light talk I will ask how is the head.? that is often where the longest battle is to survive and heal from, and spirit. It has taken me fifty years to get where I am. My experience was gentler than many, such as those in Infantry. I imagine some will take even longer and some will not make it at all.

  14. 

    Bless you all for this awesome discussion! I’ve often felt awful because I don’t “support the troops” but I don’t want to blame some poor kid with few options either for decisions made by The Rich Bastards In Charge.

  15. 

    OK, you want a burial mound in America? Go to Zanesville Ohio where
    there are 49-50 bodies of bengal tigers, lions & lionesses, grizzly bears, black bears and wolves buried in an unmarked grave on a rural property, Kopchak Road.

    You talk a blue streak about war: well you go and make an offering to the anguished young man who was destroyed by Viet Nam, and killed his children; October 2011.

    You want to educate pagans about war….you’re going to need Durga.

  16. 

    To my knowledge I have never talked face to face with a pagan. Around 2000 or so I started trying to research paganism online and ended up in a couple of pagan Yahoo clubs. It didn’t take long for me to decide that pagans weren’t that much different than the Jerry Falwell type churches I grew up in. A lot of blanket statements along the lines of, “this is whats right” and “if you don’t believe like me you are wrong”. I quit looking. While recovering from a C1 fracture that I shouldn’t have survived I decided to start looking again. An article on The Wild Hunt led me here today and I have enjoyed reading the articles. I don’t agree with everything in them but they are well written and make me think. The relies, however, have some of those “blanket” statements and mentalities. Just because your path doesn’t believe in fighting doesn’t mean that all pagans feel that way. History is full of pagans who fought and went to war. Natives Americans, the Norse, the Celts, the list goes on and on. My dad was career military and I joined at 17 right out of high school. While I don’t agree with most of the military decisions our government makes I am proud to have served our country. I respect the right to disagree with how I feel about that. I DO NOT respect being condescending to the people who are willing to die to protect your freedom while you smugly try to convince them that their PTSD is their own fault for serving their country.

  17. 
    Christopher Blackwell February 15, 2016 at 5:55 am

    PTSD is never the fault of the person suffering it, be it caused by war or any other violence and trauma. Plus as I have mentioned, no one goes into war knows what it is going to be like. No one knows how they will react to war, not even those that are training you. As I have pointed out to recruits, “No one will trust you in battle until you have been in three of them.”

    At the same time we could warn new recruits about some of the shocks of war. One there are no good guys in war, just bad and worse. That you, who consider yourself a good and decent person, will still end up doing things, thinking things and saying things that will shock yourself and disturb you. You also never know more than your own tiny part of the war, the rest is hearsay, which may be true, or a complete lie, or anything in between. Your enemy may become your ally, and your ally may become your enemy, at any time. Both your officers and your fellow soldiers can fail you and get you killed, but also can you fail them, and get them killed. Lastly no war is ever fought for the official reason given.

    These are all major truths of war and all of them are destructive to the veteran. Most destructive of them all is returning from war, and how you are treated after can make you feel that you may have been played for a sucker.

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