A Pagan's Blog

I got up this morning despondent about the latest news over George Bush’s evident desire to torture people, the failure of anyone in office to genuinely stand up to him, and what that says about a country that once deserved to be called great in more than its ability to kill people.
How else describe the importance Bush places on a measure opposed by US military officers who, having retired, do not have to follow the orders of our President? Any moral ambiguities about the issue were silenced when we learned this past week that American authorities had kidnapped Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen and father of a six year old daughter and younger son, and transported him to Syria to be tortured for alleged involvement in terrorism. He confessed, and was then held in a tiny dungeon for 10 moths before finally being released because he was innocent.
Now he has been found innocent.
Of course he confessed. Modern torture methods can get any one to confess about anything. Apparently that does not bother President Bush, which raises the legitimate and disturbing issue of why he wants the power to torture so badly.
And something that has been all too rarely raised – why was he sent to Syria? Bush and his minions tell us Syria is our enemy. It supposedly aids terrorists. Something smells very badly about this, not that any Republicans or even Democrats are likely to do much about it.
Besides its moral depravity, the US government’s actions will rebound badly on our own security, as I suppose it should. Canada will likely think twice about sharing intelligence information with the US unless their own courts have acted. Some European countries reportedly already do. And in fighting terrorism cooperation with other countries is far more important than torture, even of the guilty. But George Bush and most Republicans do not care. Neither, it seems, do a great many Democrats.
Rarely are the people of a nation given a truly black and white choice on a fundamental moral issue. The American people have been given such a choice and, at the moment are flunking badly.
In the mire of depravity that constitutes Republican and conservative “values” today, it was a breath of fresh air to read Bill Clinton’s smackdown of Chris Wallace on Fox. If ever an American network served its political masters as faithfully as Pravda served Moscow’s communists, it is Fox. Clinton demonstrated to the most ignorant portion of America, those who get their news from Fox, that in fact the Republicans and right wing have never cared much about protecting then American people. It is all part of the quest for power for them. For once, some truth actually was broadcast on that benighted station.
I have not always agreed with Bill Clinton. Sometimes I have disagreed strongly on important issues. But at least he cares about our country, and compared to the current crowd, is a paragon of human decency.

This blog has been silent most of the summer, largely due to my having been on a long road trip up into northern Ontario, then to California to give some papers on emergent order, followed by teaching a workshop in New Mexico. Then I moved into a new place and visited Maine, my favorite part of the east. Not much time even to see friends in the area, let alone blog.

I did manage to read Tom Harpur’s The Pagan Christ, which is a good read until you check whether he can be backed up. He can’t. I was worried at the lack of documentation, and when I went to Amazon to see what some of the people he did cite had written, I found his key authority had no standing in Egyptology, a field central to harpur’s claims. Further, he had written and self-published an astonishing number of books, which I take as a serious danger sign given the difficulty of doing rigorous research in the humanities. As far as I have been able to determine to date, Harpur’s book is very unreliable.

There also seem to be some excellent rebuttals.
I should have found another summer read, or finished Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks. This is an important book by a leading expert on the web, emergent order, and intellectaul property now teachint Law at Yale. Benkler has made his book available to all who wish to download it from a website. I haven’t finished it yet, the summer was too fragmented and I was distracted by the damn Harpur volume, but Wealth is marvelous so far, as well as being rooted in solid research.

The recent Republican attempt to pass a anti-flag burning amendment has an interesting affinity with Fundamentalist Christian’s views of the Bible. Fundamentalists worship the Bible, confusing it with God, but pay remarkably little attention to what it actually says. Orrin Hatch and other Republican thugs worship the flag and pay remarkably little attention “to the republic for which it stands.” There seems to be a common theme among leading Republicans and Fundamentalists: confusing symbols for substance, and attacking the substance in the name of the symbol. The same could be said for their “patriotism” – a loud and in your face profession of love of country, while their actual policies undermine both it and its founding principles.
This common pattern is fascinating as an example of mental and moral pathology.

I will be giving a workshop at Ardantane in Jemez Springs, NM, Saturday July 22 and Sunday July 23.
Pagans often describe themselves as an earth or nature religion, but what does that mean? We celebrate the phases of the moon and Sabbats related to solar and agricultural cycles, but what more is involved? Why do people today appear to have lost the ability to connect with the powers of the earth and how might they regain this capacity? This workshop will also provide an introduction for going much further in developing a strong relationship with the powers of nature, including exercises and personal practices you can develop on your own afterwards.
Among the experiential topics covered will be etiquette, developing a relationship, feeling and seeing earth energies, and working with them to enhance your garden. Emphasis will be on safety as well as the efficacy of the practices and exercises taught.
You can register at Ardantane here