I write after a long absence from this blog. I know not many people read this blog or blogs in general anymore, but I still like having this space to discuss important issues at length.
Sometimes you go away for just a few weeks and it seems like everything goes to hell. This is how I feel about America right now, writing from Vilnius in the final stretch of an Eastern European summer visit that also took me to Latvia and Czechia (Czech Republic). In the month I have been out of the country, the US Supreme Court has issued rulings that are going to radically alter the country--and not for the better--and threaten the rest of the world as well. The ruling ending federal protection for a women's right to abortion, allowing individual states like Texas and Oklahoma to institute some of the harshest anti-abortion laws in the world, has seized the most attention, but two other rulings are just as worrisome. One has chipped away at gun control laws in New York, with the frightening implication that other such laws could be unraveled nationwide. That this ruling was issued at a time when the country has been reeling from grief and horror over vicious mass shootings in Buffalo NY and elsewhere makes it all the more clear how dedicated to right-wing ideology and how unconcerned with social consequences this Court is. But in my view, worst of all is the ruling invalidating the federal government's right to protect the environment against power plant pollution, even though the agency now prohibited from intervening in this matter is the Environmental Protection Agency, which was taking action with respect to the law known as the Clean Air Act. Apparently phrases like "environmental protection" and "clean air" mean little to the conservative justices on the court appointed by Bush v.1, Bush v. 2, and Trump. This ruling, which implies that any attempt to regulate pollution in the USA could now be invalidated by a Supreme Court apparently wholly uninterested in issues like climate change or unhealthy air or water. If other countries follow the lead of the US Supreme Court and reject efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions and climate change, the planet may be doomed. And you can be sure that climate change denying, fossil fuel loving conservatives around the world are now going to feel emboldened to follow America's horrible example. Americans like to say that the US is #1. In these rulings, the US shows itself to be lost in ignorance and darkness, not a "shining city on the hill" in the famous phrase recycled by Ronald Reagan and others, but a beacon of backwardness, opposing women's rights to choose when and if they want to become a mother, opposing government taking action against pollution and climate change, and happy to encourage widespread gun ownership regardless of the risk of lethal violence, even mass killings. I no longer have any "American dream." I look at America and only see madness, and sadly reflect that it may take decades to undo the damage that this Court has managed in just one brief summer.
Reflecting on all this as a Pagan, I realize that how one responds to these issues depends on where one stands as a Pagan. For those who only see Paganism in an ethnic perspective, as a way of preserving cultural~ethnic heritage, none of this may matter. Some might even like the anti-abortion ruling as a way to encourage more Pagan reproduction, which may mean a racist enthusiasm for more white babies, a view I find repulsive. If Paganism as a religion has validity beyond racial narcissism, it should be open to people of all ethnic, racial and gender backgrounds. The gun ruling may also appeal to Pagans who are fascinated by weapons and war, the wannabe Viking set. I also find no appeal here, though I must confess that the war in Ukraine has made me alter my longstanding suspicion of the US military and opposition to most US military actions (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc). I find I now only want to see more international military assistance--more guns, ammunition, rocket launchers, drones, missile defense systems etc.-- to Ukraine to help it ward off the raging Russian beast. This shift in my own thinking has made me reflect on how so much of what we think and believe is contextual, affected more than we might like to admit by external circumstances and cultural, social and historical currents.
Concerning the third ruling limiting government ability to limit power plant emissions, this is where I see a possible Pagan response that I can fully support. If as Pagans we care for the earth and see nature as sacred, we must oppose this vehemently and speak out forcefully. If the Court will block federal government action and if this cannot be undone anytime soon, we in the USA must push our state governments to do more and call on the business community to do more to combat climate change. The good news is that many corporations have already been moving away from fossil fuels and that local business have also seen the value of cultivating a more eco-friendly image.
Furthermore, I would encourage Pagans to step out of their insular bubbles and look for ways to make common cause with other religious communities who express pro-environmental ideas. This is no time to allow theological differences and past histories of conflict and oppression prevent us from doing what is needed to preserve the sacred earth that we love. On the environmental~climate change front, we know who our enemies are, as they make themselves quite clear. What we need are more allies and to work together energetically and aggressively. The earth knows no boundaries or denominations, and in working to preserve the earth, we should conduct ourselves in that same spirit.