An Open Letter to my Representative on Orlando

An open letter to the Honorable Rob J. Wittman, Representative of the First District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, sent to him individually on June 13, 2016 in response to the Orlando attack on the queer community and shared for all to see.  Modified to remove my own personal details, but…this needs to be said and stated aloud on all forums I belong to.  This past weekend has not been kind, and I will not be silent.  If you’re a US resident, lease visit http://whoismyvoice.com/ and see who your congressional representatives are, and send them a message of your own.  What happened in Orlando cannot happen again, because each day we do nothing is one more that I could be killed for being gay, and you wouldn’t want your favorite occult blogger to be killed, would you?  I hope not.  Read and share, my friends, and please help me and help each other in this time of crisis for the LGBTQ and Latinx communities.  Normally I wouldn’t post such explicitly political stuff on this blog, but this is not a normal time for us.

I am a resident of Prince William County for three years, and a lifelong Virginian. I am privileged to be a member of your constituency, and to live in the beautiful forested foothills of the Appalachians alongside my family, my friends, and my colleagues. I would live in no other place on this green earth, and each day I wake up and breathe this air is one I cherish with joy and love for Virginia and for Virginians. As we say, Virginia is for lovers.

I am also gay, and this past weekend has left me reeling in sorrow and anguish. As you know, early in the morning this past Sunday, June 12, a mentally unstable, homophobic, radicalized madman rushed into the gay club Pulse in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and injuring another 53 before he was killed in a gun fight. These people, though I have never met them, are part of my extended family in the LGBTQ community. Although me and mine are blessed that none of my direct contacts were there that night, many of my friends and colleagues did, and we are all in mourning. Not only is this a grievous attack on the queer community that I call family, but that night was also Latin Night at Pulse, and the vast majority were people of color, largely those of Hispanic and Latin descent; yes, this was a direct attack on the queer community merely for being who they are and loving whom they will, but this was also a painful loss for the Latino community of Florida and for the United States of America.

I know that, according to your website and your voting record in the House of Representatives, you stand for a pro-family stance. Yes, I know that you likely disagree with the 2014 Virginia Supreme Court decision on Bostic v. Schaefer, and the 2015 United States Supreme Court decision on Obergefell v. Hodges that both guarantee a right for two people of the same sex to marry in Virginia and the United States as a whole, respectively. Yes, I know you likely find my marriage to my husband “wrong” in some sense and that it goes against some of your religious commitments. But, if you have the time, please spare a minute not for prayers and thoughts and heartfelt outreach to the communities of those impacted by the attack in Orlando, but give some thought to the notion of “family” today. My husband and I have formed our own family; while we do not have children, many same-sex couples do, either through adoption, earnest conception, or in vitro fertilization. Regardless what types of families individuals of the queer community choose to raise, we all come from families, men and women such as you and your wife. The loss of any child is uniformly painful to an ineffable degree, much more so if they were innocently slain on a night of celebration of life and love.

Like any guy in his late 20s, I enjoy a good drink and a good night out on the town. However, I find that many places do not accept me because I love and have married another man, and so I turn to specifically gay clubs and bars for nights out. These places are sanctuaries for my community, where we can dance, talk, and meet others without the threat of being judged, insulted, attacked, or killed. Many queer youth have never felt that sort of safety before stepping into a gay club; it is hard to understand, if you’ve been straight all your life, that we cannot take a cute peck on the cheek or the simple pleasure of holding hands in the park for granted. Art, music, stories, and lifelong friendships form in these places of partying and drinking, and their power as social centers in the queer community cannot be understated. However, Sunday’s shooting in Orlando shattered the safety we feel, even given security guards and police protections, and no one escapes that sense of complete and utter faith-shattering despair when we realize that “…by God, it could have been me”. Any night I go out, whether to a gay club or to the Irish pub down the road, whether to the park or to a museum, is one that I could be killed and cut down merely for talking the “wrong” way, walking the “wrong” way, holding hands with the “wrong” person, or any other number of homophobic criteria that make me a scumbag target worthy of being killed, and not a human being with rights and dignity that I deserve as a citizen of the United States of America.

Representative Wittman, please understand that I am not writing to you for the sake of turning you liberal, undoing your pro-family work, or joining the next Pride parade (although you are more than welcome to participate to learn more about me and my community). In fact, I too am very pro-family; the family is sacrosanct and never to be belittled. However, my understanding of the word “family” is somewhat different than yours; I consider ties of love as strongly and as worthy as ties of blood. Understand, Representative Wittman, that any night I go out, or even any day I wake up, is one that I can be killed because I’m queer. Not because I stole from another, not because I insulted another, not because I violated any laws, but because my mere existence is considered detestable and an abomination by those who disregard the law for the sake of killing and murder.

I do not want to be murdered. I do not want my husband, my friends, my colleagues, my allies, or my family to be murdered. I do not want anyone on this planet to be murdered, especially not for the sake and endeavor of love and the pursuit of happiness, and I would hope you would agree and would work to prevent the slaying of your constituents. For us, prayers and thoughts after a shooting may help us through the process of mourning, but they do not prevent any single one of us from being killed.

We need action. Representative Wittman, I need your action. I plead to you as your constituent that you help stand for all families in Virginia, not just those with a man and a woman at the head; that you defend our rights and our dignity as you would for any individual seeking a modicum of joy and solace in this world of violence and terror; that you help prevent mass shootings, both against the queer community and for all communities of all races, religions, nationalities, ages, sexual orientations, gender identifications, and all other identities not by post facto moments of silence but preemptive laws and stances that keep weapons of mass destruction and weapons of assault out of the hands of anyone who would use them against their fellow man.

I know that you value input on legislation from the National Rifle Association, but please consider the possibility that they stand for a minority viewpoint that often leads to error and folly, such as those that lead to the saddest of outcomes. I fully admit and cherish the right for us to bear arms for our defense and the defense of liberty against tyranny; my own household makes use of this right and we take pride in our ability and preparedness to stand our own against those who would harm us. That said, this man who was clearly mentally unstable legally bought his weapons of death, and killed near fifty people, some as young as 18 years old. This is not a case of “things happen”; this does not happen in other parts of the world, and we can see that they have taken action that many here refuse to take. We can take that same action while still holding true to our constitutional American principles. Please, Representative, stand for these principles, and also stand for our right to live free from the threat of being murdered.

I know that you take your faith very seriously, but please consider all of what Christ taught, foremost of which was to support and love all of your fellow man, to act first and to judge never. Rhetoric that led to the shooter slaying my community is frequently heard across the world in places dominated by radicalized and extremist governments, but it is also heard in the hallowed halls of the Capitol from your own colleagues. When Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas shared Galatians 6:7 shortly after news of the attack spread, when Georgia Representative Rick Allen read Romans 1:18-32 and Revelations 22:18-19, when any of us use Christ’s Word as a battering tool to injure and constrain, we implicitly condone a religious excuse to harm, maim, and slay those whom we pass judgment on. Representative, I urge you to repudiate and condemn in no uncertain terms that bigotry of this kind, to heinously use a religion of peace for the purposes of murder, is thoroughly un-American and has no place in our culture, our nation, or our century.

Please, Representative, hear me and the anguished cries of those fallen and slain in my community. We do not want prayers and thoughts; they do not ease the pain of losing a brother, a teacher, a father, or a husband. We want to ensure that this never happens again for anyone in the United States ever again. Nobody should have to live through the pain of knowing our safe spaces are no longer safe; nobody should have to live through the pain of losing our family to a murderous, bloody rampage. I know you don’t for your family, but I want you to make me feel at home in Virginia so that I can feel as safe as you do.

I thank you for your time in reading this letter, and I hope you and yours are doing well.

 

Get Off Your Ass and Work: Magic and Politics

One of my colleagues on Twitter, Joseph Magnuson of Candlesmoke Chapel, made a few tweets over the past few hours that struck a nerve with me describing a general reluctance for magicians and spiritually-minded people to get involved with politics, legal affairs, and current events:

  • “I wish you’d just tweet about magic.” Well, laws are Big Magic/rights are Big Magic. Invisible ideas everyone follows. Words made manifest.
  • Magic isn’t just reading a book and collecting Supernatural DVDs. It’s all around us in most all movement. Do you not see this?
  • Magic shouldn’t be safe and silent/not seen and not heard…especially by “witches” and “magicians.” It is not a special effect.
  • So tired of this: “Politics? Not for me. They never got political on The Craft or Charmed. Besides I don’t want to hurt my witchy brand.”

I mean, it’s kinda true.  Spiritual people, especially those of a new age bent, tend to be reluctant to watch televised news or read news articles (excepting things like the Wild Hunt or a variety of Patheos blogs), and even more reluctant to even get involved with politics or current events.  They see it as beneath them, considering the news to be “a set up to keep us from manifesting the best reality for us”, and that “spiritual people know better than to get caught up in the illusions” (courtesy of Ernesto Mercer for that quote from one of his own conversations with someone he didn’t think highly of).  And you know what?  Some people aren’t meant to be worldly or get involved in worldly affairs.  Some people are meant to be hermits or monks or recluses that shut themselves out from the world, whose arms are no longer fit for the work of the world, who are here for purely spiritual experiences.  That’s okay.

You, dear reader, aren’t one of them.

Chances are good that you’re of a spiritual bent, dear reader, and chances are also good that you’re a magician in some regard.  You’ve read me talk about rituals for this and that, sometimes on thaumaturgy and sometimes on theurgy, sometimes on conjuration and sometimes on oils.  You have the whole internet at your disposal, and a cascade of links, even on this very blog, to direct you to awesome resources for magic and supplies beyond your dreams.  You’re educated enough and powerful enough to do some magic.  The only thing you really lack is awareness of the world around you, because if you were that spiritual enough to have the capacity for magic, you’d have the compassion to use it for the betterment of the world.  So read the fucking news and do some fucking magic, dear reader, because the world around you needs it.

I’ve been chatting more and more with my gnostic friends lately, learning more about the Apostolic Johannite Church and Gnostic Christianity.  I come from my Neoplatonic and Hermetic background, but my background philosophies and those of Gnosticism share much in common.  One thing that we kinda agree-disagree on is the nature of the world around us.  In some ways, the world we live in is the crowning pinnacle of all creation, the final and most glorious stage where everything is brought into completion and can play out the mind of God in all its finery and accoutrement.  On the other hand, the world we live in is also the Auschwitz ass-end of the garbage heap tossed unceremoniously into the night outside the walls of the real Kingdom; we’re just the refuse that couldn’t make it any better.  The Hermeticist view balances the two viewpoints, though modern Hermeticists tend to be biased towards the former; the Gnostic view has always been solidly focused the latter argument.  Both are true, really; the world is an amazing place, a place that feels good, a place where we get to learn and experience so much.  It’s a lot like going to college, really, and there are good points and bad points to the world here.  That said, we’re here for a purpose, a worldly purpose.  If we didn’t have a worldly purpose for being born into the world, we wouldn’t be born here at all.  And if the world is broken and requires us to act our parts and make the world a better place, bringing the kingdom of Christ into existence in the here and now or opening the 32nd path or what-have-you, then what excuse do you have to not do this?

People are dying from being oppressed and discriminated against.  Whole governments are broken and corrupt.  Countries die of famine and plague and war.  Families are torn apart and grieve and tremble in fear because of murder and intimidation.  There is a litany of things wrong with the world.  Surely you must be aware that these things happen literally all the time across the entire world.  Or do you feel nothing?  Are you so apathetic that all you can do is shrug and say “we have to rise above it” because your new age spiritual avoidance of current events prevents you from getting your hands dirty?  Are you imprisoning yourself into a hermitage of your own making where you can wash your hands of interacting with the world while still being delivered its goods for as long as you’re here?  Are you so numb to the pain of others who allow you to benefit from the world while keeping yourself from being a benefit to the world?  Are you so wrapped up in your own white-light illusions that you’d rather commit spiritual suicide to avoid any responsibility or call to action in the world?

Please tell me that I’m wrong.

Better yet, show me that I’m wrong.

We’re fucking magicians, the successors to the priest-astrologer-philosopher-kings of the ancients.  We wield celestial and infernal powers; the gods hear our calls and walk with us; we name the ineffable itself; we understand the mechanics of cosmic systems; we light candles, lay tricks, wave a stick in the air, spin in a circle, splash some rum on a rock, mumble some incomprehensible moonspeak and shit just happens.  We have known for millennia what hackers have known for only a few decades, that any complex system can be broken into and manipulated.  The archonic owners of those systems do the same every day those systems have been around, every day the mere ideas of those systems have been around.  And we, better than anyone, have known that when the systems have exiled us, made us powerless, and stripped us of all legitimate access, we will always be able to act upon the system itself and topple it down from the outside and from the inside-out.  We only let the archons win when we let them strip us of our will to get up and fight back and succeed.  We only let the archons win when we let them make us resign ourselves to spiritual impotency and kill ourselves.  We cannot afford to do that; humanity cannot afford to let them do that.

Magic has always been regarded as the means of last resort by the respectable communities of the world and all its systems.  The world is the last part of the cosmos.  We are the last thing created.  There has never been a last war, last plague, last famine, last death; these things are lasting.  Magic is not the means of last resort to action, it is the lasting means of action that has enabled us to cope with, fix, and make better the world.  You have better things to do than claim you’re better than the people down on the ground fighting; you’re already down here with us, and we’d really appreciate it if you got off your ass and gave us a hand with the burden.  We’ve asked too long what we can get out of the world; ask now what we can do for the world and for each other.

Read the news.  Fix the world.  Do some fucking magic.

Gaza and Palestine.  Syria.  Greece.  Turkey.  Iraq.  Ferguson, Missouri.  Los Angeles, California.  Gang wars.  Police brutality.  ISIS.  Hamas.  Chrysi Augi.  Racial oppression.  Sexual oppression.  LGBT oppression.  Political oppression.  Religious oppression.  Ebola.  Measles.  HIV/AIDS.  Floods.  Earthquakes.  Fukushima Daiichi.  Fracking.  The list is long and getting longer, and every time someone says that they want to abstain from the political aspect of these things it gets harder for everyone else in the world.

Everything is politics; it’s a system.  You can’t just decide to abstain from it, because you’re already in it.  It’s your duty to do your part either as part of the system or as an infiltrator into it.  Do not be idle; you have work to do.

Essential Dignity

Being what I am and growing up the way I did, politically speaking, I’m pretty liberal.  I don’t often like to talk about politics, mostly because it’s become to polarized as of late to the point where it’s pretty pointless, but it doesn’t stop me from getting on Reddit (/r/politics/) or Wonkette to read up on current and political events and periodically getting incensed by some of the BS I keep reading, political or otherwise.  It’s gotten so bad that I, horrible at remembering who’s who amongst the talking heads, can pick out a number of politicians or other political speakers by face and name.  For someone who almost takes a perverse pride in not keeping up on pop culture, this is kinda embarrassing.

I’m gay.  I think the government should collect taxes to provide for the people in whatever ways the people agree to.  I think people should benefit each other though a centralized collection agency to distribute funds and resources appropriately for all people to benefit equally from the system.  I think the government should protect one’s ability to choose (birth control, religion, speech, gun control, marriage, etc.) instead of enforcing one of many choices (often from a particular religious standpoint).  These are only a few of the positions I take on current events and issues, and I’m not bringing this up to discuss them here.  I understand that a lot of these positions make a lot of people angry, often irrationally so, and some of these traits (namely the one that drives me to date, love, and fuck whom I will) will also incite violent or murderous tendencies against me, which is really a shame.  And I know many politicians or popular leaders, both in my country and in many others, who claim that I’m an abomination and deserve death for my oh-so-sinful ways because I’m just so icky.

And I look at pictures of these political and public leaders claiming for my death or incarceration, or the politicians trying to legislate that all people follow the tenets of a particular line of a particular sect of a particular religion no matter how draconian they may be, or those who insist on taxing lower-income people at higher rates than higher-income people across the board.  I see them next to the headlines of the awful, bigoted things they say, which makes me angry at their faces and pictures.  I don’t do emotion very well, but anger and I get along nicely, and I indulge myself in that kind of fiery feeling when it comes to policy and politics.  Sometimes, I want to turn their heated rhetoric right back on them.

But then I realize that if I took away the headlines and just had the pictures…well, I’d just see pictures of people.  Older men and women in suits.  Sometimes younger people leading other people.  People who are human, just like me.  People who had a mother and a father with their own problems.  People with their own hopes, dreams, aspirations, worries, and fears.  People who were born and who will eventually die.  People who have illnesses and day-to-day concerns about their health and livelihoods, no matter how fortunate or unfortunate.  People who had an upbringing with experience that taught them the things they know.  People who laugh and cry and get angry and get sad and fall in love and fall down heartbroken.  People who sometimes work and who sometimes relax, who sometimes like getting mired in the world and who sometimes need to escape.  People who have their own set of circumstances, context, and setting to deal with and who gave them the head start or handicap they have.  People who breathe, who bleed, who get sick, who get injured.  People who are human, just like me.

I realize that I and some of the politicians and leaders may have differences of opinion or philosophy, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still people.  Even though our thoughts on the world shape it for ourselves, it doesn’t change the fact that they still have to live and work with other humans.  If I were to swap the names and political views of two politicians, one whom I liked and one whom I disliked, it wouldn’t change their nature from essentially human, with all the dignity and damnation that humanity accords. 

In astrology, the planets aren’t constant in their power.  Depending on where a planet can be found, how fast a planet’s going, or what other astrological factors combine with the planet, its strength or ability to exert force on the world can wax or wane.  This strength is called dignity, which can either be accidental (based on non-locational astrological factors) or essential (related to the zodiac and the planet’s location in it).  Different planets are strong or weak in different places in the zodiac.  However, humans aren’t planets, and humans are greater than the sum of all the planets and elements and all the other forces in the cosmos.  Humans, unlike planets, never wax or wane in their essential dignity.  Humans always have dignity, no matter which human.

I just wish more people could realize the essential dignity of others as well as their own.  I’m not calling for some utopian brotherhood of man for us all to awaken to (though that’d be nice), but it hurts to see other people denigrating others as being less than human.  When you lay invective against the “Other”, making them seem animal or feral or viral or subhuman, you make it easy to mistreat them, even if you don’t believe the invective yourself.  When you forget that other people are still people, you forget that they have a stake in the world just as much as you do.  When you neglect another’s essential dignity, you make it easy for others to neglect your own dignity, perpetuating a cycle of hate and denigration.  And when you forsake the dignity of another, you prepare yourself for committing acts that are themselves inhuman and unfit for humanity.

Please, guys.  If you find yourself making a joke, or a snide comment, or even an unspoken thought that makes some “Other” inferior to yourself, that denigrates them, or that neglects their own personal, human concerns, catch yourself.  I don’t know how many of my readers do this, or whether this little rant of mine will at all affect the greater world, but come on, guys.  Part of the Great Work is to reclaim our race and heritage, which is both divine and human.  If all things are divine, then all things at one point or another are One, and thus we are all equals in the cosmic scheme of things.  Maintain that equality, remember that we all have the same essential dignity.  Treat others accordingly.

I brought up my political views above to make a point about polarization and differences of views not being a difference in essential humanity, not to discuss them with my readers.  That’s not the focus of this blog or this post, and any comments trying to discuss them or incite a debate on these topics will be deleted.

Yay, this shit again!

A while back, just about a year ago, there was this obnoxious prayer initiative for Dominionist Christians to get all pagan influence out from the nation’s capital, the District of Columbia.  I mean, when you have Deist or religiously uncaring Founders of a nation, naming their capitol after a goddess, looking towards classical Greece and Rome for inspiration on running a country, there’s probably going to be some pagan influence, yes.  Democracy itself and the court system of justice, after all, is a pagan creation from Athena and Athens way back when, mythically from 1100 BC or so.

Well, guess what?  They’re doing it again, only this time with the alarmist and oh-so-dramatic title of “40 Days to Save America“, coincidentally ending on November 6, 2012 (Election Day).  They claim that “[all] around us, we see economic decline, immorality, corruption, growing secular humanism and attacks on religious liberty”, and that we need saving from moral terpitude and national decline by praying and fasting until the election.  It’s not expressedly linked to the election, because that’d be political and then churches would lose their tax-exempt status (though some churches are challenging the IRS to do exactly that, because reasons).  What’s really confusing is how they uphold their high-and-mighty talk of democracy and voting being a Biblical mandate, when Biblical notions of rulership and justice were all centered on autocracy and kingship, decidedly un-American systems of governance.

It may elude all but the most astute readers, but frankly, I’m increasingly tired of and annoyed at this bullshit.  Not at Christians, because this is one hell of a way to fail at being Christlike, but at stupid hyperchristianist assholes who can’t shake the persecution complex because society is changing without them.  I understand that they may not individually be hateful, bigoted, spiteful, or whatnot; they’ve always just been used to being the only ones on the scene, the only ones who mattered.  When other guys get in on the scene (even Muslims are excluded from praying to the same God as Jewish and Christian voters, according to the above website), they suddenly feel threatened because they have to share a bit of space, breath, food, and water.  Tribulation of tribulations!

Whatever.  I may be biased, being a non-Christian, gay, liberal, young, middle-class, software engineer cum magus, but when they talk about religious liberty and personal freedom being bound and taken away, you bet I agree with them.  It’s just that it’s not their liberties and freedom being restricted; it’s mine.  You want to pray for God’s intercession in the election and the guidance of the nation?  I hope you’re careful what you wish for; you just may get it.  If I know anything, it’s that God has a sense of unexpected and sarcastic humor.