Politics and Religion: Do I Dare?

 Politics and Religion: Do I Dare?

I wrote this article a few years ago. Pre-Trump. Pre-alt right. Before David Bowie died and the world tilted funny.  I still stand by these words, but will be writing another article soon with updated ideas and points of view… Laurel Owen, 2017

Another intro, now in 2020. After the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, I understood that confederate statues signified something I am not. I believe now that confederate statues should go into museums. They are art, and they define history in a way only art can, abstractly and intuitively. They should not be destroyed. But if they are going to be used as a pivot for hate groups, then I’m not in favor of them. Otherwise, I leave this piece as an on-going train of thought on the subjects of the day.


It’s hot, and the world has gone crazy.  Really? Confederate flags are offensive, and cause people to shoot one another? Goodness. It rings like 1984  hyperbole and distraction. What is the real issue the government does not want us to see? Perhaps that nasty trade agreement which will destroy American jobs? I’m not surprised.

The soldiers who ran into battle with a rebel yell didn’t have the money for slaves. The banning of the confederate flag seems to me to be disrespectful of the men who fought under it, who did not own slaves. The civil war was about state’s rights and the spread of industrialization. The soldiers who fought with the confederacy were mostly defending their homes.

It’s all baffling to me. When did we become a society of whiners and hurt feelings? People are afraid to speak English and be honest for fear of offending someone. It’s one of the reasons I stopped being a liberal –that and the self-righteousness. Liberals are open minded until you disagree with them, then you are worthy of shunning and censorship, which is hypocrisy.  I just couldn’t find  genuineness in calling myself a liberal anymore. Of course, I did not go out and join the Republican party, either. They are whiny and irritating as well. The Christian right is nauseating. A theocracy is not what Thomas Jefferson and the other founders had in mind. So I have decided I’m left-leaning Libertarian. Pro gun, pro privacy and private choices, anti-war, anti death penalty, social liberal, and anti censorship. Pro free speech. Pro small government. Safety nets for people who need it as well as free market solutions. Live and let live.  I don’t care what political worldview or religious belief anyone has, as long as they don’t harm others in the pursuit of these values and ideals.

Don’t know why I’m sharing about politics, but there you have it. I used to be an activist. We took to the street, and believed so deeply in our causes that we risked arrest. My first arrest was in 1987 when we surrounded the CIA building in Langley, VA, and for a short time, prevented the employees from going to work. We opposed intervention anywhere in the world –especially, at that time, in Central and South America. I still have a federal record from that event, and I’m proud of it. I can remember crying and laughing as the feds handcuffed us. A veteran anarchist patted my hand and said, “You’re just young, and taking things a little hard.” Later she told me if we went to federal prison, to branch out and get to know people, that there were a lot of interesting people in prison. These were prophetic words.

The authorities in the federal  prison system chuckled about that conviction when I was being vetted to volunteer in prisons, years later.  After 9/11, the things people got slapped on the wrist for in the 80’s would become terrorist activities in our century.

At some point I realized that real change would occur in small sizes. The Empire would not fall because of our civil disobedience and headline direct actions. So I volunteered in prisons, and welcomed the learning curve. It was a huge one. My entire paradigm changed. Volunteering in prison allows you (if you let it) to understand another culture. When you branch out from your comfort zone, the learning begins. Spirituality became political. As a volunteer for a religious minority (pagans and Odinists), I experienced a taste of discrimination, found myself on the receiving end of scare tactics, oppression, and sheer ignorance. The prisoners knew all about it, and had been standing up, and fighting, for years. They had spent time in the hole just for saying they were Odinist. One guy literally had bibles chunked at him by a CO deep in an Arkansas prison. I learned the hard way, suddenly, as an outsider without a clue, that  the concept of white privilege was null and void in this prison culture. The spiritual beliefs of the white prisoners I encountered in my groups was feared and reviled by insecure authorities. Why? Don’t know. I figure one reason is  because, historically, whites escape. They are smart. Perhaps a bunch of white prisoners in the same room under one banner was a threat, I don’t know. Perhaps it was just the close-mindedness of the monotheists.

In any case, for 20 years, as I fought uphill battles with the prison systems, I became a target myself. Ever been hauled off to a federal grand jury for a scare tactic –without any knowledge of a crime? I’ll save that story for another time. Trust me when I say it was scary. I learned. And it shaped who I am today. I would do it all again, as painful as it was. To stand with men and women who have fought long to stand and observe simple spiritual preference — was an honor. To feel the power of how present they were in the circle — it was a gift. The free world does not produce such focus and ardent connectedness.

Spiritually, I have lately experienced a shift. It’s as it should be, though. Life is fluid. Yoga teaches us that you are only as old as your spinal cord is stiff. It helps to change and move fluidly, not only physically, but also via thoughts, ideas, and life passages. I’m a pagan through and through, and will always be. But I no longer feel drawn to define myself via groups with labels. Boundaries are important, and I own boundaries. The new-age movement, for instance –the world of spiritual dilettantism, doesn’t do a thing for me. I find that movement groundless and ill-defined; borrowing from various pantheons, a little taste of hither and yon according to today’s whim, with no discipline or actual study. No thanks. But I have not –for a long while– had any truck with, for instance, the Asatru purists who shun the word pagan because it’s not a Germanic word, or who disbelieve in magic because magic is for Wiccan airheads. Maybe Wiccans are largely airheads. Probably true. But I don’t need to engage in these petty word battles and ego issues between this group and that group. I have small gatherings of friends on holy days, which are delightful.  I employ western occult traditions with viking energy, the gift of gab and musicality of the Celts with the heartfelt toasts of the norsemen. Our ancestors were not prudish pedants. They were pagans, and alive with the great pantheons of aunts and uncles, who were gods and goddesses of nature, and personal to them. It’s the personal part that’s important. We used to say, in my activist days, the personal is political. Perhaps I have come full circle.

OK, that’s probably enough philosophizing. Thanks for listening.


Laurel Owen


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