As many of you may have noticed, the world has gotten a bit crazier than normal in recent years. A trend that started after 9/11 of increased fear, war mongering and general xenophobia has reached such epic proportions that if Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann were running in the 2016 election they would seem like the sane, moderate choice.
ISIL/ISIS/Daesh is gaining ground throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and continually launching attacks in Europe, and now the US, scaring the crap out the American public in the process.
This last, is of course, what Daesh wants. They have started using Donald Trump’s speeches as recruiting material. They love the xenophobia, and the hysterical rhetoric, because they know that when we turn against people in our community, or who wish to be part of our community, they will have to find somewhere to be accepted. And ISIS is waiting with outstretched arms and a suicide vest.
This fear, however, is not universal. Yes, most of the world, including most muslims, are angry and disgusted by ISIS. Many are in favor of the US reducing it’s nuclear arsenal one missile at a time. But the fear is not universal, nor should it be.
You are about 4000 times more likely to kill yourself than to be killed by a terrorist, if you live in the US., and suicide is only the 10th highest annual killer (according to the CDC). In fact, your odds of being killed by a terrorist in the US are about 1 in 20 million.
While many in the US support screening out all muslims (presumably by getting them to say ‘Shibboleth’) most Europeans do not. There are many complicated reasons for this, but there is one big factor: Recent History.
Growing up in Europe in the seventies, we were subject to ongoing terror campaigns from the IRA, Baader-Meinhof, ETA and the Red Brigade to name a few. We grew up angry and disgusted with their attacks – but not fearful. We were not fearful because our parents were not fearful, and our parents were not fearful, because, in comparison to the world war that had ripped their lives apart growing up, these attacks were small potatoes in comparison.
Leaving aside the occasional sociopath like Timothy McVey, the US has not had many major attacks since pearl harbor, and even then, there were no attacks on the continental US during World War II.
Consequently, the events of 9/11 burned a scar deeply into the minds of every man, woman and child and that scar has shaped US foreign and domestic policy ever since.
More than that, with the addition of Russia and NATO into the middle eastern mix, we are shaping up for a self fulfilling prophecy of the Christian and Muslim end times. This is also, what Daesh wants, and unfortunately, it appears to be what many in the evangelical community are hoping for as well, because then, they believe, their savior will return.
Regardless of my personal thoughts about the likelihood of this happening, they believe it, and many seem willing to throw away their basic morality in pursuit of this goal.
As pagans, we are used to being vilified, accused, excluded and laughed at. But as my old history teacher used to say, the bad things that happen to us build character, and it is the character of people that will decide what happens next.
Pagans have a love of the earth, and of all life. Even the meat eaters among us are conscious of the sacred nature of the life we have taken that we may live, and many choose to honor that in their own way.
This season, we need calm reason, not mindless rhetoric. We need love, not fear; we need hope, not desperation.
Mid winter was traditionally a time when wars stopped, and people huddled together to last out the cold winter and share what they had with each other, healing old wounds in the process.
Use the gifts that you have nurtured to spread love and acceptance as the old year ends. Don’t engage in petty bickering, name calling or setting yourself up in opposition to those whose only crime is being a different creed than you. Most Muslims hate what is being done by sociopaths in the name of Islam, and despite what you read, many are speaking out, just as we would, if it happened to us.
Lead by example. Show those in your community that you are not afraid. Anger is a useful tool sometimes, but hate is always self defeating, and Fear is almost always useless. Use common sense. Be cautious if you must, but be cautious based on reason.
Turn off the 24 hour news cycle and watch something beautiful instead. Spend time with friends and family, go outside and experience the beauty of the Rhythm of Life.
Help those who need help. Feed those who are hungry, nurture those who are lonely, and give voice to those who have none.
Organize, help, share, and most importantly, Love.
May you live in peace this holiday season, and help others to do the same.