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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Nov. 17, 2002   This Page Viewed: 13,921,305  

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Reponses: 69

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Question of the Week: 61 - 10/8/2001

Are You Willing To Give Up Some Civil Liberties To Be Safe?

Increased domestic security is on everyone's minds these days and the U.S. government has already begun implementing more restrictive security screenings than most Americans can ever remember seeing before. As the news continues to report on the likelihood of more terrorist attacks including chemical and/or biological agents, how safe do YOU feel? Would you be willing to undergo searches of your person and/or belongings at airports? How about personal searches at sporting events or when entering a mall? Are you willing to allow the government to read your email, listen in on your telephone conversations, track your web surfing habits, inquire into your membership affiliations or restrict your ability to meet in groups (say at a large Pagan festival or open circle) in order to feel more safe? Is there a point where you would draw the line at surrendering your civil rights? (Did you notice that the media when referring to the idea usually use the word 'liberties' instead of 'rights'?) Are you a little more nervous about being known as a Pagan these days?

 Reponses:   There are 69 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

No! Absolutely Not! I Can't Think Of Anything That Would Make Me... Oct 28th. at 1:17:24 am EDT

Grisabella (Elkton, Maryland US) Age: 48 - Email

No! Absolutely not! I can't think of anything that would make me feel LESS safe than losing my civil RIGHTS! "That government is best which governs least." Our nation was founded at least in part by people who had a deep distrust of too much centralized power, and with good reason. The line between nationalism and fascism can stretch very thin all too easily. Am I proud of my country's response to the 9/11 attacks? Ye-e-es, so far. Do I want them reading my mail, inquiring into my beliefs and affiliations? Definitely not, not for any reason. The erosion of American civil "liberties" has already passed my personal comfort zone. Right now, while we are all understandably preoccupied with the
current "terrorist-behind-every-bush" (no pun intended!) scenario, the issue might seem a little more complex. What about tomorrow, when the perceived threat to "our" (national) safety and security may seem to come from Asian business people, or Jews, ...or Wiccans? Perhaps that sounds far-fetched. I hope it is. I am, however, quite certain of one thing: if we allow our civil rights to be taken away today, it won't be easy to get them back.

Think About The Way In Which The Us Public Is Being Mislead... Oct 27th. at 7:28:44 am EDT

H Grimm (New York, New York US) Age: 44

Think about the way in which the US public is being mislead. On one hand, the US is waging a war named "Operation Enduring Freedom" and at the same time the very civil rights that define and protect "freedom" are being whisked away in the name of security. My family and I, our 3 y.or daughter included, were fortunate enough to have run out of harm's way as the World Trade Center was destroyed on 9:11. We learned that safety and security are illusions. Vigilance, not violence is what is required.

That our government was taken by surprise by the attacks, they are embarrassed to be caught off-guard, clueless, with little hard evidence; is not a reason to make sweeping changes to our fundamental American values.

If we give over our civil liberties out of fear, then; what does it mean to be an American? If we begin to redefine our civil rights and hand off our privilege to privacy; then the terrorists can claim the victory of toppling yet two more great towers.

The words we choose and use are important. We were sincere when we said then, and we say now, that not one more life should be lost over this event. War is not a solution to violence, it is its generator.

Like A "temporary" Tax I'm Afriad. Once These Measures Are In Place... Oct 9th. at 2:31:43 pm EDT

Eric A. Weiss (Nashua, New Hampshire US) Age: 49 - Email

Like a "temporary" tax I'm afriad. Once these measures are in place it will be hard to get them back. I will cooperate for the good of all, like waiting in long lines at the airport or having my baggage searched. But I will not give up anything.

Hell, No... Oct 7th. at 6:47:05 pm EDT

Secular Pagan (Minneapolis, Minnesota US) Age: 37 - Email

Hell, no.

The Attacks Of September 11th, Forever Changed The Way Americans View Ourselves... Oct 7th. at 6:33:25 pm EDT

Michele Sinclair (Grafton, North Dakota US) Age: 45 - Email

The attacks of September 11th, forever changed the way Americans view ourselves and our nation. The attacks forever changed that sense of complacency and safety, that we enjoyed as a foremost nation in the world. We as a society, feel more vulnerable, and yet these attacks have united us in a way that nothing else has, or could have done.

We are a proud people. Proud of our freedoms, our strength, our individuality. We have always pointed with pride, slightly smugly, at our government, that allowed free speech, movement, religion, and the right to gather in groups, large or small, without government interference. We have held up our justice system as a model of fairness, our military as the embodiment of our willingness to fight for these rights, and defend those who struggle for freedom around the world.

Now we are being asked to submit to searches to ensure safety and security to prevent similar attacks occurring again. No one could do other than applaud these efforts, however belated. Security tightens at areas where large segments of the public could be at risk, sporting events, important meetings, and installations. Anywhere where our essential infrastructure is at risk of attack. This is prudent, but where do you draw the line?

Big brother IS now watching. I, for one, donÕt want the government and our own fear, to nibble and gnaw away at our basic freedoms and our right to privacy, until the Bill of Rights becomes a mere memory of the halcyon days of American ideals and our way of life. What we have, and now stand to lose, as an American people, is nothing less than the heart and soul of what it is to call oneself American. We have for over a century been a beacon of hope, for many of the disenfranchised peoples of the world. Our government has been a model of democracy and freedom, that has been the goal for the peoples of the globe, who have labored under, and struggled against regimes of terror, communism, and all forms of government that refuse basic human rights, dignity, and representation.

We cannot allow fear or even our security concerns to allow our government to so closely monitor its own people, that a police state is born of our very real need to prevent terrorism. National identity cards have been suggested, along with checks and surveillance. This would lead to a national and international police force, that could eventually become similar to the KGB, or worse, the German SS. We must retain our right to privacy in communication, and be vigilant against any attempts to curtail our right to assembly, and free movement. Our web surfing habits, our affiliations, our reading habits, should remain our own business, and not become the contents of dossiers kept on private citizens. A new form of McCarthyism must NOT be allowed to raise its ugly head.

The terrible tragedies of September 11th must not become the beginning of the end to American freedom. This WOULD be the ultimate victory for Osama bin Laden, and terrorists all over the world. To allow our way of life, and government and societal mentality to be so changed, that we set aside our rights, would so weaken and maim the definition of America, that it would cease to exist as we know it today.

ÒWith liberty and justice for allÓ, must never be amended to curtail our rights and freedoms. I stand against the end to personal freedom and privacy. We are Americans, let us remember that in the days to come, and the brave words of Patrick Henry, in our first fight against tyranny as a people:
ÒGive me liberty, or give me death!Ó.

Dear Fritz & Wren, I Am A 36 Year-old Solitary Wiccan Currently Living... Oct 7th. at 6:19:34 pm EDT

Michael (Savannah, Georgia US) Age: 36 - Email

Dear Fritz & Wren,

I am a 36 year-old Solitary Wiccan currently living in Savannah, Georgia, and a faithful follower of your wonderful site. Like most Solitaries who share my particular philosophies, I tend to stay 'in the fold' until prompted, preferring to remain low profile most of the time. Low profile does not necessarily mean "uninvolved;" in fact, I am committed to community service and political involvement both for my mainstream business interests as well as for my Faith. That said, I felt inspired to reply to the question you posed.

The topic of "personal rights" and "civil liberties" struck a cord in me, and reminded me of a paper I wrote in college on the topic of "Human Rights." The paper offered no real answers on the topic (alas, philosophical white papers rarely do these days), but it did expose me to a number of interesting topics I believe would be relevant to this type of conversation.

Interestingly, when having group discussions on "rights, " most cannot arrive at consensus to define the term about which the rest of the conversation is to take place. Some define the term as "inalienable and universally occurring, established by the Divine, separate from the laws of Man." If we co-existed in the theoretical Hobbesian 'State of Nature' and could confirm this for ourselves, we'd have the problem licked. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be), we will never see this State. In fact, if we could, Hobbes would argue that it would be the very absence of these rights--life as nasty, brutish and short--that led to the formation of clans, then societies, then laws, and then governments to protect these laws.

Some on the other end of the spectrum would argue that rights, civil or otherwise, don't exist outside of society, and therefore one should be content with whatever freedoms he or she experiences. Those that subscribe to this theory favor Order over Freedoms, which, as unpalatable as it may be, does tend to be the goal of "civilized society."

Some (myself included), tend to fall somewhere in the middle with a definition that states "rights are freedoms and privileges granted--and then protected by--law." While this theory relegates rights to the hands and minds of Man, it also acknowledges that People are in control of the lawmakers and the lawgivers, and that by virtue of this control over the law, we are in control of our "rights" and freedoms.

Once again, this provides no definitive answers, but provoking people to define the term "Rights" will help to provide context to the questions you posed above. I suggest that finding a comfortable median between the Rights of Goddess, Rights of Man and Rights of Law (on a personal and individual level) would be a helpful and required starting point for this type of dialogue.

As you asked in your opening statement, "Did you notice that the media when referring to the idea usually use the word 'liberties' instead of 'rights'?" Yes, I did. And this should be the segue for any discussion on this topic. In fact, above and beyond security measures, searches, violations of privacy (another very ambiguous term), this should BE the topic. But that's a decision best left to the Webmasters of this great forum, and perhaps could be integrated into the discussion group another day.

For now, a quick response to your hypothetical questions.

You asked us to consider the following: "Would you be willing to undergo searches of your person and/or belongings at airports?" Anyone who travels internationally knows this is already happening, and plans for these inconveniences in advance. To have these "violations of privacy" occur at U.S. domestic facilities is merely a natural extension of the global climate. The World--nasty and brutish as it may be--has knocked on our door. "Globalism" in its worst form and international terrorism, both of which have plagued countries outside U.S. borders for hundreds of years, has now made itself known to us in ways we never thought possible. In this age of technology and international travel, apparently being bordered by our two most powerful allies in the war on terrorism (the Atlantic and the Pacific) no longer makes a difference. Every other advanced country in the world takes these types of security measures. The fact that we will as well simply indicates our initiation into the global community. Does one have to suffer this type of "violation of rights" at airports? Of course not! One simply chooses not to engage in the privilege of air travel. For those who might argue that some people are "forced" to fly as a result of their chosen occupations, I would point out two things. First, you're arguing for them; argue for yourself. Second, those in the corporate world make sacrifices (voluntary) every day to partake of the "corporate pie." Wearing ties, working 60 hour weeks and carrying cell phones are part of these sacrifices. At any time, these individuals reserves the "right to say, "No more!, " and go on about their lives.

"How about personal searches at sporting events or when entering a mall?" It's already being done (with precedent, I might ad--refer to the Olympic Park bombing), and it's a price to pay for enjoying such non-critical events. Do we like it? No. Do we wish it could be different? Yes. Does wishing make it so? No.

With respect to infringements on our "rights" with respect to maintaining a modicum of privacy when operating on the phone and on the Internet, I find it interesting that people would find this objectionable (I fall into this category myself) when applied to the government, but not powerful corporate interests. People use technology indiscriminately every day, with little or no concern for privacy. All wireless technology is subject to interception (sans the expensive encrypted varieties that I have never seen anyone in Wal-Mart using to date). Every night, I clear dozens of "cookies" out of the temp files on my computer, placed there by corporate interests to track my surfing and spending habits. Sure, we perceive government as being more powerful than corporate interests, as we encounter government (and its laws) more frequently. But in a battle between government and corporate (see U.S. v Microsoft Corporation), one sees that government is not the most powerful force on the planet. And for some additional "food for thought, " where do people think government technology comes from, anyway? It's researched and developed by private corporate interests, then passed on to the government. At least the government has laws in place controlling its use to some degree. Now there's a thought to inspire sugarplum dreams.

Finally, I would like to address your concern about letting the government "inquire into your membership affiliations or restrict your ability to meet in groups (say at a large Pagan festival or open circle) in order to feel more safe? É Are you a little more nervous about being known as a Pagan these days?" I would hope the answer would be a resounding "NO" to both questions. But then again, I don't know that we are in any more (or less) jeopardy than before the events of September 11th, 2001.

We can thank basic human bias and government profiling techniques for this safety: we simply do not fit the profile associated with terrorist organizations. While fringe elements exist everywhere who are willing to pervert sacred texts and philosophies for personal or political gain, we, as a group, simply don't have the personal or political philosophies to justify this type of attention. We live by The Rede, we celebrate life in all its forms, and we embrace the Goddess (Earth and Nature) as the giver of Life itself. Most of us pay careful attention to the Threefold Law, and believe in its pervasiveness and cosmic tenacity. Do we pose an actual threat? Intellectually perhaps, and one day maybe politically (let's not revisit the national leader issue again for a while, shall we?), but not a threat that warrants any more invasiveness than the common, non-tolerant, dogma-preaching community neighbor already provides for us as a group.

Additionally, for every action there's a reaction, and politics is no different. While government issues Executive Orders enhancing security measures, watchdog groups for legal and civil rights causes (not to mention non-hawk lawmakers and policymakers) are poised to keep our fine Executive Branch in check. Many suggested security measures have already been defeated on The Hill due to these concerns, during the most emotional times associated with this crisis. Yes, level heads prevailed, and it's only reasonable to assume that as we move farther away from the emotion of this incident, so will our desire for Order and Control. Americans have very short-term memories, and while the images will remain in the forefront of our consciousness, the emotion will subside. I would argue that this will happen more quickly this time, as society needs to 'normalize, ' if for nothing more than to deprive the terrorists of achieving their goals posthumously. America will prevail, and with it, our way of life. And with those items attended to, so will we.

In closing, I will thank you for taking the time to consider my thoughts, and offer a writer's word of caution as well. The question, as posed, has the subliminal effect of asking readers to consider themselves as a "fringe element" of society, in line for possible persecution as such (my reading of the underlying theme). Nothing could be farther from the truth.

While not mainstream, we are not fringe. While not organized, we are many--and growing in numbers every day. The fragmentation of mainstream Christianity and Judaism is seeing hordes of people flocking to The Craft. Regression to fundamentalism within these groups (all of the 'Big 3' are suffering this fate) is creating a spiritual void for those moderates wishing tolerant, religious fulfillment. It's a naturally occurring phenomenon not likely to reverse itself in the near future. We merely need to go on about our business and be prepared to welcome those drawn to the Pagan way with open arms, tolerance and a non-judgmental approach.

Those who have played sports or engaged in any competitive activity know that it's not always the team that plays well who wins; it's the team that makes the least amount of mistakes.

We, as Pagans (and specifically Wiccans), are in that fortunate position. Let's play well, dedicate ourselves to our Craft, live by The Rede, and make as few mistakes as possible. After all, that's our personal goal anyway, right? In the end, we (and The Goddess) will prevail.

Blessed Be,

Michael a.k.a. Thought Caster
Savannah, Georgia I Willing To Give Up Some Civil Liberties To Ensure... Oct 7th. at 1:25:33 pm EDT

Rob (Chicopee, Massachusetts US) Age: 21 - Email

Hmmm...Am I willing to give up some civil liberties to ensure that I feel more safe? That is such a tricky question for me that I dont know where to begin. IN this country everything is based on us having these liberties, other eople from other cuontries come here just to experience these rights that we as citizens of the U.S. have. my own father fled his native Honduras to come to this country (which for htat I am thankful since goddess knows where I'd be right now if he hadnt)(oh exucse my typos ^_^). I think that ew shuold be willing to at least give up some minor things to ensure our true safety, but come on now realistically how can we ever really be truly safe. We are in an age where there is so muhc technological advancement adn we are moving forward as a species and wiht that growth there are bound to be some intensely rough spots. I think we are a long way off from ever begin truly beyond a The other problem wiht giving up some are we to decide which rights to forsake adn once we do start giving up some things where will it stop. I hate to think that we could get to the point we were at during ww2 with the internment of the japanese in those god aweful camps adn i would hope that it couldnt go that far again but once we start giving up some things...again how far could it go. if we could as a people decide and regulate which liberties of ours to forsake adn could ensure that it wouldnt get out of hand then I'm all for it but i tihnk that would be one thing really hard to deal with right now. If anything I think that we shuold wait quiet some time before we start talking about giving up some things for right now everyone is too afraid and apt to act irratinally. Let us wait till at least some more time passes before we think aobut giving up some rights, wait till we are all thinking more clearly.

I Think This Is A Pretty Easy Question. All I Have To... Oct 7th. at 12:24:58 pm EDT

John Hutton (Spokane, Washington US) Age: 20

I think this is a pretty easy question. All I have to do is ask my Dad or look at my family history and I have my answer. Both of my Grandfathers faught in WWII in the pacific campaign. One at Guadalcanal and the other at Iwo Jima. My Dad went to Vietnam. They all faught and lost many friends in the name of security for our way of life. The last thing I want is to desecrate the memories of all the people that died for our country so we could be as free a nation as we are now. I also work for the Airline industry in Seattle so I do know the need for heightened security but that's as far as I'm willing to go. I am not a devient, I'm not a revolutionary, and I'm not a criminal. I demand that my government under the rights of the constitution to treat me accordingly. Otherwise we dishonor our ancestors who loved this country enough to die in it's defense.

Have You Read The Writings Of Thomas Paine? Or Benjamin Franklin, Flying... Oct 7th. at 10:33:22 am EDT

Trickster (Austin, Texas US) Age: 43 - Email

"Have you read the writings of Thomas Paine?

Or Benjamin Franklin, flying kites in the rain?

Those who trade their freedom for security

will wind up neither safe or free.

Penned like a dog, shot like a stray

because there's hell to pay in the USA"

- from Hell to Pay by Loke E. Coyote

hear the whole song at

I am not willing to trade any personal freedom for safety because it can't be done. I refuse to allow this country to become a police state. I will fight any effort to remove our freedom or dismantle the Constitution.

Here's what I am willing to trade for safety:

- I'd gladly trade the American foreign policy of military intervention and meddling in the affairs of other nations. It is this policy which causes so many of the Earth's citizens to hate us.

- I'd gladly trade the idea of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" which causes the US to train, finance, arm and otherwise support and create Frankenstein monsters like Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Manuel Noriega. The policy under which the CIA helped form the Taliban and start the Islamic Jihad against the Soviets.

- I'd gladly trade this government's checkbook which has been used to fund nations which supposedly harbor terrorists. It waws only 5 months ago we gave the Taliban $43 million to proclaim growing poppies is against the will of Allah. Over the past year, we have given over $125 million to the Taliban. Just think how many plane tickets and plastic knives they could buy with that money.

- I'd gladly trade the American arms industry which gets fat and rich by supplying weapons to despots who will later use them against us.

- I'd gladly trade the insane drug war which chips away at the Constitution and waters down the Bill of Rights. The futile drug war which causes our "leaders" to blindly throw money at repressive governments. Because you know what? I believe it's better for people to get high than to crash planes into buildings.

- I'd gladly trade the jingoist media who try to convince us that everyone in the USA is united in bloodlust and revenge. The media which tells us who we are supposed to hate.

- I'd gladly trade any politician who says civilian casualties are acceptable in order to take out terrorism. They can't see that WE are the terrorists, and the WTC bombing is a victim's response to our policies which cause death and suffering among innocent people.

But trade my freedom? Hell no! Enough of it has already been stolen by the terrorists in Washington. Pick an item on the Bill of Rights and look at how it has been subverted by our government. They don't need help or excuses to take away our freedom, they have been doing it for years. And they have caused the global climate of conflict because it maintains their power and wealth, always at the expense of innocents.

I Don't Feel Threatened Or Violated When/if The Government And Security... Oct 7th. at 3:03:02 am EDT

Emma (Gold Coast, Australia, Queensland AU) Age: 19 - Email

I don't feel threatened or violated when/if the government and security people ask to search my bags at airports, or personal searches at events. I know I have nothing to hide that would upset authorities, and I know that it is only in our best interests that we allow these searches to happen - I mean, they're only trying to find people that could potentially harm those around them, its not going to do us any harm. I have not heard of any instances (or been involoved) where authorities have restricted meetings of groups of people. The government can read my email for all I care, I'm sure they arent going to arrest me for asking my friends what theyre doing on the weekend. When authorities are potentially listening into conversations of mine on the phone, they give a warning and an option to refuse to let them listen. Any other phone conversations I have aren't really 'incriminating' stuff, so who cares? I have absolutely no hesitation to announce my beliefs in public, people are usually interested to hear my side of things, as I am with their beliefs. Those that object to it do so quietly and it doesnt bother me. Lighten up, security checks are just about trying to keep the country safe.

I Don't Mind Searches At The Airport, I've Travelled Out Of The... Oct 7th. at 12:14:36 am EDT

Sageeyes (Jacksonville, Arkansas US) Age: 46 - Email

I don't mind searches at the airport, I've travelled out of the country before and this is fairly common every where else. If everyone is searched, it doesn't feel personal.
But, I'm totally against increased surveilance based upon suspicion of terrorist affiliation. What constitutes suspicion? Someone saying you seem suspicious? Not going along with or speaking out against current political agendas? Maybe just someone not liking the way you stand out in a crowd.
Historically, when an authoritarian power was given permission to persecute based upon suspicion, thousands if not millions of people have ended up dead or have just disappeared.

With Respect To Having Belongings Searched Etc. At The Airports. I Think... Oct 6th. at 4:40:36 pm EDT

Spectre (Los Angeles, California US) Age: 45 - Email

With respect to having belongings searched etc. at the airports. I think that is necessary. However, tapping phones, reading email, tracking web usage, and restricting group attendance. That is facism. Our civil rights are being trampled. These things generally begin with good intentions and then are exploited by government and law enforcement. Look at the thousands of illegal wiretaps the LAPD has done under the specific amendment the Federal government allowed to curb drug trafficking (if you're not aware of that you should look into it). And although such exploitation is against the law, those who do it are never called to account for their actions, or it is swept under the rug. Recall the atrocities done in the past under the name of "law" and "protection of the community" and "the moral right". Some things are obviously necessary yes, but draw the line sharply when they start asking for a "key" to your private life. I will add that I firmly believe that a solid educated representatives for the witch/pagan community must be placed in a grass roots organization to represent the diverse beliefs we hold. We should have conservitavely dressed well spoken individuals holding their own with reps from the catholic, protestant, jewish and other mainstream religions. They should be on radio, tv, and paricipating in all situations these other reps would be involved in. They will get opposition at first yes, but remember it was not too long ago that the black community, the gay/lesbian community, and others were in the same position. Society at large must see us giving to the poor, aiding the sick, and contributing in all times of need in numbers. Witch/Pagan pride. Witch/Pagans are beautiful people. Launch a campaign that will be felt everywhere. We have to get rid of the image that we are confused freaks that dress weird and worship satan. We should have Witch/Pagan community centers, meeting centers, aid centers, etc. Where's your "Feel good about yourself - Hug a Wiccan today." bumper stickers? As a recognized American religion we have rights. Stand up for them or they will find a way to take them away from us. Every right that we have now had to be fought for. Numbers and special interest groups is what kept the gay/lesbian community from being beaten to death by police and community in obscurity. Few dare oppress a person of black descent now. Take that cue and move forward in strength and in number in a positive direction. Stand up for our rights! - Blessed be to you all.

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