Breakfast Will Be Served In Fifteen Minutes...|
Posted: February 6th. 1999
Times Viewed: 13,324
It all started with breakfast, a Jon Katz column and the sad realization that here was no cheese in the refrigerator. Picture Hamlet exclaiming, "My kingdom! My kingdom for a slice of cheese!" and you may get an inkling of the kind of drama that can enfold in our kitchen sometimes.
One of my specialties in the breakfast food category-the ONLY cooking area that I can claim some expertise in, by the way-is one that you may think sounds vaguely familiar.
The breakfast food is comprised of:
- one english muffin
- an egg
- a slice of cheese
- bacon or ham
Recognize it? That's right. You know it as a product that starts with a celtic family name prefix.
So when the 11 a.m. hunger pangs came calling that morning, I turned to Fritz and said, "BLank-Wren," dear? Only I used the celtic family name prefix thing so he had some idea what the heck I was talking about. (I doubt that many folks would actually consent to eat something with a name beginning with "blank" anyway, don't you?)
As I drove to the store to pick up that missing cheese for our favorite morning breakfast food, I started thinking about the possible legal ramifications of using the term "BLank-Wren."
Oh sure, it's innocent enough, I suppose. It's not like I've set up a roadside diner selling "BLank-Wrens" or anything like that. But then again, before the Ken Starr investigation, I'm sure Bill Clinton felt pretty secure in the Oval Office, too.
Jon Katz had written a column that week about just how quickly people in this country are ready and willing to sue over anything and everything. Conflict situations which used to be settled in a "gentleman's agreement" are now painfully part of the public court records across the country. Of course, there was a time when a "gentlemen's agreement" consisted of black powder pistols at twenty paces, as I recall. But I'm still not convinced that most modern day court battles are any more humane.
What is it with this growing compulsion to sue? The possibility of a potential monetary reward may be involved in some cases. And real damages DO occur and compensation most definitely should be paid. Every day, someone's civil rights are violated, laws are broken and company money takes a trip to Hawaii with an ex-employee.
I'm not talking about the above sort of thing. That's legit; that's what the legal system is for.
What I'm talking about is the use of litigation in another way: as a form of intimidation.
In a few months, Fritz and I will be attending the Heartland Pagan Festival. We'll be presenting a talk and discussion session based on the theme of the gathering: Passing On The Flame.
The future of paganism rests with the young people of the next generation-and all the ones after that. Some of these young pagans and future elders are well on their way. Some have been raised in pagan families. Others have developed an interest in exploring paganism from books, pagan web sites and even-groan here if you feel the need to- movies or television shows.
In many ways, we, the pagans of this generation, have indeed looked into the future and realized the need to educate and pass along the knowledge. We have written the books and magazines, opened teen forums, solicited their essays, answered some of the more basic questions, offered advice on how to proceed and encouraged young pagans to continue to grow and explore their chosen paths.
Yet, the threat of a potential lawsuit lurks in that process like white lint on a black cape. You can brush it off, but never completely.
Pagan teens have an advantage if they are part of a pagan-or pagan friendly- family already. They are free to read and discuss and participate in pagan activities and celebrations.
It's the future elders that don't have that advantage that are a concern to me and to many other Elders and teachers that I have talked to about this. For all the web sites and books and movies, these young and inspired teens are beyond our personalized care except in the most general of ways.
Parental rights-and I'm all for them!-are very clearly defined as almost absolute in all cases except those actions involving abuse and neglect. A parent is considered to have the best interests of their children in mind when making decisions that affect their lives.
Many young potentially pagan young people are hiding their beliefs from their families. And we who could possibly help them-in fact NEED to help them to prepare for their future role in pagan paths-cannot do so without the very real risk of legal action by their parents.
That's the way it is. I'm not saying that the reason for respecting parental rights is wrong. It protects pagan children from outside influences that may affect an entire family, too. I AM saying that we lose those pagan teens for many years until they reach their age of majority-and they lose us. It's a shame.
On the other side of the litigation coin, we have the pagan parents who live in fear of not-so-well-meaning family members who may have the DSS phone number written on the wall notepad "just in case' and the lawyers of soon-to-be-ex-husbands and ex-wives.
We have read about our own pagan teens being discriminated against in schools and perhaps your own child has been among them. Sometimes pagans and pagan organizations have had to file lawsuits themselves in order to resolve the situation. That's a shame, too.
When did the court system take the place of dialogue, discussion, interaction and a real willingness to just sit down and talk things out? I may not be not sure when that happened, but I apparently do think a lot about those ramifications while I'm on the way to the store for a slice of cheese.
The good news is that pagan organizations, pagans who write educational programs or weave pagan web sites as well as all the Elders, teachers and pagan parents of today care very much about our future generations. We are thinking very deeply about the future for the ones who some day will follow us.
The threat of legal intimidation is a very real concern. COPA (Child OnLine Protection Act) and other legislation geared to restricting access to material which could be "potentially harmful to minors" leaves an lot of leeway in legal interpretation. Violations merit hefty fines and even imprisonment. The censorship of pagan-oriented books still occurs in school boards and filtering software still blocks many pagan web sites from library terminals.
But we are making headway. As I pulled into the driveway, I thought about the wonderful potential that young people today have within their grasp. And while there are some things that we cannot do to aid them because of certain legal restrictions, there are many things that we CAN do.
Like giving them hope for the future. Like lifting up goals for them to reach for. Like setting an example that inspires them, so that they in their turn will pass the flame on to the next generation as yet unborn.
As I plopped that slice of cheese on the top of the egg, I realized that my feeling of satisfaction came from something beyond the smile that lit Fritz's face as the plate headed in his direction.
It came from the knowledge that despite all of the obstacles put in our way, paganism has a real and sustainable future. We have something of value that we can pass on. And we WILL be able to pass it on simply because there are enough young people with open minds and loving hearts that are ready to receive it.
Munching happily, I went back into the office and began encoding the latest pagan teen essay submissions.
Oh, and one more thing...if you happen to stop into a fast food drive up some fine morning and see "McWrens" on the menu, do let me know.
Walk in Light and Love,
January 27th, 1999
The Witches' Voice
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