We Pagans are a diverse lot, and I have more in common with some than others. But I think there are two qualities central to our beliefs that prevent any honest and informed Pagan from voting for Mitt Romney. First, almost universally we honor the sacred dimensions of the feminine and how those values manifest in and on the Earth. Second, we honor the Earth itself as a direct expression of the Sacred.
What follows is not a brief on Obama as a wonderful president. I personally give him mixed marks, and some are very negative. But just as a cat burglar is not as dangerous as a serial killer, so I believe Barack Obama is a far better choice for President than Mitt Romney. And that is the choice we have. Not voting under such circumstances, when there are only two choices, is effectively voting for the candidate you dislike most.
There are six core reasons I believe Pagans should have little difficulty voting for almost any Democrat against any Republican for any office. None have anything to do with the virtues of the Democrats, although there are some I can happily vote for. Just not many.
1. War on Women and the Feminine
Pagan spirituality in almost all its forms praises feminine values, usually in through a Goddess. The Republican Party has demonstrated over and over again that even during times of high unemployment, attacking anything that empowers women takes precedence over all other issues with the possible exception of increasing the wealth of the 1%. Most of my readers will know of the recent comments by Todd Akin that women when raped cannot get pregnant along with Richard Mourdock’s ‘insight’ that when they do get pregnant from rape, it’s God’s gift. (Theological coherence is not a right wing trait.)
The Republican and right wing attack on a woman’s right to choose whether to be a mother when she finds herself pregnant is of long standing. But this past year it has broadened enormously and ominously to assault anything that empowers women except as obedient servants to right wing values.
• The Republican controlled House passed a bill with overwhelming Republican support that would allow hospitals to let pregnant women die rather than give them an abortion if they thought it a matter of ‘conscience.’
• The Republican Party and its theocratic allies, Catholic and Protestant alike, are now attacking contraception. Contraception causes no abortions and gives women control over their lives more than any other single development in human history. Honest conservatives (there are a few) admit as much.
• This attack on contraception is relentless and implacable even though abortion rates drop when birth control is easy to get. Pregnant women should die if their doctor dislikes abortion, but women should not have free access to contraceptives. Nothing proves more clearly than this that these people are in no sense ‘pro-life.’ It is a marketing label with as much depth of commitment as any of Mitt Romney’s many promises.
• Republicans argue women who have abortions should face criminal charges. Some might dodge the issue, but this conclusion grows out of their arguments and some have made the implications explicit.
• Republican legislators have intervened into women’s relations with their doctors, forcing doctors by law to perform unnecessary vaginal probes of women seeking legal abortions. Far from wanting small government, they want theocratic domination over every woman in the country. As a start.
• The Republicans and their religious right allies lie and lie and lie regarding giving people medical information about abortion and other issues specific to women.
• The religious right and their Republican allies fought the HPV vaccine that reduces the chances of a woman getting cervical cancer because they argued more young women would have sex if they felt it was safer. For them, better women dead than powerful.
• Republican dominated states with strong antiabortion laws provide less funding per child for foster care, smaller stipends for parents who adopt children with special needs, and smaller payments for poor women with dependent children than do states with strong abortion rights laws. In 1999 Louisiana had America’s strongest anti-abortion laws and spent $603 annually for each poor child. Liberal and Democratic Hawaii spent $4,648.
• Nearly half the states with the strongest antiabortion laws did not make it a crime, for a third party to kill a fetus of any gestational age so long as a deliberate abortion was not the reason. But six of the strongest antiabortion states that do not criminalize fetal battering prosecute women for prenatal drug use.
• They have sought to cut funding of the Violence Against Women Act
• The Vatican whose agents support Republicans argues that ordination of women is a crime on par with sexual abuse by their priests.
There is a pattern here that only someone in deep denial could miss: an attack on women as independent and self-governing beings and an attack on feminine values, especially spiritually. In their place they praise “manliness,” which involves talking tough, never serving the country, and debasing being a strong man to, as Neoconservative Harvey Mansfield put it, “the claim to protect is the claim to rule. How can I protect you properly if I can’t tell you what to do?” Michael Ledeen, another Neoconservative supporter of Romney’s, says Americans “must not be left to our own devices. We must be forced or, under ideal circumstances, convinced or inspired to do good.” On the religious right, theologian Bruce Ware tells us “If it’s true that in the Trinity itself–in the eternal relationships of Father, Son and Spirit, there is authority and submission, and the Son eternally submits to the will of the Father–if that’s true, then this follows: It is as Godlike to submit to rightful authority with joy and gladness as it is Godlike to exert wise and beneficial rightful authority.”
Be they secular or religious, the manliness of the Republican right is the ethics of a baboon troop. They debase men as much as they seek to dis-empower women, all in worship to whatever form of domination appeals to them.
Only the most stupid of Pagans could believe they would leave us alone if they had the chance to do us harm. This is one of the biggest differences between even corporatist Democrats like Barack Obama and his Republican opponents, and it is great enough that I cannot imagine any informed and even half-intelligent Pagan voting for Romney and his enablers.
2. War on the Environment
The Democrats have been and continue to be a disappointment regarding how we relate to the more-than-human world. The Obama administration is no friend of the earth. But it is not a committed enemy.
Advocates for the natural world as a place of intrinsic value have a voice in the Democratic Party, and if it wins that voice will have a chance to be heard. Mitt Romney and his crowd? He has said that he “does not know the purpose” of public lands.
The only purpose he admitted made sense to him was drilling and mining and logging them. That is, serving corporations and corporations alone.
Some Democrats admit global warming is a serious problem, no Republicans do.
Some Democrats defend the Endangered Species Act. To my knowledge no Republicans do.
Right wing Republicans have consistently opposed environmental regulations yet when such regulations have been passed and enforced, public health improves and the economy is not hobbled. A recent study demonstrated that eliminating lead from the many sources where children absorbed it improved school performance as much as eliminating over 20% of the income differential between poor and better off students. Contemporary Republicans oppose such regulations.
If Republicans dominate government, particularly the presidency, there will be no sympathetic ear anywhere for taking care of the earth. I readily admit there are too few Democratic ones, but that should not confuse us to the fact that being hard of hearing is preferable to being absolutely deaf.
3. The Supreme Court
Any coherent Pagan view of ourselves and our world must, I think, grant that we live within networks of relationships that are more than purely instrumental. Yes, the world and all within it is useful and can be even more so. But in that respect our world is like the usefulness of friendship, if we value someone solely because they are useful, we are not friends and we will blind ourselves to the deeper values and truths that happen when utility is subordinated to care.
A part of legitimate self-governance by a community is being able to make decisions as to what kind of behavior is acceptable and what is not. People disagree, and mistakes will be made, but the hope is that in a free society over time the better case and the better ethics will win out.
In Citizens United the Supreme Court majority has made this basic principle difficult to actually act upon on many issues of great importance. It holds to the most vulgar and depraved concept of citizenship: that corporations are persons and money is speech.
If money is speech and speech is free, bribery is simply offering a better argument. To outlaw bribery is to outlaw free speech, and of course that is how the right wing in particular seeks to control government, with some Democratic assistance.
If corporations were persons they would be regarded as dangerous psychopaths, incapable of acting ethically. The corrupt judicial minds on the Supreme Court have done all they can to ensure that these institutional psychopaths, who are never punished for crimes that would send a genuine person to jail, are free to use hundreds of millions to further corrupt our elections.
The next president will almost certainly appoint one or two justices, and Justice Ginsberg will probably be one who retires. She is one of the minority of liberal justices, and a conservative one in her place will make the court a bastion of antidemocratic reaction for many years to come.
As we Pagans increase in public visibility we can be certain that the radical right will do what it can to make our religion and our lives more difficult. Having their allies dominate the Supreme Court will make their task easier, our well-being more difficult.
This issue alone is sufficient to make the court’s continued composition as basic issue affecting the future of every citizen and their children.
4. Religion and Politics
The theocratic right’s stranglehold on the Republican Party is a threat to Pagans and to all Americans who value anything but the most vicious and depraved forms of religion dominating this country. That people like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock have a chance at national office is powerful testimony to the debasement of the Republican Party and the peril we all face as a result. The Republicans are powerfully influenced by an organization, The Family. It includes a high number or Republican Senators and Representatives, and explicitly seeks to establish theocracy in the United States. http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/item/16581-fundamentalists-derail-more-important-messages John Cornyn, a member, has defended Mourdock’s argument women must be forced to carry to term babies conceived during rape. Family leaders have praised the ruthlessness of despots such as Mao as necessary for them to realize their goals.
5. Basic Humanity
Religion brings us to awareness that there are contexts larger than our self-interest, larger than our nationalism, larger than any focus on immediate gain. Religion at its best teaches in its varied ways that human beings at least are of value in themselves, and we should treat others with care and respect, even love. By this standard I cannot understand how any genuinely religious person could support Mitt Romney.
The stories of his inability to act humanely go back to cover all his life, from assaulting a gay fellow student and cutting his hair against his will to how he treated the family dog to comments about enjoying being able to fire people, and more. Here are a few I think give us a sense of the kind of man he would be with more power over us all.
• Mitt Romney does not oppose torture.
• Mitt Romney is not concerned about health care for the uninsured because they can always go to the emergency room, which for any decent human being is evidence he has little capacity to understand people in circumstances different from his own. Having access to health care is a much cheaper way to get the preventive care people need in order not to have to go to the emergency room. It is cheaper, but more to the point, it is also more decent.
• And of course Romney has surrounded himself with the most aggressive war advocates from the old Bush administration. Given his inability to comprehend even the relationship of Syria to Iran, we can be sure his decisions will be disproportionately dependent on the people who gave us the Iraq War, and who are lusting after an attack on Teheran.
• At the same time he disrespects soldiers so much that he said his sons participating in his election campaigns amounted to serving the country as much as serving in the military. No fluke, An Romney explained Mitt’s missionary work in Paris for the Mormon Church was the moral equivalent of serving in Vietnam.
This has not been a pleasant piece to write. Dipping into the political and spiritual nihilism of America’s right wing is a toxic undertaking leaving me wanting to take a salt bath. And I have just scratched the surface.
Barack Obama is not a candidate that I can get enthusiastic about supporting simply on his own merits. They are in my judgment insufficient. But when we look at the alternative the choice becomes simple, clear, and without doubt. Barack Obama is not a cruel man, he is not a theocrat, he is not an enemy of women’s strength, and proved it by marrying a strong one. His style is without the pathetic swagger of the pseudo masculine poseurs on the right. While I see the world quite differently than he, compared to his opponent I think Barack Obama will preserve the possibility for us as Pagans and as citizens to work to make our country and our world a better place for all.