Welcome to my blog!

Merry Meet & Thank you for visiting!
This blog is all about all the things that make me up. I am a Mother, I am a Pagan Witch, I am a Wife, I am a homemaker, I am a student, I am Spiritual, I am a Teacher, I am Liberal Hippie, I am a Voter, and I am extremely opinionated! Plan to see it all! If you don't like what you see, feel free to leave! However, chances are, if you stick around, you'll find more to love than hate!

Blessings!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Feelings About The Somaly Mam Controversy

Yesterday, the official announcement of Somaly Mam's resignation from her namesake foundation was made.  I find this news to be disheartening.  Somaly Mam is a woman who I personally view as a role model.  Although I have not lived a life similar to hers, her courage and strength is a source of inspiration for me.

For those who don't know, who Somaly Mam is, she grew her "fame" after founding the Somaly Mam The Road to Lost Innocence" which chronicles her life from orphan to sex slave to freedom fighter.  Her foundation's goal is to free sex trafficking victims and empower them to live healthy happy lives.
Foundation and writing her book "

So what's the issue? Clearly this is a noble cause...  Well, I for one, couldn't agree more.  Somaly Mam and her foundation have been responsible for a great deal of the awareness raising, not just in the US, but around the world.  Of course she isn't alone, but SMF is the largest Anti-Sex Trafficking group out there, to the best of my knowledge. Unlike most US specific groups which focus purely on raising awareness and aiding girls/women here, SMF works around the world to raise awareness and in three countries (that I know of).  According to their website, in collaboration with on the ground partners, SMF has:

  • Touched the lives of nearly 100,000 women and girls in need
  • Led effective programs that have helped thousands of victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation –– some as young as three years old –– to heal and rebuild their lives with hope, confidence, and dignity
  • Engaged over 6,400 students in anti-trafficking activism
  • Treated over 6,000 women and girls at a free medical clinic in Phnom Penh’s red light district
  • Distributed more that 4.3 million condoms through our community outreach teams in areas where sex is sold
  • Trained high-ranking military police and government officials from all 24 provinces in Cambodia on anti-trafficking law
  • Raised global awareness of human trafficking – one of humanity’s most insidious and troubling problems
And NO ONE is in anyway arguing these facts.  What they are questioning however is the story which Somaly Mam has claimed to be her own.  Newsweek's "Somaly Mam: The Holy Saint (or Sinner) of Sex Trafficking," brought that question to the public by accusing both Somaly and some of her "girls" of publicizing fictional stories in an effort to raise funds and educate the public.  The article sites testimony from supposed childhood acquaintances, teachers and local officials who claim Somaly's life story is generally fiction. Additional questions are raised about the stories of some of her more vocal "girls." Some of their accusations seem to be rather well founded, coming from individuals within the organization, similar organisations and even from one of the "girls" themselves.  

To be honest, I can understand why some people are finding themselves feeling betrayed.  A great many people got involved with Somaly Mam and similar foundations or causes because of the stories which Somaly has put out there.  And quite frankly when you read (or hear) a story like the ones she and her girls have shared, it's difficult not to want to get involved.  But that's the point isn't it?  

And I can understand why people are upset, they feel they've been duped, and no one likes feeling that way. But my question is this - WOULD all the good that her foundation has done, have been done without her and her "tactics?"  I'm not excusing the lies.  If in fact she has done the things she is accused of, I will be the first to say she did things wrong.  And I generally agree that in most cases the "ends don't justify the means." BUT, I'm a greater good type. And I feel that, although she may have gone about things wrongly, the impact that she has made world wide is undeniable.  

So yes, she should have gone about things differently.  She should have allowed the truth to speak for itself - gods know it's bad enough without embellishment.  But the stories she has put out there are true for many, even if they are not necessarily true for the individuals speaking them.  Somaly may not have been used and abused the way she says, maybe in fact the vast majority of her "girls" stories aren't their own.  But they are stories that DO belong to someone.  Every day, in nearly every country around the world, girls are taken from their homes, schools or even public places like malls and forced in to prostitution or sexual slavery. They are abused, beaten, raped, and sometimes killed.  So if HER story isn't completely true, SO WHAT! With that story she has been able to provide aid to thousands of girls directly and has raised awareness on the issue of trafficking everywhere - opening doors for thousands more to gain help. 

No, the way she has done things is not ideal. And Yes, she should have come out and been honest from the start.  But I have to wonder if she had done so, would her foundation have had the ability to do all the good it's done in the world? Would the millions of people her story has touched ever even become aware of the horrors of human trafficking?  No one can answer these questions with any real certainty...  But I tend to believe that this was her purpose, this was her path.  And regardless of whether or not she went about it the "right way" or not, she did a huge service for women around the world - which is something that the vast majority of her critics can not say! 

So I, for one, will continue to support the Somaly Mam Foundation, and wish the best for Somaly and all of her "girls." In my opinion, they are all inspirations in their own way.  It greatly saddens me to see such an uprising against women who are clearly doing all they can to create positive change.

Now, I have taken some hits for standing with SMF on this matter.  When I first got the news I made a point to Tweet @SomalyMam saying that I felt Newsweek should be ashamed at themselves for targeting a charity that's doing such good work. I also expressed my disappointment in Somaly's choice to step down... Then it was "let the hate mail roll in" day.  Within a few minutes of tweeting, I had 16 "notifications" all from angry people who felt I am some kind of women hating idiot.  One of my "favorites" was from a woman who seemed to feel that Somaly, is in fact herself a trafficker. And more than once now I've heard about how she "victimizes" the very girls she supposedly "saves" simply because she has them tell their stories.  But I was a "good girl" I didn't respond, I didn't bate them.  Instead, I made a donation. And if the other tweets and comments to the SMF Facebook Page are any indication, I'm sure I'm not the only one.  That, is something that I am happy to see. But I am afraid that the long term repercussions of this will affect, not just on this specific charity, but on the entire Anti-Trafficking movement.

In the end though I feel as if I just watched my hero do a slow motion fall from grace.  But I do not question my feelings about the movement as a whole. The facts are these - girls and women (as well as young men in some cases) are being forced in to prostitution and sex slavery.  Their stories are tragic and horrifying, and they deserve better! They deserve a world where they can feel safe.  And maybe the SMF went about things in a way that is less than perfect, but they ARE making a difference!  And that, I believe, is more reason to stand by them than their flaws are reason to walk away and turn on them when they need support most.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Meditation - What, Why and How!

People from all paths and all corners of the globe practice meditation. On a physical and mental level it's a wonderful way to calm and balance yourself, bring more positive energy and relaxation in to your life and to help rid yourself of negative energy and stress. It's only been in recent years that modern medicine has started to recognize the physical benefits of meditation.  The breathing and visualizations employed by traditional medicine help patience fight cancer, physical illnesses, relieve stress and so on.

In addition to the physical and mental benefits of Medication, the spiritual and religious benefits have been documented since the early years of documented religion. On a spiritual level Meditation enables us to tap in to a direct connection with the divine. Meditation helps the physical conscious mind connect with the higher consciousness we all have inside ourselves. Through practice and dedication, this bridging between our physical and divine selves, opens the doors to a new spiritual knowledge that has always existed, but that we may not have know how to tap into...

Meditation is basically an altered state of consciousness which is achieved through controlled breathing and visualization. Webster's New World Dictionary defines meditation as a deep continued thought and solemn reflection on sacred matters as a devotional act. While BOTH of these definitions are right, neither are really a full explanation, for Meditation is SO much more.
   
As you begin to practice meditation, you should begin noticing a few early effects. You should become a little calmer and more relaxed during your regular daily activities. You also find yourself better able to handle unexpected events or can think more clearly when dealing with a problem or trying to find a solution. The stress and tension you experience day to day should begin to lessen each time you meditate. As you continue your meditation practices you'll see these benefits multiply and grow!

On a spiritual side, you may notice an increased interest or understanding of your chosen spiritual path. Personally, I feel this is due to your new found connection to your "higher" consciousness and a lower level of day to day stress and tension which may have previously made religious or spiritual aspects of life seem of lower importance. In addition to an increased interest in your path, you may also feel a greater need to improve or add to the amount of positive thinking and energy in your life. Which is best achieved by first changing how we thing - which is another benefit of Meditation! (I will cover this more in the Law Of Attraction Post)

Okay, now that we have covered both the What and the Why... Let's cover the How...

So, how do you meditate? There are many well-known methods. Included here is just one rather basic yet, effective method of meditation.

You Will Need
One large white candle
(use the same candle each time you meditate, when it burns down simply buy a new)
Matches Or Lighter
**Optional: Light sea or nature sound recordings or music

Basic Meditation Ritual

Light the candle and sit in front of it in any position you feel comfortable.
Breathe deep; fill your lungs with air.
Release.
Repeat this seven times.
Look in to the candle flame and clear your mind.
(Do this as much as possible. At first you probably won't be able to totally clear your mind)
Take another three deep breaths.
Hum lightly.
Focus on looking into the candle flame.
(If looking directly in to the flame hurts your eyes, look a bit below it)
Keep Humming.
You should feel your body relaxing. Soon you will be in a trance state.
(Some describe this as a very relaxed state, hypnotic state or free floating)

Once you have reached this trance state you are ready to preceded with the ceremony, ritual or just to face the day!

**DO NOT be upset if it takes some practice before you are able to reach the trance state... It will not come automatically and does take practice.

Originally posted on my blog "One Witch's Wonderland" on 7/25/10
(C) on article ONLY. Please do not reproduce without permission.
I make NO claim to the included artwork. If it belongs to you, and you wish it removed, please contact me!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Lets Talk About Stars Baby...

While wasting time on Pinterest a few days ago, I came across this picture:


Underneath it someone has written "There's another, inaccurate one, going around on here and I wanted to share the truth. To a neo-pagan the inverse of a pentacle is a pentagram a pentagram is not a satanic symbol."

Now, here's the thing. First, the Meme is at least partly correct. The Baphomet is A symbol used by the Church of Satan, unfortunately, that's not it.  A Pentacle is A symbol used by Neo-Pagans.  And even the assumption that most people have no idea what a "Neo-Pagan" is is (although both saddening and amusing at the same time) is pretty accurate.  Especially since most "Neo-Pagans" don't call themselves that, preferring instead to just say "Pagan."

But the whole idea of people not knowing the difference and the pinner's attempt to correct one inaccuracy with another, has prompted me to set some things straight - at least for my readers.

First, lets discuss the "Baphomet."

"Baphomet" (usually depicted as pictured to the right) is a term used to describe a deity figure whom the Knight's Templar were accused of worshiping during the inquisitions of the 14th.  Therefore the symbolism is far from specific to the Church of Satan as it clearly predates the formation of the church by at least 600 years. Since the mid-1800's it has been used by numerous Occultists, most notably Eliphas Levi who used it as a symbol representing the "sum of the universe" since it held elements of both male and female, good and evil, and so on... It's also been linked to Freemasonry and numerous other "secret societies."

Today however, as stated above, it is most notably used by the Church of Satan and other, similar, Satanic "religious" groups.  However, of these groups it is only the official Church Of Satan which uses the the "Sigil of Baphomet" that is shown in the Meme above. They have trademarked it as their official insignium. Although there are other variations which are used by other similar Satanic and Left Handed paths.


Now lets talk Pentacle VS Pentagram...

As shown in the Meme, a Pentacle is any encircled 5 pointed star.  However, unlike what the caption on the original pin had added, a Pentacle is a Pentacle regardless of which direction is points.  The word "Pentacle" is defined as meaning "an amulet used in magical evocation, generally made of parchment, paper or metal (although it can be of other materials), on which the symbol of a spirit or energy being evoked is drawn."

A Pentagram, however, although so often confused with a Pentacle (and a great many magickal circles use the terms interchangeably) is not a magickal symbol at all. In point of fact, "Pentagram" is a mathematical term, having no inherent magickal relation. The word Pentagram comes from the Greek word πεντάγραμμον (pentagrammon), from πέντε (pente), "five" + γραμμή (grammē), "line," so it literally means "5 lined figure."

Regardless of their origins however, both symbols have been and are used in numerous magickal traditions.  The earliest uses of a Pentagram seem to date back to the first Ur divinity of the Sumerian peoples, around the 26th century BC.  In their writing, it seems to have been used to signify words similar to "corner," "wedge," and even "pitfall." It was also used in Greece around the 6th century BC, to represent the "Pentemychos" (meaning "of the 5 recesses") which was the title of the cosmogony of Pherecydes of Syros.  In this case the 5 points represented the 5 seeds which Chronos placed within the earth to create the Cosmos.

As Christianity came to power the Pentagram came to represent the 5 wounds of Christ or the 5 senses of the human body.  It's also featured as the symbol of Gawain in the now famous poem "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" which dates to the 14th century. The poet explains that each of the five interconnected points represents a virtue tied to a group of five. Gawain is keen in his five senses, dextrous in his five fingers, faithful to the salvation provided through the Five Wounds of Christ, takes courage from the five joys that Mary had of Jesus, and exemplifies the five virtues of knighthood.

With the blossoming of Occult study and practices though the Renascence, men such as Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa had officially claimed the Pentagram as a magickal symbol, assigning each point to one of the 5 NeoPlatonic Elements.  By the mid-19th century the idea of an upright pentagram (one point up) as a positive symbol, and the down pointing pentagram being a negative or evil symbol was generally accepted by most occultists.  The upward facing pentagram was seen as representing the four natural elements (earth, air, fire, water) being ruled over by the spirit or God and was sometimes referred to as "The seat of wisdom." While the down-pointing pentagram was seen as a perversion of this symbolize and therefore negative or evil in it's intent.

Chinese traditions are similar with more emphasis on the transformation of elements rather than their material aspects. Unlike the European version however, the Chinese version does not include spirit. Instead it is made up of Earth, Fire, Metal Water, and Wood.

There is also a Japanese magickal tradition which uses the symbol of the Pentagram, but I personally know little about it and therefore would prefer not to elaborate on it.

The term Pentacle (as well as the symbols behind it) however, does not have such a long or widespread history, and has ALWAYS been used as a Magickal symbol. Roughly the term translates to "fivepointed" or "fivefolded talisman." And although it the word itself means "five pointed/folded" in point of fact most historical Pentacles did not use a Pentagram, but a Hexagram (6 pointed star.) References to Pentacles throughout old magickal texts could in fact mean nearly any design  and were used for talismans for all types of magickal workings. Many so called "Pentacles" did not even include a star design, others didn't include an outer circle, though these are less common.

Shown here from left: The First and Second of Solomon's Pentacles of Venus 
In "Of Occult Philosophy, Book 3" Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa summarizes that their use was to "fore-know all future things, & command whole nature, have power over devils, and Angels, and do miracles." Agrippa attributes Moses' feats of magic in part to his knowledge of various pentacles.

Numerous old Occult tomes show Pentalces as being worn either around the neck or in the form of a ring, as a way to imbue power and protection upon the individual wearing it.

In today's magickal practices the term Pentacle is solely used to reference an encircled star - generally of 5 points, but occasionally of 6, 7 or 8. More often using the terms "sigil" or "talisman" to describe non-star forms. But it's use as a talisman, and a symbol of both power and protection, has remained.

One final misconception which is generally touted as fact by those both inside and outside of the Pagan community is the idea that an inverted Pentacle is "negative" or "evil." While it is true that the Pentagram was at one point believed to signify good or evil depending on it's point orientation, this has never been true of the Pentacle - historically nor in modern day practices.  Instead it has, for the most part, held tight to the idea that regardless of it's makeup, a Pentacle is a talisman meant to benefit the wearer (or users in the case of ritual or spell working usages).

Some, even within the modern Pagan community, hold tight to the idea that an inverted Pentacle is used for dark or what is known as "left handed" magick, and this has some truth to it. But it is also used in some Wiccan groups to denote someone who has reached their "Second Degree" within the coven. This is also true (in even less groups) of the inverted Pentagram (without a circle). As I said though, there are those on a "left handed" path or practicing negative magicks who choose to use the inverted Pentacle in their practice, I would think though that there are just as many practicing those forms of magick who also use the upright form.  Like magick, there is no positive or negative when it comes to symbols, instead symbols are neutral and their alliance with good or evil depend on their use.

So there you have it... The Baphomet, Pentagram and Pentacle...  They're not only similar in form, but in use and meaning, so it's understandable why there is so much confusion, but hopefully, you now know how to tell them apart and what the differences really are!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Divinaton: What the heck is it?

Ever flipped a coin to make up your mind? If so, then you have already tried your hand at a very basic form of Divination and didn't even know it...

In it's simplest form, Divination is simply a means of making the unknown - known! Nearly every culture around the world has some form of divination tool or ritual as a part of it's history.  When we think of Gypsys for example, the first thing that tends to come to mind is the woman with the crystal ball, a perfect example of divination dating back ages!

 Most people who practice divination believe that all things, living or not, are made up of energy and that this energy is all interconnected to the energy of all things around them. It's the basic idea that we are all a part of the universe and so is everything else, this makes us connected to both one another and to all things. When you are working with objects such as a pendulum, bones, tea leaves, runes or other forms, you are connected to them, and they are connected to the divine.

 One theory of how divination works is that the information obtained comes from within ourselves.  Our minds, bodies and subconscious are consistently collecting and processing data and information, most of which we are never aware of. So it's feasible to think that this information is accessible during divination. Could it simply be that the unconscious mind plays a part in how the Tarot cards are ordered?

There is also the idea that these events are truly random and that it's up to the reader to interpret the patters and meanings of what they see, rather than that the tool itself actually has any power itself. With this thinking those same Tarot cards would be shuffled and laid out in a completely random way and it's then up to the subconscious of the person reading them to decide what the relationship of those cards is to their reason for reading...

In both of these theories WE are the connection to the knowledge, whether you see that knowledge as coming from some divine source or not, the tools are simply tools that help us access that information, rather than giving information themselves.

There is also the theory called synchronicity, which simply means that everything is meaningfully interconnected to everything else. Random events, no matter how disconnected they seem, contain meaning and wisdom if their hidden meanings can be found. For certain types of divination such as Tarot or Runes this theory seems to fit.

Can divination really tell the future? Most popular divinatory practices seem to prove so. However physics teaches that events happen totally at random. Which brings us to the question of whether fortune telling is even possible, or if it's all just a guess. Do events maybe occur the way foretold simply because we expect them to and therefore we take the steps to make them happen that way?

Well, to find answers to these questions you need to discover what you believe. For those who believe solely in physics, there is no question that things happen at random and therefore can't actually be foretold using mystical or any other means. However, if you truly believe in physics without the possibility of the divine, you wouldn't be reading this in the first place, now would you?

So what are some of the types and tools of divination? I'll get in to detail with most of these more in further postings, but for today I'll just give you the basics. You may be at least generally familiar with some of these, while others may be completely new...

Astrology - The reading of celestial bodies (sun, moon, stars & planets) in order to tell the future
Augury - The reading of the movement and activities of birds
Bibliomancy - The reading of Books, frequently religious texts
Cartography - The reading of Cards. This includes Tarot, Angel Cards, and even regular playing cards.
Chiromancy - Palmistry - The reading of the palms of the hands.
Chronomancy - The study of time in order to predict lucky and unlucky times and days.
Extispicy - The reading of animal (or human) entrails
Geomancy - The reading of markings on the earth or how soil lands when thrown.
I Ching - Chinese divination using coins or sticks.
Lithomancy - The reading of Stones or Gems
Necromancy - communing with the spirits of the dead.
Numerology - The translation of numbers in to meaningful sequences
Oneiromancy - The reading of and translation of dreams
Onomancy - Divination surrounding the meanings behind names.
Pendulum - The use of a hanging pendulum to receive simply answers.
Pyromancy - The reading of Fire.
Rhabdomancy - The reading of Rods
Runecasting - The reading of Runes.
Scrying - The reading of reflective objects. Includes Crystal balls, Scrying Mirrors and Water.
Spirit Board - Talking Board use - Ouija board
Tasseomancy - The reading of Tea Leaves of Coffee Grounds

There are many other forms of divination found all around the world, and each of these categories tends to hold many variations and options as well. Some are easier than others to "master" and each person will be drawn to different forms. So if you're looking to get in to divination, and one form doesn't seem to fit, try another... As I said in further postings I will talk about some of these in more specific terms and how tos, so stay posted and discover what works for you.


Originally posted on my blog "One Witch's Wonderland" on 8/28/10
(C) on article ONLY. Please do not reproduce without permission.
I make NO claim to the included artwork. If it belongs to you, and you wish it removed, please contact me!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why I Don't Support The Minimum Wage Hike

I attempted to avoid the minimum wage issue on here, but it just seems like it is everywhere, so not putting forth my opinion no longer seems smart.

So here is where I stand. I am NOT in favor of raising the minimum wage! Not now and not in the near future, with the explicit exception of the minimum wage for tipped employees, which in most states and federally still sits at just $2.13/hr. which is just disgusting!

That said, I understand more than most how hard living on minimum wage is. My husband and I have a family of 6 (3 adults & 3 children) at home and in 2013 we earned just over $24000.  And because we are in PA, where the Medicare expansion has not been done, my husbands monthly doctors visits and medication cost us just under $4800 last year.  What's left pays for our rent, utilities, car expenses, clothing, food and whatever else we need.  So yeah, I completely understand what it's like to be down right poor.  And I do not deny the difficulty in living this way.

However, raising the minimum wage is NOT the answer. If anything, it will lead to MORE poverty, not less. The White House keeps talking about how raising the wage will benefit 1 in 5 American workers and how it is going to "lift 1 Million Americans out of Poverty."  But that's not the reality of the situation.

One of the countless internet ads urging lawmakers to raise the wage.

First, business owners aren't going to take the hit. If they have to pay their employees more, they will simply charge more for their goods & services. So even though the "new" minimum wage ($10.10) is higher than the "old" ($7.25) it's not actually going to go further, because prices will simply go up to match.

For example: I paid $4.37 for a gallon of Milk yesterday.   The new minimum wage is approximately a 40% raise. This means, in order to not loose profits, businesses will have to raise their prices by around 40% as well. Which means that milk will now cost around $6.12 for a gallon.  And the same will happen with the price of gas, clothing and nearly every other need.  The ONLY possible exceptions will be your utilities, housing payment/rent and insurances (such as house & car) and those will only be temporary stays.

What's more is that while the minimum wage goes up, and prices go up to match (so the money does NOT go further) the welfare benefits that many minimum wage households depend on will not.  Food Stamps, Medicare, Cash and Housing benefits will be removed from individuals making this higher wage, at least temporarily.  So their new "higher" income, which has to pay for new higher prices, will also somehow have to cover a good deal of additional expenses. **Not that I think our welfare system is "right" but that's another post entirely**

But lets stop talking about those who will supposedly "benefit" from the raise, those who will get it. And start talking about those who are living on fixed incomes or who have worked years to earn within the range of this new range.  Those living on disability, social security and other forms of "fixed" incomes won't get this raise, but that doesn't mean they will be somehow get some reprieve from the suddenly new and higher prices for everything they need. Some of these individuals are making as little as $500/mo, which is already disgustingly low, so as prices raise, they will find themselves drowning even more than they are now.

And then there are those who have maybe worked years to earn $11 or $12 an hour - currently more than 50% above minimum wage - who will suddenly find themselves making less than 9% above it.  It's usually assumed that these individuals will get an equal raise to those earning minimum wage, but in actual practice, it rarely happens and isn't required by laws anywhere. So these families and individuals are in for, not just higher prices, but a significant "cut" in pay.

Finally there are those individuals who are considered "tipped" employees. These individuals work for $2.13 in most states, with employees in all but 18 states earning $4/hr or less. In just 7 states (plus Guam) tipped employees are legally required to earn the same minimum wage as non-tipped employees.  However, as prices raise, tips drop. Ask anyone who's ever waitresses when a restaurant raised it's prices and you'll hear the same story - tips drop! So not only will the majority of these people (with the exception of those 7 states & Guam) go from making between 30 and 40% of the minimum wage to just 2% in some cases, but they then have to deal with lower tips AND of course the same higher prices as everyone else.

I would say the math is pretty simple. Who benefits from this raise in wage? No one... Consumers - regardless of income - get to pay higher prices for everything.  Employees who don't get the wage hike find themselves making "less" than they had prior to it. Those employees who do get the pay raise find themselves struggling to make ends meet after loosing welfare benefits. Tipped employees not only earn an even lower wage, but will find themselves earning less tips. And those on fixed incomes will have to figure out how to stretch their already low income much further.  Even business owners are punished, because as prices go up, spending goes down.

In the end, raising the wage doesn't help anyone, although I can see why so many think it could.  IF it were as simply as people being paid more, it would be a good deal. But it's not. The idea is that because of inflation, people are making less now than they used to - and that IS true. But raising the wage will only push inflation, so even those who get the raise, don't actually make more because they're spending more to match. Worst of all, those companies that choose not to raise prices, in an effort to draw the business away from those that do, generally use these forced pay hikes as an excuse to stop hiring new employees or even fire those who they already employ.

Raising the wage doesn't pull anyone out of Poverty, if anything, it creates more. It means that those who are already impoverished will remain so, and that thousands of Americans who are living JUST above the poverty line, will soon find themselves below it.

I, as much as anyone, understand the growing poverty issue in the US. I see it every day, I live it to some extent. But I also understand that a simple "pay raise" isn't going to fix the issue. There is no such thing as an "easy fix" when it comes to poverty.  Raising the wage is a temporary bandage on a broken system...  But it's one that has failed before, will faith this time and will fail in the future. Because it doesn't fix the problem! It doesn't educate those living in poverty, it doesn't help them progress in the job market, it doesn't help keep their kids off the street...  It keeps things exactly as they are, but gives politicians another excuse to not pay attention to the "lower class." It gives them the ability to say "I did my part" and wash their hands of the situation.  In the end though, the problem doesn't get smaller though, it gets bigger!

Now don't go accusing me of not wanting to see the issue fixed - because I do. In fact, a large part of the reason I don't support this raise is because I want the issue fixed, not bandaged and then ignored for another 10 years. And I firmly believe there IS a fix to our poverty issue! But it's not as easy as simply raising the wage is. It requires money, time and effort - things that most politicians would rather put in to countless unnecessary wars. People need access to healthcare - decent healthcare, not just medical care.  People need access to education - without a risk of starving in the process. And as a nation we need jobs - good jobs, manufacturing jobs - we MUST stop outsourcing so much to countries like China. And of course I could list a dozen more "must do" things that should be on this list, but the point is, the answers to poverty in the US are there - we have them, we know what they are and how to implement them - but as a nation of instant gratification lovers, we don't want to go that route, instead, we want to simply pay people more and pretend that is going to fix things... As if raising minimum wage has EVER worked in the past...

Maybe it's time we learn from our past and move forward together!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Atheists and Faith...

This post is in response to a message I received from a rather perturbed Christian Reader. The woman who wanted to remain anonymous, but she wanted it to be known that she greatly disagreed with the idea that Atheists have faith, which was something I had stated in an online discussion a long time back.
She asked:  "Isn't the entire purpose of being an Atheist to not have faith?" and followed with: "How could you compare the love that the faithful have for our God to the faithlessness of an Atheist?"
This made me wonder why anyone would assume that an Atheist doesn't have faith? And this is a question I have encountered over and over again online and have never understood the thinking behind.

The definition of Atheism is NOT to be faithless, it's simply to hold no belief in God. Many (but hardly all) Atheists I know believe in "other" energies, spirits, ghosts and so on. But even those who do not still continue to have faith. They have faith in themselves, in the world around them, the physical, the intellectual... In science and reason... In love and justice... In the righteous and just... The lack of faith in a God or even in the spirit realm is not a lack of faith in life. It's simply a form of belief which doesn't include things that can not be proven. No more, no less!

This concept should not be so foreign to those of us who have faith in Gods or Spirit realms or even Magick... For don't we also have a similar faith in what can be proven? It would be strange not to! I mean, I have yet to meet a Christian, Pagan or anyone else who has questioned the idea of atoms or particles which make up rocks... I can't see them, I can't taste them, I can't feel them... But does that mean I don't have faith that they exist? Of course not! Because some guy in a lab coat with a REALLY REALLY powerful machine CAN SEE THEM! And can prove to me and the world that they are there. Doesn't it take faith for me to believe it if I can't see it though? To me any time you take someone's word that something exists without first testing it yourself it's a matter of faith.

Okay, I'm starting to ramble, but the point is the same... Pagan, Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, we ALL believe in SOMETHING! Some of us believe in things which are "greater than self" others do not. But in no way does one's belief or faith not exist simply because it doesn't fit in to someone else's definition of the word!

Originally posted on my blog "One Witch's Wonderland" on 6/5/11
(C) on article ONLY. Please do not reproduce without permission.
I make NO claim to the included artwork. If it belongs to you, and you wish it removed, please contact me!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Transgender Woman Sues Prison Over Denial of HRT

Ashley Diamond, a trandgender inmate who had received hormone therapy for 19 years prior to her incarceration has been denied treatments since entering the Georgia Prison system. This denial of treatment violates both Georgia state and Federal laws.

In 2009, Diamond was convicted of burglary and placed under probation.  After violating the terms of her probation she was sent to prison.  When she entered prison, she was denied access to her hormone therapy. This has caused her body to change shape, her facial hair to grow and her voice to deepen. In November of 2013, she filed a lawsuit stating that she is suffering from depression and chronic anziety and has contemplated suicide due to her forced removal from her medication.

Diamond is has been quoted saying:  "No one would deny a diabetic prisoner insulin. No one would sentence a person to a gender change.  But because I am transgender, I am denied basic medical care and forced to change gender. Nobody should be sentenced to torture like this."

Since her case was featured in HuffPost, it has been causing some commotion through social media, and no doubt off line as well with well meaning - and sometimes rather close minded - individuals weighting in on both sides.  In similar courses the courts have ALWAYS sided with the transgender individuals and have continually struck down bans on HRT, pointing to the Eighth Amendment as their reason. However, this seems to be a lose-lose argument with strong opinions everywhere.

Personally, I find myself torn on this issue and have a difficult time expressing exactly where I stand. I do feel this woman has been mistreated. At the same time I have issue with prisoners having free access to non-vital medical care when law-abiding and free citizens do not. In short I suppose that is my standpoint - I would love to see inmates have access to whatever healthcare they need, but since it's my tax dollars paying for that healthcare, I would rather see it go to those non-criminals who need it first. I find the notion that solid healthcare, job training and often college educations are freely available to inmates, but the average young adult doesn't have that same guarantee.

But that's not the whole issue here. A further issue exists in how this woman was removed from her hormone therapy - cold turkey.  No, I'm not completely on board with the idea of inmates having access to medication and healthcare that the average person doesn't have, but removing someone from medicinal therapy of any kind is not only "cruel and unusual" it's dangerous.  Forcing someone to discontinue a long term medical treatment in this manner can lead to heart attack, renal failure, encephalitis and numerous other extremely dangerous medical conditions. And this isn't just for those on HRT or other long term medical treatments, it goes equally for those with heroin or pill addictions and even some alcoholics.  Once the body becomes dependent on a medication or drug of any kind, removing that substance cold turkey is simply irresponsible, especially if it's done without any kind of medical monitoring. Why no one is screaming about that is beyond me.

The second issue that's bothering me is that this woman is being housed in a male facility.  If anything were "cruel and unusual" it's that. Now, I can understand the argument that housing her in a female facility would be "immoral" or "dangerous," I mean if you were to suggest housing a male in a female prison the whole country - liberal and conservative - would be up in arms. But the fact is that this woman IS a woman. Although I do not believe she has had gender reassignment completed, she has been treated with hormones and lived as a woman for 19 years.  Housing her with men is as equally dangerous as housing a natural born woman with them - maybe more so.

But back to the issue of hormone therapy being denied.  Like I said, I'm rather torn.  I'm a firm believer that until the law abiding citizens of this country have open access to healthcare, we shouldn't be handing it out to criminals.  No, I'm not saying we should deny insulin to diabetics, but I do believe that anything beyond basic and/or life sustaining medical care should be denied, and in this case, that would include this woman's hormone therapy.

It's not that I don't understand why she's on the therapy, I do. And I fully support her in that choice. But unlike vital medicine, hormone therapy is a choice and she can, has and is, living without her therapy.  I am certain it causes her pain and stress, but I suppose I feel in some way that that is prison life. It's not meant to be pleasant.

Once, and if, the healthcare system changes to allow law abiding citizens access to healthcare they can afford, then possibly I will change my opinion on that issue. But so long as there continue to be more than a Million people in this country who are hard working and law abiding and still unable to access the healthcare they need - medical, dental, eye care, surgery, medications, etc - I just can't fully get on board with the idea that inmates -- people our society has deemed unsuited or unsafe for life among the general population due to their criminal activities -- having free access to them on my dime.

I fully understand that what this prison is doing is illegal, and yes, it bothers me that government prison systems are so quick to ignore the laws of the same government that pays it's bills.  But the fact is, prisons in this country need a full overhaul - as most things do. As it stands now, I have a really hard time finding to much sympathy for criminals when innocent individuals are going without roofs, clothing, food and medicine every day. I feel as if we've created a world where it's sometimes more beneficial to be a criminal than it is to be an honest, hard working person! And that's something I take issue with greatly!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Embracing Your Moontime - The Red Box

I am a happy feminist, but the truth is, until recently I've not been very happy to be a women.  I was a feminist because I was a woman, not because I really loved the woman I am.  Over the past year, that has been changing and I have learned to embrace my womanhood rather than be ashamed every time my cycle came around.  But as unhappy as I was being a woman, I always wanted a daughter - even when I didn't necessarily want children at all.  Part of me always dreamed of passing on my knowledge to an heir... Not that I don't love my boys - I do, so very much - but there is something inherently magickal about a little girl.

Now though, as I am learning to embrace my womanhood and my cycle I have begun to think of how my life would now be different and how much pain I would have been spared had I been taught the wonders and blessings of womanhood as a girl -- Had I been taught to appreciate my body and it's abilities rather than see it, and it's workings, as "the curse."  Clearly I am unable to somehow go back in time and teach myself all these things. But it has inspired a new need in me to ensure that my daughter doesn't have the same struggles and issues that I had.

I've been thinking a lot lately of all the things I wish I could have experienced, all the knowledge I wish I could have been given...  And all the things I hope I can do for and give to my own daughter, in hopes that she will grow to love and respect her body, her cycle and herself fully.

Truth be told, my daughter is just over 3.  I have quite some time before I have to focus on planning a menarche celebration.  But whenever I sit quietly, I find my mind wondering to that day in the not so distant future...  So clearly, I'm being called to focus on this now for some reason... Whatever that reason is, I know enough to listen to the spirit when I feel it guide me.

I don't know all of what I hope to do for my daughter, but I do know that I hope to present her with a "Red Box" (also called a Moonbox) when she reaches her moontime.  A part of my own growth in this matter has included the creation of my own "Red Box" (which by the way isn't actually red.)  If I had such a box years ago, even without any rite or celebration, I feel things could have been different for me.

So what's in a "Red Box?" And why is it so important?

All in all a "Red Box" is just a box - any shape, any color, and just about any size - which a woman uses to keep all of her "feminine needs" safe.  Prior to menarche it is also a box in which to keep any gifts or items which will be gifted to a young woman upon her first blood. This box not only keeps everything safe, but ensures that these items are only handled and used by the woman in conjunction with her cycle.

Some may see this like a "hiding spot" for things, but it's not.  While part of it's job is to keep womanly supplies away from others, it's not out of a need to hide them - which is why such boxes are often decorative - but to keep them away from prying eyes and curious hands.  A woman's supplies should be something which honor a woman's cycle and body, and they aren't something which every person in the home should be running their hands over or tossing around. Their energy should be kept positive and clear, and leaving them for others to handle will only ensure that isn't the case for long.

But what goes in a Red Box?  What exactly are "womanly" or "feminine needs?"  I suppose for each woman it will differ.  If a woman is already deep in to her cycling years, chances are she already knows what she needs. But if she is working on expanding her understanding of or embracing her own cycles she may wish to add or change some items as needed.  If however, you're building one for a young woman who has recently, or who has yet to begin her moon cycles - or if you're considering some items which you may wish to add to your own - here are a few suggestions on items to include:

  • Sanitary Pads (Cloth are best of course)
  • Menstrual Cup, Sponge or Tampons (ideally organic)
  • Special "Moon Blood Undies" (dark colored and super comfy)
  • Lunar Calendar/Planner or Journal (for tracking and making notes on cycle symptoms)
  • Red Towels & Washcloths (for use only when bleeding)
  • Herbal Teas, Tinctures or other Remedies (to sooth symptoms and relax the body/mind)
  • Incense and Candles (to help aid relaxation, meditation 
  • Heating Pad or Hot Water Bottle
  • A Special Piece of Jewelry, Nail Polish or Lipstick (meant to be worn only at moontime) 
  • MoonCycle Beads (to help track cycle)
  • Moon Cycle & Womanhood Based Books (educational & inspirational)
  • Loose fitting & comfy PJs
There are probably a million different items that COULD be put in the box. It all depends on the woman.  For young women who are new to their cycles, it's about more than just caring for her physical needs, but about teaching them to relax and enjoy their cycle - plus it's about teaching her why her cycle is such a blessing!  

It may seem like such a little thing in a woman's life.  But the fact is, a woman's cycle is what makes her a woman. It's what gives her the power to create life. It's what separates her from men.  A woman's cycle is what allows her to better connect with her sacred, spiritual self...  

There is a saying that "There is a little witch in every women."  Fact is, it's the moon cycle which aids to a woman in her connection to that inner witch!  So, it's worth embracing...  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Measles Fact Overview

**After starting a my Materia Medica (Herbal Notebook) I decided it was time to start to organize all my other medical information similarly.  Since much of my research on vaccines and vaccine related illnesses was done a few years back, I decided to review and rewrite much of that information in the process.  Of course, I can't possibly provide all that information here - since my files include studies, news stories and articles six inches thick - but I thought it possible that posting my overview pages could be beneficial to someone who is only not starting to do their own research.  What follows, is a single overview page from my research.**



Measles (Rubeola)

What is Measles?
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection cased by a single stranded RNA Morbillivirus in the paramyxovirus family. The virus normally grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of this Illness?
Symptoms usually begin between 7 and 14 days after initial infection.

Common Symptoms:
Koplik's Sopts
  • Mild to Moderate Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny Nose
  • Sore Throat
  • Conjunctivitis (red/watery eyes)
  • Koplik's Spots (tiny white spots inside and around the mouth)
    Usually appear 2-3 days after first symptoms appear, may remain until 2-3 days after rash
    disappears.
    These occur in 60-70% of infections.
  • Blotchy Red or Red Brown Rash
    Usually appear 3-5 days after first symptoms
Rash usually begins at or near the hairline and spreads downward to the rest of the body. When rash appears fever may spike as high as 104°F. Rash may last as long as 5-6 days before beginning to fade.

Serious Symptoms:
Measles Rash
  • Ear Infection: 1/10
  • Pneumonia: < 1/20
  • Diarrhea*: 8/100
  • Blindness (Xerophthalmia)**: < 1/100
  • Encephalitis***:
    Acute Demyelinating Encephalitis: 1/1000
    Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis: 1/25,000
    Inclusion Body Encephalitis

Complications are most common in children under 5 years of age, and adults over 20. Individuals without adequate healthcare, who are suffering from malnutrition, a compromised or inferior immune system (from HIV or other diseases), or with a Vitamin A deficiency are at the highest risk over all.

*Diarrhea due to secondary bacterial or protozoal infections is common. This is particularly significant in malnourished individuals.

**Post Measles Blindness occurs in developing countries in approximately 1% of all infected children.
Xerophthalmia is caused by a severe Vitamin A deficiency which stops the eyes from producing tears. If left untreated, it can lead to corneal ulceration and blindness.
Treatments include artificial tears, increasing environmental humidity and wearing special glasses when outside. High dose Vitamin A supplements have been shown to inhibit progress of the condition. Once corneal ulceration takes place, eye surgery is the only option to return sight.

*** Three forms of Encephalitis are associated with this disease:
  1. Acute Demyelinating Encephalitis: Occurs within 2 weeks of the rash appearing, usually with seizures. Often accompanied by fever, irritability, headache, and changing consciousness. May progress to coma. It is believed to be a Neuro-allergic process. It carries a 10-15% mortality rate and 25% of survivors have permanent brain damage. Treatment is supportive with no clear benefit from Dexamethasone (an Antiinflamatory & Immunosuppressant Steroid)
  2. Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis: More common in boys where the initial infection occurs before age 2. Onset is usually between 5 and 10 years after an apparently normal measles recovery. Causes disturbance in intellect and personality, behavioral disorders and worsening school work. This is usually followed by seizures, signs of extrapyamidal and pyramidal disease (degenerative diseases that affect the brain & motor functions) and finally decerebrate rigidity (involuntary flexion or extension of arms & legs) and death. This condition is untreatable.
  3. Inclusion Body Encephalitis: Occurs in those with compromised immune systems, usually 1-7 months following exposure to Measles and is progressive over months. It is largely fatal, approximately 15% of survivors will have long term neurological complications.

    Long term Neurological Complications and Brain Damage Symptoms from Encephalitis may include:
  • Deafness
  • Seizure Condition
  • Mental Retardation

Average Total Infection & Recovery Time:
Infection to Recovery time varies greatly. From as little as 15 days, to as long as 28 days.

Death Rate & Causes:
Approximately 1-2 of every 1000 cases end in Death.

Respiratory or Neurological complications or both are most commonly noted as the primary cause of death in nearly 90% of cases.

In children under 5, death is most commonly attributed to respiratory problems. While deaths in the 10-14 year age range is most commonly caused by encephalitis or other neurologic complications.

Approximately 17% of individuals who die from Measles have some underlying disease at the time of death – this percentage increases with age.

How is this Illness Transmitted?
Airborne via respiratory droplets.
Virus can also remain transmissible for up to two hours on surfaces, removing the need for direct person to person contact.

Measles can not be carried by animals.

What is the Infectious Period?
From 4 days before, until about 4 days after the rash appears.

How Common Is This Illness?
United States:
An average of 60 cases are reported per year. However recent outbreaks have increased that number in recent years. In 2013, 189 cases were reported.

Worldwide:
An estimated 20 Million cases of Measles occur each year throughout the world.

What Treatments are Available and How Effective Are They?
There are no Measles Specific Treatments available. Any treatment given is for symptom relief only. The virus will run it's course in due time.

Vitamin A has been shown to help prevent eye damage and blindness. Vitamin A supplements have also been shown to reduce the number of deaths from measles by 50% in developing countries.

Sever complications can be avoided through good nutrition, adequate fluid intake, and treatment of dehydration when it occurs.

Eye & ear infections, as well as pneumonia can be treated with Antibiotics.


References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/overview.html (2014)
  2. World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/ (2014)
  3. American Journal of Diseases of Children (March 1975)
  4. Mishra A, Mishra S, Jain P, et al; Measles related complications and the role of vitamin A supplementation. Indian J Pediatr. 2008 Sep;75(9):887-90. Epub 2008 Jun 21: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18568439
  5. Huiming Y, Chaomin W, Meng M; Vitamin A for treating measles in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Oct 19;(4):CD001479: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16235283

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Satanic Monument and the Capital Building... And My Take on the Issue.

If you have been living under a rock and haven't yet heard all the controversy surrounding the Satanic Display which is proposed for the grounds of the Oklahoma Capitol Grounds yet, it's time you came out and took a look at what is going on here.  There are a lot of rumors and I'm not entirely sure everyone really understands the importance of this proposal or the situation surrounding it. It's also raised some questions as to "where does it end" and who else will want to put something up.

The Current 10 Commandments Monument
Located at the OK Capital Building
Before we discuss the proposed statue from the Satanists, it's important that you know that the State of Oklahoma is currently in a rather heated legal battle with the ACLU over their placement of the 10 Commandments on the grounds of their Capitol Building.  The ACLU filed a law suit in 2013, on the behalf of a Babtist Minister who stated he was "highly offended" by the monument during a trip to the Capitol. The suit attempts to force the Capitol Building in to removing the monument.  The display itself was a gift from Republican Rep. Mike Ritze and his family, who paid nearly $10,000 to build and erect the 6-foot-tall granite monument authorized by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2009 and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Brad Henry.  But the ACLU contends that it uses government property to promote one religion over another, and “trivializes” the religious roots of the Ten Commandments by putting them in “a political and secular context.”  Daniel Mach, director of the national ACLU's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief stated: “On fundamental matters of faith, the state has no business telling its citizens what to believe,” following with “No one should be made to feel unwelcome at their own state Capitol.”  In the past, numerous courts have ruled against such monuments, however at this point, the battle continues...

After the announcement of the ACLU's law suit against OK, numerous groups announced that they too would seek to place their own monuments along wide the now present 10 Commandments.  None were quite so serious as the Satanic Temple in New York, who quickly unveiled a design and an online fund raiser to fund the project which quickly raised well over $25,000 in donations from around the world. In January of 2014, the State Capitol Preservation Commission received the formal application from the Satanic Temple to construct a monument next to the Ten Commandments statue that stands on Capitol grounds. The design contained with in the application show a 7-foot statue with a goat-headed Satan sitting upon a throne flanked by two children beneath a inverted pentacle. Then earlier this month the Satanic Temple released the first "sneak peak" of the new Statue's official design to Vice Magazine. While the project is currently on hold for the outcome of the ACLU v OK case, it has caused quite the stir among individuals of all faiths.

The Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves has stated "The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation."  And the group as a whole has put forth the notion that the monument is meant to represent the views of Satanists both within the state of Oklahoma, as well as without.

The Satanic Monument in it's Current Form.
The final creation will bring the two pieces together,
placing "Satan," under the Pentacle.

All of this, however, begs a few questions... Many of which I feel it's about damn time get asked!

First of those questions of course is "Who gets to display their religious monuments on governmental grounds and who doesn't?"  Satanists make up maybe one of the smallest groups of organized religions in the country. However, constitutionally their religious faith is as untouchable and equal to that of even the largest groups.  What this means is that IF one religion is permitted, legally, it opens the door for representations from EVERY religious group to be added to the grounds of this - and other governmental buildings.  To dis-allow one group's display based solely on the number of followers would be both discriminatory and unconstitutional - remember there may not be an "official religion" which means the government also can't speak out against any faith or show favoritism towards one over another.  **I'm not saying they don't' do these things, I'm just saying they aren't legally permitted to.** So I would have to agree with ACLU Director Mach when he said: "Once the state has one religious monument that's allowed to stay by the court, by nature they have a very hard time denying it to others" meaning, at least in my opinion, IF the state wins their case, they will essentially have NO legal case to prevent the Satanic Temple - or any other religious group - from displaying similar monuments. However, if the ACLU wins their case and the state is forced to remove the current display, the chances that ANY religious group would be permitted, simply wouldn't exist.

This of course takes us to the next question of "What happens if too many groups propose monuments?"  Well, as stated above, the state would have a difficult time denying any single group the same privilege which they have so far afforded to the Judeo-Christian belief systems.  Personally I feel this will eventually lead to the removal of all and any monuments displayed there simply because even if they do win this case, there is literally only so much space on the grounds and if they don't allow all, they won't be able to allow any... So simply due to a space issue, in the long run I see them all being removed. That said, if a group has the ability to do so, they shouldn't allow the space issue to stop them from proposing their own monument should that door be opened.  This is a country founded on the ideal of "Freedom of Religion" and it's about damn time we start to live by those words on a political front.

So what is the solution here? There are two from what I can see... Either remove the current monument and not put up any, or place a monument to this countries Freedom of Religion as a whole which would allow space for the various groups to be displayed side by side and equally.  Personally, I don't see the second option ever happening, not because I don't think it is a good idea, but because I feel it would call for way to much cross-religion tolerance.

Each time this issue has come up online the question of whether or not the Pagan community should make a similar monument has come up.  And while a part of me starts jumping up and down with the idea screaming "If they can do it so can we!" the rational part of me realizes that such a monument would be difficult to create.  Why? Because within Paganism there are simply so many different faiths that it would be difficult to find any one symbol to represent them all.  That doesn't mean I don't believe it can - or possibly even should - be done.  Pagans undoubtedly deserve to be shown with equal representation to other groups. However, as stated above, for the pure reason of space, it would be difficult to represent each group equal to those monuments which are already represented.

So what do I propose? How would I suggest a project like this should be approached? I feel that, ideally, we would be creating one large monument to the Freedom of Religion and the ability of those religions to coexists side by side on a national and governmental level.  However, as I said above, I see that as an improbable outcome. So, I would suggest a similar monument be taken on by the nations Pagans.  Although any number of designs could accomplish this vision, in my own minds eye I picture a large granite "round table" inscribed with the symbols of a great many forms of Pagan (and ideally non-Pagan as well) religious groups.  I would then inscribe in the center either the words of our First Amendment (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion; or prohibiting the free exercise their of...) OR the always popular "E. Pluribus Unum" (translates to: One From Many) to signify that even though we have differing religious beliefs, we all are what make up this country.

Just a rough idea of the table top in my head...

An 8ft table could easily display up to 60 five inch symbols in two layers... And still allow enough room for the words in the center...  This table could them be surrounded with matching benches where visitors or government employees could sit and rest, eat their lunch or even debate matters of church or state...  In this way the monument would not only "have space for everyone" figuratively, but physically, offering everyone who were to see it a positive view of how our nation allows individuals of all faiths to live peacefully side by side...  Something that our government and our citizens often need a reminder of.

So anyways, while I doubt my idea would ever become a reality, there it is.  I feel that as a nation, we need to be putting forth a solid front of equality when it comes to faith and show NO favoritism. This requires diplomacy and a willingness to set aside personal views. If I were a millionaire, I would definitively consider creating and erecting such a monument to religious equality & tolerance.  Unfortunately, I am not, and I do not see anyone who is taking the stand for equality that this type of thing would require. However, there is always hope.

What I suppose this all boils down to though is something much bigger than a few slabs of granite. It's about each faith group wanting to be heard, wanting to be seen and wanting equal rights to their neighbors.  And that's a noble cause.  Unfortunately for us though, we are attempting to fight our way to equality by knocking others down and forcing our way up, causing anger, injury and animosity in the process - not equality.

Regardless of whether or not the ACLU wins or not, and regardless of whether or not the Satanic Temple's monument is able to be placed, this issue is NOT going away!  Why? Because each of these faiths will continue to see each other as separate from one another rather than as piece of a larger picture.  If we are ever going to put this issue to bed it's going to take a change in the way our government and it's people see things.  Until we are able to form some equal seating in the case of religion, we are going to continue to see issues like this... But, alas, that's for another post...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What happened to Americans?

What the hell is wrong with today's Americans?  This I wonder every day!

I'm sittin' around the other morning watching the History Channel.  All day I'm seeing specials after special about Early America.  Our break from the British Government, The Civil War, how we spread West...  And in each and every one of these specials I'm seeing a single threat of continuity...  These early Americans did not take shit! Especially from the government. When they saw someone threatening their way of life or their well being - even if it was only a perceived threat - they fought against it.

And they didn't just fight battles they knew they could win. They stood up, often, against enemies that seemed unbreakable to onlookers. But those fighting believed in their cause and often - won.  Not always of course, history has many great losses as well - Slavery, Segregation, Lesser Rights for Women... But as a whole, these early Americans won more than they lost. They chased out the British, massacred the Natives and they kicked the Mexicans out of Texas...  No, their causes weren't always noble, and their tactics weren't always dignified. But the point is, they saw something wrong, and they fought against it - or rather, they fought FOR their lives, their families and their right to live their lives they way they choose.

But what happened?  Today, it's nearly impossible to get people to sign a petition or join a peaceful protest.  How exactly did we go from a people who were willing to fight for what they believed was right to a people who were willing to just lay down and take whatever the authorities give out?  Obviously it's not everyone.  Unfortunately though, the groups who are known for their rallies and protests are those who are working against the people - not for them.  They're anti-freedom groups like the Tea Partiers who are fighting to remove your rights to freedom of religion or healthy food.  But, thankfully in some part, they are the minority.  But what happened to the rest of Americans?  GMO's, Pesticides, Toxic Water, Fracking...  Not only does it seem Americans are willing to simply lay down and watch their ability to live a healthy life die off, but many of them are happy to believe the government and corrupt corporations who are doing it when they say they have the people's interest at heart.

What happened I ask?  When did American's go from a people who fought through tear gas and live fire for their right to a safe work environment and decent pay (ex: Battle of Blair Mountain), to a people who were willing to simply allow Fracking companies to steal their land and poison their water & air?  Sure, there are a few speaking up, but not nearly enough!

What's worse is people today rarely understand what they should be fighting for...  Ask the average person what GMO's are - they don't know.  Ask the average person why Fracking is dangerous - they don't know. Hell, half of them will tell you the risk is worth the jobs.

When did people in this country begin to simply take what the government and corporations give them? When did we stop fighting for our rights and our freedom? Worse, when did we stop caring that we were losing them?  Isn't America built on a legacy of people who stood up and made changes?  I know my America sure is... So why is it so damn hard to even get people to sign a petition or hell - vote in an election? And why is it so hard to even get people to know what the issues are?  In this day of information and connectivity, people know less than ever about political issues, environmental issues and social issues than any other time in history!  And they're happier than ever to take the "official" arguments given by those in charge as fact - without so much as a question.  If this is how our founding father's acted, we'd still be paying our taxes to England - if not killed off entirely by the Mexicans and Native Americans (not that they didn't have the right).

Seriously people... It's time to honor our ancestors and stand up for changes that will make our descendants to be proud!  It's time to fight for our right to healthy food, air, water and soil... It's time to fight for our right to a decent day's pay and access to real healthcare - not medical business. It's time we stand up and fight for our right to the world class education we deserve.  It's not a hard concept...

And it's certainly not difficult to do.  Take just 10 minutes a day to educate yourself on the issues. Get both sides, learn the facts not just the hype.  Take another 10 minutes a day to send an email to your friends and show they what you've learned.  Take just 10 minutes a week to write a letter to politicians, sign, or start a petition to them, and lastly, VOTE with that information in mind.  It's not rocket science. It doesn't take an army of guns or bombs or teargas...  All it takes is a willingness to take 10 minutes every day to make your life - and your children's lives - better!


Monday, May 5, 2014

The Truth About Plural Families

Just about any time I voice my opinion about Polygamy I end up with nasty comments and/or messages from complete strangers who clearly don't know me - or what they're talking about.  Some of my favorite ones insinuate that I support everything from forced child marriage to spousal abuse to rape and sometimes even murder... Aren't I a wonderful person to think all those things are just peachy-keen?  Yeah-- NO!  Clearly people who say these things don't know much about Plural Marriage, nor do they fully understand why I would support it.  Understanding that few people truly understand what Plural Marriage is all about, and that for the most part, the only depictions most people have ever seen are the news stories about groups such as the FLDS Cult, I thought it would be a good subject to cover here. Hopefully I can make a few points clear, and possibly open a few eyes on this issue. 

The first thing I think is important to point on here is that I support Plural Families of ALL types.  While that includes Polygamous Families, it's certainly not limited to any single type of family.  Instead, the term "Plural Marriage" refers to ANY family where there is more than one partner involved in a relationship.  These include:
  • One Husband & Multiple Wives
  • One Wife & Multiple Husbands
  • One Husband, One Wife & One or More Girlfriend or Boyfriend
  • Multiple Husbands and Multiple Wives
  • Multiple Same Sex Individuals (Husbands or Wives)
I would bet there is someone out there who would look at this list and say I missed something, but you get the point - I hope.   

Secondly, when the issue of Polygamy comes up, the first thing people tend to think of is the FLDS cult, or other similar groups.  But it's important to understand that while that may be the portrayal the media prefers to in-bed in our memories, that is NOT what Plural Families are about.  There are Plural Families all over the US, and in every other country on Earth.  For the most part - with the exception of cultist groups and countries where arraigned or child marriage is still the norm (which is the minority BTW) - Plural Marriages are not much different from every other marriage out there. 

Plural Marriages, like Monogamous Marriages, involve ADULTS who have chosen to be in a relationship with more than one partner.  These are not situations where people are forced to be together or where 80 year old men are being married to children.  These are not situations where abuse or rape is going on. And these are not situations where the women are forced to dress, speak and go only where and how their husbands tell them...  Although to be fair, there are situations like this even within Monogamous Marriages, so to say it never happens would be dishonest of me.  Fact is though, abuse (in it's many forms) happens in every form of marriage, but it is less common in Plural Marriages (again, excluding cults) because the abusive spouse loses the upper hand by having more than one partner in the home.  Abuse is usually about control, which is difficult to hold on to when you are dealing with more than one individual.  

 Cults, such as the FLDS, are NOT what Plural Marriage is about!  They are evil and abusive to everyone involved and are not in any way, shape or form, what I am speaking about here. In NO way do I support such groups and would welcome anyone fleeing from such a group in to my home for safety sake. These groups use "marriage" (and I use the term lightly here) as a way to control and hide abuse.  In reality however, these groups do not represent a true picture of Plural Marriage any more than Ike & Tina Turner represent a true picture of Monogamous Marriage. So to see them as such completely disrespects the thousands of healthy, happy Plural Marriages which exist in the world today. 

What it all boils down to in my book is this - So long as everyone involved in a relationship is a consenting adult, it's none of my business who is there or how they choose to run their relationship.  Personally, the only reason I am NOT in a Plural Relationship is because my husband is not interested.  He says the last thing he needs is a second wife telling him to take out the trash.  But I have been involved in "open" relationships in the past, and the reason they did not work was not because they were "open" but because I wasn't happy with the other people involved.  If my husband and I were ever to meet someone we both felt drawn to enough to bring in to our relationship, I would love to have a wife (his second) - but I don't think it's something that should be pushed for. I believe if you're meant to be together, you'll find each other. 

There are always a lot of questions about Plural Marriage going around out there - Do they ALL sleep together? Is their jealousy? How do they deal with emotions or disagreements? Who disciplines the kids? and so on and so on... And here's the answer - Each family deals differently!  Are there families where everyone shares a bed? Yep. Are there families where there are more than one bedroom or even house? Yep.  Are there partners who have a lot of jealousy? Yep. And are there those who don't? Yep...  But the point is, if you really love one another, you make it work. And if you don't, it doesn't.  Plural Marriage isn't any more perfect - or any more flawed - than Monogamous Marriage.  If there is love, and a willingness to work, then in the long run, everyone will turn out happy... If there isn't, then it won't work out. Each family is different.  Each spouse or partner is different.  And there is every variable out there. So unless you're asking each and every person these questions and specifying that they answer ONLY for themselves, you can't really get the answers.

So yes, I support Polygamy and ALL forms of Plural Marriage - so long as they involve free willed adults.  And personally, I think everyone should.  What happens in someone else's bedroom - or house for that matter - isn't your business, so let them be who they are and you be who you are - even if those things are different from one another...  That's what being free to live our own lives is about!

I think more than anything, I am bothered by the idea that it is more acceptable for someone to cheat on their spouse in secret than it is for them to simply have more than one spouse in the same home... 
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