Active Spirituality
by Candace Ross

In 2007, I was honored to be selected by Genevieve Vaughan to become the resident priestess at the Temple of Goddess Spirituality dedicated to Sekhmet, when the former priestess, Anne Key, decided that after 3 years, it was time for her to return to Oregon.

Women of PeaceI came here from San Diego , where I’d spent the last 25 years raising my family, working as an artist/art consultant/ picture framer and designer and doing volunteer work.

Years ago, I intentionally cut my paid work week to 30 hours, to allow myself time and energy for community service. I have been a Daisy Girl Scout Leader, helped in both of my children’s kindergarten classes, taught art classes at The Children’s Museum of San Diego, been story teller at The Otay Mesa Public Library, stuffed envelopes and ushered at The Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Social Justice, and coordinated local actions for the San Diego chapter of CodePink.

Here in Las Vegas, I am currently involved with Nevada Desert Experience, The Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada, the Master Gardener Program, and am again coordinating for the local chapter of CodePink , Women for Peace and Social Justice.

For those of you unfamiliar with CodePink, here is how the brochure describes the organization:

“CodePink is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement that seeks positive social change through proactive, creative protest and non-violent direct action.

Rejecting the Bush Administration’s color coded security alerts that are based on fear, CodePink is a feisty call for women and men to “wage peace”.

CodePink has become a vibrant presence in the peace and social justice movement. Very visible and recognizable simply by wearing pink, CodePink has found a niche in the movement by addressing serious issues in a multitude of creative and sometimes outrageous ways, always bringing into play the sensibilities of respect, compassion and interconnectedness.”

To me, being politically involved, speaking out and taking non-violent action, is a natural extension of being pagan. As Pagans, we revere nature and the elements. We believe in harming none, and that everyone has the right to enjoy their life.

Doesn’t it follow then, that we should speak out when we see the air being polluted, the rivers and oceans being polluted, the soil and our food sources being poisoned? Shouldn’t we get involved when governments, ours and others, continue to develop weapons that already have the power to destroy all life on Earth 20 times over?

Shouldn’t we take the time to educate ourselves and the people we place in office to represent US as to what needs done, and how we expect them to do it?

If you own a business and hire someone to manage that business, how many of you would take the person you’ve hired to the office the first day, shake their hand and say, “See you in four years!”? Elected officials are your hired employees. They are there to serve you. They are “public servants”.

Their only job is to look out for your interests. Yet how many of us stay in contact with our employees? How many contact our representatives on a regular basis, stay on top of what they’re doing and how they’re voting?

It has been said “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” As Americans, it is our DUTY to be politically informed and active.

A very sad statistic is that less than 50% of eligible Americans vote.

We have all kinds of excuses. We don’t like the candidates, we don’t understand the issues, we’re too busy, it just doesn’t matter anyhow.

Recently I’ve been spending quite a bit of time researching an amazing woman, Elizabeth Caddy Stanton. Ms. Stanton, a close friend and collegue of Susan B. Anthony dedicated her life to improving the lives of women in America.

It is hard to imagine that only 150 years ago, women could not own property in this country, were considered unfit to serve on a jury (or even to testify at a trial in most cases). If a married woman worked, her earnings were the property of her husband. If a man chose to divorce his wife , she could be turned out of their home with nothing but the clothes on her back. Even the children were his “property”.

Elizabeth Caddy StantonBy the end of her life, Ms. Stanton had seen amazing changes in women’s status, but she did not live to see women get the vote. If she were alive today, she would be shocked and heartbroken to see how many women do not even bother to go to the polls.

I believe strongly that positive social change can come about rapidly, simply by more men and women, (but particularly women) becoming politically active. Women bring a different perspective to the table, we look at things differently, we have different ways of doing things. That “difference” is vital to our survival.

Women are the majority on planet Earth. 51% of the population is female. If we had 51% representation in our government, imagine what that would mean.

In the book, “Stop the Next War Now,” is an essay by Kavita Ramdas, president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women. In it she writes:

“Human Rights Watch and other international agencies estimate that up to 70 percent of the casualties of any war are noncombatants or civilian casualties, and certainly the experience in Iraq bears that out. Women and children who are not supposedly in the line of fire pay a huge price, dismissed as ‘collateral damage’ in military speak.”

“Given all the ways in which war effects women, women in most parts of the world see it as self-evident that commitment to a just peace is essential. Women pay a huge amount of attention to the issue of constitution building and to women’s participation in it. Afghan women took great risks to be able to be present at the Loya Jirga, which is a sort of council of elders, and they begged the United States to support them in their demand for a 50% representation of women in the Loya Jirga discussions. Our government refused to back them, arguing that even in the United States there was only a 14 percent representation of women in the House and Senate – how could they require that Afghan women should have 50% representation? The Afghan women responded, “Just because you are backward, why should we be?”

Women and children are the ones who suffer in war. They die from bombings and gun shots of course, but also from starvation, exposure, disease, hopelessness. This is not a new phenomena, war has always had this effect.

Mark TwainSamuel Clemmons, known more by his pen name Mark Twain, wrote about it in his little book “The War Prayer” in the early 1900’s. If you are not familiar with the book, may I suggest you read it. It is very short, it may take you ten minutes, but it spells out graphically the plight of women and children in war.

You need to know that I am anti-war, but not anti-military. I am not against the military, I am against the mis-use of the military. I was a Navy wife for 8 years and have a certificate from the Navy, thanking me for my civilian service and support. I currently work with the Air Force, going over the basics of Paganism with their assistant chaplains.

Before the war with Iraq started, I was not politically active. I always voted, but did not get involved with the issues, or follow up with my elected officials. I, like so many of us, figured they knew better than me what they were doing, and would do a good job.

But the day I heard George Bush say the words “pre-emptive strike” was a wake up call. I decided then and there that something was radically wrong with my beautiful America, and I needed to do something.

Before then, I did not know about things like depleted uranium, and the harm it is doing to not only the countries we leave it in, as bombs, bullets and tanks, but to the troops, the American soldiers who are exposed to it.

Before that day, I was not aware we were still developing nuclear weapons, or that many soldiers returning from war with both mental and physical problems are not being properly cared for.

Who will speak out for our military, if not us?

The founders of this country went to great length to keep the people in power. There are checks and balances in our three arms of government, our constitution assures us the right to free speech, to peaceful assembly, the right to bear arms , separation of church and state, and the right to privacy.

These rights have come under attack in the past few years. They are being whittled away and our public servants are going along with it.

People use the word “protest” in very negative ways, but the word itself is very positive. Pro meaning “for”, and test “testify, to speak”, so protest means to “speak for”.

If you’ve been to a protest recently, you may have been herded into an enclosure surrounded by fencing a few blocks from the event marked “Free Speech Zone”. What is going on? Is this your idea of free speech? It’s not mine.

As citizens of this nation it is OUR DUTY to protest when the government acts in ways we do not ,cannot condone.

It is our duty to our country, to our children and to ourselves, to assure future generations will know the freedoms we have known. It is our duty to make sure there will always be clean water, air, and soil for those who come after us.

I believe we have come here, to this plane, at this time with a great task before us. We are called to save humanity from greed, from apathy, from aggression. It can be seen as an insurmountable problem, or an amazing opportunity.

I hope you will see it as opportunity, a chance to be creative, give the ol’ brain cells an “extreme” work out.

If we continue to do things as we’ve been doing them, we will
get the same results. We must think in new directions, try things we may believe can’t possibly work.

We must give up our prejudices and preconceived notions. We need to talk to each other, and (here’s the hard part), really listen.

I have dedicated the remainder of my life to promoting peace.

Peace to me, is not merely a lack of violence, it is the creation of a healthy and joyful environment for all living things.

May the Goddess bless each and everyone of you with healthy and joyful lives.

So mote it be.