Archive for May, 2009

Deafness as Disability

I’m reading The Mask of Benevolence by Harlan Lane. In it he argues that various professionals that claim to help the Deaf community are actually harming them. I was reminded again by the book about how many Deaf people do not see themselves as disabled, but rather as a linguistic/cultural minority. That the Americans with Disabilities Act mandated certain changes, like mainstreaming of deaf students that actually held them back. Education of the Deaf might be more comparable to ESL/ELL than to other special education programs. If everyone knew ASL, maybe deafness wouldn’t be much of a disability. But as it is, though Deaf people can live very full lives and can do most things that hearing people do, they are still subject to inherent disadvantages of being deaf, and discrimination. The ADA protects  Deaf people from such discrimination but only if it’s classified as a disability. Sorry guys, you can’t have it both ways.

A few years back when I wrote a paper on the disability rights movement, I included a section on the Deaf President Now! movement at Gallaudet University. But was that appropriate? Are Deaf people part of the disability community or rights movement or should they be seen as separate if they want to be? DPN happened in the 1970s as other aspects of disability rights were emerging. Obviously, the Deaf movement is part of a larger social trend towards self-determination and changing social views of disability.

Another thing that bothers me about the “we aren’t disabled” argument is the sense that they see themselves as better than people with other disabilities. Now to be fair, there has been a similar tendency among the Asperger’s/high functioning autism community to reject the “disabled” label. I myself have questioned this.

We might actually have a better case for that- after all there is nothing that all AS/HFA people are incapable of doing, like hearing, seeing, walking, reading etc. However our brains are wired differently in a way that gives us disadvantages in society.

I’d like to reach out a hand to Deaf people and say, we would like to be your friends & allies. You have a distinct community, culture and movement that gives us a lot of inspiration. Most of us may be hearing but face other challenges, so we empathize with you. We understand what it’s like to feel excluded from society. So let’s work together.

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May 24, 2009 at 6:17 am 1 comment

Christo-Paganism

For some time now, I’ve been noticing a growing number of people calling themselves Christo-Pagans, Christian Witches and the like, combining these religions in some way. Judeo-Pagans and Jewitches have also been popping up. While many Western Pagans draw inspiration from Buddhism and Hinduism, Eastern religions give themselves a lot more easily to syncretism than do the more exclusivist Abrahamic faiths. And yet, some people still feel called to reconcile what seems to many as contradictory belief systems. Some would say all this is really fluffy eclecticism run amok, and in some cases, perhaps it is. Up til now, I haven’t really taken a stance for or against this trend.

As time has gone on I’ve realized that some of my own values owe more to Christianity & Judaism than they do to Paganism. There are some values in common, like hospitality, piety and honoring the family. But others like “turning the other cheek” and some aspects of social justice are lacking in traditional polytheistic religions. At one point I even saw a Heathen fellow denouncing the value of forgiveness in his blog. I’m sorry, but without forgiveness, there would be no friendship, no marriages, no families. No society. Maybe there is a certain point where we as individuals or as a society can’t forgive an action. Where we draw that line is up for debate.

Embracing these ethics does not mean becoming part of the religion that originated them necessarily. It means admitting that polytheistic religions don’t have all the answers, though at the same time, neither do the monotheistic ones. Really, all faiths are human creations and thus, subject to human flaws. While they may be inspired by the Divine in all its forms, it is all filtered through the lenses of our culture and time. I guess all this is a large part of why I became a Unitarian Universalist, was to affirm these values. That and I felt I was not getting enough moral guidance from other Pagans, in fact all too often I encountered people that made poor role models- both regular community members and clergy/leaders. I saw people making bad choices repeatedly and not learning from them.

This is just the beginning of a new leg of my journey, and I’m not sure where it will lead. I’ve been reading “ChristoPaganism: An Inclusive Path” by Joyce & River Higginbotham, review will be forthcoming.

Note since this may be controversial: feel free to disagree civilly, but any hostile posts will be deleted and users banned.

May 19, 2009 at 1:52 am 6 comments

Beyond Reconstructionism

Like many Pagans, I began my path with Wicca, at least the non-traditional eclectic forms of it that were being popularized in the late 90’s, early 2000’s when I became interested. Cast a circle, call the four elements, invoke the God and Goddess. Wicca is certainly a valid religion for those who practice it honestly but as I grew spiritually and studied more, I found it wasn’t for me.

I discovered many historical and cultural flaws in modern pagan books and began shifting more towards scholarly sources. I encountered websites describing reconstructionist religions, which seek to study a particular culture (Irish, Norse, Egyptian, Greek, Roman) and revive its religious practices as accurately as possible while adapting to modern social mores (rejection of animal sacrifice, slavery etc)

With the exception of Asatru/Heathenry, most reconstructionist movements are very small and there are few options in most places for groups. So I was very lucky to find a Celtic Reconstructionist, Aedh Rua O’Morrigan locally who was teaching classes. I learned a lot from him, and later another of his students. Later I found myself solitary again, and I struggled with how to practice CR. I worried so much about the ‘right’ and properly Gaelic way to do things, that I didn’t do anything! There is an emphasis in polytheistic traditions on orthopraxy, right practice, but often we don’t know what that is!

I’d rather just call myself a Gaelic/Hellenic polytheist and leave “reconstructionist” out of it. That way people can’t accuse me of not being “recon” or traditional enough. And besides which, both my teachers, who were big influences on me, have been declared “not CR enough” by many in the community. Well, I just don’t care anymore.

We’re missing the point here, people. Scholarship is good, but we can’t base our whole spirituality on it. We need roots, but we also need to reach our branches out and grow. The funny thing is the founders of CR actually said this- that they wanted to balance “aisling” (dreams, inspiration) with archeology. The CR community is dividing between a more traditional faction and a liberal, innovative faction.  Now it would be fine if different subgroups formed and just agreed to disagree but it seems like there is some antagonism- even ostracizing going on. I realize any group of people is going to have disagreements, but we are such a small community we can’t afford this infighting.

Various friends of mine are going this direction also- Gavin describes being led by Hermes, while Ben discusses his frustrations with the movement itself as well as trying to reclaim his Gaelic heritage as an American while native Gaels accuse him of New-Age style cultural misappropriation.

May 5, 2009 at 2:37 am 3 comments


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