Welcome to the White Zone

In the 1971 sci-fi film THX-1138, the eponymous hero played by Robert Duvall is sentenced to a term of confinement. But instead of jail cells, the justice system of the futuristic dystopia he inhabits has evolved a new kind of incarceration: within an endless expanse of flat white wilderness so vast it blunts ability to perceive distance or perspective. There, individually and in small pods, the criminals of THX’s world go slowly mad as the system grinds on without them. (Or, perhaps more properly, over them.)

The deafening silence of many of my fellow Caucasians in the wake of Donald Trump’s election victory is, frankly, every bit as frightening. I wonder if perhaps they simply fail to comprehend who these men are that Trump is appointing feverishly to just those positions any tyrant would consolidate beneath him the moment he seized power: national security, intelligence, military and the attorney general’s office. The news that President Trump will be coached by alt right champion Stephen Bannon and gay hater Mike Pence, and advised on National Security matters by perennial Pentagon outsider and anti-Muslim kook Michael Flynn is perhaps lost on them. Or maybe they don’t understand how civil rights will be rolled back for women, GLBT folk and Muslims under the pending First Amendment Defense Act, scheduled for vote by the GOP majority House and Senate upon resumption of business and almost guaranteed a signature by President Trump. Perhaps they just don’t get these things. Perhaps their understanding has been blunted by the perspective-flattening horror of cable news and the pseudo-journalism of the Alex Jones crowd to the point at which they don’t perceive the threat.

Or perhaps they just don’t care.

White supremacy is a virus: once it enters a population, it propagates quickly. Upon achieving critical mass it transforms itself into an exponential fractal, attaining a speed and virulence at which it becomes unstoppable. By the time it breaks into view, the window for stopping or reversing the process has shrunk to a period of weeks, if not days. I’m wondering how many of my fellow Caucasians feel which way the wind is blowing and have just decided it’s easier to say nothing, to go along and not resist. That failure to declare one’s self for one camp or the other, to voice an opinion, to engage in the civil process creates a vast, empty horizon – a white space like Robert Duvall’s prison – that is seized upon by more energetic forces.

These forces, and their agenda, are resolving into clarity before our very eyes. And we should be very, very frightened.

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Witchcraft & a shotgun

Now that Donald Trump has made it cool to be a racist again, witch-burnings can’t be far behind. Whether or not he becomes President, he’s left a footprint of fascism and xenophobia so huge it will take America decades to climb out of it. This is the power of demagoguery at work. Trump doesn’t understand the dark Magick he is unleashing via the collective anger and fear into which he has tapped. Egocentric and shallow, he views it as a simple transaction: put a quarter in the machine and get a soda. Whip up a nativist frenzy and get votes. Far from putting a quarter in the machine, he’s actually pulling the pin on a live grenade.

One need not look far for historical antecedents. Trump has been compared to Hitler so many times by now that the shock has warn off. He’s become mainstream, prompting campus societies, voter drives, t-shirts. Repeat a lie three times, he advises readers in The Art of the Deal, and it will begin to sound true. Refer to Mexican and Black people in racist terms and repeatedly denigrate an entire religion and it ceases to be news. It becomes commonplace, eventually acceptable and finally part of the mainstream. This is the corrosively dangerous force of Trump’s rhetoric. It soaks into common parlance and – eventually – into the hearts and minds of the common man.

Narratives of persecution are plentiful in our day and age – a hopeful thing, given that we must first name a bad habit before we can discard it. The standard narrative of persecution for the pagan community concerns the Burning Times: the period during which the Catholic Church consolidated its control over European civilization by systematically purging all traces of the old religion. Estimates vary as to the number of women (and handful of men) who perished in the burnings, but 9 million is a common estimate. Conventional wisdom says it could never happen again, but I am not so sure.

Outside Sarajevo lie the ruins of the old Olympic village. Could the spectators have imagined, as they sat in their VIP seats, that a few short years later the tower at the ski venue would become a sniper position in the bloodiest European conflict since World War II? Could we, the people of the Western democracies, have foreseen the rise of European fascism, or its ugly, orange American counterpart? Political scientists and sociologists will understand this phenomenon in terms of statistics and voter records. But spiritual people will more readily understand it via intuition and metaphor. Witches might choose to speak  in terms of ‘forces’.

We know, from our identification with the Earth, that seasons and weather come and go in their due time. We usually have a good idea how long winter will last, but we can never be certain. All things to their season. But all things do have a lifetime: a beginning, a middle and an end. I believe we may be entering the beginning of a dark period of human history. It would seem the forces being unleashed on the Earth possess the kind deep, Cthonic energy associated with the gods before time, for there is something primitive, Earth-shaking and brutally Titanic (in the Olympian sense) about the great social dislocations currently underway. I never imagined I would live to see fascism’s return, yet here it is all around us. If this madness is possible, then what else? We don’t know, but again: all things to their season. We do not know how long winter will last. And so we must endure. And we must counsel together.

As witches, we have our own various obligations and priorities, according to tradition and inclination. But it may be, given recent events, a worthwhile exercise to ask ourselves and each other: what would we do if they came again, the Burning Times? How would we react? How should we? Is it so far-fetched, in a time when the West has so demonized Islam, that they wouldn’t turn on us as they have before? Given the massive, ugly group consciousness Trump and men like him are building – a vast, transnational egregore of hatred and fear – I think anything is possible.

I pray it never happens. But, given recent events, we sit in our VIP seats by the ski run at Sarajevo, unable to imagine what horrors are possible.

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