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"Wiccan symbol OK for soldiers' graves"

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Apr. 23rd, 2007 | 04:55 pm
posted by: urbandelirium in pagan_articles

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/23/wiccan.grave.ap/index.html

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catsnstuff

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from: catsnstuff
date: Apr. 24th, 2007 10:40 pm (UTC)
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It's reat that the pentacle is now recognised on the tombstones of veterans. I hope similar things will be offered for other Pagan religions.

I was wondering about this recently, actually, more at the reaction from people and the associated campaign than the actual denying of the symbol. Things like the hero denied film, as well as similar projects such as those surrounding Tempest Smith (such as the Tempest Smith Memorial). The pictures, the flags, the virtual candles... above all, the taking of people and turning them into symbols like that, in quite that way. These seem strange to me, perhaps even a specifically American thing - I don't believe similar would be done in New Zealand. And I'm not sure whether this is a positive or not.

On the one hand, these people's stories have the opportunity to help others. Their deaths take on a different meaning, and one that touches more people than would otherwise be. On the other hand, should real people's lives and deaths be treated in this way, linked with a particular cause? And who gets to do this? A grieving mother or wife, these seem far more legitimate than well-meaning randoms. Especially in the case of Sergent Stewart, his wife seems to be fighting for a cause that he himself believed in. I can think of few things more special than having one's memory used to better the world in the way one believes in. Perhaps it's the potentialities that concern me - how controllable is this, when anyone on the internet can create a memorial, tap into it, use it for their own purposes? And over time if such things endure, or if multiple people were involved, would these people even agree to the causes? I'm thinking of what certain groups have made of the 9/11 tragedy, or of "the burning times".

As I say, this may be a cultural thing. I'm actually writing this on ANZAC day, probably the most reverent day on the New Zealand calendar, when we remember the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who were sent to their deaths at Gallipoli during World War One. There is still a lot of feeling about this, even as the veterans themselves have died and the war seems a long time ago. Despite talk about how this battle in a way determined our independence from Britain as a nation, it just doesn't seem Done to claim these people's sacrifice for any other causes - for war, against war, etc. (the latter seems particularly possible, in a generally pacifist nation). The focus is simply on remembrance. Anything else seems disrespectful.

On the other hand, we are also often accused of being woefully politically apathetic. If these people weren't used in this way, perhaps injustice and intolerance would continue to be perpetuated. Probably so, even - it seems that the people there have had to work and campaign incredibly hard. They certainly do seem to work in a positive way for good causes (although note that it is a certain type of interpretation of the pentacle and of Wicca that are being promoted - especially in the last ).

So the point? There is none, really, only musing. Except perhaps to highlight how particular this form of remembrance is. And of course, congratulations to US veterans and their families.


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[ spirit in the wires ]

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from: urbandelirium
date: Apr. 24th, 2007 10:59 pm (UTC)
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I'm not sure if you mean it in this way, but I can see how it would be a bad thing to have someone representing a belief or movement. What you said reminds me of how certain religious groups have taken over tragedies to represent there own causes, despite how those actually involved with the person/event feel.

Particularly the anti-gay movement in America where tragedies are seen as acts of God. (Va Tech and Matthew Shepard come to mind)


That being said, I'm still very happy that people fought for the right to have this symbol available for soldiers.

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ennui is for suckers

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from: t3dy
date: Apr. 25th, 2007 02:52 am (UTC)
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good causes need symbols (and heroes make great symbols--inscribed in the social flesh of the polis). nothing "american" about that. (though the world has reasons to laugh at our cult of celebrity, a different matter) war heroes get appropriated. nothing new about that, nothing intrinsically disrespectful about it (of course, there are limits). if we get ticked off about the sick assholes that say things like that about Matthew Sheppard, we should be upset for a different reason (righteously indignant, in fact)

it was a terrible injustice that anybody of any religion couldn't bury their dead in a country that not only prizes freedom, but also feels justified when it pushes freedom on other natures because of the alleged intrinsic goodness of freedom. our soldiers died in a cause they felt was responding to a similar outrage, so it's especially fucked up that we don't treat our own war dead with respect (until now, for the minority of neopagans that identify as wiccan at least).

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catsnstuff

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from: catsnstuff
date: Apr. 26th, 2007 09:12 pm (UTC)
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Ugh, like that horrible Phelps family and their Westboro baptist church.

Yeah, definitely a bad thing. I guess I was also talking about more "positive" uses of people's images as a strange thing. I'm probably just completely babbling, though - every time I've come back to try and formulate what I mean, it doesn't quite work. *grin* Perhaps what t3dy said about people as symbols - when people's faces and lives are used like that, re-interpreted for those who don't know them as symbols of something, not as themselves any more. It must be strange enough for the living, who get to respond to their use as such things. The dead don't even get that option. And when they're ordinary people, not people who have sought out the limelight (presidents, movie stars, etc.), I guess I wonder what they'd make of it all.

Heh, which I guess puts this clearly into personal hang-up zone and out of the "useful for Pagan discussion" arena. ;)

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