A few quick news notes and updates for you on this Tuesday.
Doctor Gonzales Speaks Regarding Native Blessing: Following the wave of criticism from conservative pundits regarding a traditional Native blessing given at a memorial service for those killed and injured in the horrific shooting in Tuscon, Arizona last week, Dr. Carlos Gonzales, the Pascua Yaqui Indian who gave the blessing, talks to CNS News to give some context.
“I was asked by the university to give a traditional Native American blessing,” Gonzales told CNSNews.com late Thursday. “This is the type of blessing that we give at memorial services to open up a ceremony. A medicine man will do a variation of it to open up a pow-wow. It’s basically a recognition of the powers of the seven directions and how they influence human beings–and how each direction has a certain characteristic; that when you pray to that direction, you ask for the inspiration that comes from that direction.”
Gonzales noted that the blessing should not be confused with religion, that is was “more of a way of appreciating spirituality,” and the Pascua Yaqui Indians have been predominately Catholic for generations now.
“I’m Yaqui and Yaquis have been Roman Catholics since 1650. We were one of the first tribes in Mexico to actually peacefully absorb Catholicism; however we have always practiced Catholicism in our own unique manner, incorporating traditional beliefs, and so I grew up as a Roman Catholic with a Yaqui variation. In reality, I’m Catholic, but the spirituality I’ve come across with traditional healers is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen, and it’s a way of approaching people and it’s an additional way of healing that has actually helped me to be a better family doc.”
Sadly, even with this disclaimer firmly in place, many in the comments of the article expressed distaste for the Yaqui’s syncretism, with some calling the blessing “demonic.” Proving that any dialog and understanding between Western Christian and indigenous forms of religious expression has a long way to go. As for the wave of criticism towards Gonzales from various pundits, only one has recanted and apologized. Perhaps satirist John Stewart, as always, has the final word on all this.
The Savage Fury of Savage: While some were paying close attention to the recent memorial service, others are still trying to pin Tuscon assassin Jared Lee Loughner into an easy-to-understand political left-right narrative. Conservatives and Tea Party groups have been arguing that they were incorrectly blamed by the Left for inspiring Loughner’s violence, but right-wing pundits have their own narratives of blame out in full force. This isn’t anything new in our world of divisive partisan politics, but I mention it now because one popular conservative talk-radio host, Michael Savage, who boasts an audience of 8 to 10 million listeners, making it the 3rd most listened to radio talk show in the country, has seemingly bought into the “occult” angle first brought up by the NY Daily News.
“The man was an occultist, of course that didn’t make it into your local paper. Your going to start talking about banning handguns why not just ban the occult in America? Why don’t we get congressmen talking about banning Wicca in the Army? Banning the occult in America. I mean, did you see what came out today about the shooter? I’m sure you haven’t because your friends at CNN, NBC, and Fox News haven’t shown it to you. The man was a stone-hearted devil worshipper. Take a look at the thing [Gives web site information.] look at the altar in the shooter’s backyard […] he’s not a troubled young man, he’s a devil-worshipping left-wing pot-head.”
You can listen to the whole excerpt if you want, but lower the volume, and be prepared for a weird pot-Hashshashin-assassin narrative, and the usual “Obama is a Marxist” stuff. I usually ignore talk radio, but when someone with an 8-10 million person strong megaphone starts talking about banning Wicca or the occult in the United States, even rhetorically, it can have a dramatic effect on the lives of modern Pagans. Because, and Savage may not know this, but people really did try to ban Wiccans from the Army. It isn’t mere inflated rhetoric, this stuff really happened to us. The players, largely unrepentant. Savage, of course, is free to fling his various conspiracy theories and partisan bromides wherever he pleases, but dragging Wicca and “the occult” into the narrative to shove Loughner into a “left” narrative is playing with fire.
The Troubling Persistence of “Occult Crime” Experts: As if on cue, what with terms like “occult” and “New Age” being thrown around in the Tuscon shooting case, our old friend, “international expert on occult crime” Dom Rimer rises to the surface once more.
“More than 100 people — mostly police officers from across Hampton Roads and central Virginia — turned out for Rimer’s seminar Saturday about how occults can impact teenagers. The presentation, sponsored by the Newport News Police Department, also helped educate officers about the influences that satanic, gothic, and vampire groups can have on teens. “Occult crime happens all over the world and it’s growing,” said Rimer.”
So you have a presentation sponsored by a local police department, filled with police officers, listening to drivel like “in the world of gaming, there is evil,” or “decapitated animals are telltale evidence of people who practice a faith known as Santeria,” or “teenagers who like techno-rock music may sometimes be confused with teens fully into the “goth” look and music.” Seriously. It would all be hilarious if people very much like Rimer weren’t directly responsible for fueling moral panics that got innocent people thrown in jail, and got several more, to this day, harassed by law enforcement and government officials. Indeed, Rimer has no shame in the possible harm his profession may be doing. He sees himself as a man on a mission.
“I teach parents the warning signs. If that is fear, yes I teach fear … I teach law enforcement about the rituals. If that is fear, yes I teach fear … I will continue to teach, consult, and investigate Ritual Crime as long as those crimes are committed. I provide that service to local, state, and federal agencies across the United States and Canada.”
Oh, and if you think Rimer, or someone very much like him, would never get consulted in Arizona, think again.
“Near Tucson, Arizon, a young man who has embraced the worship of Satan, commits a grave robbery. Conducts a ritual with the stolen skull. Then enlists the aid of his teenage followers. they place the skull at the local high school as a threat against the School Resource Officer. I will testify in that case. I have taught at a state law enforcement conference for Arizona. If that is fear, yes I teach fear. I will continue to teach, consult, and investigate Ritual Crime as long as those crimes are committed.”
Self-proclaimed “experts” in “occult crime” are dangerous. They peddle fear and misinformation. They inflate problems, and classify things in manners that support their view of the world. That they continue to have influence over local police forces is troubling, to say the least.
That’s all I have for now, have a great day!