I have been chewing on this post most of the last two weeks. Charlottesville and the state of division and anger, not just in the US, not just on social media, but also living within me has been a near constant companion to my thoughts. It’s something I think I need to address and I have decided to address it in two parts. Sorry, in advance, this is long.
Let’s start with how this relates to my astrological path: The 2nd House is commonly known as the House of Possessions, or sometimes Wealth. It’s one of the first Houses you look at to determine a person’s relationship with money and the material. But there’s a lot more to it than that. This House encompasses everything you come into the world with that is not you, your attitude towards it, and what you value and choose to develop. This includes your Values and your Talents, for sure, but also your Heritage.
This House is ruled by Taurus, the bull, and I think this is very fitting. This is where we take what we have learned about ourselves in the House of Self and we commit to it in what we do and how we live. We form our value systems early, but slowly and, often, they are just a part of the physical environment we grow up in, incorporated organically. Our thought processes around these things are earthy and self-driven and our adherence to them is loyal, stubborn, passionate, and, often, lazy and unwilling to change. The energy of this House is Fixed, so there is a tendency to think everyone feels the same way we do, that everyone does (or should) value the same things. Sometimes we take for granted that we are living our values and we take attacks on and assumptions about our value systems quite personally.
You see where I’m heading here, maybe?
It’s a heavy thought: Where am I heading? Where are we heading? Is it true that we can’t know where we are going if we don’t know where we come from? My answers on this are divided, deeply personal, and a little troubling. And, lately, I get the sense that I’m not alone in that feeling, but everyone’s solution comes from a different place and a different stage of analysis.
It is really easy to blame others and defend ourselves, or at least, explain why we did something or why our version of something is nuanced. And, right after Charlottesville, there was an absolute crap-ton of that going on, something I cannot exempt myself from. At the same time, it’s been very difficult not to speak out harshly and, in some ways, the clarity of harsh words is needed. I think at least part of the problem is that this moment to speak up and stand up was long overdue. The division is so deep, the talk so polarized, that attempting a middle ground as a stance is seen on both sides as either an adoption of One or the Other, the direction dependent on where you started and who you are talking to.
I still feel like I’m on the right side of this whole thing – the Nazis and the KKK are wrong, Trump is supportive of many of their causes and has openly said racist and sexist things and advocated the use of violence as long as it is against those opposing him. I truly believe that his election has been an emboldening factor and that belief is easily confirmed in words of the neo-Nazis and the KKK themselves when they praise him. I find it ironic and hypocritical that a man who ran on a campaign of division, anger, and an Us v. Them mentality just wants everyone to fall in line and unify now. I do not find it surprising though. (If you are pissed off at this assessment, keep reading anyway, there’s a flip side.)
That being said, I have “liked” an awful lot of Punch a Nazi posts recently. Is that better? I feel it’s more justified because the only people I hate are bigots and I wouldn’t hate them if they stopped being bigots (whereas they will still hate me and/or people I care about regardless). The thing is that bigotry is a harsh brush with a tendency to coat the people standing next to it – and maybe it should – but…. and this is the tough question here…. am I really standing that far away from the brush?
What am I actually doing to combat racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, xenophobia, and intolerance in general? And what should that combat look like? How do I practice tolerance while taking a firm stand against intolerance? How can I ask anyone to listen to me if I can’t listen to them? Where do I start? Who do I listen to?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Because I don’t just want to preach my values, I want to live them. In fact, both my Sun and my Mercury are in this House, almost right on top of each other and themselves ruled by Virgo and the House ruled by Leo, so, in a way, I actually have to live them. It is a literal planetary representation of “put my money where my mouth is.” My values and my expression of them as well as my critical assessment and demonstration of them are very large and very important parts of who I am.
So, I’m going to lay it out.
I believe in equality and freedom. Each and every one of us has the right to pursue happiness and define who we are and what we believe. Everyone should be allowed to follow their dreams.
I want to be clear here. This is an individual thing. If dressing up in a bear suit and living in the woods is your thing, go live your dream! If dressing up in a white hood and lynching people is your thing, fuck your dreams. That affects a lot more people than you and your lifestyle choices. This is the basic Golden Rule, reiterated through time and cultures around the world and, generally speaking, we still don’t do this, because, basically, we believe other people won’t. Funnily enough, the Golden Rule never mentions other people’s behavior.
I believe violence is not the answer.
Here’s where it belongs: UFC, martial arts exhibitions, self-defense classes, boxing, fencing, other regulated fighting sports, the arts (but not art that calls for it in actual life), video games and RPGs, BDSM scenarios… sensing a trend here? Controlled and agreed upon. The only other scenario I agree with is literal defense to save your life or another’s.
I believe love is more powerful than hate.
I have a hippy name; I have a hippy outlook. I’m not going to lie, though, hate is easy. Look at how many people who claim to love resort to hate and judgment. It’s painfully easy and, when you feel the person has earned it, it’s even easier. Loving is really, really hard. We pretend it’s not because falling in love can happen so fast and loving your family is kind of expected (warranted or not). But really loving? Seeing the flaws and hurts, looking past being hurt, and still doing what is healthy and growth-oriented? Loving yourself and loving the other person at the same time and acting like it? That shit is hard. It’s painful.
But we need it. Desperately.
I believe knowledge and learning are important.
This is how we improve. We have many examples of this kind of environment and what it leads to. We have seen what doesn’t work. We have seen terrible outcomes. So the question is, what haven’t we tried?
I believe people are complicated.
There are about 1000 tiny little ways that we perceive and think and experience that end up causing internal conflicts and reinforce habits. We continually assign meaning to other people’s actions and frequently ignore the potential meanings of our own. It takes awareness and practice to bring these things in line and keep them there. And it’s okay not to be 100% with this. It’s a growth thing. The point is to try.
I am aware that I am lucky in a lot of ways because my upbringing has made awareness, assessment, and adaptability much easier than it might have been otherwise. My parents both have a white, Midwestern heritage, but they’ve both traveled a lot and have curious minds, which they encouraged in me through discussion and reading. I know I am loved. I know all of my siblings are loved. I have a sibling with ADHD and a son with both ADHD and autism. Experiencing life with them has allowed me to grow in ways I would not have otherwise – they have provided me with perspective, patience, and a more open heart and mind. I am especially grateful for my little brother, who didn’t always get to experience the benefits of the gifts he planted in me.
My family has also never been particularly conventional. My mom was in the Army in the 80’s, when women didn’t learn hand-to-hand combat and did PT separately. She worked in Joint Forces Command as a general’s secretary because she was simultaneously respectful and courteous of but also didn’t give a shit about rank. My dad was a stay at home dad while we lived in Germany. They argued in German up until they figured out I was able to understand them. They practiced different religions and got divorced while I was young, which, at the time, was rare for our area, and we lived with my dad, which is rare for custody all around. I got to experience two very different parenting styles and two very different households.
Further back, my paternal grandmother went to school for her Masters in the 50’s even though she was already married and had a child. Generally, that wasn’t approved of and people talked, but she had support anyway. She was allowed to go and she had the resources to go. Both are huge things, amazing privileges, and she made the most of them.
My maternal grandfather came from northern Missouri hillbilly stock and tried to get away from it while my maternal grandmother’s family came from mid-Iowa and wanted to be hillbillies (they had a band that featured the word in their name). I never got to know my grandfathers; they both died before that was an option, but they left my family in the care of some independent, strong women. And I am grateful.
Another generation back, my maternal great-grandmother moved herself and all her children across the country in a covered wagon without the help of her husband, and, before that, my paternal great-great-grandmother packed all of her possessions into a sturdy wooden trunk and moved from Germany to the US – that trunk still sits in my grandmother’s living room, serving as a coffee table. She’s 92 and still lives on her own, by the way. Every Christmas, we search for the pickle on the tree for the chance to win an extra present, a uniquely German American tradition that was packaged as ancient German custom.
This is my heritage and it has provided me many opportunities and the support to pursue them to the best of my ability. It has afforded me a position of security, strength, and unconventionality that not everyone gets to experience. I am proud of my heritage and grateful for it.
But that certainly doesn’t mean I think anyone else’s is less important or more or less American than mine. Which brings me to Part II: Living my Values.