February 2008 – Good Reviews and More Peace Work

The reviews for my new novel have started coming in and I am pleased to say that so far all have been positive (a big relief since this my first attempt at fiction!). Here is a nicely written one from Michael Gleason:

Priestess of the Forest by Ellen Evert Hopman © 2008 Llewellyn EAN 978-0-7387-1262-8 408 pages Includes Glossary $18.95 (U.S.) $21.95 (Canada)

There have been numerous Pagan-themed novels in the past decade, but not many written primarily about Druids, by someone familiar with Druidic philosophy. The author did one thing I really appreciated – she put the glossary and short character identifications in the front of the book where they can make an impression BEFORE you begin reading the story.

This is more than a compelling, easy to read story. Ms. Hopman has scattered throughout it Druidic practices she has learned during her decades as a member of a modern Druidic order in the United States. She has a feel for the lives and existence of the Pagan people of Celtic lands at a time of great turmoil and transition – the time of the invasion of Christianity into the British Isles.

There are rituals and invocation; beliefs and lore; and attitudes which have the ring of authenticity about them. Are they true representations of Druidic life and thought at this time in history? No one can know for sure, due to the lack of primary sources available, but I suspect that if they aren’t they are close.

The story is believable, even if the conclusion is a foregone certainty. The only questions which remains unanswered until the end is WHO will be left alive to endure the inexorable changes.

There are some unexpectedly sympathetic characters (Father Per comes to mind), and some unexpected betrayals. There are also sterling examples of the type of behavior expected from a Druid (or any Pagan priest/ess, for that matter).

I can (and do) recommend this book, which serves as both an entertaining novel and an introductory work on Druidic beliefs, to everyone. If all you want is a good story, you will find that. If you are looking for information on Druidic beliefs (as espoused by the Celtic Reconstructionist movement), you will find that as well. The important thing is to find this book and bring it home.

Peacework continues…

Here is a press release/announcement for a February 20 interfaith peace event in Western Massachusetts. I am proud to say that the Order of the Whiteoak – World Druid Council is an official sponsor (see below). It is heartening that Druids are willing and able to take a public stand on the ethics of pre-emptive war.

Preventing War on Iran

A Town Meeting with Representative Richard Neal
Wednesday February 20 7:00 pm
American Legion Post 271
162 Russell St. (Rte 9)
Hadley, MA
Background statements from:
Michael Klare
Prof. of Peace and World Security Studies, Hampshire College,
Ira Helfand Physicians for Social Responsibility,
Tyler Boudreauformer Marine Captain in Iraq,
Norma Akamatsu, Pioneer Valley Coalition to Prevent War on Iran.

Time will be available for audience questions to Congressman Neal.
Congressman John Olver may be attending; Senators Kerry and Kennedy also have been invited.

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Sponsors:
American Friends Service Committee,
Arise for Social Justice,
Bob Feuer for Congress,
enviro show – wxoj,
Faculty for Israeli Palestinian,
Peace 5 Colleges,
First Churches Peace and Justice Committee,
Flyby News,
Food for Thought Books,
Haydenville Congregational Church Peace & Justice Steering Committee,
Iraqi Children’s Art Project, Middle East Peace Coalition,
Mount Toby Friends Peace and Social Concerns Committee,
Northampton Committee to Stop the War in Iraq,
Northampton Friends Meeting,
Northampton Friends Meeting Peace and Social Justice Witness Committee,
Physicians for Social Responsibility,
Pioneer Valley Coalition Against Secrecy and Torture,
Pride and Joy,
Progressive Democrats of America/Northampton Chapter,
SAGE,
Sisters of St. Joseph,
Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst,
Social Workers for Peace and Justice,
The New England Peace Pagoda,
**The Order of the Whiteoak – World Druid Council**,
Veteran’s for Peace-Chapter 95,
West Springfield Citizens for Peace, Western Mass Code Pink,
Western Mass Iraq Moratorium Coalition,
Western Massachusetts Immigrant Workers Rights Coalition,
WMass Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice, Women’s Congress for
Peace.

Information:
Email, 413-584-8975

Statement from Tyler Boudreau, former Marine Captain and Iraq veteran;

Saturday, February 9, 2008
The Moral Divide (More on the Iran Meeting)
I recently had an interesting conversation.

It all started in a room filled with people who were united in their deep
concern for the welfare of returning veterans. Many people spoke. Veterans
spoke. Stories were told. Hearts were poured out.

But suddenly, amidst all this good will, a rift spread across the room. A
difference of opinion emerged. How to best serve a returning veteran? It was
not so easy a question as we might have guessed.

The cause of the rift?

Peace.

Imagine that. Peace, as the catalyst of confrontation.

But it was.

A crowd of very decent, well-meaning people sat in the middle and said, “We
want to care for our veterans. We also want to talk about peace.”

Battle lines were hastily drawn. On one side, were three men affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs. On the other side, the veterans.

“Oh no, no,” the VA men said. “You cannot speak of peace. If you ever want to build rapport with veterans, you cannot utter a word about peace!” They went on to explain that veterans view peace-activists as the enemy. “If they so much as hear that word-peace-they will turn tail and run the other way. And you’ll have lost them forever.”

These were the experts. They knew veterans. They carried that weight with them.

Then the veterans in the room responded. They said, “Um, yes but we’re not all opposed to talking about peace. In fact, given our troubles with war, we rather enjoy the discussion.”

Now there is truth, of course, in the suggestion that many veterans do feel a certain hostility from the peace movement-even those veterans who have been disquieted by their own experiences in war. But my feeling, as an Iraq War veteran, is that they tend to be threatened mostly by the rhetoric that is leveled directly against the actions they took in war. Veterans are not inherently opposed to peaceful days, and most, I think would be perfectly receptive to a discussion of diplomacy vs. military action in future
situations.

And so the debate went back and forth, the moral divide opened, and the well-meaning people in the middle began to slip down into it. They looked to
the left at the few passionate veterans in the room, and then they looked to the right at the men from the VA who said they’d worked with and heard the stories from thousands of veterans.

“Trust us,” they said. “We know what we’re talking about.”

You could see the struggle ensue before your eyes. You could feel it.

In the end, the well-meaning people in the middle grabbed hold of a rope called neutrality.

And there they hung, murmuring, “We do not want to upset our veterans, so we
will not talk about peace. We will not talk about politics. We will not talk about stopping the war in Iraq. We will not talk about preventing a war in Iran. We will not talk about anything.”

The cause for war had won.

The interesting conversation came after all this.

I was disturbed by what I’d heard those VA men say. But I was not entirely
surprised. One man was a psychiatrist. He explained the psychological dimensions of PTSD. Another was a chaplain. He explained the spiritual dimensions of PTSD. But by virtue of their jobs and the hands that fed them, they could not delve too deeply into the moral questions of policy.

This is where I became most incensed.

“Because war with Iran is not yet a policy,” I said to my friend who was also at the meeting. “There are no troops on the ground to support or not to support. There are no units in contact. There is no mission to believe in or to doubt. This is a great burden off our shoulders and clears the table for
the possibility of diplomacy. This is the time to talk about it. This is the time to talk about non-violence, before the violence begins, before the troops are sent, and before we have another polarizing war which we cannot speak of critically without offending somebody.”

What was so extraordinary about this particular episode was that the painstaking neutrality embraced by all these well-meaning people to spare the feelings of the veterans had effectively trumped their own instincts to speak for peace. They were silenced. They silenced themselves, not only about the present war, but about future ones as well.

My friend and I agreed, we’d witnessed a surprising phenomenon. And we realized that the effort to prevent future wars might be effectively impeded through its manipulation.

If, for example, Iran was pressed upon the American people not as a war of its own, but merely as an extension of the same war on terror already taking place in Iraq, then so much the more difficult it would be to oppose for
those people desperately wishing to show support for the troops.

I am grateful that the members of the American Legion Post 271 in Hadley
have not allowed this rationale to prevent them from graciously inviting Congressman Neal and his constituents into their hall to discuss the situation in Iran.

It was a noble thing to do, and I’m pleased that it was veterans who did it.

The meeting will take place at 7:00 p.m. on February 20, and all are invited. This indeed is a great opportunity for our community. It is what representative democracy is all about. I am anxious to participate in and listen to the exchange of ideas.

As for those who remain silently dangling from the rope of neutrality, and those who cannot find space in their hearts for peace, I must sadly let them go and make my own strongest bond with the future