A pagan political milestone
There's a certain status attached to being perceived as important enough to merit attention from political organizations, and this applies to interest groups as well as religions. It has become a rite of passage among some groups who bear a social stigma to be accepted publicly and to have politicians seek their approval and support. The lesbian and gay community, formerly shunned, has achieved such acceptance and power. Abortion rights advocates made the transition earlier. A couple generations ago, African Americans did the same.
Some religions are still hoping to achieve the same acceptance and political power as Roman Catholics, Jews and both mainline and fundamentalist Protestants. One such group is the Pagans, who held their 13th Annual Pagan Picnic in Tower Grove Park in St. Louis, June 4-5, and who will celebrate Pagan Pride in September. This year's Pagan Picnic included booths by an assortment of merchants and artisans, and a little milestone tucked away near the middle of Vendor Row: a political group.
Two Rivers Greens were there promoting the new Progressive Party, which is the official Missouri affiliate of the Green Party of the United States. (The difference between the Progressive Party and the Missouri Green Party could be a column all to itself, but that will be another day.) The booth's big draw seemed to be t-shirts featuring a large photo of a befuddled looking George W. Bush and the words "international terrorist." They distributed literature describing their party and its platform, including a separate "freedom of religion" piece that contrasted the party from the Religious Right pandering of both the Republicans and Democrats. Antiwar literature, anti-Walmart stickers and information about pesticide dangers, eminent domain abuse, instant runoff voting and publicly financed elections were also distributed. Several former Green Party candidates, including Lydia Lewis, David Sladky and Bud Deraps, were on hand to welcome visitors.
According to long-time picnic organizer Joyce Higginbotham, this was the first time a political organization (party or candidate) had ever appeared on Vendor Row. Advocacy groups had been there before, and petition circulators and other political types had attended prior picnics and circulated among the crowd, but this was the first paid booth for a party organization. She said many pagans appreciated both the recognition and the investment.
A milestone on the road to public acceptance.