Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Witches and Economic Decline in the American Midwest

The GetReligion blog, which covers issues of religion and journalism, takes on coverage of the Witch School's move to Rossville, Illinois. (Full Chicago Tribune story and video here.)

Jason Pitzl-Waters has posted repeatedly about the various Witch School controversies, so see his blog for the background.

Maybe it is because I am still working to unload my late sister's white elephant of a house in a small northern Missouri town, but I feel that this is as much of an economics story as a religious one.

But this is America, and we habitually mis-label our debates. We use the language of race and ethnicity to talk about issues of social class. And we use the language of religion to talk about people's gut-level fears that their little town -- and by extension, them -- just does not matter any more in the America of Wal-Mart and mega-churches.

From GetReligion: A reader of ours, Christopher, mentioned in a note to us that the story is largely about a community dealing with “economic decline, arson, and drugs."

I agree. Although I have never set foot in Rossville, I have been in plenty of places like it.

And it is just too wrenching to their self-image for the Chamber of Commerce types to think of themselves as another Salem, Mass., and to promote Rossville that way!

Instead, they probably hope to attract a new factory. But it is not coming.

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Blogger Cat Chapin-Bishop said...


Good points. I wonder at the wisdom of Don Lewis relocating to this small town more for economic reasons than cultural ones, frankly.

I can't count the number of times I've seen someone open an occult store somewhere because they've seen a storefront vacant, and decided cheap rent plus their interest in Wicca meant that the gods were calling them to open up a store--often without adequate preparation to run a business.

It's especially painful that opening a business makes Pagans into visible leadership overnight, and that so many of us are willing to take on that mantle based on scraping together the pennies to open a store in a blighted neighborhood or town. The store owners are almost always enthusiastic... but dreams aren't enough, no matter how much incense you burn. Sooner or later, the lack of business savvy or PR skills or an adequate financial plan seems to cause these businesses to fail... and the proprietors to begin proclaiming loudly that the Pagan community doesn't support its leaders.

Only among Pagans can one become a leader through maxing out a credit card in a low-rent district...

I'm afraid I see Witch School as a manifestation of this syndrome among us, writ large and public, rather than small and private. But it still makes me feel quietly frustrated...

3:03 PM  

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