The Law is a Kind of Magic

There was a little spate of discussion around politics and political action in the magic community, kicked off in part by a tweet from Joseph Magnuson (“Laws are Big Magic / Rights are Big Magic”). I basically agree with him on seeing the law as a kind of big magic; there is a reason why lawgivers acquired mythic status in antiquity. I’m hesitant to use this as a call for explicitly magical activism, though, and I think there has been a little ambiguity in calling for magicians to be active and for magicians to be magically active.

(And, to be clear, I don’t think Magnuson meant it that way, but there does seem to be a little drift going on.)

My hesitancy comes in part from my agreement with what both Simon Tomasi has said on this, as well as what Rose has said. But it has to do, too, with what it means to think of the law as magic. Addressing the law as a form of magic has an important corollary. Namely,  that there are established forms for dealing with it which, when carried to fruition, bring about stable and potent changes within the law itself.

Let me just focus on one case, because it is the one most on my mind at the moment: Ferguson. Talking about magical throw-downs misses a vital aspect of Ferguson. This is bigger than the sort of magic you do for people. This is the magic of a people. The people of Ferguson are doing the magic that needs to be done right now, walking those streets, calling down justice in the face of law gone wrong.

It ain’t our business to get all up in that trying to magic this or that aspect of it. They’re calling it down themselves, right through the channels of the law itself. You want to help that magic? Sing along with it, bear witness, be the choir that says amen. You want to say a prayer for Michael Brown, for the town, even for the police? Do it. You want to sign that petition calling on the government to address the protesters’ concerns? Do it. You want to share something that helps someone, anyone, understand and bear witness themselves? Do it.

But this is their claim, the claim resting in the blood of their kin and neighbor. It needs to be met and answered there. It needs to find resolution there. It needs to be set right between the police force and the community itself, with all the hardship and pain that necessarily entails. Because when all is said and done? It will be the community and the police that will be there after everyone’s attention has moved on.

If the justice of this moment is to nourish the nation, it has to be firmly anchored in Ferguson. What can be done now is to help preserve, through attention and accountability, the space in which that operation can transpire. It is not to get our grubby little fingers all over it and try to magic it toward what we want, as if it is our claim.

Which may get back to something swissshard said about “seemingly innocuous enchantments can actually affirm and make us further complicit in oppressive social conditions.” Seemingly innocuous magic done one someone’s behalf, can affirm your egoistic desire to direct things according to your will, rather than permitting others to carry through the negotiations that realize a communal will that recognizes the agency of these people and manifests a better future for them.

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