For many years I have been a part of the Community, both online and off, and seen many causes taken up and championed by those who have a passion to fight for the right. There is nothing wrong with this; I just wish they would be a little more discriminating with their causes.
Here’s one that I wish to all the Gods was passed on by the “Activists”. There was a gentleman I was familiar with in Texas while I lived there. Wonderful metalworker. He made his fillet out of the leaf spring of an old car. He beat it and shaped it and it was a work of art. He was very into nature and into survival. He was going through a messy divorce. He was Wiccan. The judge refused to let him have his child, and he alleged to the community that the mother of his child was the bad parent. The impression retained many years later is that mom was a drug addict, a convicted felon or worse. He ran with the daughter to Kansas, making it possible to charge him with felony kidnapping rather than let her be destroyed by her mother. Eventually he was found and the little girl was brought back to Texas.
I watched several friends and activists jump into the fray. I am sad to say that at the time, I was one of the Activists, and I jumped in too. It HAD to be discrimination, because how could a judge give custody to a drug user/felon when the Wiccan father, a wonderful upstanding person and wonderful artist HAD to be a better choice, right?
Then I met him. He hadn’t bathed in two weeks. His hair and beard were matted because he didn’t believe in combs. He brought over a whole bag of knives and swords that he had made in his forge. They were carried in a duffel bag with no sheaths. He told us about his problems with the courts and how he couldn’t get his child. Then he told us about his innovative way of teaching his six-year-old daughter about survival. He would take her out into the back 40 on his property, drop her off in the clothes she had on her back, and leave her. He would drive off, after talking to her about what she was supposed to do to survive.
I’ll admit, he knew his techniques. He knew how to build a shelter, how to make a fire, how to find food. He told his daughter what to do. He gave her a knife to do all this with. Then he left. He didn’t go back and get her until 24 hours had passed.
Seeing where this is leading yet? The judge heard testimony, asked the little girl about it, asked him about it. The stories were the same and they were admitted to. The Judge apparently made the leap to “child abuse and possibly abandonment” and makes a decision to put the child with the (possibly) neglectful drug-using parent in favor of the (positively admittedly) abusive parent who abandons a six year old in a situation that many full adults would have difficulty in achieving. Additionally, he also did not have electricity or running water in his home.
In short, this case wasn’t about Wicca at all, it was about child welfare and safety.
One would think that this little detail would matter, right? Not a chance. Most never bothered to check the facts, after all, Pagans are the good guys, right? Oh, some did go their own way (like yours truly) when this came out, and some tried to counsel him with this so that he could get his kid back, but most ignored this detail and went on railing against the bigoted judge. They had marches and demonstrations and worked to raise money for his legal defense, they petitioned other city’s pagan groups to send donations so he could get his child back. They wrote lots of letters. (This was in the days when the Internet was a novelty and AOL was the only ISP there was.) It was sad to watch really.
Since then, I have stood back more than I have jumped in. Yes, I have done my share of causes, like working for a group online to try to stop the Religious Freedom Amendment and spreading the word about the Church of the Iron Oak, but that was long ago. I have looked into every plea for money that hit my inbox and mailbox. Some of them are legit, and I do what I can. Most of them are bogus or there are MANY other factors contributing to the “problem”.
Take for instance the uproar caused not too long ago by a person who went by the online ID of “CeltWiccan”. In brief this person was surfing around, found an online comic called “Something Positive” and began reading. He saw that day’s comic (which had a real snotty and more Pagan than thou High Priestess getting eaten by a trapdoor-‘gator while she’s bitching out the only other member still in her Coven.) Apparently this was seen and so the archives were gone through. There were about 4 other comics making fun of Wicca, mostly in the form of the (to steal from Willow of Buffy fame) “wanna-Blessed-bes” who lived in Salem and didn’t know the history of the Witch trials there and made an off color comment about achieving a new appreciation of the falling house scene in Wizard of Oz. One is here: http://www.somethingpositive.net/sp04242002.shtml and I’ll let you find the others. Trust me, you don’t want to have anything in your mouth when you read these.
But CeltWiccan got offended at these cartoons. There was a big hoo-haw online as he went from group to group and joined up just so that he could post a long letter talking about how the artist was a bigot and hated Wiccans. How the artist was making money off his hatred of Wicca, and how he was encouraging others to (get this) drop houses on Wiccans.
This is despite the observable fact that the author was (at the time) giving his work away and not asking for donations or using ads to make money. This is also despite the fact that he makes fun of almost every group there is, gamers, women, men, Goths, Wicca-bees, Mormons, Southern Baptists, parents, those with handicaps, sororities, catgirls, convention goers and on and on and on.
CeltWiccan even got a few dozen people to mailbomb the author with hate mail. When they finally read the comic, all but two understood what fools they were and backed off. But the instigator of this continues his campaign of harassment to this day.
And this is a minor case. How many times do you go to The Witches Voice and see some plea from someone to donate because of a problem that someone is having and how this group discriminates? Or how about helping out the legal fund that needs your help to sue so and so because of slurs they made about Wicca. Or about how this person denied these people over there recognition of Wicca as a religion? Bet if you looked into these cases, you would find that in most of them there is something wrong that should negate the help you are planning on giving.
Like the group who discriminates who turns out to be a Christian Publication Company, whose sole purpose is to print and distribute Christian books to churches and Christian bookstores. OF COURSE they discriminate in their hiring practices, but why would a Wiccan want to go to work for them anyhow? Would they really want a fundamental Christian being hired to work in the only local metaphysical shop? To teach classes that are part and parcel of that shop? To have to wonder if they are going to get preached to when they buy incense today? Then why do they reasonably think that the Christian Church is going to be any different?
Fighting that kind of fight is, in my opinion, hopeless. It’s like using an eye dropper to try to put out a wildfire. You are more likely to get burned up in the process than change anyone else’s minds.
Now, I AM NOT saying that you shouldn’t work and support the causes you believe in. Quite the opposite, in fact, I’m saying, learn to discriminate in the fights you choose to take on. Don’t get involved in every petty bickering argument that comes down the pike, or you won’t have the resources and energy to put up the good fight when a major Government Official stands on a platform and says to a roomful of reporters that Pagans can’t have money because they don’t do charity work. THAT is a fight worth going after, and it will take a lot of time, effort, energy, dedication and rituals to accomplish what needs to be accomplished in that case. But if you have used all your energy on little things that aren’t what they seem to be on the surface, then you will have nothing for this fight except a burnt out shell of a person. The apology you are demanding will most likely fail since you can’t put your best effort into it.
Do some research, ask questions, look up facts and then decide, coldly and simply if this fight is worth your time or not. Most likely it’s not worth it. If that is the case, save your resources for those battles you need to fight. If you happen to get caught up in one of the battles that is not what you think it’s about, then don’t be afraid to cut and run to save yourself for another day.
After all, you are the only you you have to devote to the causes you care about. If you use you up, then you can’t give it your best.