Things were already pretty red and raw when Frazier Glenn Cross decided to be a murderer over in Kansas City. The Pan-Pagan circles and groups were still trying to adjust, correct themselves, and/or be in denial when it came to the allegations of child molestation held against a Wiccan of modest note. While I hear a lot of grumbling and semantic pushing over whether the various versions of Heathenry fall within the category of Paganism, this time the distinction served no point; the actions of that child molester were going to reflect on all of us by proximity, because the media struggles to make any distinction between two different flavors of Non-Biblical, Non-Islamic, and Non-Asian religion. Love it or hate it, the horrors of Klein were going to effect damn near everyone, us included. I don’t think it’s a problem in Heathenry as much as it may be a problem elsewhere, but our hackles were up to begin with.
It’s time to let facts be put down; Cross did damage to us as a community that may take some time to properly come to terms with. We weren’t on the receiving end of his bullets and no Heathens lost their life due to his acrid madness, but the seeds of paranoia, fear, anger, and sadness effected us in an undeniable way. I’ve seen shorter tempers, bigger fights, and larger arguments than I have seen previously…and I’m hearing from others that I’m not alone in feeling this way.
Over the last couple of weeks, I quite nearly walked away from almost everything. Not my religion of course, nor from the community entirely.* The weight of advocacy and the demand for awareness went from being a sacred responsibility, however, to a crushing burden within a matter of days. It went from putting aside politics for charity work to shouting at each other across the isles. I went to writing about geek/nerd culture and doing reviews on fast food items just so I could write and actually enjoy it. So I could engage that need without feeling a wave of sadness and weary ennui. It came to a head about a weak ago when groups of Heathens, both liberal and conservative, engaged in an impromptu foot eating contest. I never wanted to be further from the entire community as I did in that moment.
Every time we shout at each other, it’s a missed opportunity. I can hear eyes rollings and people bringing up the same excuse** of ‘proud warrior tradition’. I am full aware of how our spiritual ancestors had a lot of experience at kicking ass and taking names. Yet, while those ancestors weren’t peaceful and did not shy away from conflict, a reality check is required because…
No one, Heathen or otherwise, has strictly peaceful ancestors!
No one on this damned Earth has only pacifists and hippies making up their line. We are all related to a whole lot of someones that, at some point, killed people for land and shiny metal because that was one of the major economic forces of the world. It wasn’t just acceptable, it was a business model. A lot has changed in terms of the cultural background however, and the cultures of the world are collectively putting a higher and higher value on a human life than may have ever existed before. If you want to talk to me about the horrors that take place in the third world, you’re going to prove my point because the fact that you know about them already shows how much this world has changed! Every one of has, quite likely, a plethora of proud warrior traditions represented in our line. We also have traditions of peace, diplomacy, and acting with maturity. There is no spiritual partitive to look at everything like a fight, and we need to stop pretending that their is.
Our spiritual, Heathen ancestors had concepts for peace, diplomacy, and getting along with people they might not have liked. They had the Allthing. They had Freyfaxi. They had Gods and Goddesses of hearth, stories, and guardianship in addition to war, warriors and victory. We have far more suggestions and ideas about how to hold your tempter written in the Havamal than we do about when it is acceptable to let it go. We have stories within the lore that show us even the most aggressive and brash God within the pantheon knew there were times when shouting and violence were not the answer. They left runic messages on the stonework in foreign cities, proof that not ever encounter with them was one of bloodshed and death; some received trade and good manners.
They had Frith. Much has been said about what Frith is and isn’t. So, let’s just clear things up by saying it’s okay to have issues…but you need to be damn sure to check yourself before you open your mouth. It’s okay to yell at someone who messed up, but not when they openly confess wrong doing. It’s right to be angry at being cussed out when you’re admitting your faults, but not when the last two decades have been filled with a deafening silence when it comes to your own accountability. It’s right to hold people to account for the mistakes they make, but bringing up the last few decades of bad blood will not get anything accomplished. It’s right to be upset at false accusations, but you need to know when it’s time to look at the accusations and ask yourself if you are also part of the problem. We’ve all been so busy pointing fingers, that I’ve become convinced that most people don’t know the real issues at hand anymore.
Sometimes, I’m not even sure if I do. It’s gotten so that I’m not sure if I can’t see the forest for the trees, or the group of trees for the forest. The last few weeks have been more filled with video games and tacos than essays and articles because I needed to let my brain take a break before my diplomacy did.
It takes two to tango…and so many of us have been involved in a time wasting dance that is breaking communities, friendships, and ourselves, I have seen, on multiple occasions, that everyone involved has the best intention at heart; there are always those few who think of themselves and only themselves, but they are a minority whose deeds dig their own graves. They are easy to call out and easier still to rid ourselves of. It is clear that the majority of us want the same thing; to leave Heathenry in better shape than we found it. To make it a better place for our children, and their children in turn. To give those lost, spiritually, a chance to find a safe harbor for their heart and soul. We disagree, in some cases by large margins, on how to get that accomplished but we need to pay just as much attention to our similarities as to our differences.
I am not making apologies for my stances, nor do I think that they’re wrong. I think bigotry in Heathenry is a big problem, and I think it’s a big priority. I do not agree with many of the excuses made for it, and I think they are comforting rhetoric and candy coated malignment almost without exception. I am not, at any time, going to stop calling bullshit when people try to turn inclusion into a political issue rather than a very human one. I regret nothing I’ve said in this regard, but I am not so blindsided by those causes that I’m willing to create two or three problems in order to solve one.
Honestly, I hope that we all have that way of thinking in my. We should not be so psychologically waylaid that we see madness like Cross’s as the rule, rather than the exception that it is. We should not be so quick to call foul on our opponents that we confuse murder and death threats as being the same sort of darkness as dissension and rhetoric. We should no be so quick to toe party lines that we’re willing to jump on the opposition like a dying gazelle. Before people call me self righteous here, let me be clear and tell you I’m very well aware of how closely I’ve skirted that line myself. I am pretty damn sure I will cross it at some point, and I can only hope that both my proponents and detractors call me on it as quickly as I have tried to call them on their past mistakes.
If I don’t make sure I hold myself up to as a high a standard as I hold my opponents, than I’m not fighting for a better Heathenry, a better knowledge of the Gods, or to make deeds that my ancestor can be proud of. At that point, I would only be fighting for my name in the most superficial context imaginable. I don’t think my own experiences are so unique that this does not apply to just about everyone.
We owe ourselves and each other better than that. No matter what you feel Heathenry is, we all owe it better than that. Consider this a call from arms, and a call to tables. To desks. To conference rooms. I am tired of yelling; I’d like to talk now. Scratch that.
I want us all to talk.
*I think at one point I made a small criticism, either on the internet or in the real world, about how I didn’t get why so many polytheist bloggers took a month of silence last year. I think I’ve apologized for that before but if I haven’t, I’m doing so now. If I already did, than I making sure it’s publicly known. I get it now. From the bottom of my heart, I completely understand and I realize just how little I understood at that point.
**Having pride in the exploits of those ancestors who could rightly be described as warriors is a good thing. A great thing even; being a warrior is a sacrifice I know enough about only to know I don’t know nearly enough about. That sort of dedication, honor, and drive should be acknowledged. Viewing it as an excuse to act like an asshole all the time because Heathens “aren’t peaceful” is a bunch of nonsense, and it’s abusing your ancestors exploits in order to avoid working on yourself. Don’t use your ancestors deeds as a license to be a jerk; we owe them better than that, and they would knock some sense into you themselves if they could.