Talkin’ Tolerance (PBP).

Alternate Title: I’m An Asshole, An Asshole, An Asshole…

Xzibit on tolerance, bitches!

So, one of the things that people who read this blog will notice is that I talk, a lot, about tolerating other pagans or polytheists or other races or other genders. This mostly stems from the fact that since I recently joined the Tumblr community, I see a lot of shit about this stuff all over the place. (That’s an entirely different kettle of fish, but I’ll tell you, if half those kids went out and did something about what they perceive as slights, then we may just have a better living community. Instead, all they do is bitch out people on the Internet because, you know, starting a petition is too much work.) I talk about it a lot, but I’ll admit something here that you may be surprised about: I don’t necessarily practice what I preach. I know, that’s a pretty big shocker. In a day and age where we hear about priests going on about protecting our children and then sexual assaulting them, it’s “oh, so shocking” to see someone talk a good game but neglect to actually practice what they are preaching. Let’s face it; I’m an asshole.

But the thing is, honestly, that for the most part you don’t know what it is that I am intolerant about and what I am tolerant about. I don’t do this because I like to keep people guessing, but because I know that it may just be me, as I said, being an asshole. In other cases, I do it because I know what I think and feel is wrong and I’m hoping to one day fix that. I’m going to discuss two instances in which you may not have been aware that I’m not tolerant of others and then, you know, you guys can get out the torches and pitchforks.

The first instance is that I am a racist motherfucker. Okay, so some of the comments I’ve made regarding thousands’ long reblogged posts on Tumblr may actually have been a clue or some of the more cavalier commentary I’ve made (if you know me, in real life) about skin color could have been another large clue. But, I am actually a person who hates and fears men of the black persuasion. I wasn’t raised that way. In fact, you can kind of tell how I was raised because I don’t see binary gender at all. If someone says they are a woman, but really have a dick in their pants, well then they’re a woman as far as I’m concerned. If someone prefers the pronoun “he” over the gender they were born with, then that’s what they are. My mom didn’t teach me to see other people’s differences, from skin tone to gender change. In fact, and you can laugh at me all you want, when I was a kid at an inner city public school, I had a few people as my friends who, gasp, were not of the same skin tone as myself.

Weird, right.

But, Sat. Don’t you hang out with that ex-employee who is half black?

Uh, yeah. Yeah. I do hang out with her and I talk to her whenever we can catch a hot minute. The thing is that my racism stems almost entire around black men. And while I could easily blame my impressionable hatred on the fact that I got to listen to a certain best friend’s mom talk about “porch monkeys” as a teenager, this actually has nothing to do with it. (I had no idea what any racial slurs were until I met that woman, so fucking help me.) You see, the boy who raped me when I was sixteen? He was black. And I’m almost positive this is where my heart-racing, roll-up-the-windows, lock-the-doors, stay-the-fucking-hell-away-from-downtown fears come from.

The funniest thing about this (as if there is anything funny about racism or how I, like, got it or whatever) is that the boy in question was a yuppie. He was being raised middle class. He was a football player. He was popular, smooth-talking. I mean, you can pretty much guess the story from those few sentences right there. But, whenever I see a black man, whether he is of a lighter color or darker color, I start freaking the fuck out and fear overtakes me. As a kind of trial and error to get away from these dark, irritating feelings that can swallow my heart up with my panic, I tend to say rather crass and asshole things about black people in a generalized summation. I know it’s wrong. Fuck, I know the whole fucking thing about is WRONG and stupid. None of those black men in downtown raped me. None of those black men hurt me. So they stare at me a little longer but so do the white boys in their group, too. So what the fuck?

This is one of the issues that I’m hoping, with my shadow work, I get to destroy. Let’s face it. Being a racist asshole in this day and age is oh, so passé. Not to mention, why am I going to take that shit out on people who are not my rapist? Why the fuck am I going to sit around and just be a stupid douchebag to people who are probably trying just as hard as I am to make it in this world? It’s completely uncalled for and completely fucking retarded.

And as TH just pointed out to me (because, you know, I did mention this post to him before writing about it) is that my racism is very specific, so maybe in a weird context, it’s not really racism. I don’t know. I don’t know what the fuck it is but I’ll mention this: I am okay on one-on-one basis. For example, down in Texas, we had Otis and Twennie (he called her “Twennie” because that was his pick up line to woo her: “Ooo, girl, you better than ten; you two tens… I call you ‘Twenty’.”) who would come in. And they took care of me just like they were my grandparents. I had no problem with them, whatsoever. And in fact, my son has money in his piggy bank from them and I get messages from them, via my mom, all the time. So, I don’t know what the fuck this is…

…besides completely inconvenient and really fucking weird.

(And as I’m reading this out loud to TH, he says to me, “Well… aren’t you buddy-buddy with Papa Legba? And I don’t think he’s white…?” And I tried to explain about in certain contexts, he could be construed as such because of the associations he has with Catholic saints who are white, and he just went, “PFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFT.” Yeah. That happened. And then he decided he was going to teach me about voodoo. Oh, gods. The conversations we have! “Why don’t you try to use some tolerance at me, brah?” He says now. THE POINT. GET TO THE POINT HERE.)

MLK is showin’ the way.

So, what the hell does all of this have to do with me, spiritually?

Well, if you can’t figure out that my being racist in some contexts can affect me in a religious way, then you are an idiot. (And there’s nothing racist about that because, you know, I hate idiots equally!) This sorely fucks me up on a religious level because, you know, I don’t believe it has a place in my religious practice. I don’t feel that my panic-stricken reactions to boys with darker skin tones has a single fucking place in what I practice. And yet, it’s there. It’s in my house, eating my potato chips and drinking my fucking soda. And I want it the fuck out. Thing is that I’ve noticed that intolerance in some areas, such as the more mundane such as racism, can translate over in other ways. And this is specific to my religious life, my spiritual path, what the fuck ever you want to call this.

I discovered this today when I was reading through my blog roll. While I may not comment, I do actually spend a good deal of time going through the blogs that have been updated to see what’s going on. I stumbled onto a blog entry written by someone who wanted to thank Sekhmet for something. And I was reading the entire entry with a giant fucking stick up my ass, like I knew my shit so I didn’t have to hear it, and I’m just like, “No, no, no, no,” throughout the whole entry. Everything this person had to say was wrong to me. I don’t live that person’s life. I don’t know how they connected with Sekhmet. I don’t know a fucking thing about their religious life, but here I am, sitting back and just snorting derisively.

And what is that?

That’s intolerance.

That’s me with a giant stick up my ass and thinking I am the gods’ gift to my premier deity.

That’s me being a motherfucking asshole for the sake of being an asshole.

That’s me letting my inability to get tolerant in one arena of my life bleeding over into another area.

You see, the thing that I’m rapidly learning is that intolerance only breeds more intolerance. When you see the kids arguing on Tumblr about appropriation of Native American items or clothing, which generally and rapidly devolve into name-calling and racial slurs back and forth… that’s intolerance becoming more intolerance. That’s someone being unable to stand up and say, “I see your point. I don’t agree, but I see your point.” We’re all too focused on how we are right and perfect and lily-fucking-awesome about everything to realize that others have a point-of-view and that they may be right. Or, if they’re not right, they’re not going to see other points-of-view because they’re being intolerant. And then someone else who is as equally or more so intolerant comes in and the cycle just keeps fucking evolving until your head wants to explode at the motherfucking stupidity going on.

PhilosoRaptor takes a stab at tolerance!

So, the point in all of this is that in one instance I’m like, “Oh, wow. This happened to me and it’s continued to effect me.” But, you know, I never really considered how much it could bother me in other ways, how it could translate in other ways. Am I saying that because I have racist tendencies in some form or another this translates smoothly over into being a dick wheel about someone’s blog entry about Sekhmet? No. But I’m saying that if it’s easier for me to preach tolerance, not practice it in some area, then it’s easier for it to come out in other areas.

And that’s something I have to work on.

So, in closing, I leave everyone with an awesome fucking song that can depict me, at this moment in time, being an asshole.

Equality, PT 2.

AKA: Cultural Appropriation.

This morning, I’ve been knee and elbow deep in the cranberry bogs of cultural appropriation, trying to harvest the best aspects and the worst aspects. I’ve been actually working on this subject matter for a couple of months, but I feel that it ties inextricably with my initial Equality posting about PoC. I’ll tie the whole thing up with a nice red ribbon before I’m done. First, however, we need to discuss cultural appropriation, where I stand on this, and then I’ll explain why it’s linked with the PoC blog and the pagan-drama-llama about the PoC in general.

So, what exactly is cultural appropriation? From the various websites that I’ve used to look this up, apparently, the definition can be as scattered as the arguments used to defend or protest against it. This doesn’t give it a good start, in my opinion. If we can’t all agree on what it is and what level we need to be outraged against, then how can we have a clear set argument about it? The generalized definition seems to be, as taken from this website, “sometimes used to describe the act of borrowing aspects of another culture.” However, if we turn to the Wiki page about it, the definition is more in-depth, “the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It describes acculturation or assimilation, but can imply a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture.” In the first site, we have the term “borrow.” And in the second, we have the term “adoption.” I’m more inclined to view the definition as given by Wikipedia as the more common and universal definition based, mostly, from my reading of blog posts in regards of cultural appropriation. To me, borrowing denotes that we can “give it back” at some future point, where as, in a pagan sphere, when we discuss cultural appropriation, it tends to be a “long-term borrow” or a “permanent fixture” to the pagan practices we have going.

So, to wit, cultural appropriation as discussed in the pagan hemisphere, is the adoption, assimilation, or acculturation of specific elements (OTHERS™, practices, statuary, spells, etc.) of one culture by a different cultural group.

Now, what is my stance on this, right? I mean, I’ve never really come down in one way or the other about where I stand on this, in this blog. Oh, I’ve made comments on other blogs as well as on Facebook posts about it that pretty much give hints about what I’m going to say. But not everyone is obsessed with mearound me as often to have read those statements. In effect, my stance on this whole thing has been a confused muddle. I didn’t really know or understand it.

And as I look around at what I do on a daily basis and the OTHERS™ that I interact with, I have to assume that by even the slightest of definitions of cultural appropriation that I am guilty of it. I have “adopted” major cultural elements of a culture that is not mine, specifically in the ancient Egyptian sphere as well as the voodoo sphere. My culture, if you will, is American. (And I’ll get more into this soon, I promise.) And if you trace my ancestry back far enough (more, again, in a minute) you get a hint of Native Peoples blood, but primarily English and French. There is absolutely no Haitian in my bloodline. There is absolutely no ancient Egyptian in my bloodline. So, from that perspective, I am guilty of cultural appropriation.

I guess you can see where I stand on this: paganism, in general, is cultural appropriation.

Now, according to this Tumblr blog post about it, what I just said is considered a “straw-man argument,” which for the interest of nuggets of information, in the UK, this is known as an “Aunt Sally argument.” (Also as a quick note, in that article, the OP mentions that anyone who has this argument “serves to bolster the idea that anyone who takes issue with cultural appropriation is a hysterical hater.” I, in fact, do not believe anyone who argues about cultural appropriation is a hysterical hater. Everyone is allowed an opinion, even if it differs from my own.) What this means is that my argument is based on a misrepresentation of information. However, if you go back to the definition that I settled on in regards to cultural appropriation, I don’t really see how it’s possible to consider my argument thus. Now, I’ve tried to see where my argument will fall over and blow off in the wind, as we could expect an actual man made of straw to do, but I don’t really understand how it’s possible. According to the definition that seems to be the most universally found in the pagan hemisphere, the fact that we, as pagans, take beliefs from another culture, especially if we are not of that culture, then in effect we are culturally appropriating.

But, wait. Wait. Satsekhem! I’m of Irish heritage, so my Celtic recon path isn’t considered that!

Oh, really?

The only way that comment even holds up to what I’m thinking is if you are (A) living in the country in question or (B) are either a first or second generation immigrant. Once you hit the third generation mark, you are considered a part of that country. Er. Well, that doesn’t include when a country (-cough-US-cough-) makes idiotic decisions regarding an ethnic policing of a culture because they are war with the “fatherland.” But, you know, anyway, once you get to the third generation, unless you marry a first generation immigrant from the same culture, you are considered a citizen of said country. So, as I said, when you are claiming that you are following the path of your ancestors that is one thing, but since you are not living where your ancestors lived and enjoyed their lives and their beliefs, you are in fact culturally appropriating. (Thanks, Sis for this awesome discussion, by the way!)

That’s not true, Satsekhem! I’m following the way of my ancestors!

Well, yes, in a manner of speaking. However, unless those ancestors are there to teach you every nuance of the beliefs you are ascribing to, then by definition, you are appropriating the culture or belief, in effect you are adopting them, to build your practice.

Let’s use an example from my life. My husband (TH) is an Italian descendent. He has about a quarter Italian in his blood, to be honest. I believe it was his great-grandfather who came over here, but his family could have been here for longer. (There’s not much information available on his Italian side because his surviving family member from that side thinks the whole male line is evil and should never be discussed. SO ANYWAY.) Since his bloodline is mixed with Swedish, French, and English, this means that he has an ancestral tie to Italy, but he is not of that culture. He was not raised to enjoy tiramisu or risotto on a regular basis. He was not raised in the ways of anything other than, “Hey, you are Italian. Woo!” So, if he were to ascribe to their beliefs, say as an Italian witch or something, he would actually be appropriating even though his bloodline, in some form, hails from that country. TH is an American who has blood ties to various countries; this is what it says on his birth certificate (literally since his last name is über Italian) and it says in his genetics, but he is not of that culture.

So let’s get back to my statement that my culture is American, hm?

As much as I’d like to take pride in my ancestry, and occasionally I do, I have to admit that when it comes to a generalized culture, I have to take pride in the fact that I am an American (with both its positive and negative aspects). In effect, it’s a giant hodgepodge of various cultures. So, entirely based on the fact that I am an American, we could almost say that this cultural appropriation thing is the entire basis for the formation of this country. With each new culture of immigrants, new aspects have become usurped into the generalized culture of the United States. Let’s just look at cuisine, alone. You can go to a restaurant and get curry, you can make yourself the “typical” dinner of Saint Paddy’s day with your corned beef and cabbage, or you can find pizza places in every sector of town. These are all day-to-day aspects of other cultures that have been usurped and assimilated into the American culture. (Although, I will thoroughly admit that some of the spicier cultural cuisines are things that I just cannot eat. But give me a batch of Spanish rice or jambalaya and I am all over that like white on rice.)

So, when it comes to taking this cultural appropriation argument to an extreme, I suppose you could say that I am there. But just basing this off of the culture that I happen to live in, currently, as well as the fact that the definition seems to support this theory, no matter what I say or do, I am culturally appropriating. And I’m not the only person here who has had these issues. For example, I know of a woman in England (HI, SHARON!!!!!) who also has a relationship with Papa Legba. She has absolutely no relation, I assume, to Haitians and who knows if she’s ever even been to New Orleans? And yet, she has this relationship going (and not just with PL but with other lwa as well). Then, you have me. I have my relationship with PL and I also have the netjeru all up in my grill seven days a week. And as I’ve stated, I do not have a drop of either Haitian ancestry or ancient Egyptian. Let’s look at the Sister: she works almost entirely within the Greek pantheon. She is descended from the Irish (and others). And I know that there are a ton of pagans out there that I can use as prime examples.

Now, where am I going with this? What the fuck does this shit have to do with equality? I HAVE A POINT, I SWEAR! I JUST NEEDED TO SET UP MY ARGUMENT AND RANT A LITTLE.

All of this got started when I read this Tumblr blog post on the PoC. And I will also bring back up the Tumblr blog I mentioned yesterday for all of this. We are so wrapped up in this cultural appropriation thing and a lot of it seems to have some basis in skin color, skin tone, and ancestry. You saw my imaginary conversation (if you’ve gotten this far with my long-windedness) with someone who claims that they’re basing their religion off of their ancestry. So, how in the fuck are we supposed to be a well-groomed, fantastic, happening group of people if we’re so focused on not appropriating from other cultures, in general, and then in specific because we’re worried that we may come off as racist or bad?

The point to all of this is the fact that if an OTHER™ comes a-knocking, you don’t just shut the door in their face because you’re worried about cultural appropriation. If that was the case, I wouldn’t have a relationship with Papa Legba, and I bet you my lovely UK example wouldn’t either. But maybe in that case, it’s a little different because there’s N’Orleans voodoo, right, and white people can practice that. Um, no. I can’t vouch for other people who work with him, but I do very much try to adhere to a Haitian voodoo aspect to my practices with Papa Legba. I may not be very good at it (yet) but I do try. I take the same feeling – recon stance – as I get with my Kemetic path and use it via my voodoo path. So, just based on the definition and the color of my skin, I’m appropriation Papa Legba and the voodoo culture.

But does that mean that I’m going to say, “I’m sorry, Papa. I love working with you – you’re a barrel of laughs, really – but I just can’t do this anymore because it’s inappropriate because my skin color doesn’t mesh with others of the voodoo persuasion.” Nope. No. Sorry. I’m not.

The whole point to this thing is my final point, which I may explain in further depth after tomorrow’s PBP post.

I seriously doubt the OTHERS™ give a flying flip what color your skin is, what nationality you are, or what culture you come from.

Relevant Post
Equality Pt 1.

Equality, PT 1.

Note: Prior to today, I felt that a raised-middle class white woman had no need to comment on this ongoing drama. Apparently, I do have to because I’ve been needlessly dragged into it.

Over on Tumblr, there was an explosion of debate when someone started the Pagans of Color, or PoC, Tumblr blog. The whole point in this, from their blog, is, “In our experience, we’ve found that having a safe space within the Tumblr Pagan community is essential. The recent controversy surrounding the mere idea of a Pagans of Color blog has made it clear to us that this space is necessary. It is a place we are welcome, comfortable, and free. We can write about our traditions and our experiences among people who understand and relate. We can celebrate our heritage and our practices.” More or less, the point was for them to have a safe place to comment and post about the racially motivated experiences they’ve gone through in pagandom. Here’s a really awful example of why a blog like this was necessary. Yep, yep. Stuff like that happens; I’ve heard about it in a myriad of quarters and I have little faith that pagans can be as morally uplifted in all genres (from pro-choice to gay rights to skin equality) as I believe they should be. So, I’m pretty pissed off to begin with this morning.

And then I read this. And this is the point where I’m going to get really stupidly pissed off and angry. This is the point where I’m probably going to get death threats and that’s okay. All of this has an eventual point, but I have to get everything out of my head in the order it deserves. But before we go very much further, I’m going to link to LJ’s post about racism because I think we need to pay attention to what actual racism is before I go any further. I’ll wait until after you read her post.

Ready?

This is the point when I wanted to throw my tablet across the room and scream obscenities. Declaring that you are upset by people choosing to have a space that marginalizes you because you’re white, is hard (for me) to take seriously. Do you actually HEAR yourself when you say these words? Do you realize how hard it is to hear this because that’s what it’s like for me and other PoC and marginalized groups for a few moments in a hypothetical situation? Our marginalization happens in our day to day. We are marginalized, othered, and shamed for things we have NO control over, just going about our day. I wish I could feel for you, I really do, and part of me does; but the part of me that does, is sardonic in its response because you have now been afforded a taste of what my life is like, CONSTANTLY. At this point, I am pissed the fuck off for a number of reasons. One: this is snide and condescending and will not win any sympathy with the very people who would have stood beside you and aided/abetted you when you asked for your PoC venue at a major pagan function. Two: this is very privileged in the opposite way by insinuating that because someone falls into a certain set of racial or sexual or gender guidelines, then they must not get shit on by any other group of humanity. Three: no one holds the “my life sucks more” crown when it comes to humanity; everyone’s life equally sucks.

One
So, the first thing I mentioned was that I felt that this statement came off as very snide and very condescending. I’ve actually heard things like this said about statements I’ve made and I’ve also made similar comments to other people. “I mean can you hear yourself?” When someone says something like that, they’re pulling out a very self-righteous card that they probably have absolutely no reason to be holding. All it does is place the person making that statement above the person they are talking to and it doesn’t matter what the situation is – victim shaming, gender shaming, race shaming, etc – no one should hold themselves above or better than anyone else. I don’t care if the person stating this is rich as hell or poor as hell. I don’t care if the person is black, white, or red. I don’t care if the person is completely at home in the gender they were born with or otherwise. I really don’t care who they are or what their circumstances are, but when you say something like that, it is completely uncalled for, unnecessary, mean, and just generally off-putting.

And in regards to that off-putting, as I stated, saying something akin to this is just asking for the people you want to aid and abet you in your goal – a public venue that is PoC friendly or only – to step out of it. I may not agree with the overall goal here, and I don’t and I’ll explain why later, but I would have stood beside you and helped you to make this happen. Obviously, it’s not because I believe in the cause but because it’s something that should be taken into consideration. It’s something that, maybe, will open up the eyes of people on the fence or unaware of racial discrimination in pagandom. It could actually do a lot of good and besides. Most of us pagans are very keen on the whole social outreach and helping others thing in our practices, for whatever reason. And I’m the kind of person that wants to stop the rushing crowds from running over the people fallen to the floor, in need of help. Not because I want to get a medal but because it’s wrong and inhumane to not just stomp on someone while they are down, but to kick them until they black-and-blue. I want to help the “little guy” I suppose is what I’m getting at and from the stories I’ve read, like the one I linked to in my first paragraph, PoC need assistance to make other pagans aware that racism is strong in pagandom.

However, by being so condescending in that one little paragraph, I’m no longer interested in your cause.

(Now the reason I don’t quite agree that there should be a PoC-only venue is because I feel that in setting that up, you’re only making the racial debates more pronounced than they already are. You’re setting up the idea that we could head back to segregation. And I think that’s incredibly dangerous. Don’t segregate yourselves because of this. Yes, I think there should be a place where PoCs can go to unwind, discuss some of the issues they’ve found or are facing, but I don’t think that they should have their own venue. Segregation wasn’t good back in the day and it’s not good now.)

Two
So, the second thing I mentioned was that in making it seem like you hold the stakes on how very badly life is going for you because you are X, you are actually coming off in what I’ve deemed as “reverse privilege.” Often in these debates, you’ll hear people discuss how certain people are privileged. Now, according to Dictionary-dot-Com, there are about five main definitions for the word “privilege” but the one I felt really correlated with the debates as well as what I’m trying to convey is, “the principle or condition of enjoying special rights or immunities.” So, when the racial or gender or sexual debates come up, we hear discussion of privileged people, people who are immune from X because they are not afflicted with whatever it is that causes the problem in the first place. And I’ll admit that I am white. So when it comes to race, I am exempt from things. However, when you state something like the above, you are ASSUMING that someone of my race or gender cannot have things badly. You are ASSUMING that there is no way I can have it badly or that Joe Blow doesn’t have it badly or that anyone else has it nearly as bad as you unless they are a person of color, a person who is gender-queer, a person who has had an abortion, a person who has been raped, a person who is homosexual, etc. etc. etc.

This is wrong. This is false. And this is drivel.

I am a white woman. I was raised middle class. I went to public school. I attended church every Sunday until we hit my teens. Just in those statements alone, we’re beginning to paint a picture of me that is actually not who I am. By making broad generalizations about me, you’re assuming that my life is going well. Well, as a white woman, I don’t hear racial slurs directed at me and I’m protected by all my white male relatives. Well, as someone who lived middle class, we owned a house, I was given the ability to go to college, and my parents probably bought me anything I wanted. Well, I went to public school because, as a middle class person, my parents couldn’t quite afford a private school but I probably went to a good school with good statistics with other middle class kids. Well, as a middle class citizen, I probably was able to give to the church, go to functions, and generally believes in God.

These are all fallacies. I’ll get into some of the reasons why. In the first, I was raised middle class by a single parent. I had a mother and that was it. In the second, we didn’t own a house until I was nearly ten years old and we lost that house when I was a teenager. I went to an inner-city public school where being white was a minority. I stopped going to church because I was angry at God for taking away my dad when I was a kid. I was raped. I was molested. I was treated like dirt for various reasons – single parent, buck teeth, being a geek, not caring about makeup, reading all the time, etc. Just because you are given the above statement about me doesn’t mean things were all that great for me. I got to listen to my dad die in the middle of the night, never mind the other shit I’ve gone through. So, I’m sorry. But seeing me based on the fact that I was raised middle class and am a white woman, it really, really doesn’t hold a candle to the argument itself.

I may present this outward face, but in reality, I’m just as torn up and fucked up as the next individual. And that brings me to…

Three
No one’s life is better than anybody else’s. Nobody’s life can be looked at in this two-dimensional lens when everything is three-dimensional. We are a sum total of the experiences we have gone through and lived. These are the aspects of ourselves that we should be judged upon because it is because of these experiences that we feel so strongly about issues. For example, I like the idea of “helping the little man” because I was, in fact, considered a “little man” by myself and others throughout my formative years. So, I don’t like to see people bullied or anything because I know what that’s like and I get all HULK SMASH when I see or hear about things like that. No, I wasn’t made fun of because I was a white or a girl (unless we talk about the time that I wanted to play tackle football and the boys said no because they thought I would get hurt and so they made it two-touch football instead and I never got hurt but ran through the lines because I had long legs), but I was made fun of for a lot of other reasons. And it’s those reasons that make me the person I am today.

But as much as I may wallow in my own hurt and pain and anger because of X, Y, and Z, this is no way gives me the ability to act as if I am wearing the “MY LIFE IS FUCKED TO SHIT” king’s crown. My life is shit, but so is everybody else’s. They all have problems stemming from their childhood, from their teenagerhood, from experiences with exes and with their parents or their siblings or watching news items on television. Each of these aspects have created and molded these people into who they are and possibly have resounding effects as to why they feel/think that their life is really crappy. And in some of those instances, we can say it’s because of skin tones, gender profile, sexual orientation, or any of the other main debates still raging around out there. But beyond these aspects, we also have to keep in mind that boys have it just as bad as girls; that people of color have it just as bad as people without major melanin-production; and that people who identify with a sexual orientation that society frowns upon have it just as bad as the bigots who think they shouldn’t have the right to get married.

No one’s experiences are greater than anybody else’s.

Now as much as I’d like to get in to my basic ideas about this debate, I have to take a break. Please look back for part two in the next few days. Or, you know, hate me for the rest of my life because I can’t just sit by and let someone shit on me for being a white woman raised middle class without knowing that I am a sum of my experiences and not of what you see when I walk out the door.

My Views on Intolerance.

Yesterday, a friend of mine posted on her Facebook the status, “Bible-wielding Christians are no better than racists.” Now, I’m not pointing out this status so people can either “rah rah” for her or to “boo boo” at her or whatever particular sentiment they would have. I’m not posting about this status to be an asshole or to demand that others point at her and make her feel badly. And I don’t bring it up to make that person feel bad, myself. I’m only pointing it out because I had a fairly visceral reaction to the conversation that then took place (run down: I was sarcastic, then said I sympathized, someone said something filled with asshattery about Muslims, and it downshifted from there). I realized something, had an epiphany, I guess.

I’m pretty fucking done with intolerance in any form.

You see, I was a very intolerant person for a very long time. When it came to hearing anything about an Abrahamic faith up until a few years ago, I’d shut you down. I wasn’t savvy enough to quote Bible passages back at a person, but I would thrust my intolerance right in their faces. And a lot of times, I got it handed right the fuck back to me. It was so horrible that I wouldn’t be able to have a civil conversation about anything to do with faith, whatsoever. Now, a part of that was my own inability to see someone else’s point-of-view or even bother to hear another point-of-view dissimilar to my own. (Funny since I love hearing others’ points-of-view now, right?) And another part of it was because I was married to a manipulative fucktard who wanted his religion to be my religion, which meant that if he was Christian at that time, then I had to agree. And if he was doing his quasi-zen Buddhist, Taoist whatever fuckery, then I had to go along with that as well. But, really, a big part of my intolerance had to do with my atheism. Since I didn’t believe in anything, then I didn’t want to hear about other peoples’ beliefs. But, intrinsically, it was a kind of… hatred for the western religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) that made me so intolerant about it.

My intolerance was so bad that when my best friend (in Texas) converted to Christianity, she was worried about my reaction to it. This was after I had begun to realize that, you know, I was being an asshat and I needed to stop. But, I never made those changes obvious to others, so they just assumed that I was still an intolerant asshat. The thing was that I had made my viewpoints about Christianity well known to that point, which was that it was little better than a cult of sorts that was designed to ensnare you more fully than Jim Jones or Charles Manson. Yes, I was really fucking intolerant. The whole thing with my best friend, more than anything else, made me realize that I had to let go of whatever it was that was making me hate the Christian faith so much. (Now, I’ll be honest. Judaism and Islam have never really figured much into my intolerance, believe it or not. I think part of it is because I wasn’t raised to know much, if anything, about those religions so they didn’t really register as being important enough to form an opinion about, you know?) I didn’t want to ruin a friendship that was beyond anything and very important to me because I was being a fucking idiot. So, though I had already made a few strides in the direction of tolerance, I’ve made myself more focused and more able to see points-of-view coming from others’ belief systems.

A part of this has to do with my living in ma’at, but a lot of this has to do with my mother. (Wait, what?) When I told her that I was looking into paganism, as I’ve said a million times before, she just about fell to her knees and praised god, crying, “At least you finally believe in something!” Yeah, it wasn’t really the reaction I was thinking I would get – after having read others’ negative parental reactions to practicing paganism and being outed and my ex-husband’s asshole reaction to my practicing paganism – but it was an eye opener. It never mattered to my mother what I believed in, as long as it was something. And I’ve taken this point-of-view to heart. It’s one of my personal aspects to what living in ma’at is and one of my personal 42 Negative Confessions. (I bet you’re curious about that, eh? Well, be curious. I’m not talking yet.) “I have not been intolerant of others’ belief systems.” This is part and parcel to what I practice and it’s with this part of my faith in place, solidly, that I realized something…

I’m finding myself less tolerant of people who aren’t tolerant of others’ beliefs.

How’s that for ironic?!

When a person decides that someone is a douche-bag, waving their religion around like it’s the hottest thing since sliced bread, and turn back to that person with an asshole attitude, then this is intolerable to me. I don’t agree with other peoples’ belief systems. I don’t think that Christianity is the next best thing. I don’t think the Islam is the way to go. I don’t think that Celtic Recon is the be-all, end-all, but I let them have their beliefs as they let me have mine. They don’t have to agree or even line up in any way, but there should be acceptance. There should be tolerance. What I cannot abide by is when someone makes a blanketed statement as I’ve quoted above and just assume that they can get away with that. That is wrong. That is sinful. That is intolerable. And that is foolish. And all they’re doing is breeding more hatred, more intolerance, and where does that leave us? It leaves us with a fractured culture that cannot even begin to look into saving our planet, much less saving ourselves. If we’re so busy hating on others because they take their faith to a negative place and misuse it, then who the fuck are we to judge? We’re doing it right the fuck back by making blanketed asshole comments like that!

I realize that it’s human nature to be intolerant about things, especially as hot-blooded as religion. However, there are parts of the Bible that are things we should all (pagan or otherwise) pay attention to. If I’m not mistaken, the Christ sat down and ate dinner with his detractors. He sat down with the very man who sold him to the Romans, knowing what would happen, and never even had any of those people question how he felt about Judas. I’m not saying that we should all look to the Bible for this kind of behavior and live it. What I am saying is that we should take this particular lesson to heart. I know some very awesome Christians who do not judge others. I know that there are Muslims, Jews, and pagans who live similarly. But, how are we to sit there and show the intolerant people how it is done if we do it right back?

Intolerance only breeds more intolerance. That’s the lesson.

(As a very quick note and because I’m seething about it. The end of the person’s FB status “discussion” about it stemmed from her sister, who told us all that we were fucking assholes for not asking the person in question why she had a bad day. What I have to say to this is that if you are going to make statements about a religion that are as blanketed as that, especially in a public venue, then you should probably be prepared to back your shit up instead of having your sister ream everyone out for not asking you about why you had a bad day. Just sayin’.)