You may have heard already that in the context of some truly stunning incidents of racism both preceding and at PantheaCon, an announcement for “Ignoring Racism: A Workshop for White Pagans” in the satirical newsletter PantyCon wound up doing the opposite of what its authors intended. I wasn’t going to write about this; I wasn’t there, the situation appears to have been resolved graciously on all sides, and I didn’t think I could add anything particularly useful. But I was puttering around my kitchen, and a line from “Living” by Arrested Development popped into my head:
Every day I rise on a mission
Please forgive me if I mess up
I’m improving living living
Honey baby I’m just human
…along with a strong sense of its relevance to the topic at hand.
Honestly, I was one of the people whose first reaction was, “Are you kidding me? IT WAS A JOKE. COME ON.” I have had bad experiences personally with people willfully misconstruing my sense of humor as a means of attacking me, and I’ve also felt completely alienated in groups or situations where people just didn’t get my sense of humor (or worse, failed to realize that I was being funny at all). Including ones where I very much needed to feel otherwise. Those experiences do not lead me to look kindly on people who seem to be doing the same thing. I believe firmly in the moral and spiritual value of satire. Humor can be a weapon against oppression, and the misapprehension of humor is often a means to maintain the status quo rather than shift it. It was clear to me, at least, that the parody workshop description was mocking the kind of bland, self-content-yet-completely-non-self-aware racism that does more harm in the world (because there’s more of it) than the overt, in your face kind.
But…I heard people saying that the people who were upset by the Pantycon newsletter were essentially whiners looking for a grievance. I also heard other people saying the authors of Pantycon were “mean-spirited bullies.” I thought, whoa there. Can we be kind to each other for a minute? Some of the people who were objecting to the Pantycon parody were people I like and respect. I tried to figure out why they were taking that position.
You know, we Traditional Witches like our secrets. I’m not going to share anything oathbound, but I do have one secret I will share with you. It has made an unbelievable amount of difference in my life, and improved my relationships with other human beings in every conceivable way. Here it is:
Other people don’t have to react or feel or see the world exactly the way I do in order for me to have compassion and respect for them. I don’t even have to understand them…and if I try and fail, I stop to consider that it may be my own fault. Sometimes I may choose to have compassion for people at a distance, and in some cases I may conclude that they are in fact acting in bad faith. But I try not to assume that they are, and if I catch myself doing so, I try to stop and put the “what if they are being completely sincere” hat on before I let my first judgment become my final one. This is more difficult for a triple Capricorn, INFJ type person that you might imagine.
I also don’t think people have to always come to an exact agreement about something. Hell, I don’t even have to agree with myself. I can care about the sacred value of satire and the importance of honoring people’s feelings at the same time. Life is complicated. It’s ok.
If the sun shines down on me today
I will try to live in a better way
Please forgive me when I’m dizzy
That’s a part of living.