It is time to have that long overdue discussion on the parodox of tolerance and why we need to stop making excuses for people’s bad and even abusive behavior.
Yes, there are times when people who have done some good in the past, are our fellow initiates/pagans/polytheists/co-religionists, and even those we consider to be family exhibit inappropriate behavior and speech. And if we genuinely respect them, we should call them on it. No one is above reproach; we cannot sit back and make excuses for people no matter who or what they are.
And yet I see it happening all the time, this constant enabling and condoning of what should never be tolerated in a million years. I’ve watched one person “stand by his brother and have his back” while said brother sexually harassed women and went on racist and homophobic rants, or bleat out the terrible excuse of “but he’s done so much good in the past” on another who compared the treatment of neo-Nazis to the treatment of people who are LGBTQIA+. I don’t know what I’m looking at here. Is it Stockholm Syndrome? It reeks of making excuses for the abuser: “But he loves me, honest. He just sometimes loses his temper and mistakes happen” when they’re sporting a black eye and other bruises.
It needs to stop. Heck, even Crowley who was as problematic as hell had some things to say on this, expanded from the “unbalanced mercy is weakness and unbalanced severity is but oppression” speech from the Neophyte ceremony of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn:
“Remember that unbalanced force is evil; that unbalanced severity is but cruelty and oppression; but that also unbalanced mercy is but weakness which would allow and abet Evil. Act passionately; think rationally; be Thyself.” – Aleister Crowley, Liber Librae
I can’t believe I’m quoting Crowley, but here we are. And he’s right; being moderate isn’t about being tolerant of intolerance. It’s about not allowing intolerance to flourish and standing up on behalf of already marginalized communities of people who are among us. Tolerating intolerance is the epitome of unbalanced mercy, and it does not matter who or what is doing it.
If these people are of high degrees, grades, ranks, titles, then they should be held to an even greater standard, not less. I don’t care how long they’ve served in our communities, I don’t care what they’ve done for us in the past, I don’t care what groups they run or books they’ve written or co-authored. If they’re spouting transphobic, misogynistic TERF-y crap, they should not be welcomed in open circles. If they’re racist, homophobic, and engage in bigoted speech, why are people continuing to call them their brothers and sisters? We shouldn’t be tolerating their prejudice and their hate. They are not proper people, they are not adepts. There is no virtue in condoning their bigotry and saying nothing when they express it. Making excuses for them does not help the problem and it only supports it. Silence gives assent.
And when they talk to us queer, polytheistic female witches from Jewish families that not tolerating Nazis is the same as not tolerating gay people, they are demonstrating one very particular thing: that they themselves are drowning in so much societal advantages that they cannot see how their behavior, policies, and actions are endangering people who have long been discriminated against and even killed for who and what they are. They are telling people that they will look the other way when people try to pass laws against marginalized groups of people or vote for people who would dehumanize others in both speech and action.
In short, if you stand with people and defend them when they say and do things that support people’s continued oppression and dehumanization, you are saying that you cannot be trusted. And believe me when I say that we’ll believe you on that.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” – Maya Angelou