For many of us, those middle school and high school years were the worst. I went from a small private school where I had been through 6th grade into a county junior high school that had a complex and inscrutable caste system. I was fortunate to find a few good friends–freaks like me. We helped each other survive the shaming, the bullying, the fear.
High school was a little better–it was a big enough circus that there was a freak show for almost everyone: the art kids, the shop kids, the jocks, the greasers, the 4Hers. Each one a little hierarchy and each in a particular status order. The athletes and cheerleaders stood at the peak–mostly untouchable (though the art kids and the smart kids mocked them mercilessly and always behind their backs).
We’re not in seventh grade anymore but you wouldn’t necessarily know that by spending time in the Pagan blogosphere. The recent controversy around Kenny Klein’s arrest has brought out the best and the worst in our communities. Some of the Comment Wars in popular blogs have all the trappings of the seventh grade lunchroom–the sarcasm, the name-calling, the ego-explosions. It isn’t pretty and it smells bad, as those old school cafeterias did. You can also smell the fear and taste the anger–sour , bitter fruit from a community known for specializing in emotional cannibalism.
There is little discussion in the flying accusations and recriminations. And so many people are silent–triggered or disgusted or despairing, we don’t know. They are quiet on the big stage of social media. But I have seen some of these walking wounded. I have looked into haunted eyes, held clammy hands, heard old and new stories of abuse and betrayal at the hands of people once trusted.
Their people. My people.
This isn’t seventh grade, friends, and I am not one of the cool kids. Chances are you aren’t either. We have to stop making “leaders” and “Elders” out of people who may only have one qualification–cool. We have to stop looking to some upper caste without some sort of deep discernment and then having our hearts broken when the star of the moment de-converts and goes back to Christianity, or simply stops self-identifying as Pagan.
And when something terrible happens in our community, our first thought and the right action should be to comfort the wronged and set up protocols to insure the terrible thing doesn’t happen again. Because we’re not the cools kids and this isn’t seventh grade. We have agency. We have power. We have responsibility.
We are the leaders. All of us