Is the Pagan community (being used here as an umbrella term) really as tolerant of diversity as we would like to think we are? Or are we just fooling ourselves?
Admittedly, to some, Christian Day is a character; that is to say he has the reputation of being over-the-top in manner and dress. For one thing, he wears eyeliner and black clothing, not your everyday ensemble commonly worn by the Stepford Wife drones in big business. So he stands out in a crowd. And he is unabashedly bombastic in a P.T. Barnum kind of way due to his mastery of public relations manipulation; after all, he does have a PR background. He knows about 'branding' and how to promote himself and from what I have heard from those visiting Salem, his shops are fairly successful. In today's economy, you have to give him credit for keeping two businesses alive, particularly because they are focused on a targeted audience.
So, we have a rather noticeable, flamboyant individual going about the streets of Salem, Massachusetts in heavy eyeliner and flowing, witch clothing...a witch dressed as the public stereotype of a witch...in Salem...hummmmm...and people are whispering about it. Given the reputation of the place and it's carnival atmosphere ,and the fact that there are literally dozens of people who dress that way walking the streets ( not to mention tourists), the surprise here for me is that anyone can pick Christian Day out of the crowd.
Oh, and by the way...Oberon Zell-Ravenheart obliged photographers from the notorious Daily Mail tabloid by grocery shopping in full wizard's robes including a pointed hat a couple of weeks ago. Apart from a few snarky remarks from people who were obviously negative complainers by vocation, the event was largely forgotten in our community. Compare the definitions in mainstream dictionaries for the word wizard, and it's probably going to mention 'sorcery' in a negative light. Moving right along...
Some things in the perception of the general public just don't change quickly, and other's don't change at all. It took centuries before the Protestant Christian Church stopped thinking of Roman Catholics as cannibals due to the transmogrification of the mundane elements into the body and blood of Christ during the ritual of the Eucharist. They called them baby eaters, among a few other choice untruths. And they accused them of being ceremonial magicians, which is uncomfortably more truthful than most Pagans would like to admit.
It's all laid down to personal perspective...all of the above. And that perspective is colored by intolerance of diversity, the lack there of which is prejudice.
Let's be brutally honest: it's a bit of all of the above. Christian Day is different:he disturbs the staus quo. That makes a lot of people uncomfortable.
And I know this because it's human nature to fear and reject what is different and what we do not understand. We are made uncomfortable by "the other", or more to the point, because religious orientation for many of us comes out of a system where the different, the abnormal, the dark, "the other" is considered wrong, vile, and sacrilegious...and as hard as most of us work to overcome those feelings, they are so deeply ingrained in our collective psyche that we are hypersensitive to those feelings because they claw at our very core as an individual.They continue to undermine who we think we are. We are wounded and bleeding from this attack on our very foundation of being...and then someone like Christian Day comes along and whatever he represents to us, whatever perception we assign to what we see in him and project on him, picks at our scabs.
I understand all of that, but it doesn't excuse all the vitriolic behavior and threats of violence some have aimed at him. In a community where "Harm None" is a mandate and not just a catch phrase, we need to do better, not just for ourselves and but for our public image as well. It 's just so much bullshit that we don't care how we are perceived by the public or by those in mainstream religions. It's cavalier and self-deluding. We do care if we are blown off as a bunch of loonies who dress up in Halloween costumes 365 days a year, or that we are evil, or simply mentally disturbed. We don't like being pushed out to the margins to reside with the lunatic fringe...in fact, collectively we fear it more than anything.No one likes to be negated or dismissed.
I had to ask myself," Are pagans any better at accepting diversity than the religons we left?
The answer is a resounding, "No."
We are no different than other religions in that we fear diversity, and lack tolerance ...but we need to admit it, first to ourselves and then to others. We need to swallow a very large slice of humble pie we have served ourselves so we can learn discernment and drop our propensity to be judgemental and fearful. We need to transcend human nature, and if we succeed, that will be quite a bit of magick in and of its self....and we will have to keep learning these lessons because our human nature will fight it and we will forget...the proof being that history ( no matter whose ) continues to repeat its self .
Singling out one individual to bash and cat-call is a waste of energy because we have given over our power to everything surrounding that situation that is negative. It has nothing to do with the individual and what he/she represents to us, but it has everything to do with what we make of ourselves and the negativity we create for ourselves.
Grace and Peace to you...Blessed Be.