Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ender Darling and Pagan Policing

A warning before I begin that this essay does mention police brutality, child abuse, and rape.  This is also a fairly long essay, but keep in mind I've been bottling up a lot of thoughts about this case and why it bugs me so much.

I haven't written here in a stunningly long period of time (I've been writing elsewhere about less obviously political things like my decision to try stopping hormones and my adventures in pickling vegetables and smoking meats), but every once in a while I do get that tug that I need to write about something here, and this is one of those times.

If you haven't heard of the Ender Darling controversy, here are the basics.  A nonbinary Witch named Ender Darling posted a Facebook post asking if anybody wanted human bone they had been scavenging from a poor persons' cemetery.  This blew up on Tumblr, which I can only assume included copious use of the phrase "problematic af."  Eventually local law enforcement figured it out, resulting in Darling's home being raided, charges brought against them for trafficking in human parts, burglary, and drug charges.  Darling's opinion on this is fairly predictable, and I'm paraphrasing:  "I didn't know it was illegal."  "I didn't dig parts up."  "I wasn't selling them I just asked for shipping."  And my personal favorite, "Nature gave me those bones by putting them in my path."  Darling's friends argue that the whole issue is due to their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and other factors such as that.

This is the kind of story that stresses me the fuck out, because on the one hand, I have no love for Darling's entitled, ignorant, insensitive behavior.  But the media coverage and especially the public Pagan opinions about this are also infuriating bullshit, which is most of what I've been craving to write about.  Some things that strike me as important to write about include:
  • Darling's entitlement complex is actually the norm for Pagans and not some outlandish exception.
  • The Pagan community constantly proves how little anybody within it cares to understand traditions outside of their own.
  • The Pagan community has been handling their gender identity about as well as I'd expect, by which I mean badly.
  • Nothing about Ender Darling's case will change the fact that it resulted in a trans person's home being raided by police, and a bunch of people cheering that fact on.
  • Since it's a couple days after Gavin Frost's death and only like 1/10 of articles on this event point out he was a child rape advocate, I'll just put it out there that you're all shitty character witnesses anyway.
So first I want to talk about that entitlement.  Pagans are a super entitled bunch.  We really are.  And when we're called out for it, our reactions are basically no better than Darling's.  I'm reminded of how defensive Pagans get when it's pointed out that we're wearing illegal bird feathers or appropriating indigenous spirituality.  Seriously, if you read the comments on anything regarding fallen feathers, you get people proclaiming that their God or Goddess, or Nature, or an animal spirit, or some other being left it there specifically for them and therefore neither the law nor common woodland etiquette (as we all know law on its own doesn't dictate morality) applies to them.  And that's not even touching on the fact that most people genuinely for whatever reason don't realize that these laws exist; they think it only applies to eagles, or even just bald eagles, or they think if they video record themselves picking the feather off the ground it makes it legal, or it's legal if they're 1/16th Native American.  This is the case with both legal and ethical issues.  We all have so steadfastly accepted that our personal gnosis is infallible that we cross these lines all the time and get really pissy and offended when that's pointed out.

Because of issues like this, I would not be one iota surprised of Darling was 100% telling the truth when they said they didn't know they were breaking any laws.  Did they know they were doing something that most Witches would call immoral?  I'm less inclined to believe that, but that brings me to my next point:  Pagan outrage over practices we don't like is so cartoonishly overblown and whiny that the fact that We Don't Like A Thing is just not a deterrent, and rightfully goddamn so.

I mean, a bunch of people got together to curse a fucking rapist and Raymond Buckland, one of the most well-known Pagan authors still living, decided to pitch a pissfit about it on Facebook, crying about the fact that we even dare call ourselves Witches for doing A Thing He Doesn't Like.  Later he tried pretending that he didn't mean to talk about people outside of his tradition, but this honestly makes no sense whatsoever so the only conclusion I can come to is that Raymond Buckland has no idea how diverse Witchcraft is (an alarming trait for somebody so well respected).  We hear soundbites from fluffy bunny authors and mentors like "Witches don't curse," "Witches don't perform animal sacrifice," "Witches don't use human bones," "Witches don't use their athames to cut," absolutely none of which are true and all of which have ethical circumstances.  But how do people learn things like the ethics of using human bones or how to most safely use an athame to carve or cut or when to cast a curse if we cast out people who talk about that sort of thing?

Next, it gets my hackles up that even the Pagan media is doing things like deadnaming Ender Darling, avoiding pronouns rather than using the pronouns they used.  I understand that maybe some of these sources just don't know and are erring on the side of caution, but so many do this while also quoting close friends who use "they."  Seriously.  I expect this bullshit from mainstream newspapers but when I see it in queer and Pagan media I just internally freak the fuck out.

What's also making me freak the fuck out is the fact that this case involves a nonbinary person getting their home raided by police over something which, while certainly disrespectful and illegal, was not an imminent threat to anybody.  Think about that for a minute.  And then think about how many people on all streams of media--from Tumblr to the Pagan media to the queer media to mainstream media--is sitting around calling for blood, hoping their life is ruined, not concerning themselves at all with the ethics of sending a bunch of fucking cops to a trans person's house, hoping upon hope that they get locked in a prison that will likely not accommodate them and would almost definitely put them at serious risk over something that was ignorant as fuck but probably not even malicious.

Meanwhile, people who stand to make thousands or even millions of dollars destroying graves and monuments over sand or oil pipes are merely called "controversial" and I'm willing to bet none of these people will ever have to deal with cops breaking down their doors for it.

Speaking of controversial, there's one more thing about this that I just can't let go, which is that recently with the death of Gavin Frost there has been all this coverage talking about how he and Yvonne were "controversial" figures, maybe pointing out that they had "old timey" beliefs, treating them like an ignorant aunt and uncle who were merely set in their ways, and practically none of them are pointing out the fact that "controversial" refers to the fact that the Frosts wrote a ritual instructing how to intoxicate and rape a barely pubescent child.  If you're particularly masochistic go ahead and read some of the comments people leave about this, too.  On the Wild Hunt the comment feed has an ongoing piss fit where people explain what the Frosts wrote in their book, how it explicitly details raping a child, and rather than admit "oh, maybe 'controversial' isn't the right word to use for this" they go on and on about how there's no proof anybody actually followed their instructions.  The article itself also spends a hell of a lot of real estate talking about how great Gavin Frost was while euphemistically avoiding the whole rape-a-child-for-Wiccan-initiation thing except to say that he was "controversial" and that meanie Pagans who don't want pedophile apologists at our events stopped inviting him to speak.

This is across-the-board shit, too, with people saying bullshit like "well this three year old kid should have known James Irvin wasn't a good person because he called himself a 'Warlock'" or acting like people who tell stories of how Kenny Klein harassed them at Pagan gatherings are just trying to get fifteen minutes of fame after he was charged with child pornography.  I titled this "Worst Witch in the World?" for a reason.  People are legitimately acting like Ender Darling has performed some huge slight on the planet for essentially being a disrespectful dolt while just sort of ignoring how long our whole community has turned and looked away from literal abusers.

The point is, we have some pretty damn skewed priorities when it comes to the people whose heads we demand on a pike.  What Ender Darling needs isn't for their life to be ruined, it's for actual direction and counsel so they can practice their religion in a more respectful manner (something unlikely to happen now that the Pagan community has shown itself to be just as bloodthirsty as the rest of the country), and none of us benefit from police raids sent on trans Pagans.