A few words passed between a pair of individuals – seemingly harmful and hateful, but the immediacy of all that will pass. Much like sticks and stones, words can hurt. They certainly can sting quite a bit at the moment. However, the elixir of time will be a salve well used. Well, in most cases. Some folks will take the time to hang on to those moments of anger, and slowly feed that hot ember until the desired moment arises where its fires will consume the world around the individual, providing that ultimate revenge. I know. I’ve seen the start where that passing of words happens, and after a few years overseas in the military, I came back to the smoking remains of what was a thriving, cooperative local pagan community. And I have seen it happen time and time since then. The variations change from instance to instance, and the circumstances are different enough to be considered unique from one another, but still much the same framework of the narrative.
Every time I see it happen, even in my much wider online communities, I still am sad. I watch people take up sides on some of the barest specks of evidence I have ever seen produced. I’ve watched them dig their trenches deep, set their weaponry to cover the distance between their trench-line and that of the opposition – ready to ensure nothing lives between. A literal depiction of this side or that. And that’s where the sad in me starts to come out. That people cannot, even for the tiniest moment, hold out a hope of a spot of common ground, somewhere that dialogue can be had. Somewhere that civility can live.
Yes, I can hold out hope for that common ground, that place of civility between myself and someone I am diametrically in opposition to. Can I have civility with a person who is a known animal abuser and is unapologetic about their behavior? Yes, I can. Just as I would hope a Dominionist Christian could want civil dialogue with me, an unabashed, unapologetic, hard-Polytheist, Pagan Druid. Because I believe that in every individual there exists the ability to be a civil-mannered individual that acknowledges the beauty of someone else’s existence as a human being as well. Even if just for a moment. Even if all they can do is stub their toe into the edges of that common ground.
Why? Because I am stupid and foolish and naive when it comes to my fellow human beings. Because I am empathetic to the people that fuck up and never get provided the chance to change who they are. Not the second chance. Or the third. Or the fourth. Or the ninetieth. The whatever chance. I don’t care enough to count the number of times. I want them to change who they are because they see how much others want to believe in THEM – no matter what they did or might have done. Yes, I am all for being careful in all of these chances being provided for them to change. Yes, I believe they need to be treated warily and with caution from here to the day that they die and move into the beyond. But in all of that, I want them to have those multiple chances. Because I don’t want to give up on them.
I have been there. I remember how fucking hard it was. No one wanted to help. No one cared enough to help. Why? Because I fucked up and betrayed what they thought was the image of me. Karma decided to be instant in my life, and bite me in the ass thrice. I lost the people that were my family. I lost their trust. And in all of that, I lost the only paying job I had. I had the pleasure of starting all over again. And I deserved that. And I was very lucky that someone else took a chance on who they thought I could be. And from all of that, I have arrived where I am now. Three degrees: a Bachelors and two Masters degrees. Three more degrees and a high school diploma my father never got in his lifetime. All because someone saw the potential, and kept pushing me back to the straight and narrow pathway that I needed to walk. And I remember all of that….
…and I cry when I watch my Pagan community rip itself apart over the slightest this or that. I hear Pagans talk about how Christians want to just destroy all Pagans to rid the world of our beliefs. We do more than half their work on our own while waiting for only the smell of burning sulfur dioxide from a match to signal the moment we start that race.
Maybe I am stupid. Maybe I am naive. Maybe I do fart cherry-flavored rainbows on Sunday. But I do believe in more than just a second chance for people. Because I believe there is a good person somewhere in every person. And where others might be willing to give up on that, I certainly am not. Because I believe in you. I believe in what you mean to other people in your life. And I am not willing to see you as diseased flesh to be given up on. Just realize, not giving up on you does not mean I won’t protect myself or others near and dear to me from you. I trust you, but I do have some limits.