Evaluate Yourself

It’s important to realize that [people in the majority] benefit from several racist and sexist constructs of society by no direct action of your own. No one wants to blame you for the actions of others, or those of your ancestors. We just want things to get better for those who have been harmed by those same constructs.

White folks: if it’s not about you, then don’t sweat it. If someone says “white men are trash” and you know that you’re not a trash white man, it ain’t about you, let it go. If someone says “all white women clutch their pearls” but you know you don’t do that, it ain’t about you, let it go.

Our egos are literally the least important thing to be thinking about right now.

Being an ally doesn’t mean you’re perfect, but it DOES mean that when you screw up, you should be willing to listen to members of the affected minority that you’ve impacted and change your behavior to do better.

Being an ally specifically means that you’re going to work to learn from your mistakes and change how you act.

Being an ally DOES NOT MEAN saying “hey be nice to this other person who has done bad things to you and your people, because they’re a potential good ally and you don’t want to alienate them.”

That is not allyship. Allies don’t speak for other people. They support them in speaking for themselves.

This is an amalgamation of this post, this post, and this post.

Just Don’t.

Everyone’s Facebook wall (or blog or Insta or whatever) is their own to do with as they please. I’d never argue otherwise. But telling someone “if you don’t like it, leave” when an image gives them an actual panic attack is pretty unkind, and telling them that your fear & pain is more valid than theirs is shitty as fuck.

Manipulating someone else’s pain to try and assuage your own is even more shitty as fuck.

And justifying that by implying that it’s ok because they’re not your friend is the most shitty as fuck of all.

Nobody wins the Pain Olympics.

Always try to follow Wheaton’s Law.

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Make Sure They Have Enough

Originally posted December 23, 2019. I’m publishing it now, because whoa, relevant.

Louis CK turned out to be a burning trash dumpster of a person, but this sentiment still stands, and I tell my boys this all the time. You only worry about your neighbor’s bowl to make sure that they have enough.

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As Jadwiga said on the original post, “Don’t discount a truth just because you don’t like the person saying it.”

(Offer not valid for Orson Scott Card & JK Rowling.)

Unbelieving Compassion

Whatever Deities that may exist no longer reach down with their fingers or burning bushes in direct action. Look around you. See who needs help. Help them.

Act with the compassion of surety of someone who does not believe in a higher power, but in the needs of the people around them.

And when someone directly helps you, don’t thank a deity. Thank the person themselves.

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It Doesn’t Have to be Like This

Originally published as two separate posts on April 6 and April 7, 2018. I have chosen to republish it now, because it remains very relevant in September of 2020.

Today I worked from home, but left in the afternoon to come down to a going away party for another SingleHopper.

Getting into Union Station at 5pm means you’re the one late salmon swimming upstream, so I walked a slightly different way to get out of the station, which means I came out slightly more west than I normally do. As I headed north, west of the river, I came upon a young man, somewhere in his 20s, clearly homeless, cold, hungry, sitting on the freezing ground, and wracked with body-shaking sobs of despair.

And of course, since it was just after five, there were hundreds of people walking past him, ignoring or pretending to ignore him.

I was late to the party. I could have kept walking. I almost did keep walking, but I stopped instead.

I actually had a few dollar bills – not enough, of course, but I got them out to give to him. And I knelt down next to him and touched him on the arm to try to reach through his sorrow, and the first, ridiculous, heartbreaking thing he said to me was,

“I’m sorry. I’ve been so depressed.”

And part of me wanted to laugh in disbelief, and part of me wanted to weep in horror.

So I swallowed all of that, and gave him the money and asked him if I could buy him something to eat, which he turned down because someone had given him some granola bars earlier that day.

I tried to convince him to let me get him something, but he wouldn’t budge, and just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean I get to insist you take more of my charity than you want. So I said “good luck” and went on my way. The party was fun, and I got to see my friends, and we all spent money that probably could have been used better on drinks and ping-pong at the most ridiculous bar.

Of course, I looked for him on the way back to the train, but he wasn’t there. I’ll look for him more. But before I do, I’ll get to sleep in my bed, in my house, with my dearest wife, after checking on my amazing children, and then tomorrow, I’ll go to an event to be with other friends to watch people hit other people with sticks. And I’ll feel simultaneously overjoyed and terribly guilty about it.

But under all of it? Is all this:

Life is short and hard and the black dog always wins in the end. I spend a fair amount of my time bewildered about how and why human beings are terrible to each other.

We are failing as a country. As a people. As a planet. We have got to do better. I didn’t post this so people will tell me how great I am. I’m not. I left him there, and for all I know he’ll be dead before morning. And I left him there anyway.

People think I have no sense of humor. People think I’m too political. People think I waste my time posting memes about overturning the established order. Well, this is partly why. Because sometimes I cannot think of anything else to do.

And I will keep trying. But this post from Jim Wright ties in perfectly.

There are so many empty houses in America, we could house everyone. There’s so much food we could feed everyone. But instead, we’re obsessed with quarterly profits and shareholders.

Sure, I stopped and treated another human being with respect and caring and gave him a couple bucks so he could have some food, but in reality, I should never have had the interaction in the first place. He shouldn’t have been there.

Everyone should have shelter. Everyone should have food. Everyone should have health care.

You Can’t Run From the Things You’ve Done

Originally published April 18, 2019.

So I have a fair number of SCA friends who have two Facebook profiles. They do it for a variety of reasons: their job, their desire to keep groups of friends separated, their family doesn’t care for the SCA, and far be it from me to ever tell someone that they’re doing the SCA or Facebook wrong — you do you boo.

But there are some people who keep separate profiles because they say that “Bob Smith” is a different person from “Robert the Smith”. And, again, if that’s what you want, go for it, but I don’t, personally, think that it works. And it has to do with a fundamental belief and a fundamental part of my SCA philosophy.

People are who they show you they are.

There is no SCA life vs Real life, there’s just Life, and you are accountable for your choices.

The vast majority of my friends are in the SCA. I barely dated outside the SCA. I met my first wife in the SCA, and I met my second wife through an SCA friend. I go to something like 20-26 SCA events a year. I used to schedule my vacation time around the SCA. Heck, when I was in college, I’d quit my summer jobs in July because I knew I was going to go to Pennsic. For almost all of us, the SCA is a permanent, intertwined part of our lives. People like to say that it’s “just a hobby” but it’s really not. It’s our social universe. It’s our place to be. It’s our chosen family. And we are who we show people we are.

So if you’re a good person in the world of computers and electric stoves and carbon fiber, you’re likely to be a good person in the world of spears, vikings, madrigals. If you’re a shitty person in the world of banks and cars and televisions, you’re likely to be a shitty person in the world of catapults and pavilions and scrolls. And if you need to change the way people look at you, it’s probably going to take decades of work and disappointment. Ask me how I know.

In the end, you can’t run from the things you’ve done by creating a new Facebook profile for yourself. In the end, the truth comes out.

People are who they show you they are. And Life is just Life.

How Can the SCA Do Better?

Originally published January 1, 2019.

So it seems to me that there are two big issues facing the SCA right now:

1) problematic behavior, such as but not exclusively: sexual harassment and bigotry related to race, gender, orientation, gaslighting, etc.
2) the behavior we see when someone’s problematic behavior is called out – IE, calling a POC a bigot when they call for the SCA to boycott a hotel that promotes or allows racist behavior from its staff.

I am generally an in your face kind of guy about both of these kinds of behaviors. But a good worker has lots of tools in the toolbox. So many of you here on my friends list don’t like it that the SCA doesn’t seem to have a good plan for combating racism or gaslighting. The anti-discrimination policy doesn’t appear to have much by way of teeth.

What are ways we can push the SCA to take a more enlightened stance on these issues? How do we enable the SCA to do better?

The Person I’m Working On the Most is Me

Originally published December 9, 2018.

Folks. If you exit from a conversation with me claiming that it’s not worth it because all I want to do is prove I’m more “woke” than you on something you suddenly decide is unimportant, then you’re seriously missing the point, just like calling me an SJW in a pejorative manner misses the point.

Being woke isn’t a victory. Mostly it’s horrifying. And I don’t work at being socially aware to claim superiority. I do it for two reasons:

I do it because the person I’m working on the most is me. None of us is perfect, and as a cis-het-presenting white male, I need to be constantly evaluating myself, discovering my own problematic behaviors, and striving to do better. For a long time I’ve concentrated on moderating how I speak in the SCA; this is just an extension of that.

I also do it because as a cis-het-presenting white male, I consider it my job to be on the front lines, fighting sexism, transpbobia, homophobia, racism, classism, etc, and it’s my job to support minorities of all kinds in their fight as well. I pull aggro. I speak up. I make myself a target. And I do it on purpose.

Personally, I don’t feel that I can choose a type of systemic oppression to fight; I feel that I have to try and eradicate them all. That’s me; I don’t make choices for other people, but suggesting to me that all I’m trying to do is score points on something that’s “not important” doesn’t make me feel any worse than when you call me a social justice warrior. As if that’s a bad thing. All justice is social justice, folks. We are all called to fight for it. I’m proud to say I do.

Now, the point of this post is not to discuss problematic Christmas songs, but I’ll say this: I love the the music of “Baby it’s cold outside”, especially the covers that evoke the big-band heritage it comes from. Tom Jones & Cerys Matthews, belting it out in front of a few dozen horns, some saxaphones and clarinets, and a drummer, and it’s fantastic. I love it. I’m transported.

But only provided I ignore the words. Because there’s only two contexts the lyrics belong in: the historical one, and the modern one.

Historically, it’s about a woman who has to pretend that she’s being coerced into staying at her gentleman friend’s apartment, because in the culture of the time, she’s not allowed to have her own sexual agency. 1944 was not a time when most women could openly choose to sleep with whomever they chose.

And let’s be clear – 1944 isn’t that long ago. My father was alive in 1944. It’s barely been in my lifetime that people generally stopped thinking that husbands were allowed to force their wives to have sex with them.

And modernly, it’s a description of sexual harassment, at best, and rape at worst.

Either way, the woman in this song is subjected to the Patriarchy inflicting harm.

We need to be aware of these problems. We must evaluate such things critically, in our current context, because, well, that’s the context we live in. Why should sexual mores of the 1940s be treated one way, and the Confederate soldier memorials of the Jim Crow era be treated differently?

Because, remember folks – Jim Crow didn’t end till at – least – ten years after this song debuted.

We’re not talking ancient history here. And maybe that’s why it’s so hard.

Read this. It’s important. This kind of behavior didn’t suddenly become problematic. It’s always been a problem.

Star Wars Day 2018

Originally published May 25, 2018.

I’ve told this story before, I’m sure. I was seven years old when I saw Star Wars ANH, a few months after it was released, in my friend Billy Castle’s private movie theater. I was about six feet from the screen, and the sight of the Star Destroyer endlessly passing into the scene had an enormous impact on my seven year old mind.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this movie, but it has to be in the hundreds if not the thousands. And the basic concepts of Star Wars, of the Republic and the Rebellion, that fascism must be defeated, that people must be free, that the fight to keep that freedom is ongoing – I may not have realized it at seven years of age, but that’s when I learned them. Because, after all, Star Wars has – always – been political, and has always been about the downtrodden rising up against their oppressors.

No one should be surprised that I love the new Star Wars movies too. And I am happy to report that Charlie and Ben do as well. Because the fight will go on after those of us who were born with Star Wars are gone.

Happy Star Wars Day, and may the Force be with you.