Complicity in the Faith


Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
Makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter.
Christina Aguilera, “Fighter.”

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only love can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Martin Luther King Jr.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  I’ve blogged about this before, but today: I feel my friend standing behind me.  Skinny. Blond.  Troubled.  Bullied.  And now, gone.  But I feel him, and I remember the first time I stood up for someone.  It wouldn’t be the last.

If for no other reason, I loved S.W. for his tenacious refusal to stop eating lunch in the cafeteria.  I will never fully understand how bullying plays out in other regional arenas, but y’all: in the South it is brutal.  All our mommas knew each other, got their “hair did” together, and all our daddies played golf together.  And so, when S. W. sat there–slowing pulling away piece by piece of his publicly-funded pizza, spit balls flying around his head like heart-breaking falling stars, tears running down his face–and kept chewing like a man on fire?  I knew then.  I knew then that I would lose my “group,” lose my date to the middle-school prom and lose my heart to fight for him.

And I did. You see, it had gotten around my slow, sleepy Alabama town that S.W. was, in fact, gay.  Now, we didn’t call it that then.  I wouldn’t speak the filth that deemed him different anymore than I would desecrate his grave.  His crime was, in all actuality, not about this strange and alien condition in Alabama, but rather that he had stood against an injustice the week before.  Had cowboyed right up, firmly on those scrawny white legs, and thrown his arm around a black friend during kick-ball.  And that was all it took.

S. W. was popular.  He was from a “good” family (heavy denotation in the Deep South), and had incited quite a well of discontented jealousy from other boys in our community for his blond locks, blue eyes and fresh fashion.  Poor thing, he was asking for it, I reckon.  Standing out like that, making others feel all green.  And so, the day he stood against a team of bubbas–those large-nosed, pot-bellied boys who blamed him for their lack–it was all over but the crying.  They had their “crime” to justify their rage and insecurity.  And shit got real, y’all.

The truth was, he was gay.  Now, until this moment: that was all fine as rain.  See, in the South, there’s this quiet acceptance of the homosexual male, long as he stays in the beauty parlor or the antique shop and adopts the position of “quaint.”  Don’t ask, don’t tell.  He’s just a little “funny-like” and decorates the deacon’s house, etc.  That is, until he gets a bit uppity and calls on those friendships.  And then . . . A firey little powerhouse of a sprite decides to call bullspit on the whole thing and sit with him in the cafeteria.

It was my very first Gay Pride moment.  Parade of two.  And: bite me.

Now, he knew what I was: a little witch who played in streams, cast in dreams and drew pentagrams on my math book.  And he held that secret, even as he was drowning.  Mostly, on account of (as he said then at thirteen): Stand together.  Fall separately.  (A strange and Southern mutation of All for One, One for All.  Or United We Stand, Divided We Fall.  The boy read entirely too much legend and took words too literally.)  I took him at his word.  But I think part of me went with him to the Earth.

I thought of him today.  I think of him often.  So thin and brave and more intelligent than the lot of them.  So alone, even as I held his hand in a spit-ball rain.  Strangely, I now think of my friend, Joe.  (What a lunch crowd in my head.  Breakfast Club: Deconstructed.)  Joe: devout Catholic.  Disagrees with me on so much, worries for my soul, stands beside me with his sword drawn on premise.  I suppose, I have become his S.W.–although he would disagree with his homosexuality, as well.  What strange bedfellows religion and politics create for us when hearts don’t align with heads.  Joe gives me faith in the lost values of Christianity, he does.  He doesn’t have to agree with me to love me.  And he knows a bully when he smells one. But that’s just it.

And brings me to my idea today.  Complicity.  How many nobel moments have met dust for it?  How many times have we all thought to ourselves “not my problem?”  How very alone I feel–not for lack of love, that is for sure.  But for lack of comradery.  Where have all the warriors gone?  We see injustice, know its smell, know its footprint across sacral ground, and then rationalize: I could get hurt, too, if I attempt to assuage this path.  They will be fine, we assure ourselves.  I will just be there if they need a shoulder, they say to themselves.

To those who think these (rational) things, I would tell them: you might be right.  You are certainly within your rights.

But then?  I would tell them that S.W. killed himself.  I alone was not enough, at that young age, to give him the support and conviction he needed to build a strong front against bullies.  Sometimes, I lay awake in bed fantasizing about what ifs.  What if the cheerleader, the nerd shaking in a corner, the black football player and the teacher had joined us at that table?  What if it had been enough in his world to know that he was not alone?  What if, later in his life, he had remembered that solidarity and had become someone who did the same thing?  Oh, I’m sure.  It is not our fault.  So many other factors, right?? Right??

On my birthday that year, he wrote me a note.  It simply said: “I wish there were more of you.” Today, I send S.W.’s note out into the world.  Complicity is worse than aggression.  For in it, there are more choices and more chances for change.  As magic folk, as Pagans, we hold the power to become the powerhouse, the voice that breaks the backs of monsters, the arms that rock the future of our children.  What we don’t do will be much more damaging, and historical, than what we do.  

Circa 1982.

Y’all know I am not making light of our situation.  Our gatherings, events, circles and Pride days are lovely.  We wear our t-shirts, put badges on our sites and stickers on our car.  It’s just that: it ain’t enough, y’all.  How will we be part of history?  How will our names be remembered in the tapestry of human struggle?  Shall we be complicit, safe and granted immunity in order that our lives remain peaceful and smooth?

Funny how that answer suddenly changes when it’s our ass on the line. (And believe me, the echo of crickets and silence is the loudest sound.)  As for me, I cannot inhabit the spirit of Witch, nor echo that of my ancestors, in complicity.  I reckon: you don’t have to be a warrior to know when to fight for justice–nor be that “adept” to recognize complacency where there should be action. And sometimes, just drawing up a chair is enough.  I see a lot of empty chairs ’round here.  Just sayin’.

I will wait for you in the cafeteria.  Look for the witch child with spit balls in her hair.  (And, S.W.: I am trying to become more.) Seba

For all of us who forced us to fight.  We thank you.


18 Comments on “Complicity in the Faith

  1. My lil group and I were talking the other night at our favorite meeting/pizza place…about love. And how, one way or another, EVERYTHING we do revolves around love. Much like your MLK quote above. Sign me up. 🙂 Much love – Robin (Amaya)

  2. I know you don’t know me, but I just wanted to say how much this post really touched me. It’s not about my personal situation or anything, but I want to be more than, I want to Be that person that I needed. So, thank you for the well-timed reminder. 🙂

    • Thank you for speaking here. 🙂 And the impulse you speak of: it’s everything. Everything. This means that you are already someone’s potential hope, waiting to happen. Blessings to you. Seba

  3. It has long been my contention, both having been a bullied kid and defending those who were bullied, that cowardice perpetuates more evil than any of the so-called “Seven Deadly Sins.” I’m sitting with Seba; who’s comin’ over?

  4. The very thought of school make my stomach quiver in memory. But we did grow up, most of us. We pick our own table now. I’ll sit with ya’ll. You want half my Nutty Bar?

  5. We survived our bullies. I realize now that isn’t a given. I OWE those back there who couldn’t hold on and those now (and to be) who won’t be able to hang in there by themselves. It’s scary contemplating all those old scars, but silence isn’t an option, is it?

  6. I am sitting here tears streaming off my face. I am so glad this was shared on facebook. I know the story you share far to well. Thank you thank you. With your permission I’d like to share on my page and my website. ❤

  7. When I was very young, I was bullied because I wasn’t cool, because my mother had a mental illness, because my dad was a farmer. My first suicide attempt at age 14 landed me in inpatient treatment for 3 months, and there I learned how to smoke and I learned how to appear that I didn’t care. By the time I hit my new high school, I was Hell on wheels. I didn’t hesitate to stand up for the gay students, the disabled, the picked on for any reason, and everyone believed I was not afraid. Something changed several years into my marriage. And it wasn’t until he had been gone for a while that I started to remember what it was like to be brave and to be on the side of truth and to do what is right rather than what is expedient. And now I am here, and I know what my favorite color is again (purple, BTW), and again I can stand up for those who need it, and sometimes I can even stand up for myself.

    • Purple. The color of hope. I am so glad I had a chance to know you in grad school. You are a bright, brave, wonderful spirit of a woman, you are! And I love you. Fiercely.

  8. Reblogged this on The Being Artemis Project and commented:
    There is a war going on. A war within ourselves and a war of love v. fear. Stand up for those who need you. There is strength in love for others. Sometimes the simplest gesture takes the greatest courage. It could be what makes the difference in someone’s personal battle. Speak up!!

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