Monday, May 15, 2017

Problematic Pagan Leaders: a search for the next generation of BNPs

Kenny Klein was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison for multiple counts of possession of child porn. Klein has been a public Pagan presence for decades, publishing books, performing music, and teaching his brand of Wicca around the country. His influence in our community is undeniable, and so is the fact that his arrest, trial, and conviction have rocked our community. Klein's recent sentencing left me wondering about the state of Pagan leadership, of publicly Pagan voices who are willing to make this community's betterment their life's work. It's also left me wondering about badly behaving Pagan leaders...and just how long our community is going to tolerate them. 

When news of Klein's sentencing first came out, I spent time in the following days reviewing the articles written about his initial arrest. As I said on the recent episode of my podcast
recent episode of my podcast, the article I wrote about Klein's arrest is the most read article I've ever written on this blog. It also carries the distinction of being the most commented. In the three years since Klein's arrest, dozens of people have come forward to publicly or anonymously consign to the idea that Klein's behavior was at least suspected - and some fear it may have been known - by the community; by festival organizers, venue owners, promoters of all sorts, and attendees. 

What might shock many is that this kind of behavior could be known, or suspected, and nothing be done about it. That dozens and dozens of people could come forward in recent years stating what they knew or what they personally experienced in relation to Klein's proclivities and it took a police raid to stop him. Predators go years without ever getting caught by authorities. Some never do. That's not because they're especially good at hiding their crimes; it's because people are afraid to step forward, or afraid to accuse someone of something so heinous and then be wrong. I don't necessarily fault someone for having those kinds of fears. I have never been in a situation where I was faced with accusing a personal of child sexual assault. That's the kind of thing that haunts a person, even if the accusation is proved false. Google is not very forgiving in the aftermath of such charges.

A Pagan Wall of Silence 


Klein's conviction, however, exists on a spectrum of bad behavior that is tolerated by our community. In the sentencing hearing for the Wiccan priest, the judge stated that he had an almost equal number of people writing to support Klein as wrote in to condemn him. We protect our own, our Pagan community does. It put me in mind of what is known as the "Blue Curtain" - otherwise known as the "blue wall of silence" or "blue code" or "blue shield". It's a concept that I learned about in Criminology 101. It's the idea that police go to great lengths to keep from reporting bad, often criminal, behavior when the act is committed by a fellow police officer. 

The blue wall of silence exists, because police feel that their experience as police officers binds them to a community of men and women who will never be understood by most. That the actions and decisions they must make on a daily basis gives them a unique worldview that allows their misconduct to be viewed through the context of "being a police officer". Most citizens, when asked, if they looked at much of police misconduct - and this is seen time and again when cases of police brutality arise - have a range of views about whether police actions are illegal or simply existing under an intersecting group of circumstances us mere citizens could not possibly understand. (In case you care, I exist in the former category.)

Pagans have their own wall of silence. Pagans are a small group. According to the best data - the US Census - that we have on the matter, we comprise approximately 0.03% of the United States population. There aren't many of us. And the folks that could be considered Pagan celebrities are an even smaller group. They are a handful of living authors and musicians and community leaders that chooose to make their living, in whole or in part, from service to our small but mighty group. 

Defining Pagan Leadership


What does it take to be a Pagan leader? Honestly, I'm not sure. Visibility is certainly one requirement. People should know who you are. Performing some kind of service, whether it's teaching classes or running a magazine or furthering legislation, is also probably up there in criteria. Identifying yourself as being under the Pagan umbrella is probably important. Beyond that...I don't know. Being a Pagan leader, defining what that role looks like, is only slightly less vague than defining what being "Pagan" actually means. 

Can you be a Pagan leader and not think of yourself as being a Pagan leader? Sure, if the criteria fit. Are you a visible, influential voice in the Pagan community? Do people listen to what you say on some kind of public scale? Well, my dude, you're probably a Pagan leader. As such, what you say, where you say it, and how you say it matters. Not only does it matter to the curious muggle who might be doing a cursory search on Paganism and come across your blog post or podcast episode or YouTube video or local radio/tv interview, but it matters to the folks inside the community as well looking to you for guidance in how to navigate their magical lives. 

Bad Behavior on a Spectrum


Pagan leader misconduct is not relegated to criminal acts of universally acknowledged deplorable behavior like Klein. As I've stated before, it exists on a spectrum - as does all human behavior. Dorothy Morrison got into some hot water this past year with a series of posts on social media that many read as tone deaf when it came to issues regarding people of color. Folks like Z. Budapest and Christian Day seem to not go a calendar year without some kind of public statement or action that either belittles a marginalized group or actively victimizes an already marginalized group. Budapest became quite famous in recent years for her adversarial, transphobic comments and exclusionary rules surrounding her classes at Pantheacon. She has also made numerous homophobic statements over the years, well documented in her own blogs. Christian Day, consummate narcissist and self promoter, has gone from the embarrassing - the infamous Charlie Sheen curse - to the depraved - a 2014 rant in which he joked about hoping that a woman got raped and screamed his name during the act. 

Our community is rife with problematic leaders, as many communities are. From Wiccan founder Gerald Gardner to the Ferrars to Anton LeVay to the Llewellyn darling Scott Cunningham, we are quite forgiving when it comes to either rumors of misconduct or outright bad behavior on public display. And that is to be understood. That is nothing new. Most communities have problematic leaders, especially in retrospect. As society and ideologies evolve, we tend to embrace inclusivity and deride outdated mores that do not serve current morality. We overlook Gardner's homophobia or relegate it to the context of time and place. And...fine. 

In lieu of good options we seem to be perfectly content with "problematic but at least they exist". Nobody else is applying for the job, so let's keep rehiring the same old faces, and I'm not sure I'm ok with that standard anymore. 

The Next BNP Generation


As we go forward as a community, I wonder how many leaders we are going to have to excuse. How many more Kenny Klein's are supported by our community, despite those in the know at least suspecting criminality, for want of a Pagan celebrity? How many festival organizers or Pagan conventions have hired problematic Pagan leaders, because they knew they could draw in more numbers than a more obscure or new voice with less of a following? How many shop owners get begrudging Pagan dollars, despite the rhetoric of the owner, because there aren't that many brick and mortar Pagan shops? 

The truth is there aren't a lot of Pagan dollars to go around. Being a small community means that there is only so far that our reach can extend. Events geared towards our community need a name to attach if they even have a prayer of getting enough attendance and entry fees to make the event worth holding. The economics of problematic Pagan leadership is likely the most concerning and the most likely way of correcting the issue going forward. Festivals need money and attendance in order to exist, and bringing on a big name helps with that, but with that Big Name Pagan can come a host of intersectionally problematic issues. 

Not many new voices are being added to the Big Name Pagan roster. How many authors in the last decade have achieved the same heights of the Silver Ravenwolfs or the Scott Cunninghams of the 90s? How many public Pagan commentators have garnered as much attention as Christian Day can with one Charlie Sheen video? 

If we want quality Pagan leaders that work to uplift the community, then we need to support them. We need to be on the lookout for the next Selena Fox, founder of Circle Sanctuary and one of the main reasons why Pagan soldiers can now have the Pentacle on their tombstone. We need to give our time and attention and workspace and teaching slots and author contracts and podcast subscriptions and blog clicks to folks who are making positive change. We need to make being a Pagan leader a much more attractive job opportunity if we want the next generation of Pagan leadership to be one which we are proud to claim. I want more TV spots focusing on people like David Salisbury (if you haven't seen his Samhain interview...get thee to YouTube...it's a master class in how to give an interview as a Pagan) and less on folks seeking attention to promote their ego. 

Who, in your view, is the next Big Name Pagan? Who do YOU look to in our community for leadership? What ways can YOU think of to better promote the next generation of Pagan leadership?

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Episode 109: Inciting A Protest Riot


Episode 109 of Inciting A Riot: the Podcast deals with spiritual protest. We also discuss problematic Pagan community leadership, how to avoid catastrophizing the news, and catch up on listener feedback.

News: Nuclear Option, Chechnya gay concentration camp, revenge porn banned marines/Navy, Arkansas lethal injection deadline, FBI Director Comey

WOTD: Vaticination

Soc: BNPs and Bad Behavior - Kenny Klein, Christian Day, et al.

Tips & Tricks: Catastrophizing 

Spirituality: Spiritual Protest

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Patreon: Patreon.com/IncitingProjects
Blog: IncitingARiot.com
FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com
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Subscribe/Rate/Comment on iTunes: http://bit.ly/iTunesRiot

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A Chance for a Family (a GoFundMe campaign)

 

Two years ago I was working a dead end job that I kept because, like many who work dead end jobs, my family needed the money and we weren't winning any lotteries any time soon. It had been a year of big things for our family of two. We had recently purchased our first home, celebrated marriage equality coming to the state of Illinois by finally getting married after 8 years together, and we were starting to talk about having kids. 


However, that year was also a rough one for our family. Our jobs were making both of us unhealthy, both from stress and from not being able to eat a healthy diet or sleep normal hours. My husband lost his step father, and I lost my grandfather, both within a week of one another right before thanksgiving. A few months later I lost my grandmother as well. We also had costly medical expenses and automotive repairs that, coupled with the need to suddenly fly around the country, three times, for funerals, drained what savings we'd built up.It was at this time I decided I needed a way out of my dead end job and find a way to meet the next chapter of our lives head on. We wanted to be fathers, after all, and if we were going to do it in time to enjoy being young enough to be an active part of our kids' lives, I needed to make enough money to make our family dreams a reality. 


So, I took a big risk, and changed careers. I took a commission sales job in the financial industry, which sounded amazing on paper. So many people had made so much money in a very short amount of time. I was smart, learned quickly, and felt that - despite my lack of experience - I, too, could become a success story. My recruiter, my manager, my colleagues, all assured me I would be making at least twice, possible three times my current salary within a year. This did not work out as promised. 


Here's a lesson you don't understand until you've had to live it: when it sounds too good to happen to you, it is too good and it isn't going to happen to you. Getting started in my new job meant a lot of up front expenses. I had to pay to get licensed, which was hundreds of dollars per exam. I had to pay for marketing and a massive increase in gas since now I was spending all day in my car making sales calls, and I was told that every dollar would be repaid tenfold. That you had to spend money to make money. 


Things weren't great, but they were manageable. We were getting into debt, but we kept being assured that thing would work out. The next 6-10 months were a rollercoaster of financial upheaval. Every time I thought about quitting, I'd somehow get just enough of a commission check that I thought...ok...we can make it...things will turn around. I was stuck. I didn't want to leave, because I'd spent so much money getting into the field that I didn't want to let it be for nothing, but I also knew that if I continued down this road the decision to find a new job would eventually be made for me. Then my company was bought out. 


Under the new ownership everything changed almost immediately. Commission payments came to a screeching halt. Business I was working on that should have paid out thousands of dollars either never got paid out or, for whatever reason management was coming up with at the time, would get paid out in checks barely large enough to fill my gas tank. 


In short, I ended up having to finance almost half a year of my salary with credit. I started working a second job in the evenings and then a third job on the weekend, but no matter how much supplemental income I made, the debt just kept piling higher. The breaking point came last fall when I was forced to start working these supplemental jobs mostly full time. 


My primary job had stopped paying me completely. I was driving for a car sharing service 12-18 hours a day, 7 days a week, in addition to other jobs. We went from buying groceries to living off ramen and hoping that we could survive one more day. 


I'd like to stop here for a moment. I'm ashamed to write this. I'm ashamed to put this out for the world to see. I'm ashamed to admit that I was too proud to see the writing on the wall and leave my job before things got as bad as they got. I'm ashamed that I couldn't provide for my family. I'm ashamed that I made such a ridiculous series of financial mistakes. But I never stopped working. Ever. It just wasn't enough to stop the bleeding. 


I finally got a new job that began in mid-January. It's a good job. I like it, and I very much believe I could find a career here. It pays a solid salary, and it's allowed us the ability to keep our pantry stocked and feel some semblance of normalcy on a day to day basis. But financing your life with debt has a price, and right now that price is high. Despite my new jobs, I am still working 7 days a week between one primary and two part time jobs. Even with all of that, I am desperately in need of the funds to catch up. 


When you're making the decision to eat or pay your bills, there are bills that don't get paid. And when you've had to make that decision for months on end, getting caught up on a middle class salary is impossible. So, I'm turning to you, the internet. The internet that gave a man hundreds of thousands of dollars to make potato salad. 


I'm asking for a second chance for me and my family. For the family I have now, and the family we hope to grow. I am hoping to raise $5000 as a way to get caught up on several back payments and to get some kind of breathing room on this mountain of debt. $5000 is not going to pay anything off, but it would all me to pay bills that we're not paid from having to decide if groceries or credit card bills were more important. 


If the gods are merciful, and we somehow raise this amount of money, every penny of it will go to catching my family up. If we are able to raise more than that, I would hope to put it towards paying off our debt, which is sizable when you're having to live exclusively off loans and credit cards when your job stops paying you for half a year. Every dollar that is raised is a dollar towards making my family whole again. Towards putting two hard working people on a path to financial security and possibly have a chance at starting a family in the next few years. 


Bless you and thank you.


To contribute to this GoFundMe campaign, or to share the link, click here: http://www.gofundme.com/AChanceForAFamily


Love and Lyte,


Fire Lyte

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Tibeb Girls (Or, the Best New Kids' Thing in the World Today)

 
Kids' shows have had a long history of promoting diversity and inclusion. Sesame Street, Captain Planet, Power Rangers, X-Men, The Magic Schoolbus, and a veritable truckload of other shows have all ensured their casts and storylines are intersectional, representational, and, in many cases, pushing the boundaries of social convention by promoting tolerance before it's popular and change before it's necessary. It's one of the reasons why I still, as an adult, find comfort and solace in binge watching some of my favorites from time to time. They're a great reminder of who I wanted to be as an adult and an impetus to constantly veer towards being that person. 

And now, in Ethiopia, that same level of socially conscious kids' show is getting its day. 

 
Meet the Tibeb Girls. Three super powered girls from Ethiopia who combine their abilities to defend innocent individuals from harm. From the Whiz Kids Workshop - creators of the show:

We are excited to introduce a new action-drama radio show about three young girls who use their superpowers to fight against injustice and the many harmful practices Ethiopian girls routinely face. Using their powers to see the past and future, Tibeb Girls draws the audience into the typical lives of Ethiopian girls, building empathy for their hardship and a vision of a brighter future. Tibeb Girls puts girls’ issues at the center and provides examples of girls asserting themselves, problem-solving, and implementing solutions. By broadcasting a program that will examine harmful practices and explore girls’ agency in addressing those challenges, Tibeb Girls will foster a culture of conversation among girls, families, and throughout the broader community. Through our partnerships detailed below, the Tibeb Girls is an Ethiopian-led, innovative, scalable and sustainable approach to measurably improving coordination around girls’ issues in Ethiopia.

This radio and television program is still getting off the ground, but the fact that it exists, where it exists, and is aimed at young girls in an area of the world where simply being a young girl is a dangerous thing, is probably the best thing in the world today. 

Take a gander at their intro:



This is the first full-length animated series to come out of Africa. It's locally written, produced, designed, and directed. 

Big. Major. Awesome. Kudos. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Right to Outrage: Kendall Jenner & Pepsi & Syria & Leggings

 By now you've heard about the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad that's possibly the most tone deaf advertisement I've ever seen. It tries to make protests trendy. It whitewashes/heterowashes/privilegewashes/nicewhiteladywashes just about every kind of resistance movement that's sprung up in the last decade that could potentially be depicted by said protest. It erases the real and really problematic dynamic of police brutality in relation to protests involving minorities of all kinds. And, apparently, all the outrage around the add is fake or misplaced. 

Just ask Twitter:

 
    

Most of the tweets in this vein are highlighting the recent gas attacks in Syria and the egregious loss of life that resulted. They create an antagonistic dialogue that belies the idea that you cannot be outraged about two things at once, at least, not if you're serious about your outrage. 

One of the first things that I was taught when undergoing counseling training when I worked with children in the four system is to never undervalue their grief. That when a 9 year old's dog dies, and they feel like it's the end of the world, the last thing you could say to help the situation is "it's just a dog" or "you'll get another dog" or something that an adult might understand given age and context and a more vibrant life experience. But that early lesson about the context of life events eventually morphed into an understanding that people are complex beings capable of feeling all sorts of emotions about any number of issues all at once without ever taking away from their seriousness about each respective issue. 

When the United Airlines controversy surrounding women and the company's amorphous leggings dress code occurred recently, men were coming out of the woodwork to decry the outrage. They're just rules, these men said, and you have to follow the rules. Many other men - I say men, as every single man that I interacted with regarding the issue made these statements while almost all women saw the issue as body policing - tried to place perspective on the outrage. They claimed it was a privileged outrage. They laughed. "White girls are mad they can't wear leggings." As though the issue were about a trend and not about shaming women for having bodies. You saw the comments of men saying "with all the issues in the world today, this is not a problem". 

Here's a bit of truth: there is always someone, somewhere, somehow worse off than you. That doesn't mean your intersectional oppression is any less real or any less important. Telling women in the United States that their bodies are shameful, telling Pepsi their ad is tone deaf, and being outraged at the genocidal massacre in Syria can all happen. All at once. By the same person. And there is no Priority Ladder™ that has to be met, no prerequisite outrage one must experience, before you're allowed to be outraged about more than one thing. 

Here's the flip side: you can be outraged and still find happiness, however small, and do so without guilt. 

I think this is the biggest hurdle with which many allies and progressives and left leaning, well-meaning people struggle. If you watch the news, horror-struck, at the atrocities of a church bombing or a school shooting or a gay nightclub massacre, and then go have a lunch with your work friends that lifts your spirits a bit, you are no less entitled to your outrage or your temporary joy. The point of advocacy is not to be permanently despondent at the state of things, but to recognize them, to call them out, and to endeavor for change. You cannot do that work if you are, yourself, a basket case of nerves regarding All The Bad™. 

Do not let someone else tell you that your issue is too small. Do not let someone tell you that the injustice you met is too insignificant. To paraphrase Elizabeth Gilbert, by making one wrong situation right, in a world of wrong, raises the average rightness in the world. Your endeavor, however small and however mighty, is working to raise the overall good, and that is valuable. 

Pepsi pulled their ad and issued this apology:

 
I'm not quite sure why they're apologizing to Jenner, a 20 year old adult with enough time spent in the public spotlight to understand current events and has the assumed wherewithal to make her own decisions about saying yes to a job offer, but I'm also not blaming her more than is necessary. But, it sounds like Pepsi listened to public backlash and realized they should go back to telling us all how delicious their sugary beverage is accompanied by fat and carbs and stay away from telling us...

Yes... This is the actual description of their ad before they pulled it. Go, reader, and Riot. Riot if the situation calls for it. Riot for equality. Riot for body politics. Riot for autonomy. Riot for religion, for peace, for safety. Riot when an innocent dies. Riot when your right to your identity is taken. Riot when your beliefs are threatened. Riot when injustice is meted out. Riot, because your Torch and your Pitchfork are the most powerful in the fucking universe, and you are an instrument of divine change if you choose to be. 

Love and Lyte, 

Fire Lyte

Friday, March 24, 2017

LeFou and Trini and the Ghastly Gay Moment

©Disney 2017 Unless you've been on some kind of delicious social media free retreat for the last few weeks, you'll have no doubt heard about Disney's recent gay orgy sex fest that they had the gall to release under the sacred moniker "Beauty and the Beast". According to listicles and opinion pieces and one drive in movie theater entrepreneur in Arkabama, the film shows a grotesque display of forbidden love that dare not speak its name in the form of the character LeFou and his unnerving habit of existing. 

By now, if you've heard of this story, you've heard that a producer/director/movie person said that basically Josh Gad's internal monologue when playing the character would be deciding between wanting to be like Gaston (the muscle bound villain) or want to be with Gaston. You know..."be with" *wiggles eyebrows* in...*church lady southern voice* "that way". 

Immediately upon hearing this, I was of two minds:

  1. This was going to be nothing. The "exclusively gay moment" we were promised was going to be as benign as a lingering glance or an oddly enthusiastic grin. We all were going to make too much out of this, and everyone would be pissed that either we were robbed of our "first" gay Disney character (totally not the first) or that Disney was playing activist and baiting the gay community. 
  2. It was going to piss everyone off by having the first "exclusively gay moment" in a canonical Disney Princess film be represent one of the most problematic tropes in the gay community: hetero worship. 
Seriously, it's bad. From porn to films to the culture itself, the gay community prizes the muscle bound heterosexual guy that...somehow...turns gay for an hour to bang you into oblivion...but only after football practice and only because his girlfriend is out of town. This trope has led to everything from femme-erasure/hatred in the community to transphobia to an acknowledged-only-in-whispers hierarchy inside the community that puts "straight acting" muscular white men at the top of the heap and leaves everyone else sort of struggling with body dysmorphia and internalized homophobia. 

And, I was all set to hate LeFou. I had a blog post drafted about how LeFou was all the worst things about our community. That he was the lens through which the straight community views us, as latching on to straight men and thinking only of sex with the husbands of good Christian women. But, I had gone through that spectrum of emotions and done all that outrageous irrationalization before having ever seen the film. (Something I've chastised others for in the past.)

When I saw the film, I rolled my eyes at LaFou from the beginning. It appeared he was falling into the second category mentioned above: he fawned over Gaston in much the same way that I secretly lusted after the very same muscle bound jocks who tormented me in high school. He worshipped the town hero in a way that, for quite a while, meant he was blind to the reality that Gaston was a pretty shitty human being. And then...something happened.

*Warning: Mild Spoilery Stuff Ahead About Side Plots That Don't Actually Have Much To Do With The Main Story But Seem To Have Been Included In Order To Puff Up LeFou's Story*

Gaston ties up Belle's father and leaves him in the forest (which introduces the one puzzling new addition to the plot - Agatha - who is in the running as one of the most unnecessary characters to exist in a Disney film) and that right there appears to shock LeFou into a pretty clear bit of character development. He eventually turns on Gaston and comes into his own, realizing that a nice jaw and sculpted biceps don't mean a hill of beans if you're the kind of guy who would leave an old man to get eaten by wolves because he mildly inconvenienced your evil schemes. By the end of the film, LeFou is fighting alongside the furniture (which is a sentence that only makes sense in a blog post about Beauty and the Beast) and being admonished by Mrs. Potts as being too good for Gaston anyway. 

And, this is important. This is an important lesson that gay men everywhere had to (or have to, if they haven't yet) learn: straight worship is bad. Worshipping the hot straight guy because you long for the day when he'll suddenly turn for you is gross and it belittles your presence on this planet as someone who is worthy of the love of someone who can fully love you in the way you deserve to be loved. Appreciated by someone who can fully and outwardly appreciate you. 

And, in that regard, I saw much of myself in LeFou. I also am from a small country town. I also had some straight guys - one in particular - that I not so secretly pined for, and that confusion only added to my internalized homophobia. I'm quite glad that LeFou is out there and existing in all his overtly homosexual ways. I'm glad he ended up with a guy at the end. I'm glad his arc from straight worshipping sidekick slave ends with his awakening that he doesn't have to denigrate himself by doggedly following a villain.
©Saban Entertainment 2017 
What I'm most glad about is that within a week of Beauty and the Beast's release, yet another iconic property (though, admittedly, to a lesser degree) is including another member of the LGBTQ community. Power Rangers, according to reports, represents Trini - the Latina Yellow Ranger - as having a girlfriend. I don't know whether the character presents on the spectrum of sexuality - lesbian, bi, pan, some as yet unnamed level of fluidity - but this kind of representation is important. Disney, Power Rangers...these properties are beloved by many generations of folks. Kids will see these films. Teenagers will see these films. Adults will see them with each other. Parents and Grandparents will be taking their kids. This is a level of elevated visibility that's desperately needed by the LGBTQ community in a time when that community is being specifically targeted by members of the political Right. 

To showcase a flawed gay man and empowered Queer Woman of Color in two of the year's most anticipated releases, in fact, the first superhero that outwardly identifies as LGBTQ on the big screen, is a big deal. A BIG deal. It's a pretty powerful way to show a sign of solidarity that representation means everyone and that we are all made better when all of our stories and identities can be told. Moreso, it's a big deal that these characters are more than eye rolling stereotypes; that they can be perfectly flawed and perfectly human simultaneously. It means perhaps we are coming to a point when LGBTQ folks can be more than best friends and sidekicks and clowns and Home Depot shopping stereotypes. It means that little girls and boys around the world will have two more characters with which to identify. If successful (which, according to box office numbers, they are) it means that more might be on the way. 

I am glad I get to see the day when we can give no fucks about showing a gay Power Ranger fighting Rita Repulsa. I am here for this. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Monday, March 6, 2017

Today in the War on Christianity

 Every year there is a rise and fall of discussion surrounding the supposed "War on Christianity". This war alleges that the culture at large is attempting to silence and marginalized the country's largest religion. Usually this discussion happens around Christmas, and it follows instances of Christians having to stomach the fact that...gasp...they're not the only religion with a winter holiday that might like representation and visibility. 

This morning as I was watching CNN, it struck me how they have an entire television show that allegedly documents the "real life" of Jesus Christ called "Finding Jesus". It's a documentary. On a major news network. That starts off with the assumption that Jesus was real; he's a historical figure, and you can research his real life. 

Shows like this aren't new, but I had a little moment where I finally woke up to their reality, their pervasiveness in culture. Search around streaming sites like Netflix or Hulu or YouTube, and you'll find a plethora of accompanying "documentaries" and series devoted to the assumption that Jesus was a historical figure. And, here's the thing: I'm fine with it and I'm so not fine with it. In your faith Jesus was real and a majority of people in this country believe in him and his teachings - allegedly - and it makes sense that the overculture would carry on like this is no big deal.

But this goes to the weird and incredibly problematic line of thinking that assumes a default. It assumes the default that people are white, straight, Christian, cisgendered, have financial means, are not disabled...and so on. It assumes a default, and that sucks. It sucks that our culture is so forgiving of said default and so accepting of it that even our news networks put out documentaries which assume a mythological figure was real...that he really walked the earth. 

Yes, every now and then you get the one off documentary discussing Vikings or buddhists or something, but nothing of the caliber that begins with the deeply felt assumption of veracity. The documentarian does not assume Thor went fishing and caught the world serpent. The overculture would not accept the assumption that Prometheus gave us fire. This is not a default truth for the overculture, and it is therefore relegated to myth and must be discussed in the context of the uneducated masses of a time long, long ago. 

Gosh, if they'd only known about the very real Jesus. 

I have no answers here. I am not even really sure this is much of a discussion. But, I think it was an important personal awakening. I, for the first time, realized that even our news media of record makes the default assumption that the gods I worship are myths, the magic I practice is lore, and the zombie who walked on water and got mad at a tree is real. It helps me to further understand why people are so confused when they meet a pagan. There are so few of us, and this default of being a varying shade of Christian is ingrained in our culture. I almost forgive it. Almost. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Sunday, February 26, 2017

I did the Trump Hex, and I don't apologize for it.

  
I wasn't going to participate in the magical assault  on Donald Trump. It wasn't because I have some moral apprehension when it comes to binding or banishing or cursing. (And if you're one of those folks who was decrying the use of magic against Trump, you're probably all sorts of privileged and don't understand the palpable fear from the marginalized communities targeted by his ilk.) It was because it felt a little too...I dunno... Familiar  Sensationalized? And, if I'm being honest, I have begun to resign myself to the fact that this is reality and we haven't been punked by the universe and we aren't going to wake up and find out we get a do over.

Yes, a little teeny tiny part of me that's covered in glitter and likes hot chocolate and Disney movie marathons was holding out hope of some kind of magical deus ex machina. Don't laugh. I'm desperate.

By now you've seen the news stories that a group of witches, non-religious folks, Christian mystics, and Lana Del Rey all decided to hex the ever loving shit out of our (sorry...choking back bile saying this) President. It started with a call to bind Trump and all those who abet him and turned into a worldwide call to magical arms. February 24, set your wands to "curse" and aim them at the White House.

I wasn't going to do it, because, if I'm most honest, I didn't think for a second it would do anything. And I don't know what that says about me or my relationship with magic or my relationship with the divine. I think it says that I think whatever energy was created by his followers and those that put him in power is mightier than mine. And...again...I don't know how to feel about that.

It was my husband, my most non-religious-but-technically-Catholic husband, who heard about the movement and cheerfully decided we were participating. He's a gay Mexican immigrant. He's angry and scared and a spectrum of unnamable emotions of which I can only guess. It was his unabashed enthusiasm for the event that moved me to action.

Now, I'll admit, I didn't really care to read up on the binding that was going around or to adapt it to my needs. I'm sure it was a fine spell. I figured if I was going to participate, I was going to do the kind of spell I wanted. I called up my friend Vinna Harper (literary maven here at the Riot) who decided she also needed an outlet for her fear and anxiety and that magic was as good a form of protest as any.
 
That's what I felt this was. Magical protest. Magical psychology. Working through the complex knot work of trepidation and rage and despondency by working magic, because when you have nothing else to cling to you can still cling to your inner spark of divinity. The bit of your heart that never stopped being starfire before it transmuted to flesh and bone.
 
We decided to make a simple cloth poppet, fill it with paper messages and ideas that embodied Donald Trump's actions and ideologies, as well as our own reactions to them. We colored the poppet to look like him, pants unzipped and penis exposed because of his known history of sexual assault and because of his pride. We named it. And then we stuck pins in it while stating what we wished would happen.
 
Then we spat on it, burned it to ash, dumped the ashes in the toilet and...well...fiber and coffee was involved before we finally flushed him down the drain. (Note: we saved the pins and did not flush those down our plumbing system... Just saying, before someone freaks out about fish eating our spell ingredients.)
 
It felt good. It felt like release. It felt like protest. It felt holy. And I have no clue if it "worked" in the sense that I have no idea whether we will be seeing Trump impeached and removed in the near future, or suddenly afflicted with maladies unknown, but I know for damn sure it made us all feel better and more secure and more united, which is magical in and of itself.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Episode 108: Inciting A Women's March Riot

Episode 108 of Inciting A Riot: the Podcast features around a dozen women voices from around the United States that all attended the recent Women's March on January 21, 2017. They provided their reasons for attending, experience at their respective location's march, reactions to the intersectional representation and speakers, as well as their views on future protests. 


My eternal gratitude to these women for speaking up. 

I would like to say a very special thanks to Katelyn Burns for being my guest today. You may tweet her @Transscribe. 

If this episode was of value, please consider giving a small, monthly donation to help support ongoing costs at Patreon.com/IncitingARiot.

This post will be updated throughout the week as more responses, photos, and videos are submitted. To submit your experience at a Women's March, please email to the contact info provided. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Blog: IncitingARiot.com
FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com
@IncitingARiot on Twitter
Facebook.com/IncitingARiotPodcast
Subscribe/Rate/Comment on iTunes: http://bit.ly/iTunesRiot

Sunday, January 15, 2017

I am here for Imperfect Advocacy.

Donald Trump will be the President of the United States at this time next week. Not even that long. 5 days. Tensions are running high as we build up towards this...well...for lack of a better term..."historic event". Nowhere do they seem to be running higher, post-election, than on progressive social media. No, I'm not talking about some new, secret social media platform that you haven't been invited to yet. I'm talking about the social media you're already on that's already blinding you to the reality of what is actually going on in the world.

Left, right, or center, social media algorithms - Facebook especially - have been learning what you like, dislike, and, more importantly, what keeps you engaged and using their service. If you comment on pictures of animal rights issues most often, then that's what will continue to propagate in your feed. This "Filter Bubble" has helped to further drive a wedge between folks with slightly differing opinions into people with diametrically opposing world views, because we can no longer look at the same information and see it how it happened. We see it in the context of all of our neighboring progressive or conservative leaning material. We see it commented on by like-minded liberals or conservatives who help skew our view.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Episode 107: Inciting A Feminist Riot

Episode 107 features interviews with two bad ass feminist voices: Dr. Leah Torres and author Meg Elison.

Dr. Torres will be discussing the recent election and what women should be doing to prepare for a Trump administration in regards to access to healthcare, birth control, and abortion.

Meg Elison discusses her novel, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, and its upcoming sequel regarding a dystopian future in which women are endangered and access to proper healthcare is a thing of the past. (I promise this was written to be fiction.)

News: Michigan HB 4643, update on the DAPL Standing Rock "victory", and a restauranteur that's ensuring transgender people have a safe place to work.

Word of the Day: Salient

Inciting A Riot is now a Patreon supported podcast. If you'd like to support this show, as well as my joint show Inciting A Brewhaha, please consider giving a small, monthly donation at Patreon.com/IncitingARiot.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte 

Blog: IncitingARiot.com
FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com
@IncitingARiot on Twitter
Facebook.com/IncitingARiotPodcast
Subscribe/Rate/Comment on iTunes: http://bit.ly/iTunesRiot
 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Grammar Police: In defense of 'Fleek'

Ahem... Let me explain why this meme is bullshit: Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote his plays in the language of the common person; street speak. He wrote the way people spoke using words - many being neologisms - that common, everyday folks used. Slang. Colloquialism. Idiom. Shakespeare would have TOTALLY used Fleek, Turnt, etc. in his plays, because it is how people in the real world talk. Like it or not. There is the kind of speech one uses when writing or presenting in a professional or academic setting, and then there is the language one uses in the every day. I don't say 'y'all' when writing an academic paper on the sociological impact of racial tension in politics. I wouldn't give a presentation to a client at work filled with the phrases "throwing shade" or "I'm feeling busted". But, I absolutely use them in common, verbal speech with friends, acquaintances, and during daily interpersonal discourse. The other issue with this meme is that it is, technically, false equivalency. It is not that the words "you're" and "your" are misunderstood; it is that they are misspelled frequently. This is not the same thing as the person being unable to understand the term. If you were to aurally experience the sentence, "Your going to the grocery store," you wouldn't notice the missing possessive 'you're'. You would understand that the person is going to the grocery store. It is only in writing that the difference is noticeable and grating. It may belie a difference in education, using the incorrect spellings, or it may imply laziness or a haphazard autocorrect or a simple lack of care in ensuring that your hastily tapped out reply to a Facebook meme during your coffee break is grammatically sound. Either way, it isn't a judgment on a person's character. Except... When someone is being needlessly pedantic on social media, needling away at some factual inaccuracy or obscure detail mistake in order to make themselves look morally and intellectually superior because they pointed out that SOMEONE WAS WRONG ON THE INTERNET, and they misspell one of these common words. Then, absolutely, troll that motherfucker...grammatically. Love and Lyte, Fire Lyte

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Episode 106: Inciting A Ghost Hunting Riot

Episode 106 of Inciting A Riot: the podcast meets Annie Weible of COPS Paranormal Investigations. We learn all about ghost hunting in the real world as it differs from what we see on TV. 
We also discuss debunking ghostly claims, how to cleanse yourself and your fellow investigators after a hunt, and how you can get started doing your own investigations!
Also, this episode features a (mostly) comprehensive guide to the Standing Rock protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline. Many of you have written in and requested that I cover this topic in depth, and I encourage you to please continue to remain engaged in this ongoing story. 
COPS Paranormal info:
Twitter @COPSofWV
NoDAPL Protest Resources:
Inciting A Riot is now a Patreon supported podcast. If you'd like to support this show, as well as my joint show Inciting A Brewhaha, please consider giving a small, monthly donation at Patreon.com/IncitingARiot
Love and Lyte,
Fire Lyte
Blog: IncitingARiot.com
FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com
@IncitingARiot on Twitter
Facebook.com/IncitingARiotPodcast
Subscribe/Rate/Comment on iTunes: http://bit.ly/iTunesRiot

Today, find light.

There was a point last night when I physically felt hope leave my body.

When I started seeing the results in placing like Florida and Pennsylvania returning a hefty surge in Republican votes and the conversation began to shift to the so called "Blue Wall". When Her path to the presidency became contingent on the possibility of a few voting districts in Maine. When we were hoping for upsets in Georgia.

The polls...all the polls...were wrong.

From the information I can gather, as our nation begins the post-mortem analysis, a few things seem to have occurred:


  • Voter Apathy - Our country already has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the developed world. Nothing about yesterday's numbers seems to have changed that fact. People saw polls that universally favored Clinton and either didn't show up or otherwise felt comfortable not voting for her.
  • The divided Democratic base and the fact that the margin of victory in many of these states seems to correlate with improved numbers for Johnson and Stein. I have seen no state that she lost where the difference in Trump's lead to her wasn't dwarfed by the number of people who voted third party. 
  • White men and self-described Evangelical voters had a massive surge for Trump. Massive. He won them in nigh-unprecedented numbers. 
  • The data seems to indicate - based on reports I've heard on NPR and seen on CNN and Bloomberg - that the Comey letter regarding Clinton's emails caused just enough doubt and wiggle room in the "Blue Wall" and other Rust Belt areas of the country - as well as, of course, Pennsylvania and Florida - that Trump was able to successfully sway voters in recent weeks. 
I think historians will be parsing out just how Trump won this - I hate to say it, but it's true - historic victory last night for years to come. It all mattered. All of it. 

No matter who you voted for, I hope that your conscience still allows you to happily and proudly look your fellow man in the face today. I hope you're just as confident in your candidate this morning when millions of Americans are quaking in fear. When a rush to find out how to move out of the country led foreign government's websites to crash. When those of us that are contemplating when our rights will be rolled back, not if but when. I hope you are still settled in your conscience today. 

Racism won last night. Xenophobia won last night. Homophobia won last night. Misogyny won last night. Fear won last night. Anger won last night. Privilege won last night. 

Privilege. Won. Last. Night. 

But it doesn't have to win forever. 

Sure, we have to accept that we live in a post-fact world. A world where a man can win the Presidency without having experience, a plan, or any measurable qualifications. We have to face the fact that we fostered a culture of mistrust in the media and in facts in general. We uphold feelings and gut reactions as superior to what can be proved, and that culture helped create the pathway to the White House for a bankrupt businessman that brags about sexually assaulting women. A world where fear can be injected into a populace of non-college educated White voters and pull out a victory. 

There are a few things you need to know, when you feel level-headed enough to know them. 

  • You are not, we are not, moving to Canada. At best your citizenship would take 18-30 months to get through, and by then it'll basically be time to elect another president. At the very least, mid-term elections will have happened, and we will have the chance to change the House and Senate blue. The real power is in Congress, and it is there we need to aim our efforts for the time being. 
  • Speaking of, Congressional Republicans don't like Trump either. They, by and large, don't have a big problem with marriage equality or freedom of religion. (No I'm not trying to polish a turd, here. I recognize the chasm between the left and right when it comes to minorities.) The Congressional Republicans are the kind of fiscal conservatives that make it difficult to create new social change, but don't bother much with actively rolling back rights once given. We are going to have to place our faith in moderates like Marco Rubio and company. 
  • Obama can still make sure that the final Supreme Court seat is filled during his tenure. This will help to stymy the damage from last night and ensure that any further madness is reduced to the next 4 years and not the next 4 generations. 
Folks, there is no sugar coating this. There is a new world order as of last night. Everything we prided ourselves on and took for granted in regards to the way our country operates and who sits in the Oval Office has been changed. We have a lot to process. For many, we have a lot to grieve. At this time, it appears that Clinton did, indeed, win the popular vote. So, a discussion of the electoral college and how voting works in this country is likely in our future. 

There are a lot of things I thought I knew about my country. One remains true: no matter who you are, you are not alone. Whether you're the obviously gay kid in a tiny nothing of a town in rural east Texas, or you're a trans woman in a New England suburb, or you're an immigrant who came here for something better and safer, or you're anything other than the default mentality of white, straight, cis, Christian, and male... YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are others like you. There are millions of others like you. And we are not vanishing overnight. We are not evacuating. We are not going to sit here silently. We are going to embrace you and then do the work to truly create social and political revolution. 

Today, find light. 

I'm serious. Physically go find some light. Sit in the sun. Light a candle. Be in the light. Not only do we all need some fresh air, but we need some purifying energy. And sunlight is a pretty good combatant against depression and anxiety. 

Find light, and then be light. 

I am here. I will remain here. The Riot continues. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Episode 105: Inciting Lasara Firefox Allen's Riot

Episode 105 is an interview with feminist witch Lasara Firefox Allen, author of Jailbreaking the Goddess: A Radical Revisioning of Feminist Spirituality
Lasara introduces us to a new way of thinking about Paganism, Goddess worship, and feminism. She discusses marrying her passion for social justice with her spiritual work. We discuss her previous work, Sexy Witch, and how modern Pagan publishing is evolving to suit a next level of education for the community.
You can purchase her book by visiting her page on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2e0jnqq
Register now for her upcoming class: http://lasarafirefoxallen.com/the-initiation/
You can follow Lasara on Twitter @Lasara_Allen or find her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lasara.firefox.allen/

Inciting A Riot is now a Patreon supported podcast! If you'd like to help build Pagan media, consider giving a monthly donation at Patreon.com/IncitingARiot!

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte
Blog: IncitingARiot.com
FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com
@IncitingARiot on Twitter
Facebook.com/IncitingARiotPodcast
Subscribe/Rate/Comment on iTunes: http://bit.ly/iTunesRiot