Thursday, November 16, 2017

Allies, it’s time to kill your darlings.


If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard the term “kill your darlings”. This comes from a piece of writing advice first stated by William Faulkner and made even more famous by Stephen King. The idea is that you might have sentences, paragraphs, maybe even entire chapters or characters that you adore...but make little to no sense in the context of the overall narrative. They’re personally important or favored to you, so much so that you’d let the entire narrative fail rather than remove a bad paragraph. It’s a piece of advice that I’ve been ruminating on this week as even more members of Hollywood’s elite are being named as part of a history of using their modicum of fame and position to molest and abuse men and women. It’s the very first thing my brain thought when news came out that George Takei was accused. 

It should be stated up front, I’m going to probably continue using the phrase “kill your darlings” throughout this article. I’d like to preface this by explicitly stating I mean this in the literary sense of the phrase and not a literal sense of the phrase. I also do not plan on using this article to litigate or relitigate the actions of any one person’s accusations. Rather, I hope that we can have a discussion about the need to stop protecting or making excuses for our darlings - those individuals that we personally adore or mean something special to us. 

When I first heard that George Takei was accused of molesting an unconscious man in his home a few decades ago, I became very still. During this recent wave of revelations regarding the perniciousness of sexual harassment and abuse by powerful men in entertainment and government, it has been very easy to hate the accused. Harvey Weinstein has had rumors swirling about him for years. Brett Ratner is pretty much the douchebag frat guy everyone hated in college. Would be Alabama senator Roy Moore is from the same mould as the man our country elected as President. The more and more names were added to the list, the more I found myself nodding my head. 

Until I started hearing names of men I admire and respect.

When the names George Takei and Jeffrey Tambor were added to the ever growing list, I had to decide if I say I am an ally because this is another arrow in my Liberal Quiver to use against conservative men I already despise, or whether I say I am an ally because I truly stand against the culture of allowing the powerful to prey on women and men who aren’t as powerful or famous or wealthy or influential as they are. Typing even those last few sentences was an awakening in itself. When allies claim they are allies, it is important to understand (both to the ally and to the allied) why they claim that title. 

Is it because being an ally to the LGBT community is a fun thing to be during June when there are lots of pretty parades to attend? Is it because when there’s a women’s march, you don’t want to be the guy in the office who doesn’t say he’s a feminist? Are you an ally because you don’t want to introduce your new boyfriend to your family because he’s black and you’re just not sure how they’ll react?

I mean...probably. 

People become allies for all sorts of innocuous reasons, mundane injustices, but it’s what you do once you’ve come into the fold that’s important. You need to hear the voices of the oppressed, listen to their collective experiences, believe them, and work towards change. In the case of the social sea change we’re experiencing, it’s important to understand that what is being uncovered exists at all layers of social strata. It has no sexual orientation, no political affiliation, no specific income level, and no dress code. It is everywhere, you’ve probably experienced it at some level yourself, and you may even have committed some level of it, too. 

So, when you find out your favorite movie star or internet celebrity or politician (looking at you, Al Franken) or trainer at your local gym or your friend’s boss or...or...or...is accused of groping an unconscious woman because he thought it would be a funny picture, or intimidated and sought sex from a teenage girl while he was in his 30s, or used his position of authority to lure women into a hotel room for his own sexual gratification, it is important to decide if you are an ally because you want to do something about the problem, or you want to get credit for being a good person. 

If you’re here to fix the problem, then, allies, it’s time to embrace the idea that you must kill your darlings. 

Joss Whedon, Al Franken, George Takei, Jeffrey Tambor, Louis CK, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor...the list will grow. It will include someone you admire. Someone you respect. Someone you may credit as an inspiration. They do not get a pass because you like their work or their advocacy or their charity. They do not get a pass because they created progressive work or championed progressive causes. They do not get to avoid consequences because you thought they were one of the good ones. 

It might not sit well to accept that a pioneer LGBT figure could be guilty of the same crime as the skeezy conservative politician it’s easy for you to hate. But, you must kill your darling and recognize this is a societal disease. You must recognize that victims are only just now finding the support they need to raise their voice and tell their story, despite personal backlash or repercussion. And you must continue working to make good on your claim of being a real ally. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Episode 113: Inciting A Body Riot

Episode 113 of Inciting A Riot: the Podcast is a frank group discussion all about body politics. We have an honest look at what makes a "real woman", the issue of black hair, dress codes, and much more. 


Major thanks to High Mugwump Danny Kinniburgh, as well as Priestesses Kerry Beckler, and Andrea Santoro for being major donors! 

Support Pagan media! Consider giving a small, monthly donation to Patreon.com/IncitingProjects! You’ll get cool rewards like unedited video and audio podcasts from Inciting A Riot and Inciting A BrewHaHa, as well as bonus extras not published anywhere else, plus deals and coupons! 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Blog: IncitingARiot.com
FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com
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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Episode 112: Inciting A Hallowed Riot (2017)


A Mystery in the Webster Tunnel - Meg Elison

Witches’ Ball - The Dagons

The Haunted Oak - Paul Lawrence Dunbar as read by Stephanie Swan Quills

Black Eyes - David Wirsig

Lady M.’s Fortune Shoppe - Fire Lyte

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Episode 111: Inciting A Leading Riot

Episode 111 of Inciting A Riot: the Podcast finds us Inciting A Leading Riot. I interview a few folks at Chicago's Pagan Pride to discuss what they look for in Pagan leadership and what the next generation of leaders looks like. Also, I deconstruct my thoughts on the recent National Coming Out Day. 

News: Las Vegas, Trump/NBC, To Kill A Mockingbird, Wigglian News

WOTD: Palliate:

Sociology: Thoughts on National Coming Out Day

Spirituality: Pagan Pride interviews on Leadership

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Honesty and the Eclipse

Yesterday the coast to coast solar eclipse gave most of us a reason to pause, to regard Nature. Pagan, Christian, Pastafarian, or simply a human, it didn't matter yesterday. The sun and moon were doing a really cool dance that we don't get to see very often in our truncated human lifetimes. But, to read in some nooks of the Pagan interwebs, it seemed that many were preparing for either catastrophe or enlightenment. I didn't experience either of those things, and I think it's just as important to say when "woo woo" experiences don't happen just as much as when they do. 

I've talked in the past about UPG - Unverified Personal Gnosis - and the need to have honest conversations in our community. Podcasts like New World Witchery have done excellent, repeated discussion about spell failures. I think it is equally important to highlight when an endeavor fails or an experience is not had. Why? Because there are a lot of folks that don't have sparks fly from the end of their wands when they swish them through the air or literally hear the voice of deity when they meditate, and they need to know their paths and experiences are just as valid as everyone else's. 

It also helps to create a spectrum of experiential conversation in our community. 

Vyviane Armstrong - Pagan blogger and spiritual travel advisor (seriously, you should hit her business up) - asked this morning:




And, naturally, there were a lot of responses from Pagans immediately espousing that they, too, felt a great cosmic shift/had an experience/felt this energy as well. Lots of people started glomming on to the idea that they felt this energy was helping them "prepare" for something that's coming. I had a slightly different reaction:



Followed by this quick back and forth:



In short, there are a lot of Pagan/Witchy/Spiritual folks that will be writing blog posts and think pieces and posting gorgeous photos of their ritual spaces during the eclipse, and it's enough to make the average Pagan/Witchy/Spiritual person have some severe FOMO. It's enough to cause feelings of inadequacy or question the veracity of your path. When you're locked up in a cubicle out of the line of totality and can't run outside to look at the sun for a few minutes, but you read about how dozens of Pagan writers held massive outdoor rituals and charged objects and have grand plans for all the eclipse energy they soaked up, it can leave you feeling like a bad Pagan. Worse is if you attended one of these events and left thinking "well that was a cool site to see," but then later find out that Susie SuperPriestess heard the voice of the Goddess during the eclipse or Marcus the ManWitch was able to defeat the Fire Nation during the Eclipse. It's those times when it's nice to hear that other Pagans came away, just like you, thinking "shucks that was neat" and that be the end of it. 

If you felt something powerful yesterday, great.

If you saw something cool yesterday, great.

If the best you could do was check out YouTube videos of the event after you got off a long day at work, great. 

We're all seekers, and it's totally ok and totally valid if your search doesn't always yield results. Just Keep Seeking. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Monday, August 21, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017


Today, I took a few minutes from my afternoon to witness a small piece of history. Along with hundreds of my fellow humans, I disappeared from the office, scurried down the elevator, and stood in the streets of Chicago to gaze at the solar eclipse (through protective eyewear). I didn't perform a ritual or mutter a spell under my breath. I held no gemstones to the heavens in hopes of capturing the energy of the eclipse. There are no bowls of water or salt or earth laid out on an altar of wood back at my house. 

Today, my brand of Paganism was to stand alongside my fellow man and witness nature. Funnily enough that tends to be my brand of Paganism, to witness nature and remind myself that I am but a very tiny speck in a massive, ever turning whole. 

And, what I've noticed about days like this is that I am not alone. While most folks don't call themselves Pagan, and wouldn't even think to acknowledge that they're honoring "The Olde Gods/Goddesses", folks still show up for Nature when She's putting on a show. A couple of years ago there was a zeitgeist surrounding the Supermoon. People held parties, went to beaches, took pictures, and were generally geeked out about the moon. 

My brand of Paganism has become a much more literal interpretation of the notion of the Immanent Sacred, the Divine in the Everyday. I revere the seasons that change and the earth that rotates and the waters that provide and the fires that transform. I am not sure where that leaves me on the spectrum of belief in cloud people, but I know that there is a spark of magic inside of me...inside us all...and every now and then it calls us to the street or the beach or the backyard. It beseeches us to look, to witness, and to remind us that we are all humbled before the totality of creation. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Monday, July 10, 2017

Wonder Woman on my Altar: Modern Faces of Ancient Deities

Wonder Woman has had a massive impact on moviegoers this year. As of this writing, it has made around $750 million worldwide, and that number is only climbing thanks to the confluence of a number of factors:

  1. It's a bad ass superhero movie in an era where bad ass superhero movies thrive.
  2. It faithfully brings to life a character that comic readers and pop culture fans have loved for over half a century. 
  3. It does all of these things while having a female director and female lead action hero, which, sadly, is an all too rare thing these days. 
  4. The Amazonian beach fight scene. 
Seeing Diana Prince fight on the battlefield against a World War I backdrop was incredibly powerful, but it was what happened at the end of the film that caused me to have an Aha! moment (and what led to a rewiring of my own thinking about the nature of deity). 

Fans of the comic have known for quite some time that, technically speaking, Wonder Woman/Diana Prince is a goddess. I've seen her called a goddess of hope, a goddess of love, a goddess of war, and sometimes simply a demigoddess by dint of her divine nature. And, in film, this feat is made apparent in Diana's final battle with the movie's Big Bad - Ares. She assumes her divine mantel and is able to defeat him in the end. It's a beautiful moment for the character, for the audience, and it was an awe-inspiring moment for me. 

And...it was in that moment that I finally got it knocked into my thick skull what many have been saying for years. Comic books are modern myth.
Back when the Riot began, I initially made a name for myself on places like Witch Vox and elsewhere with an article titled "The Pagan Secret". The gist of the article was that Paganism has enough "real" gods and goddesses in it, and that adding figures like Santa Claus to that list was somehow beneath "real" Paganism. It was the work of a young Pagan who had a lot of book learning and very little lived experience who was determined to show off how very, very smart he was. Later on I wrote blog after blog after blog amending and undoing the thoughts I expressed in that initial article, but I don't think I ever did so having actually learned the right lesson. And, it's a lesson that I should have learned much earlier, as it was something I discussed in another widely read, early Riot era article "Playing with God-Doh" in which I discussed the historically accurate fact that the names and faces we attribute to the gods have morphed over the millennia as their myths were blended with the meeting of cultures and taken across the world. 

In retrospect, I have to wonder why it took so long for me to be able to accept the idea that, if Athena can go through a number of name changes depending on the culture in which she finds herself, why not add another name to the list? Why do we accept that the evolution of deity stopped somewhere along the way? If the gods themselves didn't stop existing thousands of years ago, then why do we assume that their names, faces, and roles stopped changing as well?



American Gods is my favorite work of standalone adult fiction. Hands down. It is responsible for multiple spiritual and personal Aha! moments along my path. And, it's become a runaway success for Starz in its television adaptation. I was a bit nervous to see American Gods being given the TV treatment, as the book is so precious to me, and other literary favorites didn't quite make the journey from page to screen successfully. (Looking at you, Harry Potter, Eat Pray Love, and The Dark is Rising)

I'm not giving away any spoilers in telling you that the season finale depicts 14 different versions of Jesus Christ, with a 15th shown earlier in the season. While this is never explicitly depicted in the book, it is referenced that there are multiple Jesuses - just as the Gods and Goddesses themselves are merely North American iterations of their European, African, and Asian counterparts. That same episode is also the first time the thesis of American Gods is driven home. Namely, that the "old" gods and goddesses get new names and adapt new sovereignty in order to continue to exist. We saw it in earlier versions in the first season - the seductress Bilquis (whose role is greatly expanded to AG's benefit in the adaptation) and the United States' god of guns and ammo Vulcan (whose role, I believe, is a wholly new character in the AG universe).

Easter/Ostara, played to utter perfection by Kristin Chenoweth, starts off as a goddess who has gotten by and been raised up by sharing "her day" with the various versions of Jesus. While not ideal, she continues to draw plenty of power and immortality by the hunting of the eggs and the feasting of rabbit and the speaking of her name, "Easter". However, as Wednesday/Odin points out, people are not truly doing these things in her name. Hijinks and magic ensue, including the first truly powerful display of godhood from one of the old gods since the series began. (Seriously, watch the show.)

What Wonder Woman and Easter have in common is the notion that the gods didn't stop evolving. The archetypal myths still exist. Somewhere deep down in the human spirit we have this urge to retell the tale of the redeemed, the chaotic, the heroic, and the damned. You may love the idea of a powerful triple goddess with supreme powers who holds sway over fate and destruction and the spark of life, who lights up the darkness with her fire. Might I be speaking about Hecate? Or possibly Jean Grey?


Jean Grey, the Phoenix, has three forms: a life-giving force for good, a dark, fiery force of destruction, and a balanced version who is more powerful than both. (The artist, above, is Greg Land, and this is from his work in the Marvel story Phoenix: Endsong.)

Am I suggesting that we all start replacing statues of the gods in our home with action figures? Not necessarily, but I'm definitely saying I wouldn't look at you sideways if you did. The way I have come to understand the divine and our relationship with it is that it doesn't seem to care what name you have to give it in order to have a relationship with it. It existed before humans gave it names. It existed before humans divided it up into cat-headed goddesses and robed gods of sunshine and long before those same humans started clothing their gods in spandex.

I think the point of having a relationship with the gods is to have a relationship with oneself. To be able to dig down inside yourself through story and song and folklore to find your better parts and bring those to the surface. To, from time to time, polish that spark of divinity that resides in each of us, that connects us to the universe and to one another. Our ancestors spoke of Hermes and Frigg and Anansi in order to help give order to the unknown forces around them. But, the point was that they spoke of them. They told stories of their feats and raised cups on their holy days and drew power and gave offering to their slowly changing faces, because behind the names were the wind and rain and stars and slow, burning cycle of the universe.

And I've stopped caring whether you want to call your goddess Wonder Woman or Athena or Inanna or Mother or, simply, Goddess. Certain sects of Wicca teach that the Goddess has no face, because she wears all faces. She is all goddesses, named an unnamed. The God is all gods named and unnamed. And they are each, in turn, simply iterations of a primal divinity. The more I study what is known and what is believed by spiritualists the world over, the more that idea feels right.

I'm sure there is a hard polytheist out there pointing and laughing at their computer screen right now, or maybe they've already got half of a hate mail letter drafted, but that's ok. I don't mind being wrong about the nature of the divine anymore.

One final thing...

I have this shelf at work where I keep a collection of different pop culture figures that all mean something to me. There's Discord from My Little Pony (yep...I guess I'm a brony). There's Regina from Once Upon a Time. There's Kamala Khan, Marvel's current Ms. Marvel (a bad ass Muslim superhero). Dumbledore, Myrtle Snow, and Maleficent all share a bit of that shelf, too. Do I think of them as gods and goddesses? No. However, they each inspire me in a very specific, very important way. And, when I am having a stressful moment or need to find clarity in chaos, I often look to those figures and remind myself of their stories. Some make me smile, and some, like Misty Day, make me sad, but I don't know that I'd be any more or less inspired than if I were flipping through the pages of a book of mythology (some of which I also keep at my desk for the same reason).

These characters, and their stories, are just as alive for me as the folklore and myths I grew up reading. I read Arthur Cotterell and Edith Hamilton alongside Marvel and DC. While I didn't connect them then, the older I get, the more their realness blends together.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Episode 110: Inciting A Wonderful Riot

Episode 110 of Inciting A Riot: the Podcast finds us discussing Wonder Woman and the notion of pop culture deities as ancient archetypes in spiritual practice. 

News: SCOTUS Travel Ban & Wisconsin Gerrymandering, Michelle Carter/Texting Murder, Texas’ LGBT rulings, New England Journal Air Pollution

WOTD: tristful

Sociology: Let me tell you of my privilege.

Poetry: When does a war…

Spirituality: Wonder Woman and Pop Culture Deities

Feedback

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Blog: IncitingARiot.com
FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com
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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

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FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com
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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