Evaluating our Response within the Pagan Community

The current issue of Witches and Pagans Magazine contains an editorial that has unwittingly become the center of attention. Written by editor Anne Newkirk Niven, the editorial discusses the Pagan community’s reaction to bad press. Anne suggests that “a solid dose of discernment” needs to be added to our “moral outrage” when reacting to discrimination cases and negative media situations.

Anne makes a good point and one that I advise myself. Evaluate your reaction before taking action. In many of these difficult situations, we have a natural and understandably strong emotional reaction. It may be anger, moral outrage, indignation or the desire to fight and get even. This is very human.

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But… and this is a big BUT….the emotional reaction cannot define a public action. Calculated and thoughtful responses are needed in almost all cases. While the emotional response undoubtedly feels satisfying, such a response can cause more damage than good.  It can attract unwanted media attention.  It might generate a legal battle that could have been easily avoided.

Moreover, emotional responses are often disproportionate to the original offense leading to what Anne calls “touchy nerve syndrome.” Sometimes sh*$% happens and you just need to walk away, punch a pillow, vent to a confidant etc. Or do what I do… drink a glass of wine and sing along to “Do you Hear the People Sing?” from Les Miserables (the Original London Cast.)

Admittedly sometimes the decision on whether to act or not-to-act is tough.  And sometimes the “how-to-act” is even harder.

Getting back to the editorial, Anne did suggest that our community overreacted to the Fox News’ “trollish shenanigans.” She notes that Pagan media pundits failed to highlight the positive points of the story with the exception of the Covenant of the Goddess’ media statement. Ironically, I’m both The Wild Hunt writer who failed to focus on the positive and the CoG Public Information Officer who wrote media statement that publicly thanked Mizzou.  I’m not sure where that leaves me in all this.

113cover300Incidentally, I also wrote the Lady Liberty League article, published in the current issue of Circle Magazine, that reviews the entire two-week engagement with Fox.  Did we, as Anne suggest, overact?  No. Fox needed “corrective feedback” and the world needed to see that we do exist in force.  Most Pagan organizations did respond appropriately. However, I do agree that there were some individual reactions on social media that were a bit over-the-top. That can’t be controlled. With the internet’s wild and wide availability, these very public over-reactions, good or bad, are going to happen (in every community.)

Anne, nor I, are suggesting that we stand-by and let our rights be trampled. We just need to get a little better at evaluating our reactions before taking public action. In addition, we need to spend as much energy in celebrating the forward strides as in fighting those nasty steps backward.  This is sage advice – something to which I personally adhere and also advocate within my own work – time and time again.