By M.W. Whitaker
I am not them, so why should we care about them? Who are they? See if any of these sound familiar:
“I am not gay, I’m straight. They follow an immoral lifestyle choice.”
“God I am so sick of hearing about transgender rights. Can’t they just be the gender that they’re born?”
“Wah wah, poor refugees have no home. What a shame, but I don’t want any of them in my neighborhood.”
“Women should submit to their husbands. They should not have any life outside of the home.”
“They are in this country illegally. They’re criminals.”
“That’s the way it’s always been. Why should we change things for them?”
“God I hate men, they are such pigs.”
“White people, you gotta love them.”
“You have to respect what they are saying. Everyone has a right to their opinion.”
“Who cares about the whales? They’re animals.”
Whenever we start to judge people that is when people stop being people and become them. We focus on their differences. They worship a different god, or worship the same one in a different way. They are brown, or not quite right. Whatever the differences someone has, those differences are perceived as a threat.
People are gregarious and often like to congregate with other people that look the same way, think the same way, act the same way. If we’re not careful, we form cliques, exclusive clubs, and worst of all, thought bubbles. Thought bubbles are safe. They isolate us from the new and strange and keep us in the familiar and comfortable. They are ancient, and are one of the things that have divided the world. When you put anyone into the category of Them, unless they are giant mutant ants from a 50’s B Movie, you are indirectly lumping them into the category of Other.
Othering happens when people see only one part of who someone is. Instead of seeing a fellow human being, they only see someone who likes the same gender, or is of a different belief system than they are. There are three problems that are the greatest threats to society: ignorance, cruelty, and complacency. They intertwine and choke off all that is good in the world.
Ignorance is dangerous because when it becomes ingrained, it leads to terrible “ism” behaviors such as racism, sexism, nationalism, fascism, the list goes on and on.
Cruelty takes its lead from ignorance. Cruelty is the lack of compassion. When people are cruel, their ignorance fuels their behavior. Cruelty can lead us down paths that aren’t just dark , they’re malevolent and evil. Cruelty leads to destroyed lives, and perpetual cycles of violence.
Complacency is the worst of the three. Just because a state of being has been doesn’t mean that it is what we are supposed to keep doing. There is only one constant in the Universe: everything does, can, and must change.
So how do we as witches know what is right and what is wrong? We have no central book to refer to. It’s really simple. We need to look at ourselves. We are Othered by society simply for being witches. Judging and othering are part of being human. But instead of denying these behaviors and suppressing it, we need to embrace them and use them to our advantage.
Discriminate against people who define and tell others that everyone must conform to a life based on their expectations. Discriminate against bigots and zealots no matter where they’re from. Some you’ll be able to sway, but there will be some people you won’t be able to reach, and in this lifetime anyway, they will not be united with anyone that believes the same way that they do. No platitudes about room for everyone at the table. No touchy feely. If someone is advocating hatred and violence against someone else for whatever reason, step away from them. Never give into violence. You are dancing to their tune. If someone judges you for being who and what you are, don’t try to change their mind with words. Don’t change. Show who you are. Do it by the way you live your life and the way you treat others. If someone tells you that as a man you should know how to fix things, tell them to fix it themselves. If someone tells you as a woman that your place is in the home and that you should be married and submissive to your man, tell them you’re going out and you have stuff to do that has nothing to do with them. Someone calls you a freak for not identifying with the gender that you’re born as, don’t re-masculate or re-feminize yourself to please them. Let your “freak” flag fly. You are who you are, embrace it. If someone gets in your face for the color of your skin, the way you worship or don’t, supporting people or creatures that are marginalized, look at your accuser coolly and say, “It looks like your privilege is showing.”
Or to quote Michael Jackson from the song “Man in the Mirror“: “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change.“