We Can Do Better
Ultimately what so much of this work in the community is about is establishing proper and respectful boundaries. Being passionate people who care a great deal about the issues involved and their implications we’re naturally going to disagree on where those boundaries are to be drawn and how firm or porous they need to be. Most of us will probably agree that there should be public spaces for hammering this stuff out – our blogs and community forums and the like – and also lines drawn so that we can have safe, private space for more direct, personal conversations. One of the things that originally bothered me so much about Mankey’s post was that it felt like he was taking these conflicts into a space governed by hospitality, that he was expecting polytheists to be more like neopagans and disappointed because we had different ways of being and thinking. In short, that he was not honoring the lines we have collectively worked so hard over the last couple years to draw for ourselves.
Well, this morning I saw the exact same thing being done to him, only worse, and my thought was ‘damn it, as polytheists we should be striving to do better.’ You all know I am not conflict avoidant or shy about sharing my opinion. Hel, I’ll rush in swinging and mix it up with the best of them. This is a very effective way of engaging in communal discourse and hashing out our differences – but it is a choice I and the other participants are making, and we are doing so within the previously agreed upon bounds of the public square. Taking a private conversation, where very personal things have been shared and posting it publicly to score some points isn’t cool. The only time I will ever post a private conversation unaltered is when I am being maligned, threatened, or lied about and want to provide solid proof to refute such horseshit. Otherwise I get my correspondent’s permission, remove anything unnecessary or overly personal and make sure what I’m posting falls within their comfort levels. This is basic courtesy, the foundation of hospitality, which is an essential component of nearly all of our diverse polytheist traditions.
Instead, what I’m seeing is something being shared that has no business being public. With courage and integrity Mankey opened himself up and tried to dialogue with a colleague and instead his vulnerability was weaponized against him. That’s not right. We shouldn’t accept that. And we polytheists can do better. I’d like to personally apologize to Mankey for any hurt he has suffered through this situation, which my critique of his account of Many Gods West may have opened up. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Mankey was way off in his portrayal of activities and emotional tenor of the event, I couldn’t disagree more with this theology and agenda, and I think he was using some really nasty and dishonest rhetorical devices – but all of that falls within acceptable bounds of how we carry out these important public conversations in the blogosphere. Lines were crossed, his privacy was violated, and hospitality not honored – and as I said, that’s not cool and we polytheists not only can but MUST do better.
Let’s use this as a learning experience and move forward, better