Monday, February 1, 2010

Why I'm a judgmental bitch . . . RIP Sherry Harlan

Anytime I say something about busting a fraud, or wanting some credibility to work from when someone spouts claims of PHA belief and practice that sound like so much pig slop, I get at least one email/conversation/etc. about being "too judgmental of other people's paths", and how I need to be a better person and show more tolerance.
This kind of crap is one of several reasons I do not just accept whatever someone tells me as valid, with no questions asked.

A member of PNC knew the victim, and confirmed that Sherry Harlan was indeed pagan, and had told people she feared for her life. This isn't just the usual case of some psycho throwing out Satanic Panic bugaboos so he'll sound sound nice and creepy for the public, he was connected to people in the pagan community purportedly "studying Wicca" by an acquaintance. Now he gets to tell national media about a "Wiccan Blood Oath" as an excuse for a brutal murder, and his alleged Scottish ancestors' "blood runs".

Seattle's community may have already been shunning this cretin; have no data on that yet. Hopefully people in the local community will stand up and say "We don't care what he calls himself, he's a rotten load of BS, and we don't claim him". I understand that it's hard to focus when you're grieving, but not as hard as it will be later when somebody whips this out as a justification to discriminate, or as proof that "Witches and their ilk are just as evil as those Chick tracts say".

He's an extreme example, but he's not an only child. The PHA community attracts fruitcakes just like any non-mainstream social grouping does; it's easier to hide amid the wider diversity. Since so many of us have been judged poorly against an idea of what is "mainstream", it often makes us frown on calling it on anyone else, sometimes even in cases of blatantly dishonest, predatory, or abusive behavior. There's also the often heavily polarized range of opinions and prejudices some more established Trads have against eclectic or syncretic practice, that many of us don't want to add to, and the efforts so many people and groups have made to create a sense of unity, community, and "we need to stick together" among PHAs, for the best and most worthwhile of reasons. If you do put the questioning doubt out there, it may get you a debate about civil rights or hypocrisy, or some stupid aphid who commits an act of cliche and plays the "Witch War" card. We've been more or less lucky around here as far as I know. I've heard people from other communities and festivals express frustration with situations where they've had a dangerous person around, and people attacked the concerned or festival security for "not being accepting" or "excluding people from the community" if anyone made a move to ostracize or disassociate.

But if it robs the media or any political-religious parties with agendas of an opportunity to play connect the dots with the average PHA practitioner and the dangerously unhinged, it's worth it.

May Ms. Harlan have peace, and an easier trip next time around.

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