Unpacking a Community Crisis

Last week, I had very different goals when I entered the fray concerning Firefly House and OHF. Last week, my colleague Eridanus and I were simply trying with various degrees of success to calm down the vitriol and testeria(1) that was rampant in the various social media channels.

But this week is a different week. And with folks on either side either licking their wounds or patting themselves on their collective backs, it is now time to unpack what actually happened. If we as a community are to truly heal, we must extract from this painful episode any lessons that would help us in the future should a similar crisis occur, and we need to collectively hold accountable the guilty parties.

There is a lot of ground to cover so I am going to take my time in this effort since *I* am under no pressure to hurry my efforts.

So I am beginning with the Pagan Newswire collective and its Washington, DC branch, Capital Witch. Let us start with the recent statement from PNC in regards to the Capital Witch article that ignited the firestorm.

I am old school in many ways, and as an activist for over forty years, I have a long history of discerning what is hidden in plain sight. So my rule has always been if a group refuses to be specific and makes grandiose statements, something is hidden in the details. And vice versa, if a group provides way too many details, something is lurking in the larger picture.

PNC produced a statement that groups what happened here in DC with something unrelated that happened in a bureau in the Bay Area of northern California. The message here is that the PNC is diligent in policing their bureaus. “We are on the job!” This is the purpose of the Corrections portion of most daily newspapers as well. “We will hunt down all inaccuracies no matter how minor!”

But just like the correction section of the Post for example will never feature an admission of “I failed to do my job as a reporter and just parroted a press release only later to find out that a government agency is *actually* capable of lying!” Publishing a correction is not the same as having a culture of transparency, journalistic excellence, objective investigation, and attention to detail.

So now let’s take our time and look at what is published by the PNC as part of their reflective process. Three things jump out at me immediately.

1. If the DC bureau staff person, Jen Moore, was the one with the most objective stance, why wasn’t she the one to at least review the article?

What is missing here is that the bureau chief, David Salisbury, not only made the decision to not wait for Jen Moore to write the article, but he also made the decision to bypass the entire internal mechanism of the DC bureau in reviewing the article. Most of the other staff in the local bureau have substantial journalistic credentials. So the question becomes, why were these people in particular omitted from the process?

One possible theory is that the local folks would have recognized that all the sources were Firefly members or supporters. They also would have caught that Literata was being quoted out of context. They might even have taken the time to get quotes from other parties relevant to the article. They could have definitely corrected the biased tone by adding actual facts about OHF funding and fiscal health. At the very least someone could have checked whether Iris actually complain to the OHF before launching her public article(And the answer is ... no).

2. So the PNC Managing Editor was receiving calls and emails asking for the issue to be covered. Why would any local disinterested party contact the national bureau to ask that a local issue be covered?

What is missing here is the identities of the folks calling for coverage. I highly suspect that they were all Firefly people. Why? Because who else but the creators of a press release would ask that someone in a perceived position of power to pay attention to it.

This is a tactic straight out of both grassroots organizing and the music business. Write a press release then call the editors of the newspaper asking them to cover the issue. Or sending a demo tape to a producer then call radio stations asking them to play the record.

And really, how come this did not occur to the Managing Editor that it could have been a possible ruse to get publicity? Do they not ask for organizational affiliations from their sources?

3. “The article was presented to the Executive Editor as a group-written piece ...” and “This was not written by three or more journalists. “ Okay, this is painful say but when something is presented as being written by a group and it is discovered that it was written by an individual, there is a word for that. It is called a LIE! And calling it unacceptable is ... basically ... unacceptable.

But more to the point, why was it called a group piece when it clearly was written by an individual, one David Salisbury? This is another question that the PNC failed to ask.

Initially I thought that the only reason I could see for pretending the article was a group effort was to hide behind Capital Witch instead of taking the heat personally. But I now think that something else was amiss in this process. But before I go into that with more detail, let’s keep unpacking this issue.

So now we see that there is a legitimate set of questions that it appears that the PNC failed to ask or worse probably did not even realized was needed to be asked.

But we are left with these questions and what they could possibly mean in the context of this article? Well let’s restate the questions as statements.

The Washington, DC bureau chief bypassed all local processes to send a controversial article to the national bureau for review. He also lied about the process that produced the article (or to be generous, he failed to correct a misunderstanding). At the same time, members of the religious/spiritual community who authored the press release and of which the DC bureau chief is a High Priest are sending emails and calling this same national bureau asking that this issue be covered.

So let’s step back and ask ourselves what this looks like to the average person?

I tell you what it looks like to me, and that is a concerted campaign by Firefly House to get the PNC in general and Capital Witch in particular to join in their libelous campaign against Sean Bennett.

It was bad enough that Firefly jumped all the way to Def Con level 1 by withdrawing their funds from OHF without seeking internal measures of solving any problems or concerns. But to endanger an entire community center because Iris Firemoon was angry at her husband and so manipulated national and community resources to get back at him is contemptible on a good day.

People in this community worked hard to get this center. Iris was a part of a long history of individuals and groups pulling together to make it possible. And to literally treat the center and the people who run it as fodder for her intra-marital battles is beneath contempt.

Iris Firemoon, David Salisbury, and the entire Firefly community owes the rest of us, and OHF in particular, a huge apology.

Sincerely,
Katrina Messenger

1: Hysteria has at its roots a belief that women are highly susceptible to fits of exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion. Some old school feminists sometimes uses the term Testeria as fair play

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Thu, 08/23/2012 - 4:53pm.

Two Elders Respond to OHF Issues

Notes from a few elders

It has come to our attention recently that the ending of Iris Firemoon’s marriage to Sean Bennett has ignited a firestorm that has engulfed our new Pagan Community Center and the OHF. It is unfortunate of course, but we humans tend to have loves, loss and lives beyond even our most esteemed values and dreams.

We send our love and prayers of comfort to Iris. She obviously is in great pain. She deserves support and understanding, and her spiritual community should surround her with love and compassion.

We send love also to Sean Bennett, because he too must be suffering from the airing of the personal and intimate details of his private life. May he find comfort and support as well.

Being older yet mindful of our youthful transgressions, we are well aware that often relationships that begin with a fiery passion must surely end as well in a fiery rage. It is the way things work, but it still is painful for all concerned.

And for this we offer our love, compassion, understanding and support to all affected by the end of this relationship.

And having been in leadership positions in more than a few organizations over the decades, we also understand how interpersonal issues can obfuscate the mission, goals and activities of groups as diverse as political parties, unions, churches, nonprofits, advocacy/social justice organizations, and businesses.

We are human, and we bring out humanity into everything we do in the world, it is inevitable.

And so we offer two suggestions to the OHF in the interest of learning from this painful episode.

1. We suggest a bylaws change to the effect that board members cannot be involved with other board members in an intimate relationships, as business owners, work for the same boss, have supervisory relationships or be related by marriage or blood. If two or more board members find their soulmate on the board, all but one needs to resign.

2. And although many would feel otherwise, we feel that Sean’s membership on the board is currently a liability that OHF can ill afford. Regardless of how you come down on the dissolution of their marriage, the board and by extension our community center cannot operate effectively while this scandal is alive.

There was a time, that Katrina Messenger faced a similar issue with her membership on the board of a nationally recognized organization. Despite being innocent of any wrongdoing, a whisper campaign against her was making it difficult for the board to operate. So she resigned in the interest of the organization's health and well being.

We do not think Sean is guilty of anything except being human and fallible just like the rest of us. So this is not a condemnation of him in any way. We just think the fallout from his marriage’s dissolution is harming the community center. And we as a community could be better served by his stepping down from the board to become maybe a volunteer of some sort if he so desires.

Now we know that our opinions are just one among many, many opinions. But we hope that our input can be heard at the very least by those whose hearts, like our own, are in great pain because of all that has transpired as of late.

And to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak, we freely offer our spiritual counseling services to all parties involved in this issue. And further, we are willing to act as mediators for all the offended parties.

We just love our interlacing, overlapping, beautifully diverse communities of pagans. And so we pray for the best possible outcome with the least harm to all concerned.

In service and blessings
Katrina Messenger
Eridanus Kummerow

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Thu, 08/09/2012 - 10:30am.

SBF ISO SM for Love

You would think that in today’s cultural/social climate that no one would have to come out of the closet ... as straight. But you would be wrong.

For almost twenty years now, I have publicly stated my bisexual orientation as a form of truth telling. I call it truth telling because during my years as a NOW activist, my referring to myself as straight seemed like a lie. Not that I was dating women, or sleeping with women or even lusting after women in general. It felt like a lie because I knew that I had deep feeling for a handful of women that I had not acted upon because of my fear of rejection. Granted, there were hundreds of men I had not approached for the same reason, but calling myself straight felt like a convenient lie.

So in the early nineties, I came out as bisexual.

Then something went awry.

Suddenly, I wasn’t a straight woman owning up to bisexual tendencies, I became in the eyes of others a lesbian being .... magnanimous?!?!?

But now I was in a quandary.

Do I make a statement like, “I am not now nor have I ever been ... a lesbian.” Or keep silent to strengthen our solidarity? I identify as queer for reasons other than my sexual orientation, but when *is* it appropriate to, “draw lines of demarcation” as we Marxists use to say?

It is all coming to a head in a hurry because I am explicitly pursuing a quest for love. I am letting all my friends know I am available. But it occurred to me, that for them to “help a sister out”, they have to know *what* I am looking for in terms of a mate.

And so after publicly requesting a love spell during Michael Smith’s recent Runes class, I felt it was time for me to come out of the closet ... as straight .... or rather as a het-identified bisexual cis woman.

Thanks for listening.

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Wed, 08/01/2012 - 6:26pm.

The Father World

There is a lot of misunderstanding and misconceptions when it comes to the field of psychology. These issues often are compounded by misleading terminology that reflect the utter lack of self-awareness plus frankly a good deal of misogyny amongst the early psychologists.

This is especially true when psychologists refer to the psychological concepts of Mother and Father. Early feminists were correct to be suspicious if not all out hostile to the “blame the mother” brand of psychotherapy. Especially since those views were politically used to literally push women back into the domestic sphere.

But what was missing from the public discourse was the specific meanings early psychologists attached to the terms, Mother and Father. And although the early definitions were gender based, the deeper meanings were not intended to refer to one’s actual mother and father.

If we were defining these terms today, we would probably use terms like inner and outer, or domestic and cultural when referring to the differing spheres of influence.

The Mother world referred to the domestic realm, which included one’s family, along with possibly your close friends and neighbors. The Father world was the realm outside of the domestic realm, including your job if it was not a family business. Most institutions exist in the Father world, i.e. government and business. And depending on your cultural affiliations, your church, health care providers and entertainment could exist in either world. For example, if your primary form of entertainment was singing around the dinner table, it was Mother world. If you went to nightclubs, concerts and theaters, it was Father world. The doctor which cared for your entire family and made regular house calls was more Mother world. If the doctors at the local hospital knew all of your children names ... it was borderline.

Each of the worlds require a certain orientation, a way of handling oneself in relation to the requirements of each world. We learn these approaches from one’s parents or parental figures as a child. And this is where the confusion sets in. Either parent or parental figure can teach you about both worlds. But early psychologists assumed that mothers teach the Mother world portion and fathers teach the Father world portion exclusively -- and thus the problems with the nomenclature is revealed.

Mother world orientation provides lessons of intimacy, boundaries, how to care for oneself. Concrete skills include how to make your bed, brush your teeth, eat at a table, use a bathroom ... all the way up to how relate to others in ways that are loving and respectful. An astute reader will recognize the association with the lower four chakras. We can also see how and why this orientational training is so easily associated with our actual mothers. However we learn the Mother world skills from everyone involved in our upbringing which can include fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, babysitters and early teachers.

And depending on your cultural heritage, almost anyone in a parental role can be the source of Father world orientation. So what are concrete Father world skills?

Father world skills include things like how to create a budget, pay bills, dress for an interview, how to talk to potential employers, how to behave in a restaurant, knowing when you are not safe, knowing who to trust or distrust ... all the way up to how to show up to work on time and how to stand up for yourself. And here you will notice the alignment with the solar plexus up to the third eye.

I am simplifying the list of skills, but if you think about it for awhile almost anyone can come up with lists of what one should learn from each world.

I noticed that the differences between the Mother and Father worlds has been coming up in my spiritual counseling sessions a lot lately. And this is worth noting for a variety of reasons.

Most of us are acutely aware of the repercussions of a faulty Mother world orientation. We see people who cannot take care of themselves; hell many of us need remedial lessons in self care like getting adequate sleep, nutrition and playtime.

But the inadequacy of Father world orientation can come as a surprise to most of us. Almost everywhere I look, I see people who are missing key components of the Father world orientation. Culturally we can see whole portions of the national debate missing a basic understanding of simple maxims like, “give from your surplus”, “invest in your future”, “you don’t get something for nothing”, or “judge folks by their actions, not their words.”

Often Mother world maxims like “you will attract more with honey than with vinegar” are inappropriately applied to the Father world where the the maxim is closer to “treat a person with respect and you can gain a customer.” I cannot tell how many times I have walked out of a store because a salesperson refused to just listen to me, and instead put on a fake smile and tried to oversell.

Mother world orientational training is where you learn how to care for yourself and your family. Father world orientational training is where you learn how to be a responsible member of society. We have culturally been blaming women and mothers for over a century. I think it is high time we admit that the problem may actually be a neglectful and missing Father.

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 2:19pm.

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