I generally do not waste too much time expounding on general American political issues because they’re done to death just about everywhere else. For all of your Red vs. Blue, lib vs. con cockfighting there are quite literally hundreds of sites for your fancies. What I try to do here is to shed light on viewpoints that are not likely to, say, be repeated on HuffPo ad nauseam. Nevertheless occasionally something comes along, down that corroded mainstream pipeline that I find is being analysed in a way that elides its most interesting elements.
Ladies and gentlemen: Christine O’Donnell had sex with a witch. Liberals wish for you to know this and meditate on this.
Ms. O’Donnell and I likely agree on nothing save for, perhaps, the colour of the sky and Goddess knows I hope she’s trounced in the November election, for all the good it will do. But in watching the ascent of the Tea Party’s women I’m noticing a familiar pattern emerging here and one I am not especially fond of. When it comes to women like Sarah Palin, liberal men tend to forget that they’re theoretically committed to the idea of being anti-sexist and tolerant in general. Thus, enter one of the infamous “Mama Grizzlies,” Ms. O’Donnell and some video clips of her 11 years ago on Politically Incorrect.
I’ll waste no more words here. In watching the splashy press coverage of this we are expected to accept as uncritical fact the idea that it is scandalous that Ms. O’Donnell was involved in witchcraft, and that she had sex with a witch on what she describes as a “Satanic altar.” This, to me, is not a scandal. I’m going to leave aside the important issue of the fact that “Satanism” and “witchcraft” are two completely different things, and this erroneous conflation of the two on O’Donnell’s part has gone unchallenged. It’s more important to focus on two things here:
- Yet again, a woman having had a sex life is automatically a scandal.
- Witchcraft = Bad according to liberals. Thanks, boys.
Usually when this sort of nonsense comes up I’ll typically hear out a liberal apologist who says this is merely about exposing hypocrisy. It reminds me of a debate I had with one liberal cis woman who thought calling Ann Coulter a “tranny” was just hi-fuckin’-larious, and it was okay! Because it just showed up Ann Coulter as a hypocrite and because *she* was transphobic, then it was just all ironic and shit to imply she was a trans woman. You know. Like it’s a bad thing! But that doesn’t mean liberals are being transphobic. They’re just being “clever.”
So it is with Ms. O’Donnell. They’re not hating on pagans or witches, they’re just showing up Ms. O’Donnell as a hypocrite, is all! Cause she’s all Fundie now. However, note how there is precious little explanation of this complexity, nor any attempt in any of the many salacious news stories about Ms. O’Donnell’s indiscretions to set the record straight about what witchcraft is. In any just world, being a witch would be no more scandalous than being Episcopal. Yet, as usual, when it comes to anyone who isn’t white cis men, liberals play a bit of a shell game. They are ‘merely’ exposing hypocrisy while also ‘cleverly’ trading on the stigmas surrounding witchcraft and female sexuality. It’s all for a good cause, of course. Sundering the evil conservatives.
Who cares if you use exactly the same methods people like Christine O’Donnell uses to discredit her ideological foes? And, hey, who cares if you reinforce nasty stereotypes about religious minorities, eh? We need liberalism to protect the weak, after all.
In watching the usual sexist sophistry of mainstream American liberalism from the sidelines this season I’m left shaking my head and remembering why I’ve increasingly come to distance myself from that philosophical stream. For them, defeating conservatives- while a worthy goal- has become an end in and of itself in a grand game of mounted polo chiefly played by white upper class people who are predominantly male and Christian. Periodically, in the service of these “higher” ideals they espouse, they’ll throw people under the bus in parade: people of colour, gay/queer people, trans people (I haven’t forgotten, Representative Frank), women, and now, hey, let’s give the neo-pagans a turn while we’re at it.
If I sound a tad peeved it’s because this is getting old. In fact it was ‘old’ long before I was born. Thus, in that spirit, I shall show you something tonight you probably never expected: behold, a radical leftist feminist transsexual queer woman goes to bat for Christine O’Donnell. For one thing, I don’t care what she did when she was a teenager. I am concerned about the impact of her political views in the here and now. For all I know, she could’ve been more rad than Angela Davis when she was 18, it does not change the fact that there is something glaringly wrong with her contemporary politics. We all did stupid shit when we were young. Myself included. I guarantee you, who ever you may be, did so as well. Maybe you had hot Satanic sex with two people! (Of course, that’s less stupid and more flaming hot, but… you get the idea). I do not need to know this about Ms. O’Donnell’s past. I kind of figured she’s fucked at some point in her life. I assume that about most people I meet. I even assume they’ve probably done weird shit in the bedroom at some point in their lives. I actually assume this about every politician I’ve ever heard of or laid eyes upon.
I would actually hazard a guess that most people do, regardless of social class or education. No one, not a one, is surprised when some rag runs sex scandal stories. Ever.
People change over time. How would you feel if some bit of youthful nonsense you’d dipped your nose into stalked you for the rest of your life? Christine O’Donnell’s contemporary record speaks for itself without this being thrown onto the pile. So, the rub of this is, irrespective of everything else, the fact that she did this in the past does not change Ms. O’Donnell’s sincerity in her convictions, nor does it make her less serious. That is a fact that those interested in challenging her would actually do well to keep in mind. If she ever was Wiccan (doubtful) she certainly is no longer and represents a legitimate threat to liberty. We would do well to not dismantle it on our end by opposing her with witch-baiting and sexist campaigns, yes?
Secondly and finally, Satanism and witchcraft are not the same things, and both Satanists and Wiccans will tell you this, as will many neo-Pagans. The conflation of the two is a Christian creation designed to facilitate exactly the kind of slandering that Bill Maher and other white liberal men are now using to pursue their own short term political aims. “She’s a witch!!” Really guys? The Fundamentalists called, they want their shtick back.
As far as I’m concerned the mainstream liberals and conservatives can have each other. A metaphorical hex on both their houses.
ETA: Apparently us witchy folks are speaking up rather loudly about this now. Note, however, that the criticism is being levelled chiefly at O’Donnell, as well it should since she herself was defaming Wicca/witchcraft in her initial interview. I maintain, however, that the media’s uncritical use of this soundbyte and screaming headlines of “O’Donnell says she dabbled in witchcraft” were meant to speak to a presumed audience of Americans who would assume witchcraft is bad and scandalous, and thus the thrust of my criticism- directed at liberals who sought to make a tempest in a tea (party) cup- remains trenchant, in my view. The headlines were not “O’Donnell insults Wiccan community,” they were oriented at shaming her for her association, however tenuous and distant in the past, with something vaguely approximating witchcraft.
The scandal was not her bigotry, it was the insinuated association. The media’s uncritical repetition of this meme is reflective of far larger problems than O’Donnell’s individual rantings and it is this, I feel, that merits the most criticism.