Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about something that happened to me in high school.
I was raised pagan, I’m still pagan, and I live in a small town. In preschool and early grade school you can really believe the “being different makes you special” line they try and feed us, so I was absolutely not quiet at all about being the youngest child in the only pagan family in town.
The teachers were okay with it, my second-grade teacher was perfectly happy to write “Happy Solstice” on top of my card when we were making holiday cards in school, and only one substitute ever got mad at me for catching me saying “one nation, under gods” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The kids, however, were complete shits. As one would expect. I got a wide range of verbal abuse over my religion. I got it all: goat killer, goat fucker, incest, ‘did you cast a spell on me’, ‘teacher teacher Kathryne cursed me and I can’t stop yelling during class’ (which was absurd, if I could put a spell on them I’d make them quieter not louder), ‘we’re going to come to your house tonight and burn you at the stake’, ‘don’t suffer a witch to live’, ‘piginism isn’t a real religion’, ‘you said you’re a pigin, you’re a pig oink oink’, the works. And staying with the same basic group of kids from kindergarten to senior year of high school, there was never a point I could go back in the broom closet even if I wanted to.
So flash forward to junior year of high school, this bullshit is still going strong, and another family transfers to the school. These two nerdy ginger twins, raised fundamentalist Christian but surprisingly cool with hanging out in the same group as me. Until this point, I was seriously afraid of fundamentalist Christians because as a child one screamed “REPENT!” at me and one tried to exorcise me. Both adults, by the way. Not how you ought to treat children. Not the point.
The point is, the exact same kids who were telling me I was going to hell in one breath started bullying the twins, calling them idiots and Jesus freaks. I, being the oldest and most spoiling-for-a-fight member of the group start defending them. (“Back off! They’re minding their own business, maybe you should try it sometime.”)
To which the kid who was yelling at them at the moment looks at me in utter confusion.
“We weren’t talking to you, we were talking to the Doublemint twins. They aren’t even the same religion as you. Why would defend them?“
“Because they have the right to choose their own religion as much as you or I do. Because you’re saying the exact same things to them as you say to me. Because you’re an asshole.“ or words to that effect, this was about thirteen years ago, I don’t remember the exact wording. And I doubt the bully does either because this explanation didn’t seem to clear anything up. They very much seemed to think that I should have been happy I wasn’t the focus of their bile at the moment.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been thinking about this conversation a lot. And it’s not just applicable to religion. These are the same people saying “I want to see ace tumblr and bi tumblr fight”. These are the same people who are horribly racist to huge swaths of the population. I’m not saying, “uwu let’s all hug and love each other”.
I’m just saying that the people trying to make the lives of any group of people harder don’t expect any opposition from anyone they’re not actively attacking at that moment. You can just as easily and far more succinctly say “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” or “and then they came for me, and there was no one left to object”, but personally I’m always going to remember the utter confusion as he asked, “Why would you defend them?”