Rebuilding Yourself: Rooting Out Prejudice and Hate-Culture
Brainwashing is one of the most breathtaking cruelties humanity perpetrates.
It takes away the essential person from him or herself, warping him or her into some other creature entirely. It is a forced, manipulated existence not worthy of the term 'life'. I know this, because it happened to me.
My youth in this lifetime was not, for the most part, spent happily. It was not the worst childhood I've heard of, and I don't look for pity in a world where pain is universal. I mention it merely so others may relate from their own individual paths.
I grew up in a cultic environment, enveloped in suffocating religious fundamentalism that was taken to nauseating extremes. It did not stop at abuse; there was plenty of that to go around, I don't delude myself that I'm the only one who suffered there.
But I am the only one I know of who grew up to eventually shun and reject entirely the religious belief system that caused all the unnecessary anguish to me and to many around me who tried to befriend me. I have no idea why that is; it's unfathomable to me how the people - especially the women - I grew up with can still embrace what we labored under. But that is not for me to judge.
What is for me is self-discovery. That might be one of the bittersweet gifts of life *after* being brainwashed and escaping it; you get the perpetual sense of wonder that comes with realizing who you actually are for the first time - meeting and getting acquainted with yourself.
This is a surprisingly long and sometimes difficult process, not without its own myriad pains.
For me, one of the biggest early self-discoveries I made came while I was at a Pagan retreat, specifically during a concert by one of the guest musical performers: Frenchy and the Punk (although then they were called 'The Gypsy Nomads'). I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience, but there were things that made me acutely uncomfortable.
In the fullness of time, I want to discuss two of the songs they did: the first is called 'Oh Gypsy', and that's what the rest of this post will be about. I'll get to the other song and its underlying issue in my life at another time.
I've attached the link to a live performance of this song, if anyone is curious.
Gypsy and the Punk - "Oh, Gypsy"
This was the first song I ever heard that was not only overtly pagan, with mention of Isis and Pan, but also overtly lesbian. Obviously I grew up hearing Melissa Etheridge, and everyone knew her sexual orientation; but her songs were not necessarily overt. They could be taken any way the hearer wished, and that is a good thing if that's what the song is meant for.
In this song's case, it's meant to do the opposite: surprise and delight.
When I heard it, I was surprised, but not so much delighted.
I enjoyed the first part, where the girl is asking the gypsy so desperately to tell her when her love, her man, her Prince Charming, will appear; I nodded wryly when she repeated that though she prayed to God and sang to Jesus, no one seemed to hear. I could relate to that; and I loved hearing pagan names, even if they were not of my particular pantheon, sung in a real song - especially in a convivial atmosphere under the star-studded sky beside a blazing fire.
But when the shocker came, the punch-line, as it were, and she sang
"I do not see a man in your future at all;
Instead I see a woman - beautiful and tall
She will love you just as much, maybe even more
She wears a Gypsy dress, and looks into crystal balls!
"Oh, young girl, young girl, this is what I see:
I am your Princess Charming, and you have come to me.
I prayed to Isis, sang to Pan, and here you are at last!
Oh young girl, give this love a chance"
When she sang THAT, I suddenly felt involuntarily and inexplicably repulsed. Please understand me:I did not agree any longer with Judeo-Christian moral values as pertains to sexuality. My mind assented to the rights of homosexuals as being completely equal to the rights of heterosexuals; but there was STILL some bastion of deep, involuntary fundamentalism inside me.
It was like a parasite; a tapeworm you never suspect, but that sits there secretly starving you from the inside.
Not surprisingly, part of this was directly personal: I was suddenly confronted with the fact that although I was mostly heterosexual (toward the center of the Kinsey scale, but not bisexual in the sense of being equally divided in my attractions) I was and always had been secretly attracted at certain times to certain women, and I had not become at all comfortable with that aspect of my sexuality.
Even more important to me was the fact that I suspected from a very young age that my own daughter was homosexual if she was at all sexual; that was correct, though at the point in my journey I'm telling you about, she had not realized it herself.
So this crisis inside me over a fun pagan song by the fire gave me a LOT to think about. I realized it would at some point be an issue deep in my household, and I had better figure out my own problem and solve it before it became my family's problem. We have enough problems without adding things that should have long since been unlearned.
I had to sit down with myself and seriously address my issue: Why was I disturbed by the song's saucy, humorous, unabashed lesbianism? Why did it make me curl up inside? How could I dismantle my own unwilling fundamentalism, fortified by my total ignorance of its presence to that point and my inability to see its foundations?
It took a long time and many serious self-explorations. It was painful, embarrassing, and irritating. I was annoyed with myself, that this should even be an ongoing issue. Wasn't I liberated from all that Judeo-Christian bedroom SWAT team attitude? Hadn't I told myself to leave all that behind and embrace a wider worldview, full of love and tolerance toward all creatures? Why should this secret homophobia still lurk inside me, as if it had any right, any claim to residence? Hadn't I evicted it completely along with all the other fear-driven, unloving impositions of the cult I was raised in?
No, I had not evicted it completely. I had to take the time. It was well dug in; not easy to dislodge. It did not WANT to leave; it was 'a bastion of morality in my pagan wasteland', I knew my parents and the father of my children would say if they knew of my inward battles. So I had to struggle against it consciously.
Eventually, by logic, reason, experience, observation, and sheer desire to be free of all prejudice, I ousted the crouching hatred of homosexuality that had been long planted very deep by the hate culture I had been raised in so strictly.
There stopped being a problem long before my daughter was ready to come out; when she finally did, I was actually relieved she had finally realized her lesbianism for herself and entrusted us with knowing it from her.
I'm writing this because I know none of us lives in a vacuum, and I feel the urge to share the experience. I know that many pagans were raised in a similarly strict, abusive, suffocating way; I know that many may deal with the same unwilling homophobia I did without knowing it, and I know that it can be deeply shameful to admit even to ourselves.
We stand against prejudice of all kinds, as pagans having known such vicious persecution ourselves. For us to hold bias and hate toward a guiltless group of people simply for their sexual preference is unthinkable. It's hard to forgive ourselves if we find it lurking somewhere. I could not bring myself to admit it to my group, either; it was too shameful, and I feared their condemnation.
But if you do ever feel that worm of revulsion, of unreasoning hate toward some group of people that is rooted in a troubled upbringing, or in brainwashing and bullshit, know this:
1. You are not alone. Brainwashing is a serious injury to the soul, especially during childhood. It takes a lot of unlearning and rethinking to recover. Be patient with yourself.
2. Don't be ashamed; just root it out. It can be done; it is being brought to your attention so that you *can* root it out before it causes a real problem with collateral damage.
3. It will pass; it will one day be gone so completely you'll be amazed, perhaps appalled, to think of yourself as you were.
Freedom will be complete; and it is more delicious, as well as more terrifying, than we ever imagined.