Rethinking Love for Hobbies

This post is a little more personal and difficult than I thought it would be. But then again, core values shouldn’t be treated lightly.

Some quick background: There are amazing and beautiful designs in woven goods that are found in archaeological sites. And while we might think we know what a symbol meant to a people over a thousand years ago, symbols morph over time. Our modern history and modern climate only has one interpretation of a swastika or any host of similar bent-armed, four-prong symbols: It only means support for white supremacist and nazi group values. 

And while highly advanced weaving techniques are admirable and worthy of pursuit, weaving any type of swastika shape and using that woven item in current day America will *always* carry the stigma of Nazi history. 

Some people did just that: They commissioned hand-woven and hand-sewn clothing. Someone wove an accurate representation of a grave find from the 6th Century. Someone else hand-sewed some garments and attached the woven trim. And the recipients of the clothing and weaving wore the outfits and were photographed in them.

And then people started asking publicly (on the internet), was this a good idea? Should the ceremonial face of our group be seen in outfits adorned with swastikas? 

There were several types of replies, also posted all over the internet (primarily on Facebook).

  • (a) I’m personally hurt because I identify with a group that was/is discriminated against by those who still carry swastikas.
  • (b) HELL NO, we should never look like we endorse racist and hateful symbols that are currently in use by groups that advocate violence and the eradication of other humans.
  • (c) Wait, why is everyone so upset? This symbol is from *history* and we are an historical club that values learning and research! We didn’t mean anything racist, we just wanted to do *ART* for art’s sake!
  • (d) Hey, stop picking on the artists and calling them nazis. You’re being a nazi for picking on them. 

It went downhill from there.

But what really surprised many of us is that it seemed like a painful ripple locally, and then we were working towards solutions that would make most everyone happy again. (Well, maybe not “happy” but at least satisfied with the response.) Then the impact of our local ripple came back from the far reaches of *every* known “kingdom” throughout our society.

And the ripple that came back? A complete tsunami.

Screaming voices on the internet were DEMANDING the resignation of the two leaders in question, and even calling for their absolute ban from the group. Rumors abounded. Accusations flew. And the regional leaders resigned. 

Then we had a new response group.

  • (e) See what those terrible whiners did to us? They made this happen! Those whiners ruined everything! I hope they’re happy now that everything is ruined!

Um, excuse me? The people who first asked, “Um guys? A swastika? Really?” are the ones who ruined everything? No. Bad behavior ruined things for a while. Rumor and internet comments ruined things for a while. 

You know the rule of thumb that says, “Don’t read the comments on the internet” because that’s where the worst of humanity shows itself? Here’s the fatal flaw when you apply that to Facebook: The entire premise of Facebook is in the Comments. You *could* try to avoid reading the comments, but then you’re not actually reading what’s going on in the discussions.

Now I’ve had some time to reflect on what happened. And I’m trying to find the love I had for my hobby. I love making yarn, spinning, weaving, and natural dyeing. But I was soured against some of my old textiles acquaintances. Some of them did not impress me “in the comments” on the internet. I chose to unfriend several because I was distressed by their conversations and did not want to have to emotionally bear the weight of their behavior anymore.

There were a lot of people for whom I used to enjoy doing event planning and administrative tasks so that everyone would enjoy the events even more. But I was soured against their accusations, defensiveness, and their anger. I watched a lot of arrogance, white privilege, and ignorance play itself out in the arguments. I don’t feel charitable toward whole groups of people, and I feel the loss of that old innocence of mine.

So, if I don’t want to spend time with some specific people anymore, do I even have it in me to spend time with the other people still there? There were FAR MORE people for whom I lost respect than I ever expected. Sure, some of them I wasn’t surprised at all. Some behavior was consistent. But other behavior was a surprise to me.

It is very likely I need to take up my own blame: Sometimes I assume that just because we’re in the same hobby, the same club, that we share some of the same values. And it hurts when that illusion is shattered. 

I don’t know if I can find my way completely back. This entire experience will never leave me. I will never be the same.

Spinning flax (the long fibers on my shoulder) into thread… my drop spindle is just visible down by my ankle

7 thoughts on “Rethinking Love for Hobbies

  1. Elizabeth H. McGlothlin says:

    It seems like this is a recap in miniature of what has been going on in the lager culture. Nasty symbols–yes, corrupted by those who had no claim to them–but nasty in our psyches for many years, and how people react. But even more by how quickly we separate into warring camps, even though we thought we had common values and aims. The swastika was respected in the Northern countries, it was also a sacred sun-symbol for many First Nations. Even if it is possible to rehabilitate it someday, it is far too soon, since There are still living victims of what it has come to mean to the world. My own confession is that I had hoped that blatant adherence to ideology of Nazis and the KKK had been dying a quiet death, but I was naive and wrong. And that there are folks who think it’s no big deal is not acceptable. It is frightening to discover the kind of schisms between us that we were not aware of. Be brave, sweetheart.

  2. Sheri Lindsey says:

    I would be sorry to lose seeing you at events, but I also sympathize with your feelings. This has brought out sides of many that were previously unseen. Your spirit is one of those that always lifts me up, through it’s generosity and honesty. Doing what is good for you is always the right choice.

  3. Elena Dent says:

    I hope that you do continue in the SCA. Yours was a voice of reason and calm in the whirlwind, and although the conversation got heated at times, it was never nasty or mean and I thank you again, publically, for that.

    I watched the fury blow and saw a depressing amount of attempted bullying and ‘let’s just sweep this under the carpet’ – which dismissed valid objections as well as hysterical attacks. But the carpet was, finally, just too lumpy and had to be lifted and the ground cleared. I hope this happens; I really do. Because there is great good will in the SCA as well as the ‘circle the wagons’ mindset that must learn to open that circle up and genuinely fix the mess.

    I know that before this happened seeing a swastika on an individual with an Asian persona, or Near Eastern, wouldn’t cause me to blink (not that I have seen it on such garb, which I believe is part of the issue).

    But no confrontational emblem should be on court garb – the court, Baronial or higher, should represent the entire populace, not just one segment. I think the biggest cause of the explosion was indeed arrogance – arrogance that felt their personal love of a symbol should over-ride consideration of anyone else’s concerns and objections. A wise response to the confrontational nature of that symbol would’ve been to loudly, joyously, publicly thank the people who made the garb, and then immediately, equally loudly, announce that they will wear this with joy and pride for the rest of their lives – once they step down from the throne, because this is a personal emblem, not one suitable for Court and Populace. Perhaps in future people will do that; I hope so.

  4. Melissa Midzor says:

    You wrote well exactly the same turmoil I am going through, feeling lost and adrift after 30 years. It does helps to know others are struggling with the same. Thank you.

  5. Valizan Ibn Fredeh says:

    “Sometimes I assume that just because we’re in the same hobby, the same club, that we share some of the same values. And it hurts when that illusion is shattered. ”

    This right here!

    The SCA has repeatedly covered up any scandal and shrugged rather than dealing with many of its ugly, hidden realities. We frequently have Missing Stairs (Look it up if you don’t know) and cover it up.

    Things like this are exactly as said above… the carpet has become too lumpy. We are starting to ALL see The Missing Stair and we need people like you, good lady, to stay and help unpack all the stuff that has been shoved under there.

    Next time we are together, let us make some private time to chat.

  6. Linda Robinett says:

    You San Heavy Lies the Crown causing many of us to openly weep. I will never forget that. I hope we have not lost your voice.

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