By Saito Takauji
I’m going to quote someone much wiser than I to start: This is why I don’t like to wake up before noon.
For anyone who missed it, the gist is this: A person (not going to use the phrase ‘gentleman’ here) spent yesterday joining every SCA Kingdom FB group he could, and then spent this morning spamming all of them with a letter written by Countess Brithwynn Artur of Trimaris.
Important to note is that Countess Brithwynn is the founder (as far as I can tell) of the Revolution for the Dream SCA FB page. The letter she wrote is essentially the thesis and mission statement of that group–that modern politics are driving people out of the SCA, that Conservatives are being targeted, that it is a small number of “woke” (always used pejoratively) and far-left (also always used pejoratively) members who are doing the targeting. And that the Board is either part of it or a tool of it, depending on who posts, especially with the creation of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office and officers.
I’m not going to respond to everything in that group; instead I’m going to focus on the letter specifically and then on the broader issues as I see them. This will be publicly posted and shareable, and I will not turn commenting off. My comments, as I’ve always maintained, are like the House of Commons; if you can’t stand up to the debate, don’t get in it. I still get people yelling at me for a post I wrote like four years ago.
- The Letter
I do think we need to thank Donald Trump for one thing, if only one thing: He has given us the defining word for our era. What began as Colbertian “Truthiness” (the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true) has become outright Fake News. We live in a time when it is easy for someone to log on to Social Media and post “Something Horrible Has Happened and The Media Won’t Report It!” even if it didn’t happen.
See, for example, noted conservative provocateur and man desperately trying to commit federal felonies Jacob Wohl staging a fake FBI raid on his partner yesterday for publicity (https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/media/a-fake-fbi-raid-orchestrated-by-right-wing-activists-dupes-the-washington-post/2020/09/14/c07ccc7e-f6c1-11ea-be57-d00bb9bc632d_story.html).
So when I am reviewing posts on the internet, I have three broad categories that I filter things through based on what I’m presented. These categories do a decent job of letting me get a handle on what I’m seeing, although it is far from a formal classification system. Those three categories will do us well in reading Her Excellency’s letter. They are:
First, my old trusty standby: “Actions have consequences.” When you choose to put something into the world, people will encounter it and react to it. They may react to it in ways that you didn’t expect, or don’t like. They may even decide not to have anything further to do with you because of it. This is not a bug, it is a feature–and that feature is called Freedom of Speech. A subcategory of this is “Why are you asking for a third party or the government to get involved in a private relationship?”
Second is the category of “If this happened, the fact that you are not citing any sources or accounts makes me believe you are either misreading it or deliberately changing facts about it.” The best examples of this in recent times are when a person goes to a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) and claims to have been harassed, only for it to come out later that they were either wrong or lying. Such as “surely this milkshake can’t have been disgusting, it must have been a tampon put in it to harass me” for the first and “Someone wrote ‘Pig’ as my order name, even though further evidence shows I would have had to put that as my own name in the app for it to happen” for the second.
And finally third is the outright category of “That didn’t happen.” Things that are so patently false that they can simply be tossed away without much concern, unless someone comes up with some really amazing documentation for it actually occurring. This category includes the aforementioned Mr. Wohl’s claims about Elizabeth Warren and her penchant for extra-marital affairs which left Marines broken physically and spiritually.
With those categories firmly in mind and a devil-may-care, damn the consequences attitude, let’s turn now to the letter in question.
“The time has come to end this hunt against those of differentiating opinions…”
And we’re off to the races. When I teach my college class, we emphasize the classic essay structure wherein one starts with a thesis statement, supports it, and then makes an argument. This gets close enough, I suppose, although a stronger thesis statement would be ‘There is a hunt against those with different opinions in the SCA,’ followed by facts, and then the argument it is time to end it. Note: It is entirely possible that this was an accidentally repeated paragraph, since it appears at the end as well; if that is the case then I withdraw my comment here, because this paragraph actually makes a decent (if factually deficient) conclusion.
Differentiating opinions would be opinions making a difference between themselves and other opinions known; what Her Excellency means here is ‘different’ opinions. You differentiate between two students with the same last name by using their first name, because they are different students.
“And the only way I can see this happening is to start bringing punitive actions against those people who engage in such activities.”
Her Excellency doesn’t note exactly what the activities are yet, although that will come later in the letter; here we’re left to simply associate it with the “hunt”, as if there are rogue bands of apocalyptic warriors roaming the SCA countryside.
“As such, I am calling on you, the Board of Directors of the Society for Creative Anachronism to reinforce our rules of engagement and help the general populous regain peace and acceptance from the people who feel these activities are unacceptable. If no change occurs you will continue to see membership decline and lower turn out at events. With a slow death to a once beautiful society.”
Note that here is the first instance of both the first and second categories I mentioned above. The first comes in to play when Her Excellency asks the Board to help the “general populous [sic] regain peace and acceptance from the people…” That is not a power of the SCA Board of Directors, or any Board of Directors. The SCA can enforce rules preventing certain kinds of conduct, but it cannot restore peace between people–that’s a matter for the people. In the law we would call this dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
The second category comes in the implied threat that this will cause members to continue to flow out of the SCA in a great river. It is largely a misstatement of facts to say the SCA has been losing members until the pandemic; based on the numbers available from the SCA itself, membership numbers basically remained stable year to year 2018 to 2019 (29,661 in January of 2018 to 28,769 in December; 29,197 in January of 2019 to 28,482 in December). The SCA has been losing paid members slowly until the pandemic, when it dropped precipitously. As for events, Pennsic did see a drop from 2017 to 2018 (the last year for which we have numbers) of roughly 100 members; but that was still up roughly five hundred from 2013.
The SCA has been losing members; the data does not deny that. But consistently the rate of loss and amount of loss have been overstated (until COVID-19); compare the 2019 numbers to the 2015 numbers 0f 30,991 at its highest point. 2000 members in four years is nothing to dismiss, but it is also not the immediate apocalypse it is sometimes portrayed as.
But this statement also commits the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, “it follows therefore it is because of.” This claim implies that it is the SCA’s DEI movement and “hunting” for people that is causing members to flee, and that if these efforts continue it will be primarily this that drives them away; there is zero evidence this is the case, and she does not offer any except anecdotally.
Also, as a nitpick? A city can be populous, but the people of the city are the populace.
“There seems to be a great deal of tension between those few who regard themselves as progressive and politically aware and the rest of the participants in the Society who are also aware yet respectfully leave their politics at the door.”
The SCA was founded by students in Berkeley, California, in 1966. As part of their first event, they walked up and down the street loudly protesting modernity. In a worldwide organization which still includes all of California and New York City, as well as a country that (according to Gallup polls) identified as 31% Democrat as of August 2020, I don’t think it is reflective of reality to assume there are “those few” who regard themselves as progressive in the Society. This statement seems to be very intent on creating a dichotomy of “those few ultra-liberals” and “the rest of the Society”, which I do not believe is reflective of the actual makeup of the Society–which I firmly believe is actually reflective of the countries in which it resides.
The concept of leaving politics at the door will have its own whole section of Part II, so we’ll leave it for now.
“I have personally witnessed members of the populace attack members over their social media posts, and I don’t see this as an appropriate, honorable, or a chivalric way for someone in the Society to comport themselves, especially online where there is an implied level of anonymity behind which the aggressor may hide.”
I have no doubt this happens. I’ve seen it, on both sides. And that’s important, because I can tell you for sure in my Kingdom there are people who come out swinging when I post something liberal just as often as people come out swinging on their pages when they post something conservative.
But remember about Category 1? What Her Excellency proposes here is, in essence, that the SCA police the social media posts of private individuals who are using a non-SCA controlled third party website to express their views. Not only that, but she is requesting the Board do so when the people being “attacked” are conservative–while widely sharing her own attack on progressives in the SCA (the letter was public even before it was shared).
And an important refrain: The plural of anecdote is not data.
Also in a note of irony: I am posting my response to this through my Facebook page, which has my real name on it. The person who spammed the letter to every Kingdom FB page only has his SCA name on his page. An implied level of anonymity behind which an aggressor may hide indeed.
“For approximately 45 years, the Society flourished by giving all newcomers the universal admonition to keep modern politics and religion out of the game.”
It’s Anno Societatis 55, which implies that Her Excellency is either not sure of what year it is or that we didn’t flourish in the first 10 years.
“More recently, and especially since Donald Trump took office, the aforementioned group of players have grown more open and bold with their abuse of other players with whom they do not agree. Indeed, there seems to be little justice for members who get harassed and subjected to ad homonym [sic] attacks when it comes to being a Republican, a Trump supporter, a conservative, or a Christian.
I have always been under the impression that the SCA does not engage in these aspects of the modern world and ostracizing players for their personal beliefs or convictions in the modern world has strictly been taboo.”
Ad hominem, not ad homonym.
Here is where we start to see an outright misrepresentation of how things have been in the SCA, our history and our growth.
The first issue here is that it represents the major issue of the whole letter and its oeuvre: The conflation of “the SCA” with “the people in the SCA.”
The SCA does not engage in modern politics, and does not ostracize players for their modern political beliefs. Members of the SCA can, do, always have, and always will. Because the map is not the territory, and “the SCA” is not the same as “people in the SCA.” One is a 501(c)(3) corporation, the other is a group of people with whatever rights to free speech their respective creators have endowed them with and their countries recognize. One is required to be apolitical, and the other is by definition free to not be.
When someone attacks another person for posting their political beliefs, that is not the SCA doing it. And the question of what the SCA should do about it is a difficult one. But it occurs to me that there is likely a significant amount of overlap between people who say that what someone did after an event or not at an event can’t be held against them when it involves sexual assault, and who are now clamoring for the Board to punish people who were mean to them on the internet.
And the idea that the people of the SCA have never ostracized players for their personal beliefs or convictions is frankly bananas. The SCA has existed during the Vietnam war, the Reagan administration, both Gulf Wars, 9/11, the Obama administration, and the Trump administration. It has existed during the AIDS Crisis, the Iranian hostage crisis, and the Stonewall Riots for God’s sake. You don’t think at any time during that long history there were people who refused to speak to one another or friendships ended because of politics?
I have heard a Peer state outright that she would speak against someone in a Peerage circle if they were rude 20 years ago at a party; you don’t think people were ostracized for far more contentious things?
And even those things which are on first glance rooted in “SCA” issues have their roots in real world ideology. Do we think that the earliest women who wanted to fight in the SCA weren’t feminists, and that the responses to them were not rooted in misogyny? Do we think that every single person who spoke against same sex consorts only did so on the grounds of historical accuracy, and none of them from a position of homophobia?
Also important here is that these are vague references without citation to either specific incident or actions taken. The SCA has a policy about bullying and harassment. If Her Excellency witnessed this did she report it up the chain of command? Later on she comments that when such things are brought up to the Board that:
“…the answers we get feel like they are long on excuse and short on results, they are placid at best.”
That claim requires specific evidence, because it is always going to be a fact dependent analysis. You cannot say “we were abused and the SCA did nothing” without presenting the evidence of both; because what you feel is abusive may not rise to the level of violating the policies regarding harassment. And you can argue that those standards should change, but you cannot do so without showing specifically how those standards failed.
“As a result, there is a large portion of the Society who no longer feel safe or even welcome in the game and are being pushed out by progressive players.”
As our friends at Wikipedia say, citation required.
Also note again the concerted effort to create a distinction between “small group of progressive players” and “everyone else.” First to imply that, as above, the majority of the SCA is not progressive, and second by implication that the progressive members are all abusive.
And note how imprecise the terms are. A “large” portion–neither named nor numbered. What constitutes a “large” portion? Is that a majority? A plurality? A significant percentage? What is she basing these numbers on?
The plural of anecdote is not data.
“Lately, it seems as though the governing members of the Society are condoning the actions taken by the extreme left-leaning members of our Society. Peers are pressuring their students to either support BLM or risk losing the support they need to gain the next level of achievement in the Society, or worse still, losing their place within their SCA family.”
This is a particularly interesting passage because of what it seems to imply about the Society. No one can possibly say that Peers are not ranking or important members of the Society, but it is also not at all accurate to call them the “governing” members of the Society. Sir Manfred is just one knight–even if he be KSCA OL OP OD, he is still just one peer; he has the voice and influence of a Peer in how the governing members of his Kingdom and the Society act, but he is not in any legal or actual or effective sense a “governing member” of the society. Her Excellency is here once again committing the sin of conflating “members of the SCA” with “the SCA”; a Peer who holds no office or crown or seat on the Board is just a member, not a “governing” member.
This also strikes me as a fundamental misunderstanding of the Peer/Student relationship, which the beginning of the next paragraph elaborates further upon:
“I have seen with my own eyes Peers terminating their proteges and apprentices for a difference of political opinion and stating that while they respect that person they can no longer be associated with them because they voiced their opinions on Facebook, of all places.”
The Peer/Student relationship does not appear in Corpora, the Bylaws, or any other governing document of the Society. It is not regulated, explained, expounded, or limited by any official body of the Society. This is because that relationship is not a legal one, but a private one between two individuals who have decided to enter into it.
Note that the word ‘family’ was used in the first paragraph on this topic, and it’s important to realize that’s what it is. And the same truths hold in the Society as they do in the real world: Family is voluntary, and the familial relationship may be terminated by either side at any time. Many of us know family members who are estranged from one another, or people who have completely left their families and even changed their names.
This is perhaps the worst conflation of “members” with “the SCA,” because it is insisting that a breakdown of private communication and relationship is a matter for the Board of Directors to be involved in. And not only for the Board to be involved in, but for them to actively take a role in stopping or to act punitively against when it happens–remember the introduction to this letter, where Her Excellency calls for the Board to be punitively involved in these matters.
I have peers. One of them likes Ouzo. I think that Ouzo tastes like gargling Willy Wonka’s taint. Having posted that, said peer is completely within his rights to reach out to me and ask me several questions (like how I know what that tastes like or why I felt the need to say that). But he is also well within his rights to say that while he still respects me he cannot associate with me because of my opinion on the nasty licorice water which is probably what durian tastes like in Candyland.
How else would you want it to work? How else could it work and possibly make any sense, and work in a way that would entice any Peer to take any student? Imagine if I was a peer and I found out that the student I took was a holocaust denier. Would Her Excellency require me to continue to spend time with this person, teach them, and hold them out to be a member of my household when I knew this about them simply because it is a modern of “mundane” politics? Were I to kick them to the curb, would Her Excellency say that the Board of Directors should be able to get involved and punish me for removing someone from my household who denied the suffering of my people? You might say that is an extreme example, but it isn’t–it’s just an example, especially in today’s society and today’s world.
Fundamentally this is a woman who identifies as a conservative arguing that a private corporation should be able to enact punitive measures against private members who have a friendship break down, or a disagreement so strong that they cannot continue to represent themselves as being family. That position argues for a fantastic overreach that would have the Board litigating disputes between mentors and mentees regularly, and having to almost inevitably come down on matters of personal politics and beliefs. In other words, the very kind of things that Her Excellency currently says is killing the SCA and driving away people in droves.
It would also, of course, cut both ways. It is not just a conservative student who could have a “progressive” or “ulta-left” peer punished. I think Her Excellency would find as many conservatives plagued by students who they disagreed with and who posted non-stop politics that they could not distance themselves from without Board disapproval as she would find the opposite.
This fundamentally comes down to Category 1 I listed above, and something I’ve spoken at length about before: Actions have consequences. If you choose to put your opinions on the internet where everyone and their mother can read them, you choose to deal with the consequences of those actions. If you choose to take on the burden of citizenship and be politically active and vote, you choose to deal with the consequences of that. Her Excellency puts herself in the same situation as those people who signed the Harper’s Magazine letter against “cancel culture” a few months back but were to have been found calling for others to be criticized for their speech: In favor of freedom of speech for their views, but not in favor of freedom of speech for anyone to respond to them.
Every conservative member of the SCA has the freedom to state their beliefs proudly and openly. And every liberal member of the SCA has the exact same freedom to decide how they feel about that view, and how they feel about a person who espouses that view. That’s not discrimination: It’s being an adult.
Like I said before, I still get yelled at for long ago posts on this very website. I got a comment in June of 2020 about an article I wrote in 2015 that started “Sorry about that dip shit…”
You play the game, you win the prizes; stupid or not.
“This is appalling, we have members of Royalty who are being held accountable for the actions of these protagonists, and while some Royals may condone this action, their [sic} are also some who feel at a total loss as to what they should do in these perilous times.”
Not entirely certain what this sentence means, but I feel like it belongs in the [Citation Required] camp. If there are Royalty who have been sanctioned because of the actions of members of their Kingdom, I would definitely like to see the documentation for that–even just their side of it.
I am not unsympathetic to part of this–we live in particularly difficult times. The SCA is a primarily (but not exclusively) American institution, and America is in the throes of many things. As the Royalty for a pretendy fun time game it can be difficult to know what to do, especially when one is in the position of being Royalty for far longer than anyone in the SCA ever has been.
The answer, however, cannot possibly be “get involved in personal disputes on people’s personal Facebook pages.” If that’s what the Board is asking for then Her Excellency should consider posting that. And not asking the Board to do the very same thing she is advocating against when she says that some Royals may condone these actions, perhaps?
Facebook and other social media outlets like Reddit have opened up a free for all platform within the members of the SCA to be as toxic as humanly possible…”
You know what, credit where credit is due, I agree. Social media has had a deleterious effect on the SCA by exposing us to the constant and ongoing inner lives of our fellow members. Once upon a time we had no way of knowing whether someone a King elevated to the Order of Defense was a horrible racist and worst person, and so no way to call on that person to do better, and no way to know that the King in question would double down on not doing so and lead to open revolt among members of his Peerage.
(That would be Baldar, whose most recent reign was Baldar VII and Brithwynn, the very Her Excellency who authored the letter).
We now are able to see so much more about what our fellow members eat, think, and spend money on than ever before. And we are thus forced to make more moral and ethical decisions about other members than we ever did before. And indeed about our fellow citizens, family members, and co-workers more than ever before.
And while that’s terrible, it still comes down to a simple volitional act: They choose to post those things. The person who spammed the letter chooses to post about how he believes COVID-19 will disappear at the election, and Her Excellency chooses to post this letter originally. That volitional act, as I keep harping on, has consequences. When we choose to act, we must accept that we will be acted upon in return or we declare:
- We do not understand how adult interactions work;
- We do not understand how freedom of speech works; or
If you never want someone to decide not to interact with you about politics, don’t choose to post politics. If you do, accept that other people will be able to judge that in return. Because that is literally reality, and adulthood, and freedom of speech. It cannot be freedom of speech if you are allowed to put whatever you want into the world, and other people are not allowed to respond in kind. That’s not freedom of speech, but rather a specifically targeted form of tyranny.
Let’s move through some specific claims quickly as we barrel into the conclusion. Her Excellency claims that:
- Doxxing is currently accepted in the SCA (as long as it is against conservatives) and when it is reported to the Board it is ignored;
- Landed Barons are “using their position” to speak out about ridding themselves of conservatives, including the suggestion of stealing knights chains to melt them down;
- DEI Officers are encouraging the populace to “get involved” with political groups and “Black Mamas Bailout” fund on official forums;
- There is a prejudice against the Chivalry with the assumption “they are somehow responsible for a majority of the racism and white prejudice in our Society.”
I do not know anything about the specific incidents Her Excellency is referring to. I don’t know whether they exist or not, but I suspect that we are dealing with at least my Category 2 if not Category 3. If someone has specific screen shots of these incidents, and specific evidence of them being ignored when reported to Society Officers and the Board, I would dearly like to see it.
I also want to address the chivalry issue. I don’t think it is that the Chivalry is seen as being inherently racist or the source of racism and prejudice in the Society–I think that the reason we have seen more discussion of the Chivalry is because they are the ones who most often win Crowns. Trim-gate involved a Crown. Baldar was a Crown. The creepy sex cult guy in Atlantia was a Crown and supported by a Crown. All of them are or were (at the time) Knights. The downside of being the group that is most likely to sit on the throne is that when people on the throne are visibly, audibly, and actually complete monsters, that is going to bounce back on you more than if they also happen to be Pelicans, Laurels, or Defenders.
Now we roll to the conclusion:
“The SCA has always stood for Chivalry, Honor, and Integrity and yet somehow we’ve gone astray and now revere virtue signaling and political activism.”
Virtue signaling, for those who are not aware, is what Conservatives call Liberals who they think are only acting virtuously to gain points for “woke”-ness. Inherent in that accusation, of course, is that what they are signalling is a virtue–like Chivalry, Honor, or Integrity.
There’s a lot here, but I think it deserves its own separate unpacking in Part II. But notice the implicit accusations here–that people who are calling out racism, that are pointing out the inherent disconnect between a society of Chivalry and anti-semitism/homophobia/transphobia/misogyny/racism are, and that are pushing for the Society to do more to address them are not upholding the virtues of Chivalry, Honor, and Integrity. It makes me wonder how Her Excellency would define those traits, if they are so hollow as to exist only when applied to SCA concerns.
“With regards and in service to the dream,
Countess Brithwyn Artur of Trimaris.”
I appreciate her willingness to sign her name to it and own it. I will do the same courtesy at the end.
- The Bigger Issues
So much of this letter represents the ongoing culture war in the U.S. that it might as well be held up as a microcosm. Social media is ruining us, but what’s really ruining us is when people apply consequences to my actions; cancel culture is wrong, but I want a corporation or government to punish the people doing it; I can’t go anywhere and be who I want to be, except all the places I can absolutely go and do that with other people who completely agree and pat me on the back (aka Parler).
But in the SCA it is particularly galling because, as Her Excellency points out, we are a Society which is supposed to be founded on better things.
This part is to speak about those issues that arise out of her view, and ones that may be repeated by people who are not necessarily fellow travelers along her road to speaking at the next RNC.
a. Use Our Structures
In my response to the letter, I expressed doubt as to whether or not some of the events happened as they were depicted–or even if they happened at all. But let’s assume that there are incidents like the ones that Her Excellency depicts:
Look, I’m on their side. I donated to bail funds, I’m a regular donor to both the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Hell, I’ve been a regular donor to NPR. But if a landed Baron is sitting ex cathedra and telling people to do something political, then absolutely report him. And if he doesn’t stop, use our structures.
If an SCA officer or member is directing the doxxing of another member, regardless of why, then report them.
If a DEI officer is advocating a political position from an official account or on an official forum, then report them.
It’s that simple. And if the Board refuses to do anything about it, publish and publicize that as well. God above knows that everyone else who has ever had a problem with the Board has published their grievances, and even started websites to attempt to recall the Board. Be one more person doing that, except this time for a good reason.
That’s one reason why I have suspicions about the events as reported. As Calontir recently saw, when someone has an issue with what the Board is doing it is rare for them to keep it quiet. If these things had happened as written we would not be hearing about them for the first time in a letter; we would be seeing a foaming tide of discontent across Kingdoms.
Part of using our structures, then, is trusting that things are working rather than broken; and trusting that when things have broken down they are doing so in a limited rather than being indicative of a great conspiracy to drive people out.
b. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Is Not Going Away (and Shouldn’t)
Having been working with corporations since I sold appliances for Sears for the first time in 2011, I can tell you that corporate America is at least committed to appearing committed to DEI measures for the ongoing future. As part of my annual training at Bellevue University I am required to take non-discrimination refreshers. As a member of another organization I not only have to take annual DEI refreshers, but they go out of their way to emphasize how the DEI principles align with the core values of Integrity, Respect, and Excellence.
Increasingly DEI is being seen as a major strategic advantage in both the business and national security spheres as well. The United Kingdom Cabinet Office published a guide explaining why diversity and inclusion is a matter of national security (https://www.fairplaytalks.com/2019/03/27/head-of-civil-service-di-is-a-national-security-issue/), U.S. based foreign policy writers view it as being America’s untapped advantage (https://inkstickmedia.com/diversity-is-americas-untapped-competitive-edge/), and a former intelligence analyst turned law professor writes about how it enhances the Intelligence Community (https://commons.law.famu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1035&context=famulawreview).
Civil Air Patrol training on DEI specifically focuses on how a lack of diversity creates blindness. This is echoed in much of the literature on the subject. Without the diversity to bring in differing viewpoints and the inclusion to see that everyone has a seat at the table, we end up with people who all have the same cultural blind spots. Time solidifies these into institutional blindspots, leaving us exposed when something challenges them. How many times have we wished our organizations had taken a broader view on issues that would have left them less exposed when the world shifted?
And it is not hard to see these benefits to the SCA as well. New people of broad backgrounds bring in the opportunity for learning we otherwise would have missed. And it pays dividends in unexpected ways as well. The SCA has benefitted from a wealth of scholarship on Europe and the rest of the world from traditional and non-traditional academic sources, and our evolution as an organization has always come from new people bringing in their experiences and background. Without it we stagnate and die, the slow death of a beautiful organization that Her Excellency was so worried about before.
c. We’ve Never Left Politics at the Door
If I were an observant Jew, I would be functionally unable to participate in the SCA; and would be incredibly hard pressed to advance if I did.
SCA events are almost always on Saturdays unless they are wars or multi-day events; but in the Kingdoms I’ve lived in even a “multi-day” event that isn’t a war means “Almost everything major is on Saturday except for some tournaments, classes, and hang outs.” I could not, therefore, attend any of the following events in my Kingdom which have most of their activities on Saturday before sundown:
- Crown Tournaments
- Kingdom Arts and Sciences
- 12th Night
- Royal University
- King’s Company of Archers
- Kris Kinder
I could attend Lilies, if I left the second Friday and Saturday before coming back; I could attend Valor, if I decided to miss the day with the largest tournaments. And I suppose I could go to any of the above listed events if I was content to maybe make feast and the post-revel.
That means that functionally the SCA cannot be a Jewish institution. Or at least not an Orthodox Jewish one. If by its very nature it makes it hard for it to be observant Jewish and in the SCA, what does that say about its identity or politics?
For years women were unable to fight, or were ridiculed if they wanted to. For years a man could not fight for a man in Crown, or a woman for a woman–and when that changed, it was done in a way that left Kingdoms able to decide if it was acceptable or not, and some people outright left. Transgender members can likely fill in with horror stories about trying to be accepted as they are when they come to SCA events. And furthermore, these are not necessarily in the past: To many people in the SCA these stigmas are neither historical nor passed, and they face them every day.
If you think the SCA ever left politics at the door, it did not; it just means that your participation, your advancement, and even your existence were never the ones threatened or questioned. But make no mistake: Others were. And they have either been silently begging you to notice or openly telling you about it for years, and you simply decided not to listen.
And all that is to ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room that is the SCA’s slow infiltration by white supremacists. An infiltration which has been mirrored by similar growth in every medievalist or historical association, and which the SCA has been trying to fight for several years now. But when it tries to fight it, it is met with the same kinds of claims that Her Excellency makes here: That to fight it is to “bring modern politics” in to the SCA; that people wearing Swastikas are just “trying to reclaim the symbol”; that we’re ruining the SCA with our “witch hunts”.
Those years where we banned or discouraged female fighters were rooted in misogyny. Prejudice against non-European personae is often rooted in racism. The opposition to same sex consorts even when presented with historical antecedents is based in homophobia. Transgender members face transphobia.
All of these are examples of real world politics which were not left at the door, but were brought into our game. While there are no doubt people who made legitimate objections to women fighters or same sex consorts based on history, it is ludicrous to claim that there were none who did it based on misogyny or homophobia. Which means they were bringing their real world prejudices into the game. Perhaps Her Excellency has a well documented history of fighting against such things with the same exuberance, but I do not have that evidence before me.
And as I mentioned before, for years there is no doubt in my mind that we have allowed real world politics to influence the game; we’ve simply chosen not to notice it or speak about it. For all that Her Excellency complains about being a conservative in the SCA, imagine how a liberal member feels in Mississippi or Alabama? Do we imagine there has never been anyone speaking against them because of their politics? Or doing so in the coded language of ‘not a good fit’ or ‘not the right kind of people’ or hiding it behind the cover of ‘not having Peer-Like Qualities’?
We talk about how the SCA is a “home”, and even Countess Brithwynn focuses on family in her letter. But the problem for the SCA is that it cannot both be welcoming to everyone and inclusive. If it welcomes literally everyone, it will welcome in those people who would drive out others because they do not want them there; welcoming everyone means welcoming in bigots. It’s the paradox of tolerance, and we as a Society have to focus on doing one or the other–because if we don’t, we will be welcoming accidentally while pretending to be inclusive.
Ironically, the SCA’s progress toward DEI is the very progress that Her Excellency would like to see in leaving politics behind. Diversity means that people of every background, race, religion, class, education, gender and identity, and every other kind of difference are welcomed; equity means that they are all treated justly; and inclusion means they are all able to participate to the full extent they want to. That is exactly what a non-political Society would look like; it’s simply that some see inclusivity as political that blinds them to this fact.
d. What are the virtues we want to represent?
Honor. Chivalry. Nobility. These are the qualities that the SCA has decided to project to the world; the values that we say are at the heart of our game. And I think everyone who has been in the SCA for any length of time can likely name members they think have lived up to the highest virtues of the organization.
But the ones that I can name, those people who act like a north star for me to set my own moral compass by? They are paragons in part because they live by those virtues whether they are at an SCA event or not. Because they embody them completely, and try to act by them whether they are wearing garb or mundane clothes.
Countess Brithwynn would have us look at people and see them as shining paragons of virtue when they put on their garb, and ignore them when they’re wearing jeans. Would have us believe that someone can post things we find hateful or hurtful from Monday to Friday, and then treat us with civility and kindness when we go to an event. And perhaps some people are capable of doing that, and surviving the cognitive dissonance whiplash that comes with it.
But I don’t think most do it, or are capable of doing it. I think if someone is sharing memes about the kinds of people Mexico is “sending” us during the week, they are likely thinking about it when they go to an event on Saturday. When they sit in the circle. If they share something making fun of ‘I Can’t Breathe’ on Friday, why would an African American member feel comfortable being judged by them in a competition on Saturday?
And why should we expect that our virtues, whether Chivalric or Peer-like, should turn off when someone goes home from an event? Why should we expect that the morality of our peers and fellows should be dependent on whether they’re wearing garb or plain clothes? And why our comfort around them should wholly and entirely depend on whether it’s 10 AM on a Saturday or 2 PM on a Tuesday?
I’m not saying that people cannot have off days, and disagreeing with me on the internet has never been an adequate reason for me to speak against someone in circle or even do more than be a little snarky. But the SCA has to decide what its values mean. Does Chivalry only apply when I’m Uji? Does courtesy only apply when I’m bowing at an event, not when I’m interacting with a person? Am I only bound to recognize a nobleman’s dignity, and not a fellow man’s?
I do not choose to think so little of the society, or of its members. Time and time again I’ve come back to the point that actions have consequences, and choices matter; and that’s because I believe it has to be the heart of how we view the interactions between Society members. If you know that you are in a Society which emphasizes nobility and respect and you choose to share something that others feel violates those virtues, there will be consequences. Social consequences, but consequences nonetheless.
Social Media has not been terribly good for us as a Society, as a nation, or as a species. It does allow us to see into other people’s lives in an intimate and unguarded way, since so many of us (myself included) treat it so much like a diary the world can see. It has allowed us to share beauty but also to show ugliness, and forces us to evaluate the people around us in ways we never expected to.
But that is also all we can do, unless we want to go full on luddite and renounce it. We cannot expect that if we put ugliness and intolerance out into the world, that we will be welcomed as family by everyone. And we cannot expect that the Society will come and crackdown on “intolerance” shown by others, but remain oddly silent when it is our own social transgressions that people are angry about.
The answer cannot be that we have to accept what some people say but not others. And the answer cannot be that we accept those who hate, but cannot accept those who fight against hate. In part because that’s not a society, and that’s not what the Society should be. And in part because too many of us know too many people who were left behind, or hurt, or marginalized, or destroyed by the way things used to be; we cannot go back, because we cannot abandon the people we have promised we will no longer leave behind.
I believe in the Society. I believe in our DEI efforts, and our attempts to more fully and completely live up to the ideals we were founded on. And I do not agree with that letter, Countess Brithwynn, or those who believe it is the way for the Society.
My Dream does require a revolution, but not one based on half truths, misstatements, and backsliding.
The Honorable Lord Saito Takauji, Kingdom of Calontir.