The Barbarian Bard

Tales and Musings by Michael A. Espinoza

Archive for the tag “tolerance”

The Gem Stone’s Folly

Hail readers,
As many of you likely already know, this month is Pride Month. A while ago, I wrote this poem—a darkly-themed fairy tale-esque piece—but I wasn’t sure if or when I’d share it. I’m not entirely sure what the poem is specifically about, and it’s certainly far from uplifting. I guess I just want to share it and say please embrace the diverse array of wonderful people in the world. Don’t discourage a person from being who they are just because it clashes with your concept of who they ought to be. We all shine in our own unique ways, and whether it’s orientation, presentation, or identification, the world has enough love for each and every one of us, but we have to choose to share that love. Don’t just talk tolerance, take actions of acceptance.

In a family of rocks, a stone was born,
of like-body, and like-mind.
Of dark and solid flesh was he,
in each way alike in kind.
“Sturdy and strong,” their friends would say,
“a worthy rock you’ve sired.”
And the new stone beamed with every word
of praise that he inspired.
A life of stone was a good life;
stalwart, day and night.
He gave no ground, he felt no fear,
he let shine no light.

But a reckless sunbeam struck the stone,
angled perfectly,
and a dazzling light reflected from
his face for all to see.
The young stone smiled and spread his light,
amazed at his own glow.
Glittering, glinting in the sun,
an unprecedented show.
“Oh parents,” thought the joyous stone,
knowing they’d be proud of him,
“what great news I bring to you:
your stone son is a gem.”

A gem, of all things; glorious!
He could not contain his pride.
He’d never known of his own form,
that a glow was sealed inside.
Stones and gems were of equal worth,
for each could be of use.
But so rare was it, a young rock’s fate
to be free for them to choose.
And so he sought his family out,
gathering them all ’round
to see his light. “But what is this?
Why must you glow?” they frowned.

“A gem,” they wept, “Oh son, but why
have you delivered us this curse?
All gems are stones, but never should
this order be reversed.”
“We raised you,” his parents sobbed,
“to know your rightful place.
By your choice, you shun your folk,
and spit into our face.”
“But parents,” the young gemstone pled,
“I can be both bright and strong.”
“You can,” they said with somber eyes,
“but such a life is wrong.”

Bereft, the gemstone left from home,
uncertain now of life.
He’d thought his glow would bring delight,
not familial strife.
“A gem is no less hard,” he thought,
“no less able to be
a thing of strength and beauty.
This glow is part of me.”
He was not corrupted, nor defiled,
not deviant or “bad.”
But it seemed that all his light could do
was make his forebears sad.

There was no joy in a gemstone’s life,
if it shone on only pain.
He could not hurt his loved ones so,
he was not so vile and vain.
If being what he’d grown to be
was a curse unto his kind,
he resolved to be a stone,
and leave his glow behind.
But how could he eschew the light
that sparkled on his skin?
How could he take the gleam without,
and bury it within?

First he tried a layer of earth
and hoped one coat would do,
but no matter how he layered it
his radiance shone through.
Next he tried a staining dye,
that soaked in every pore,
but rain washed clean this new disguise,
and he shined brighter than before.
At last, the truth he realized,
the only answer there could be:
light cannot reflect upon
that which it cannot see.

So he delved down to the depths
of the dark and sheltering Earth,
and surrounded himself with the stones
so alike him at his birth.
There no light could ever chance
upon the facets of his face.
There no eyes could see his glow,
and know of his disgrace.
He stood still, and he stood strong;
he made his loved ones proud.
But less proud were they of his self,
and more so of his shroud,
for he’d found a way to lose their shame,
to hide his grievous sin.
And now the gemstone’s only light
was but a memory within.

We Are Heathen

Hello readers,

Today I’d like to make a personal statement. It has been said by some that authors should avoid getting into politics, as it can shrink their fan-base down to those who share their exact views. But in this case, choosing to remain silent is an act of complicity that I cannot abide.

I am a heathen. No, not a lawless, godless fiend, as the pejorative connotation suggests. No, the word in its truest form, refers to a worshipper of the Norse gods. I have been a heathen since I was 15 years-old, and heathenry is a very important part of my life. I will not get into the details of my faith or my individual practices, because my point here is something far more vast than any one person. There exist, in our world, those who abuse heathen symbology, those who corrupt our runes, emblems, and lore to suit a twisted political ideology of xenophobia and genocide. These people claim they have studied the history of heathenry, and the lore of our faith, yet they abuse it in the most vile of ways: by using it to preach hatred and bigotry in the names of our gods. These “heathens” believe in a world wherein only people of their “folk”–that is to say, only white-skinned people–can worship “their” gods, as though they, as humans, hold ownership of the mighty Aesir.

I am Mexican. While my mother’s ancestors are European, my father’s are Mexican, and I take after his forebears in appearance, as well as feeling very at one with their culture. This fact allows me to prove the inherent flaw in the mindset of the “folkish” heathens; those who would restrict access to our gods based on the tint of a worshipper’s flesh. They claim it is a matter of ancestry, that anyone with European ancestors may be called to the worship of the heathen gods. Yet I, who have European ancestors, but (proudly) have the appearance of my father’s folk, am barred from the halls of these sorts of folk. And gladly so, as I’d rather not keep their company anyway. But the truth becomes clear in how I am responded to by these types: ancestry has nothing to do with it; to them, it’s all about skin color. And ancestry shouldn’t matter at all anyway; it is not our business who is or is not motivated to honor the gods. But when these men make the claim that “it’s all about ancestry,” it should be noted that lived experience proves that they do not speak truthfully, and that their discrimination runs far deeper. They ignore the fact that many of our gods are mixed race, that the Norsemen and Vikings traveled far and interacted peaceably with people from all over the world. To those who coopt our faith, it is all about whiteness.

Why, you may ask, am I telling you all this? Because the voices of these racist “heathens” are loud, and they are magnets to the media. The quiet, peaceful heathen who welcomes all into their hall is not a good news story, but the swastika-emblazoned neo-Nazi with a Mjolnir tattoo will really make headlines. So, it is time for the quiet heathen to get a little less quiet. It is our duty to show these wicked folk that there is no place for bigotry in our hall, that hatred and prejudice are poison in our well, and that we will not have our faith dragged through the mud. Going about our business as good, peaceful people seemed at one point to be a good way of showing the world who we are. But that point has passed. With supposed leaders in heathenry getting media attention and “representing” our faith in the news by using it as a shield to hide behind as they openly espouse ideologies that would set the people of the world at each other’s throats, the quiet heathen can no longer afford to be quiet. I am not speaking here of becoming militant or evangelical in my faith. I am speaking here of lighting a beacon that illuminates the compassion, love, and tolerance that the lore of heathenry truly advocates. I am speaking of thousands of these beacons coming alight, showing the lingering ghouls of bigotry and hate that they are unwelcome in our hall, and that our way of life has nothing to offer their agenda.

Heathenry is open to anyone; we do not evangelize, we do not convert. If you feel compelled to join us in our worship, we are glad to have you. Unless you subscribe to an ideology that would restrict others from enjoying the same freedom you possess. It is time we assured the world, who knows so little of our ways, that we are peaceful people, we are loving people, we are multicultural, multi-racial, economically and socially diverse people. We are people of all genders and walks of life. We will not stand for hatred, oppression, or intolerance. We are human beings who value the worth in each other. We are heathen.

Those Who Dare to Be

This is an older poem, one from my “back catalog,” if you will, but I believe it is still very relevant. I hope you enjoy it. And remember, the literal definition of the word heretic is “one who chooses” or “one who makes a choice.” Just a fun fact to consider.

Each epoch is marked by those who dare
and by those who condemn.
The Great Wheel turns, the cycles repeat,
but none are wiser made.
Each looks to his forebears as the past.
Their present is not so.
Their eyes, cast backward or far afield,
see in their deeds no ill.
Divine, they say, is their will to hate,
a gift from lofty heights,
a freedom clung to with fervency,
a right not to be taken.
A right to hate, to them more precious,
than another’s right to be.

Like farmers harvesting a grim crop,
they choose their verses well.
Handpick those that sate their hate’s hunger,
ignore those that taste poor.
A word here and there, fit to condemn.
Disregard all the rest!
Well they forget the condemnations
that inconvenience them.
Quotes carefully picked, sharpened like spears,
they march out for the hunt.
An innocent prey suspects no ill,
for harm it has brought none,
while speakers of peace draw ever near,
eager to sow grave ruin.

Once before it was the heretic,
who chose another way.
Many times the prey was of their own,
who sought a different path.
“Impure races” and the “lesser sex,”
each has had their turn.
Those of “wrong skin” or with the “wrong love,”
have been evil in turn.
Each the next head on the chopping block.
Blood fuel for zealots’ fires.
Those who dare to be as they are made,
who dare to think and feel.
So great this need to reform or end
those who simply dare to be.

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