I’ve never spent much time on Craigslist. It became popular at a time when I was much more interested in finding cheap textbooks for grad school, so my early online shopping was focused more on half.com and Amazon. I thought I could get all the information and products I could ever want on these two sites, plus a few others for travel, information, and social connections. I had what I needed, I thought. Why should I get caught up in yet another website that buys and sells other people’s junk? I had no idea there was so much more to Craigslist.
I really had no idea of the entire world that lived within Craigslist until I watched the 2012 documentary Craigslist Joe. The premise of the film is much like a cross between Morgan Spurlock’s projects Super Size Me and 30 Days. Joseph Garner resolves to live one entire month with no money, home, or contacts. His only source for food, shelter, income, and transportation is Craigslist. Armed with only the clothes on his back, a laptop, and a cell phone, Joe sets out to live for a month off the kindness off those he meets on Craigslist, the site he describes as “the 21st century’s new town square.”
Joe’s motivations are very Aquarian: he explains at the beginning that 21st century America has a love/hate relationship with their technology. Many, he says, bemoan the fact that our devices bring us closer together through the Internet at the cost of having any real face-to-face interaction. Human relationships, IRL, have suffered as people know each other merely as a Facebook status or an emotionally ambiguous text message. The driving force behind Joe’s experiment is to test this hypothesis and see if real human relationships still exist.
They do. In his month living off the dole of Craigslist, Joe meets new people who offer him kindness in a way that my introverted mind can only barely comprehend. Every night, he finds someone to offer free lodging. He travels across the country bumming rides using the virtual thumb that is Craigslist, and never fails to obtain a ride when he needs one. He visits with a Muslim family, a dominatrix, and a severely ill hoarder. He travels to San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, and even Juarez, Mexico meeting fascinating people and living off of their dimes. He even gets the chance to meet with Craigslist’s founder, Craig Newmark, who seems like a pretty cool guy. Along the way, he proves that, while our connections methods have changed and we don’t all share the same values, Americans still care for one another.
I still had this inspiring little movie in my head when I went to Pantheacon last weekend. What I witnessed there continued to prove the film’s sunny thesis. It seems that every year something happens Pantheacon weekend that challenges the Pagan community. Over the last few years, it has been a discussion over transgender rights and their conflict with groups that define themselves as exclusive to cis-females. It has been a painful, emotional battle on both sides, but progress has been made and many of the groups involved are beginning to move forward in the spirit of the conventions 2013 theme: “cooperation, tolerance, and love.”
Nowhere was this more evident than in the Rite of 1,000 Crowns, an ecstatic ritual led by a joint effort of the Come as you Are Coven’s Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe and Green Men, along with The Living Temple of Diana. In that beautiful ritual we honored the Goddess in all her forms, Masculine, Feminine, and Transgender, while also honoring ourselves in whatever gender we identify. We are all sovereigns. Can you get more Craigslisty-Aquarian than that?
Then, just as Pantheacon was ending, another challenge came our way. Now infamous, we were not even out of San Jose yet when we saw the Fox and Friends video that featured Tucker Carlson deriding Wiccans as “compulsive Dungeons and Dragons players” and “Middle-aged, twice divorced older” women “working as a midwife.” That wasn’t so much the problem for me as the factual errors; the piece discusses some strange idea of Wiccans celebrating 20 holidays and wanting to get all of them off work. What?
There has been a lot of discussion over Pagan blogs and podcasts over who IS and IS NOT Pagan. Non-Wiccan Pagans seek to distinguish themselves as their own traditions and no longer wish to be lumped in with a system they are not a part of. Reconstructionists, Druids, and others have been questioning their identification with the “Pagan” label. Non-Wiccan witches also have been carving their own niche in the world of Witchcraft. Some have even claimed that there is an “Anything But Wiccan” movement afoot.
And yet, when a piece makes it onto mainstream media that distorts and derides Wicca in particular, Pagans across multiple traditions came to Wicca’s defense. The Covenant of the Goddess released a statement demanding an apology, and so did Circle Sanctuary’s Lady Liberty League. Then The Lady Yeshe Rabbit of the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe, acted in solidarity. On Facebook, I saw multiple statements of support from Pagan individuals across the spectrum of traditions. Thousands of people signed two online petitions. In our online community, labels don’t matter; people do.
And it worked. Tucker Carlson issued two apologies on Twitter, then issued another on-air apology in the same forum as the original comments. Yes, they were half-hearted and a little snarky. Yes, they still did not address the completely inept factual errors that were blasted about in the original piece, but it was a start. Given Fox’s viewer base, Carlson really didn’t have to do anything. The fact that he changed his tune and acknowledged that his conservative philosophy demands a “live and let live” attitude, shows the power we have working together in our community of religious ideas.
Then, less than a week later I watched our community really come together. The Temple of Witchcraft (of which I am a member) is in the process of creating a physical space for education, healing work, and public rituals. To do so, town codes require that they build a parking lot at the cost of $68,000. The Temple initiated an indiegogo campaign to raise the funds, and last week a donor offered to match any funds that were given within a 48-hour period.
The response from the Pagan community was huge. I saw the post shared on many Pagan Facebook pages from people of various traditions. In 48 hours, the Temple received $10,335 in donations, and the matching donation brought the total amount to $20,670. Just like Craigslist, Pagans come together to help each other yet again.
During the course of his documentary, Joe meets up with some very strange characters. Free spirits give him rides across the rolling miles of the United States and nice people who others would see as freaks share their stories of pain with him. He learns not only the sacredness of every human being, but also that – deep within that covering of cynicism- people will give of themselves to help others.
Joe runs across many people who are not like him at all, but who help, and that is probably the most inspiring part of this film. For him, Craigslist become the hub of an Aquarian world where people pitch in to help each other simply because they are human. In the end, he learns a lesson that echoes blogger Erik Scott’s reaction to the convention:
“These folks were almost nothing like me. And that, oddly enough, made me all the more fond of them.”
Craigslist Joe proves that, despite our differences, we can indeed work together in Pantheacon’s ideal of “cooperation, tolerance, and love.” Even if Tucker Carlson still doesn’t get our “20 holidays.”