This is a guest post from Mark Nestico Jr. and was not written by Denis Stranjak. While the subject of this article is a little different than the usual fare you’ll find on Brainstorm Brewery, we believe this is a subject that is vitally important to the Magic community at-large, and we want to thank Mark for his willingness to tackle this difficult subject and share this piece with us.
I’m a funny guy.
Bear that in mind. It’s not about being entertaining- at least not today.
Over the weekend StarCityGames posted about the recent legislature, HB2, as it pertained to the upcoming Grand Prix in North Carolina. I won’t speak to it, because Pete explained everything about as perfectly as he could. The issue I have doesn’t stem from Mr. Hoefling’s words, but rather some of the comments posted in regards to them, and more so over various forms of social media. Perhaps I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. I had this set up all differently. I’ve already deviated from my outline. I guess it’s just time to write from the heart.
So anyhow; None of us are normal. Make sure you understand that before you proceed, because I assure you that’s a point we are going to drive home today.
Imagine for a moment you don’t belong. That shouldn’t be a terribly far-fetched concept, right? You’re not the captain of the football team nor are you the head cheerleader. You’re just you, and for some people you isn’t good enough. This is high school, middle school, elementary school, work, or wherever else all rolled into one. Eventually you start to think that you’re not good enough. Depression sets in. Pain sets in. Suffering sets in. You are suffering.
You’re not the person now that you were then, but you’re certainly a byproduct of it. All the downers, bullying, trolling, vicious comments, physical assaults, psychological assaults- they shape you. Not everyone can just “brush it off” or “stand up for themselves.” Amputate the leg and you’re no longer a track star. Amputate the self-esteem and you’re no longer capable of fighting back.
You find Magic. Maybe you stumbled upon a store or saw it on the internet. It’s a children’s card game, but it has millions upon millions of people that play it, and there is a convergence of other people who just don’t belong meeting there a few times a week to battle, discuss, and share in a hobby. “What the hell.”
Forsaking your baser intuitions that tell you to avoid these kinds of interactions completely predicated on all of the unfavorable ones you’re used to, you go. You learn. You observe.
Magic isn’t just a hobby to you anymore- it’s the very air you breathe. Your friendships exist because of Magic. Your self-confidence has grown because of Magic. Your time is now spent between when you get to go to your local game shop and be happy and the life you loathe. Your life means more because of Magic. It has saved you.
You’ve spent so, so, so very much time being different. Not good enough in your own eyes, but Magic and good friends have finally given you the courage to be who you thought you always should be. When you go to these Opens or PPTQs or random events you’re surrounded by literally thousands of people who were all a little different, or made fun of, or outsiders/geeks/nerds/whatever the hell people need to call other people to make themselves feel superior. They all convene in one place for plenty of different reasons: commander, cosplay, to meet artists, trading, play competitively or casually, hang out with friends, draft, and a multitude of other possibilities.
With that in mind you decide you’re going to go to your first Grand Prix. Maybe it’s in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Developments in that state make you feel significantly less safe. Your pragmatism sets in, and you do your best to understand the “whys” and how they directly impact you. It’s not just HB2. It’s the reaction. Polarizing. You’re called names again. Your very state of being is called into question. You begin to feel those old notions of inadequacy- the kids in school who relentlessly tease you, or the adults who stare and point. It’s not just the bill. It’s the people and their treatment of their fellow man or woman. Anxiety sets in.
Here we are again, suffering- wasn’t I silly for thinking I could escape from you?
The Island of Misfit Toys
We are all beautiful, and beautifully broken. From the lowliest internet troll who seeks to inflict pain in order to feel something…anything to the most holier-than-thou crusader who finds offenses in everything regardless of if it exists or not. We all are something special, and usually that conflicts with the opposite end of the spectrum. Magic is the Island of Misfit Toys. Its where a lot of people who have never felt a sense of belonging go because they don’t know any other options. For some it’s the first, and for some it’s the last stop on a journey to find their place in this world. There’s nothing wrong with that.
There is something wrong, however, with acting like your place is somehow more sacred than another’s. Bullying is a hot-button topic. It has been for a few years. There are two camps:
2- Those who are bullied.
When I was a kid I was bullied, but I had a smart mouth and I wasn’t afraid to take a beating or dish one out. That’s just who I was, but when I went home do you know what I did? Watched television. Played with my action figures. Ate dinner. Talked to mom and dad. Went to bed. That was it.
People nowadays have no escape. Are you tortured at home? Lovely. Let’s continue that when you get home over social media- tweet at you how much we hate you, and tag you on Facebook statues about what a terrible person you are. Are you scared? You should be. Here come the text messages because we somehow got your number. Emails. Don’t even try to cover your ears. We’re everywhere.
This is the life that the bullied live nowadays. It’s not as easy as when I was young. We threw some punches and called it quits. There is literally no escape from being condemned for your race, sexuality, gender identity, looks, weight…your everything is on trial.
The Magic community, which is supposed to be a Safe Haven for those who enjoy the game, instead has fostered a subset of members who believe their hatred trumps compassion and reason. Look no further than the various comment sections of articles. We make a play or write about something you don’t agree with? We’re idiots. Don’t like our articles? We’re illiterate. Constructive criticisms are a thing of the past, because why be kind and understanding when you can just tell the other living, breathing, alive person with feelings that they should kill themselves. That’s the ticket, right? Forget the middle. Straight to the endgame.
It’s not about safe spaces or secret clubhouses. Magic is a game and it is meant to be enjoyed by every person who chooses to play it, and the injection of prejudices and ad hominem should be a notion so far removed from it that it makes almost no sense to me that a group of people just searching for happiness would cannibalize itself with hatred. Malice doesn’t come with impunity.
So far I’ve heard “stop shoving your changes down my throat,” “things were fine the way they were before,” and “political correctness is destroying America.” I’m here to hold your hand through this. It’s not the end of the world. Listen to my words: change is a good thing, accepting your fellow man and woman is ok, and not spewing hateful rhetoric will do your soul more good than it will harm.
We are blessed. So blessed. Beyond blessed that we have Magic. It’s not the game- because a game is just that. For some it’s a living, or a passion- a hobby or an escape route. You don’t know the extent that someone has ran away from persecution just to be able to sit across from you at the table, shake your hand, roll some dice, and battle some cards. Their struggles- internal or external- are a catalyst for their strength and determination, but are also scars they bare from battles you know nothing about. Just being in your presence shouldn’t be another war, nor should telling them how much they disgust you. They are a human. You are a human.
Despite philosophical, perceived, real or fake differences, hurting someone is never ok. Your rights do not begin based off of ending someone else’s.
Or save it? Your words can do either.