Column didn't leave witches in stitches
I WAS ONLY back to work for 45 minutes after a short vacation before I "stepped in it," as they say.
You'd think that after more than 2,000 columns, I'd have a feeling for who might be offended by something I write. But there are so many individuals and groups apparently just standing around waiting to be ticked off that if I don't confine myself to writing about geckos, cockroaches and how fat I am, someone's feelings are going to be hurt.
So, my first column back I tackle what I thought would be the fairly uncontroversial subject of making spanking children a criminal act. I decided to take a quasi-satirical, sarcastic and more-or-less facetious track in addressing the issue and stick up for a California legislator who wants to make spanking a crime. Regular readers know that when it comes to kids, I think the little slackers have it way too easy these days. Few of them hold even one job and you rarely see a soot-faced waif toiling in the coal mines anymore. And the country's economy is the worse for it.
BUT I satirically suggested spanking should be against the law and said I was disappointed that Assemblywoman Sally Lieber had withdrawn her bill. I said she had "bowed to the pressure of child-beaters, witches, the Leather Belt Lobby and wooden spoon manufacturers."
Now, out of that group of suspects, who do you think would be offended? Not the child beaters. Not the wooden spoon makers. Not even the nonexistent Leather Belt Lobby. The witches were outraged. Who'd have thought that witches could be so sensitive?
Frankly, I don't even know why I threw witches in that list. The witches I am familiar with through movies and books don't beat children, they eat them.
I pointed that out in a jovial way to the first "witch" who e-mailed me and she was not amused.
"I'm not going to sit here and fly off the handle like I'm sure you're getting from a zillion other witches ... but I am disappointed with that remark that infers that witches beat children."
I was fairly shocked by that statement because I thought that when witches "fly off" they use brooms, not handles. I was also unnerved to learn that there are "zillions" of witches out there. (Message to black cat breeders: Get busy.)
The second witch I heard from wrote, "As a witch, I'm confused and not really humored to be paired with child-beaters. Wiccans aren't know for beating children. That'd be Christians."
Putting aside the point that she has a point there about Christians, this note gave me a clue as to what the problem was. A note from a third witch confirmed it.
"As a Wiccan who often identifies myself as a witch, I was quite upset by what you wrote. I have never beaten my child, nor have I used anything except the flat of my hand to smack her on the bottom when she goes beyond what I will allow in behavior." (She then went into a rather lengthy laundry list of child behavior she deems smack-worthy.)
The key word in these letters was "Wiccan," which is a self-described religion popularized by a British civil servant just within the past 50 years. Wiccans call themselves witches, and judging from the reaction to my column, are attempting to claim complete ownership of the term "witch."
But I wasn't referring to the Wiccan kind of witches. I was referring to the kind of witches that eat children, beat children, cook stuff in thumping great iron pots, employ flying monkeys, zip around on broomsticks, turn frogs into mongooses and stuff like that. THOSE are the witches I was talking about. Not the nice Wiccan witches who by the very rules of Wicca are not allowed to cast spells that harm others. (So I was lucky there.)
Wiccans may consider themselves witches but they don't own the term "witch," any more than Jimmy Swaggart owns the term "Christian" or K-Fed owns the term "rapper."
While some people may accept Wiccans as witches, others may still prefer to believe in the Bette Midler kind of witch from the movie "Hocus Pocus" who captured children to suck the life out of them. (But she didn't spank them!) Others may go with the funny, beautiful Elizabeth Montgomery TV "Bewitched" kind of witch. And others still may favor the old classic standby "Hansel and Gretel"-type witch.
Sorry, Wiccans, but I wasn't talking about you when I used the term "witch." As we learned in the "Wizard of Oz," there are good witches and bad witches. I was talking about the ones who melt when you throw water on them.
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
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