Growing Into Naiveté

George W. Knox, director of the National Gang Crime Research Center, said he has trained hundreds of police officials in how to cull intelligence on gang membership, rivalries, territory and lingo from these Web pages.

“In order to understand any subculture, be it al Qaeda, witches, devil worshippers or gangs, you have to be able to know their own language,” Knox said.

During high school, I knew a good number of witches, mostly adherents of “eclectic” Wicca, oft-misunderstood as evil merely for not being Christian. Of course, they were actually the most harmless and loving teenagers you could hope to find, but we did wear a lot of black, and could sometimes even be found engaging in small rituals honoring nature, without a copy of the Bible in sight to lend legitimacy.

There was a particular detective-turned-pundit, I believe hailing from St. Ann but given pass to investigate throughout St. Louis County, who had decided the most effective use of law enforcement resources was tracking every move these kids made and harassing their families and employers with incessant questioning. He was certain if they turned their back for a moment these gothic misfits would be sacrificing their suburban neighbors’ babies in the park.

As my life distanced me from that subculture, I’ve grown into a naivete that this was a local and temporary phenomenon. It brings wisdom to be reminded that witchhunting never goes out of style.

I posted this in July 2006 during week 1687.

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