Nostalgia, Fear, and Politics

There is a disconnect between what is, what has been, and what is not reality. It is a belief that progress can be reversed. That the future can be remade in our own image, and that we can go back to a fictional better time.  That is not, in fact, a reasonable means for making policy or progressing a modern society. However, it is a means that is used to manipulate people. Often, people who are left behind by innovation, technology, and modernity. Or, in some cases, it is used to manipulate powerful people who feel their power is slipping with the march of time.

There can be no doubt that a slogan such as “Make America Great Again”, is such a tool hearkening to this manipulation. At no time in the past 200 years would any group of Americans call their current time “great”, though, there have  in fact, been times of great economic growth, during those times, there were still groups who were disenfranchised, disenchanted, and alienated.

In the United States, at the least, the 1950s have often been called as an example of Great America. Following on the heels of WWII, Americans enjoyed the great advancements of technology and innovation, that came with the war years spending, and Depression era infrastructure projects. Electricity was brought to all but the most remote of areas. Television was common, bringing with it daily news updates on world and national affairs. The country enjoyed a settled economic period, and for a time following the Korean War, Americans enjoyed peace and a great position of influence in world political maneuvering.

This period which is often referred to as an American dream, was in fact full of strife for those who didn’t fit into specific demographics. African-Americans were discriminated against in almost every facet of American life, from property purchase to job interviews, to where they would sit on the bus, or eat lunch in the diner. Women were not paid equally for equal work, and were frequently turned away from all but a few stereotypical jobs, when men were present to take those jobs. Even men, found themselves disadvantaged in matters of child custody and divorce. The end of the Fifties and the rise of the Sixties social revolutions are further evidence that not all was a bed of roses, in that American dream.

The presidency of America’s first Black president was perceived as a threat to a long standing unwritten social order in the United States. Though race played a pivotal role in this perception, it must also be pointed out that as a intellectual, President Obama also defied stereotypes of African-American men which has been clung too, by many ruralists. Further, his pivotal move to provide basic healthcare to all Americans through a subsidized insurance system, was perceived as an attack on the ideal of “rugged individualism”, and the insurance mandate designed to bring down over all health care and insurance costs), was seen as violating the fundamental freedom of choice. To add further grievance, Obama’s legacy included expanding and safeguarding the rights of all American citizens regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, which was seen as an affront to fundamentalists, who regard anything other than a heterosexual relationship as sinful, and do not wish to give equal rights of marriage, insurance, or legal recognition of such relationships. Finally, under the Obama Legacy, American women and minorities saw gains in political appointments and offices, as well as increased visibility in business and science.

The Obama years saw a further shrinking of the globe. Today, Americans talk to people worldwide on their game consoles and PCs and play games together. Americans talk to global counterparts on face to face video chat, and other similar software daily, for business and recreation. International travel is seen as a required part of many jobs, and this has contributed to rapid technological advancement in the last thirty years. The world is no longer full of faceless people, but by people who now easily and regularly share ideas, traditions, and even entertainment.  Ideas are shared in real time, and communication is no longer limited to costly, time-constrained phone calls.

Globalism, which has been a great boon to technological innovation and shared economic benefit, is seen by some as an unnecessary hazard to national economic growth and job creation. Some sectors have seen a loss of jobs and industry as companies move to utilize labor in countries that do not protect employee rights or regulate businesses for environmental and safety concerns, for the maximization of profit.  Further, this sharing of ideas is seen as a danger to the nation’s customs, traditions and identity. Globalism comes with  mingling of people, their traditions, and beliefs. This is also perceived as a threat by some right wing groups.

Globalism is :

a national policy of treating the whole world as a proper sphere for political influence (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/globalism)

A further perceived threat viewed by the right in both America and Europe is the concern that nations no longer appear homogeneous in race.  Statistics indicate that in America (and this is also likely for Europe) that in short order Caucasians will no longer be a majority. This may affect a number of traditionally held beliefs. As minorities grow in political power, equality in all senses of the word will be acted on both legislatively and traditionally. Society IS changing.

IN 2012, the Census Bureau announced that nonwhite births exceeded white births for the first time. In 2013, it noted that more whites were dying than were being born. In March, it projected that non-Hispanic whites would be a minority by 2044. (New York Times, June 11, 2015.)

Women’s rights are being assaulted, also with the idea that returning to some imaginary past when all was right with America, includes taking away access to easy or free reproductive healthcare and birth control. There are some who believe that by taking away control of their reproduction, women will eventually return to more traditional lifestyles. Birth rates of American women, of all demographics, continue to drop as women have taken control of their reproduction and have put economic concerns ahead of having children. Many women are waiting until later in life to have children, and some choose not to have any children. Women have taken control of their lives from their biology, and now make conscious decisions about when to begin, or if to begin, childbearing. This further adds to the perceived threat to nativists who fear minorities gaining more political power through numbers. Further, Fundamentalists see this as encouraging promiscuity, placing their personal moral beliefs ahead of the rights of others to choose how to conduct their personal lives.

Republican  campaigns across American  played to all of these fears with varying degrees of extremism. They (most notably President Donald Trump) took strategies out of the playbooks of historic nativists and vilified various groups, blatantly for some groups, subtly for others, and in the process gave tacit sympathy to marginalized organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and other White supremacist groups and individuals.

…the F.B.I. cataloged a total of 5,818 hate crimes in 2015 — a rise of about 6 percent over the previous year — including assaults, bombings, threats, and property destruction against minorities, women, gays and others.

Attacks against Muslim Americans saw the biggest surge. There were 257 reports of assaults, attacks on mosques and other hate crimes against Muslims last year, a jump of about 67 percent over 2014. It was the highest total since 2001, when more than 480 attacks occurred in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. (NY Times, November 14, 2016)

     There are a significant  number of independent, reputable studies, showing that Americans are more likely to be injured or killed by non-Muslim attacks.  An article first published in 2013 by  Washington’s Blog and Global Research, argues this convincingly. The pervading fear of people of Arabic descent or of the Islamic faith, has  been used to further the political ambitions of far right wing politicians, both in the US and abroad, and fan the flame of nativist extremism.

So we return to the idea of “Make America Great Again.” A slogan which could be at home on a propaganda poster, that became a rallying cry for nativism and American superiority during the 2016 election cycle. Ralph Linton, a renown American anthropologist in the mid-twentieth century made a study of nativism and defined it as:

Any conscious, organized attempt on the part of a society’s members to revive or perpetuate selected aspects of its culture. (LINTON, R. and Hallowell, A. I. (1943), NATIVISTIC MOVEMENTS. American Anthropologist, 45: 230–240. doi:10.1525/aa.1943.45.2.02a00070)p. 230

He goes on to point out that all societies “seek to perpetuate their own cultures, but they usually do this unconsciously…” (Linton, 230).  The difference between this unconscious perpetuation, which might be seen as such things as clothing styles, language, and traditional ceremonies, and nativism, is that  somewhere along the line it was recognized that outside cultures were influencing and changing, either blatantly or subtly, the original culture.   In the case of “Make America Great Again”, the perceived attack on traditional American rural values, hard work, fundamentalist Christian values, and in some cases White Male superiority, by outside forces and agitators led to the unorthodox election cycle of 2016.

Though the economy has grown at an unprecedented rate it cannot be denied that there are regions and industries that saw downturn rather than improvement. Technological innovations have allowed companies to move to automation. Increased need for, and demand for, cleaner energy sources have seen a down turn in coal use and miners languish. Agricultural technology has increased food production, but as more land around the world is put into commercial ag, competition becomes a harsh reality.  As employment becomes more information and data based, industrial manual labor jobs have declined along with their wages, leaving older workers displaced and disenchanted. Service based employment grows at an astonishing rate, but the wages for those who work in those types of jobs are low, and benefits are negligible.

Nations such as China and India have only just reached their peak in industrialization, just as the Western nations begin to move into the technological era. The result of which is manufacturing of a large variety of goods have moved overseas to these highly populated, barely regulated centers of manufacturing, while the Western nations pioneer information, data collecting, transfer, and utilization. This is the digital age.

All of the factors mentioned have contributed to a general dissatisfaction, and fear, particular among segments of society that see themselves left behind by the shrinking of the globe. Many do not want to change their way of life from that of the generations that came before them. Preferring to do the same jobs, live in the same towns, go to the same schools, practice the same religions without change, and only see others who are just like them in their communities,  without the realization that change comes to all things, especially in a time when the basic structure of society is changing, locally and globally. Regardless of the basic tenants they claim to ascribe to, such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech,  there is no hesitation to impose their will upon the rest of society, and that is, ultimately what has happened.

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The Writer

“Your stories give me nightmares.”

“Good.” A thick fingered hand ran through the mess of fine dark hair on his head.

“Why is it good?” a plaintive whine hovered at just the edge of the woman’s voice, “Don’t you know that your books are so well done I can see the images of the violence you portray in my head?”

“Well, then I’m doing something right.” He leaned forward folding his arms in front of him, resting against the book-laden table, “Did you want me to sign something?”

She tugged on her pastel pink t-shirt, and looked behind her. The line for the Author’s signature was growing, but the question she wanted to ask, still burned just behind her lips.

“Uhm, yes,” She picked up his latest best-seller, “Sign this one.”

He regarded her for a moment.

“That’s not the book you want me to sign, is it?” He reached toward the end of the table and picked up another book, his name emblazoned on it’s cover, “It’s this one, isn’t it?”

The book cover was a bit out of style. Maybe even a bit ratty around the edges. He tapped it loudly.

“Ask the question, do it please ya.” He said quietly.

She leaned across the table, ignoring the murming throng of people in line behind her. She rested her right hand on the book, as if it were the Bible, “There be other worlds than these?”

He opened the book and scribbled in his now famous handwriting. He gently closed the book, and slid it across the table at her, “There always are.”

He didn’t smile, and for a moment the heavy dark brown that shaded his eyes, creased as if trying to remember something. But he shook his head lightly, as a pesky memory tickled his mind for a moment, but was gone.

“Thank you,” she said.

She turned and walked away, clutching the book, as if it were some kind of holy text.

The writer watched her go, and then muttered under his breath “Go then, there are other worlds than these.” (The Dark Tower, Stephen King)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Stephen King. You give me Dark Dreams of Otherwhere and Otherwhen.

 

 

 

The Husband of the Flames

I decided to use the  Random Title Generator again, and do another quick piece. I just need to write this morning

______________

The last few weeks have been strange. How do you go from a normal life of going to work, paying bills, and watching the news, to this crazy hidden underworld of magic, supernatural creatures, and dangerous intrigue?

Well, that’s what has happened to me. By trade, I’m just a machinist. I enjoy working with my hands, and while I’m not getting rich at the factory, I do make a living. I came home one evening to find a stranger standing in my living room. He was tall, wearing a long robe. Yeah, I said robe. He looked like he stepped out of a Lord of the Rings movie, staff and all. My wife, was red in the face, and I recognized the look of anger that was about to explode all over the wizard look alike.

I set my lunch box down on the table next to the door, and carefully moved around our erstwhile house guest, “Honey, would you like to introduce me to your friend?”

“This is no friend of mine,” She retorted without even looking at me.

“My name is Mason Rudulpho. You are Mr. Jackson, I presume, Cynthia’s husband?”

“Yep, that’s me. What’s going on here?”

I’m not a large brawny guy, but I’m also not scrawny. I drew myself up so that he could see I wasn’t intimidated by his staff. I was trying to imagine what a role player was doing in my living room, especially one that was this guy’s apparent age.

“Cynthia and I have come to discuss her next move. She’s been putting us off for months.”

I looked at Cyndie, “You’re next move?”

She didn’t even look at me, but continued to stay focused on Rudolpho, “I’m not leaving my husband. I’m not returning to Avalon. I’m not giving up my life here.”

“Avalon?” What the hell, I thought.

“You must. Your child is our child. We need you with us. You are our salvation.” Now he looked resigned.

“Uh, wait a minute. You’re pregnant?” Now I was really thrown for a loop.

She took a bit of mercy on me, and looked at me, “Yeah, this wasn’t how I planned to tell you.”

I shook my head, but it didn’t really clear my thoughts, “I don’t know who you are, or why you are here, but this is my wife, and you aren’t taking her from my house if she doesn’t wish to go.”

I put my hand on her shoulder, and she petted it comfortingly, “I’m sorry, Father. My place is here.”

The man raised his staff slowly, as if it weighed a hundred pounds, then let it slide through his fingers onto the floor. The ringing sound it made was reminiscent of a giant gong. I put my hands over my ears, and he started murmuring some words in a language I didn’t understand.

She looked at me, “How fond are you of your job, Dear?”

“What?”

“If you’re to be the father of my child, we need to flee. Now.” I think I saw pity on her face at that moment.

“Of course, I’m going to be her father. Or, his father. Whatever!” I took her hand, and it was scorching hot, but it didn’t bother me. I watched her face. A hot breeze began to circle us, even though we were standing inside the living room, without even a window slightly open.

“You will not defy me, my daughter.” The man’s voice boomed, the staff he carried was glowing white hot.

Her hair danced in the hot wind that encircled us, “Don’t let go, my Love We’re off.”

Was that an accent, I heard in her voice? She almost sounded Irish for a moment.

My wife. My child. Nope, there was no way I was letting go of her hand. Not in a million years. I clenched it more tightly. I glanced around the living room. Normal life trappings in every corner: A decent sized tv, a coat rack with my old work coat, decent used furniture, a pair of shoes by the door.

The heat seem to gather around us, her hair looked like flame. I was warm, but not burning, as the wind that encircled us caught on fire. There goes the house, I thought.

“Here we go, Darling. Sorry for the mess. We’ll get it straightened out when we land.” Her father glared at me.

“I’ll find you again, Cynthia. And when I do, you and your child will come home. And your human husband will regret his interference.”

She looked at her father with a smile, “What makes you think he’s human, Father?”

She grasped my hand tighter, and I felt the flames dance along my skin. It was an old familiar feeling, one I thought banished with my childhood.

“Let the magic come, Sweetheart, We are out of here.”

So I opened the gateway. I filled it with love and the promise of new life, and the magic spilled out of me as it hadn’t done since I was very young. In my mind’s eye I pictured home. My home.

The last thing I saw before we winked away, was the incredulous look on that old man’s face, and let me tell you, it was infinitely satisfying.

Reviews, Bullies, and Celeb writers

vacation of my dreams - the Bodelian Library

vacation of my dreams –
the Bodelian Library

I tend to admire from the background whenever I find a great author. When I was much younger I sent off for autographs from such writers as Andre Norton (I cut my baby teeth on her writing in the 70s), Piers Anthony, and Isaac Asimov. I was thrilled to get small notes and signatures jotted down on the index cards I sent along in the obligatory SASE.

These days, I can see commentary almost daily following a new generation of writers on Twitter or Facebook, or Goodreads, and their new works, short stories, novellas, or novels, appear almost magically on Amazon compared to the days when I waited FOREVER for a sequel to appear in the grocery store.

These are amazing days we live in. But just like us writer wannabes and fans thrill for an opportunity bask in the talents of others, there are some people out there, who seem to revel in the chance to tear folks down.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have read my fair share of shoddy work. Mostly usually stories that simply needed editing work, more time in character development, or structural issues, that could have been resolved with patient resolution. I have shared that opinion a time or two. Generally, however, my review is to withhold making a review at all. My reviews will be for books I have loved. And i want to praise those authors who have moved me to buy not only their first book, but also their second, third, and fourth.

I have read some nasty, mean spirited, ignorant, and bizarre reviews. I have also discovered that there are groups of people who seem to take joy in being cruel, spiteful, and downright hurtful to authors, and the more famous the author the better they like to do it.

This is simply sick and disgusting. Especially, in light of the fact that often these ‘reviewers” haven’t even read the book or story in question.

In any case, if you’re dealing with a bully reviewer check out this website for insights. STRGB

Hope this helps. Have a good evening.

Live..To Write

Float Trip July 2014 North Fork 004

That picture is from a float trip a friend and I took earlier this year. We actually went on three float trips, and found out something…We like floating. This particular place had the clearest water you can find anywhere in the Ozarks these days. Icy cold spring fed water. Even in the deepest parts, we could see dinner sized fish leisurely enjoying the day. I am looking forward to more floating in the coming year. TWO OLD LADIES IN A CANOE!! That will be us!

This is significant for a couple of reasons. Anyone can write. That’s like saying anyone can paint. You don’t have to be an artist to slop paint onto a wall or canvas. But to really create something, you have to live a little bit. Otherwise, where will the words come from?

Both trips were a lot of fun and there were actually a lot of people (mostly drunk off their asses) people on the river. I saw some people doing some pretty stupid things. Strangers were offering to throw their Jell-O shots to us! But the neat thing was what else I saw. There were the girders of an old bridge, at one point, on either side of the river. It no longer crossed the water, but the concrete columns stood as a testament to travelers coming and going to someplace, even in the remote part of river we were on. Then, there was the bluff that had a steady stream of icy spring water that created a gentle fall into the river. Of course, there were homes, that had been built near the water’s edge. I have to wonder how they feel when it rains heavy and that lazy river becomes a torrent at their back doors. But as we canoeing newbies tried to keep our boat going in a straight line (with the front in the front and the back in the back), people waved from the shore, and even offered some  beer.

Life is a bit like a canoe trip. It seems like the point is to get your canoe in the water, keep it going straight, stop along the way for a picnic lunch, and then head into the docks. But if you forget to take a look around, you miss the nuances that make the trip worthwhile. The baby wood ducks floating near their mother beneath some fallen brush. Flat back turtles taking in the sun on an old log. That big fat fish that swam by, that would have made your grandpa giddy!

If you fail to take in everything…what do you have to write about?

Of course, I say this, and I’ve had more starts to stories than I care to name here. But there you have it.

Live. So you can write.