Category Archives: Musing

Reality 2017

In all the tweets, posts, punditry, reporting and news broadcast words, our most important, valuable and unlimited commodity, are woefully abused. My Mom, a self proclaimed wordsmith, a skilled user of words, always said it was not just understanding the definition and spelling [always my main drawback—thanking the gods for spellcheck] but the using the word appropriately in a thought or sentence.

I was amazed when a speaker on Sunday in DC said, “We are America.” Seriously? She is college educated, from an excellent school. Let’s be real, there are 318.9 million people in the US. At the event there are maybe half a million, maybe more, across the country one or two million. The important point could have been correctly stated as a cross-section of America, or a glance at America. But no. How presumptuous and how insulting to those not there and not in agreement?

The same goes for the election. Various sources state between 220 million and 200 million in the US are eligible to vote. Statistical Brain http://www.statisticbrain.com/voting-statistics/ states the total number of American eligible to vote 218,959,000, the total registered to vote 146,311,000 and the total who voted? 132,899, 423. Turnout rate of all voting age citizens? 55%.

We know that Mr. Trump did not receive a mandate. But then, in her loss neither did Mrs. Clinton, albeit a majority of those who voted. The cross section of that vote showed a preponderance in just a few states, not across the land, so again, not a mandate of popularity.

We are not a democracy. At the federal level we are a republic, a federation of states of varied population. Much like democracy according to Winston Churchill- “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”—the electoral college system is an imperfect system. Credibly though it protects the minority from the majority.

What we are missing in all this spin about mandates and popularity is the question, Why do so few exercise their obligation and their right to vote? Why does it seem that there are those who would be more likely to march? protest? than to vote? Why are there those who are discouraged from voting? And, please, do not offer the trope of I.D laws or voting restrictions by conservatives. The numbers of minority voters soared in 2008. “The voter turnout rate among eligible black female voters increased 5.1 percentage points, from 63.7% in 2004 to 68.8% in 2008. Overall, among all racial, ethnic and gender groups, black women had the highest voter turnout rate in November’s election—a first.” so apparently where there is a will, there is a way.

My own perspective is that there is a loss of joy in being American, of the accomplishment of those who came before us. How many of our population know American History? How many know the ideals of the revolution, our fight in 1814 when we almost lost Washington DC, of the courage of Dolly Madison, of the Federalist Papers, of the former presidents, of the McCarthy Era and the fight to remain a free and just county following rule of law? With each peaceful transfer of power from one leader to the next, from one party to the other, we show our success. There is so much to love about America in 2017.

I have stated before that news is raw history, some say the first draft, which makes it even more important that we are truthful in our words, that we are understanding of the import of those words, and that we appreciate the usage of those words. we have, in many ways done a disservice to the present, let us not compound that disservice for the future.

 

#oneword Choose

Like most, I’m not very good at resolutions, not for any particular reason. If a goal is that important to me, then I am probably already doing it. Many years ago, my eldest told me about picking just one word that would drive your year. This year the IC of SCBWI Carolinas came up with the same idea. It’s a great premise. For 2017 my word ischoose

For me, 2016 was an interesting year that had major downs and minor ups. Would I have chosen different outcomes? Yes. But that changes nothing.

So this year, no  worrying about the outcomes.  For 2017, I want to make choices in the here and now, consciously, with understanding, with humor, and with love.

  • I choose fearlessness.
  • I choose faithfulness.
  • I choose cheerfulness.
  • I choose acceptance.
  • I choose thankfulness.
  • I choose mindfulness.

This is not a resolution. It is how I choose to live 2017!

happy-new-year

Bountiful

It’s the day after Thanksgiving. Both the girls, their girls and their husbands, including in-laws and baby grands sat down for a wonderful meal. Was it all peaches and cream? No. It was not. There are strains, there are feelings, there are issues. This is family. I get that. Family is complicated. We disagree. But because we love and respect each other we talk. Do we convince? No, we do not. We have had a variety of ways to get where we are.

It is the day after Thanksgiving. I don’t care who you voted for. I don’t care why you voted one way or another. I really don’t care that you didn’t vote. We are a family spread out across a country, complicated, sometimes disagreeable. Are we one the right path? I have no idea. But I have a belief that the system of government we have will always work.

It is the day after Thanksgiving and I appreciate the gift of faith.  My faith is one that sustained saints and sinners for thousands of years. We practice our faith with a feeling of security. We are not afraid of the future, even though we know that at this time it holds for us some difficult issues, it will not be easy. But that is why faith sustains us.

It is the day after Thanksgiving and the truth is we have bountiful lives and we are more than grateful.

A Short Story About Elections

I vote every in every election! I think it may be one of the most thrilling things I do. You may say I have a very boring life, but no, that’s not why it’s is thrilling.

Like a lot of mid twentieth century families, we had a subscription to Reader’s Digest, the small five by seven magazine appearing monthly on the coffee table. When it would come, the first thing I would do was go through and read the funny bits. The little stories, the jokes.  Life in these United States was one of my favorites. It was right around the time I was able to register to vote or getting ready to register [so yes, this was pre-1971]  and it must have been a midterm election not a national, because the story was about this town in the middle of nowhere, somewhere on the western side of the country, maybe a population of a  couple of hundred. The town was going through the sort of phone-it-in election of a mayor and a city council, town clerk, all these small town jobs that the townspeople probably took for granted, and dutifully the town voted in the ones willing to do the jobs, year after year.

This was back when you voted on Election Day, no early voting, you had to show up at the polling place, usually a school cafeteria or a church hall,  between seven in the morning and seven or eight at night.  Well, this particular Election Day came and went just like normal.

But not! When the count came in there was a surprise–the people who got the jobs were not the ones who always had the jobs. Yes, these new people were known in town and, well, it was almost a ritual that they ran against the ones who did the job, you know, just for the sake of democracy. The big surprise was that everyone who won got just one, yes, one vote.

It seems there was this twenty one year old. This was his first election, and he was so proud and excited about being able to vote. He read all the background about what people said they would do if they got the job and he voted. Turns out he was the only one in the whole town who voted that election. So come the next morning a whole new set of people were in charge of the town.

Was the story true? Hell if I know. Can I find out? Not even looking. This is what I do know!

No matter where I live I make sure I can vote. I steer clear of the campaign rhetoric, the TV ads, the pundits, the columns. Do I read them? Yes,  but I also read the speeches where I can, [because four years of Latin taught me oratory is delivery] read at least three or four newspapers and I read all the background information I can find. I look for League of Women Voter material, online websites, .gov websites and make a decision, whether it be for president, judge, attorney general, mayor or even if it is for dog catcher.

And so I vote every time there is an election, no matter if it is national, midterm, or  local. I have never forgotten that story, that just one person voting could make a difference. And each time I vote, I think of that kid. And I wonder, what if I was the only one voting?  And I always smile as I walk into that booth.

Beliefs, Shifts & Bias

I have a belief system. I grew up with it. I was able to stay with the system, examine it, challenge it with those more learned than me, toss it around a bit and not find it wanting. I feel fortunate it has stood by me for all these years. As much as I am, this belief system is me. It is so ingrained in me that one daughter was recently shocked when I stated that while I am Irish, Roman Catholic and American, I am American first, no question! To me, that deep core belief that I am American first comes sincerely from the fact that I am Roman Catholic–I understand beliefs harkening back hundreds, even thousands of years. I get what it is to sustain that belief. I know what it is to stand by ideals that may not be popular,  may even be deadly.

Why does this matter? Because I am working with a historical narrative nonfiction where there are newspapers, videos, memoranda, minutes and personal remembrances. And I remember, pretty clearly, the emotion, if not the actual fact of his death. And I know he is all but forgotten by the academicians and the diplomats.

We have changed as a country, a world,  so very much not just in the last half of the twentieth century, but rapidly in the twenty-first.  paradigmone On the news this morning a correspondent mentioned that he felt the increasing anger and unrest over policing, gun control, racism, terrorism and even climate change have a lot to do with the rise social media. Somehow that feels convenient, and yet?

What I see is that our paradigms are our labels.  Or, are we unknowingly perhaps, putting labels on ourselves through the way we post our paradigms and the way the online community responds?  We post the highlights of our daily lives on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. We check to see how many likes, loves, wows are on each posting. It is addicting and it feels so much like a community, like we know these people. But is it? Do we? For future writers of narrative nonfiction will all of this, like diaries and memos and minutes and newspapers of the past,  become the ‘first rough draft of history’?

When we write nonfiction, especially historical narrative nonfiction we are doing more than just relating dates and descriptions. We are telling a story, and in telling that story we are giving a reason why this is important. We are effectively saying we can learn from this story and be better.

How many of us seek validation of what we think by those around us?  biasIt is the comfort zone of bias, yes? How many of us are willing to shift our paradigm to see what others see, to check our bias at the door and be open? Will we feel adrift?  Will we feel wishy-washy because those who hold to their paradigms and bias seem strong?  Or are we the strong ones because we have been willing to walk out of our comfort zone and explore our viewpoints and possibly even change them?

The narrative nonfiction I am writing begins over a hundred years in the past. Some of it was shocking and new to me, as if it had just happened. I was amazed at my lack of historical knowledge or perspective. This was history I had totally ignored.  In effect I had no view of this time period or of this historical place. I had no bias. It was a blank slate.

I have read narrative nonfiction where a thesis is stated and then confirmed. A voice in my head, coupled with my own limited studies, some of them a half a century ago, tell me that this may be too simplistic, too easy and a cheat to the readers of the book, especially as those are young readers.

So when I realized the history is new, I also realized my views of the institutions surrounding that history are very distinct . I can easily find confirmation of my viewpoint online, I know the blogs, the practicecomments sections, the places to go. But should I? What will that do to my story? My want, nay, my need, is to tell a story that is essentially unknown today by so many in the world, but one that the world needs to hear. And I want that story to be as close to what happened as possible. Not necessarily a truth, but what actually happened.  Why? Because it is a story of peace not victory, of reason not hate, of compassion not cruelty.

In writing this manuscript I feel I am in a fight with the most visceral of my emotions, going against what I have come to ‘believe’ as true, at times it is exhausting. Regardless, I must deal with preconceived and find my  way as I am writing.