What You Need To Know About QAnon 

QAnon is the umbrella term for a sprawling spiderweb of right-wing internet conspiracy theories with antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ elements that falsely claim the world is run by a secret cabal of pedophiles who worship Satan and are plotting against President Trump. Though some influential individuals are active in the movement, it is not an organized group with defined leadership.

Source: What You Need To Know About QAnon | Southern Poverty Law Center

Americans–or perhaps certain elements of the media–have been running amok looking for conspiracies beneath every rock and under the woodwork of everything building.  This reminds me of the McCarthyism of the 1950s when the House Unamerican Activities Committee “saw” communists everywhere.

At the time, when the committee said so and so is a communist, my response was “so what?” But in those days, communists were presumed to be working for the Soviet Union and were often blacklisted (most famously by Hollywood) by their employers.

The blacklisting is happening again. The daily news brings us reports that various people have been fired for expressing their personal opinions on Facebook as though they’re part of a conspiracy, in college lectures, in speeches, in books, and when this happens we’re all reminded that the First Amendment doesn’t protect us where we work–or on Twitter and Facebook as it turns out.

These days, if somebody “screams I’m offended,” my response is “so what?” But corporations, including colleges, are often influenced by those who are offended more than by who’s right.

This article tells us what’s behind all the shouting.

–Malcolm

 

At best, we don’t want to be misunderstood

People are often wary about being understood because they think being understood begins with them having to share too much private information with others. However, being misunderstood is another can of worms because it begins with others thinking you are something you aren’t or that you did something you didn’t do.

In marriages, hurt feelings–and perhaps, separations and divorces–come from an unintentional cross word or something said in a fit of anger or the wrong impression given by saying something that isn’t clear.

The same thing can happen between good friends, business or club colleagues, or neighbors

In employer/employee relationships all kinds of things can happen when the employee doesn’t understand where the boss is coming from and vice versa.

What amazes me is how little it often takes for communications between people to get into a mess and how hard it is to get things out of that mess.

I suppose pride is part of it, feeling hurt is part of it, and the surprise of feeling misunderstood is part of it.  Sometimes a friend can see the problem quicker than those involved, noticing that the obvious question that should be asked isn’t getting asked and/or that the best thing either person can say isn’t being said.

This reminds me of novels and TV shows where the shit hits the fan and things never get cleared up. Readers and viewers, of course, can say, “Well, if s/he had just asked XYZ, everything would have been cleared up in a second.” When an author omits the most obvious question any sane person would ask, they’re screwing with their readers by keeping the story going long after it should have been over.

“Real life” is a bit more complex. As I say this, I think of Eric Berne (Games People Play) and his rather cynical reasoning why relationship problems that look easy (to an outsider) to fix never get fixed. Basically, people enjoy/need the uproar more than they need the serenity of a good marriage, a good friendship, or a good work environment.

In the chaos of today’s world, I’m saddened by the issues that people would rather argue about than fix/solve. Of course, the media isn’t helping. Both CNN and FOX often refuse to cover stories that don’t match their corporate agendas. This keeps a lot of people ignorant. And, it builds misunderstandings where none would exist if everyone were given the facts as news instead of opinions as news.

I wish more people would go to multiple news sites before forming an opinion about the issues of the day.  Then they would get the answers to the questions some sources never ask (but should).

Many people are being misunderstood these days because one party or the other likes it that way. I think we need a psychologist who treats political parties, PACS, think tanks, and social service groups. Then maybe we’ll find the unity people say they want while sabotaging every realistic approach to achieving it.

Maybe they can save a few marriages in the process.

–Malcolm

 

I promise not to show you any KKK pictures

When I was growing up–gosh, I already sound like somebody’s grandpa–the KKK was everywhere. I didn’t take any pictures of them because I thought that would sully up my camera. More than once, I’ve thought of downloading some KKK pix and putting them into a post called “Why I Write the Novels I Write.”

Thing is, those pictures make me physically ill. I’d probably end up in the hospital before I finished my post if I filled it full of Klan pix. I feel the same way when I’m watching the news and suddenly here comes a video of some white supremacists who look like cretins who’ve never taken a shower and were disowned by their families back in grade school.

If the white supremacists are parading around as though they’re the best the White race has to offer, they’re failing big time. I live in the South. That means a lot of people in the “social” media assume I support the Klan and wish the South had won the Civil War. Nope, because I can’t tell the difference between a Klansman and a cockroach.

When I was little, I hoped the day would come when racism would no longer be an issue. Apparently, I was more naïve than I suspected because years later, today’s news is filled with it. I keep hoping there will be a breakthrough, a person all races can respect who comes along and stops the shouting and the violence.  Politics makes it difficult for such a person to arise because the powers that be love polarization. So, we yell and scream at each other rather than seeking common ground.

During the past months of pandemic and violence, a lot of writers are looking for the right words to write, some essay or op-ed that cools down the violence and the rhetoric and focuses all of us again on the loving democracy where we thought we lived. I’m not wise enough to write that essay, but surely there must be somebody out there who can write it, who can bring us back together, who can stop us from pointing fingers, who can fill us with empathy and compassion instead of the fears that lead people to support extremes.

We need, I think, to rally around the ideals on which this country was founded instead of looking for weeds in the personal and political lives of our founders and saying this country is a country of flaws. There’s a lot to fix, but I just can’t bring myself to see eye to eye with those who think they can fix the U.S. by destroying everything we hold dear because that “everything” isn’t perfect.

We can honor what our Founding Fathers intended, given the thinking of their times, and build on the best of it.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

From one culture shock to another

In Real Life

As you can see, some of our grass is more ancient pasture than yard.

In real life, I’m staying inside a lot, wearing a mask when I go shopping, taking a car with 81,000 miles on it to the shop, and constantly mowing our four acres of grass. Yesterday’s mowing, at 95 degrees and sunny, featured cows staring at me from the pasture on the other side of the barbed wire fence, unconcerned about the noise of the riding mower but startled and watchful the minute I sneezed. All of this seems far away from the protests and the pandemic.

Re-reading old books

I read fast. Always out of books. So, trying to cut down on my book-buying habit by re-reading old books.  I just finished re-reading John Hart’s gritty The Last Child and The Hush set in a small town in a rural county where bad things happen. Now I’m re-reading Lisa See’s China Dolls, set in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It features three young women who become friends while seeking dancing/singing careers. These books contrast greatly with Dark Arrows, my novel in progress, which is set in the KKK-infested Florida Panhandle where I grew up. I have to re-boot my brain when I switch genres–or watch the news.

Pandemic and Protests

Wikipedia Photos

As far as I know, I haven’t gotten Covid-19. Nor have I seen protests, looting, attacks against the police, and burning stores on nearby streets. This is, of course, real-life, but as it unfolds on social media and on the news, I feel culture shock again as though I’m looking back to the anti-war protests and race riots of the 1960s. The entire country seems to be torn apart by the multiple issues which we’re confronted with daily. Meanwhile, the Presidential campaign has heated up and we’re all trying to figure out what’s true and what’s an empty (or impossible) promise.

I’ve lived in Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco: thank goodness I don’t live in those cities now, much less in Minneapolis (where I once wanted to live) or Portland (where one of my brothers lives). Or St. Louis, Seattle, or NYC. The riot in Atlanta where the Wendys burnt down occurred in an area my wife and I drove through frequently when we worked there and were involved in a non-profit organization that met a few blocks away.

I don’t know where all of this is going to end up, but the polarization and lack of tolerance bother me a lot. So, I continue to read, write, and cut the grass, and when I see images of big cities on fire, I remember a 1960s riot several blocks away from my San Francisco apartment on Dolores Street in the Mission District, and I feel sad for those who are pulled into the horror of protests gone bad. Seeing it all again is the worst of culture shocks.

–Malcolm

 

Happy Birthday, USA

We’re celebrating July 4, 2020, like a family squabbling at Granny’s birthday party where 50% of the inlaws got a virus, 50% are ripping family heirlooms off the walls, and 50% are trying to burn down the house. That’s 150%, but it’s a large family.

The argument has been more heated than usual this year. Otherwise, Granny’s seen it all. She knows that when everyone sobers up and gets their emotions and anger under control–to the extent that’s possible–the family will clean up the mess. She hopes folks will forgive each other and remember the love they feel for each other during easy times, though that’s a stretch.

As she looks at her trampled birthday cake, Granny’s amazed that the same people who made this mess have come together in years past to do amazing things even though none of them is perfect. The same cousins who fought Granddad about over the value of the Grange and badmouthed him for not being perfect have all cheated on their spouses, their taxes, and Lord only knows what else. It would be a hoot if it weren’t so sad.

She recalls the times when they’ve laughed about their inconsistencies and reckons they’ll laugh again, though probably not soon. Granny doesn’t remember who first said it, but she likes the saying that “The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” Maybe that’s why it survives in spite of the squabbling.

That’s how I see our country. Ultimately, I think its greatest weaknesses will evolve into its greatest strengths and pure love for each other will be unconditional.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

The news is bad and it’s impacting my novel

In the old days before the Internet, local stories seldom got splashed around the country adding fuel to the fire like they do today. . .a white woman sees a black man walking his dog in the park and calls 911 (what the hell is that!) or a bank can’t verify the paycheck of a black man and calls 911 (that can hardly be bank policy).

I’m fed up with these kinds of incidents just as I’m fed up with sincere protesters getting a bad rap when outside agitators come in and start torching police cars and burning buildings.

I’m writing another anti-KKK novel set in Florida in the 1950s. Florida was a very active KKK world in those days. In my novel, the protagonist starts hassling families who are the local KKK’s movers and shakers with the hope that those people will leave town, weakening the local organization.

But after seeing the daily headlines, I think I’m sitting down at my PC more ticked off than normal. The resulting novel seems edgier and more noir than usual. I don’t know if that’s good or not. I am thankful that I can funnel some of my anger into the story rather than taking it out on family, friends, and co-workers.

How about you? How do you unwind after yet another day of bad news and keep it from turning you into a person you don’t want to be?

–Malcolm

My contemporary fantasy “The Sun Singer” is free on Kindle through July 4th.

 

If change were as simple as a witch’s ladder

Witches ladders are made by tying a series of knots in thread, yarn, or some other material and that include, at each knot,  a feather, a strand of human hair, leaf, jewelry, pine cone or object that symbolizes the purposes of the ladder. The purpose is generally the creation of a spell or a meditation.

The ladders are known to have been around since the 1870s, but I suspect practitioners of the craft have used them for centuries. Typically, one sings, chants, or recites a specific of general spell element with the tying of each knot. A “simple” ladder often has nine knots and often uses this chant:

By knot of one, the spell’s begun.
By knot of two, the magic comes true.
By knot of three, so it shall be.
By knot of four, this power is stored.
By knot of five, my will shall drive.
By knot of six, the spell I fix.
By knot of seven, the future I leaven.
By knot of eight, my will be fate.
By knot of nine, what is done is mine.

Anyone with patience or the slightest affinity for arts and crafts can make a witch’s ladder, though the example shown here from the Wikipedia article probably shouldn’t be the first one attempted. However, a properly done witch’s ladder is not really simple because for the spell or meditation to manifest, the creator of the ladder must have strong faith/conviction the spell/mediation will work, must maintain a powerful focus upon each knot, and then do nothing to doubt the power of the ladder and the intentions behind it once it’s been completed.

Those who have read this blog for years know that I’m not a big fan of affirmations, statements one repeats daily with the belief that this repetition will bring changes into their consciousness and then into our consensual reality. Émile Coué (1857-1926) was a proponent of this so-called “self-suggestion” and is probably best known for the affirmation “Day by day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”

Yes, I think affirmations–like the steps in a witch’s ladder–can work if they are not recited more or less by rote and if we live the affirmations after making them. That is, we activate them by doing something in our lives (even symbolically) in support of the statements. That is, if–in the moments before you fall asleep–you say “Day by day, in every way, I’m getting better and better,” then you aren’t really living that self-suggestion if you continue to smoke a pack of Marlboros and drink a quart of whiskey every day while thinking little or nothing about what you would look like or act like or think like if you became better.

So much of what we say and do when confronted with the need for change–as protests around the nation are bringing to our attention–is often (as people have said) little more than lip service to new ideas or a BAND-AID® applied to an old and festering problem.  Saying to the protesters (in person or figuratively), “my thoughts and prayers are with you” is meaningless unless you focus your intent and will power on those thoughts and prayers and then take positive action to back up your intentions.

The real witch’s ladder is not simple, though it need not be considered too complex to utilize effectively. Yet, the ladder is simple if the alternative is doing nothing. The trick, if there is one, is living as though the spell/mediation has come to pass even before you see it with your physical eyes.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s novels include magic because that’s how he sees and lives in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Images of chaos or images of protest

The autopsy is not yet clear about what killed 46-year-old George Floyd when he was apprehended by police. What is also not clear is why officer Derek Chauvin and his men kept Floyd pinned down on the street for eight minutes rather than putting him in the back of a squad and transporting him to HQ for an arraignment.

We do know that police departments generally have banned/discouraged various kinds of chokeholds since they often become lethal force when such force is not warranted.

Wikipedia photo

I tend to respect the motives of the legal protesters in the 30 cities across the country where there have been folks marching in the streets or congregating in parks. I worry, though, that the protesters’ valid anger and a valid message is, in some cities, being stolen by outside agitators who appear and set cars and buildings on fire while looting stores.

The public’s impression from the multitude of images on late-night news stations is probably not positive because the protesters are being blamed for the violence caused by those who showed up to create a mess.

The mess has become more tangled as police fire pepper-spray and rubber bullets at reporters who have credentials and are obviously not part of the rioting.

I do see signs of home. Protests that don’t become violent, and stories such as this one: “A sheriff put down his baton to listen to protesters. They chanted ‘walk with us,’ so he did.”

Violence tends to beget violence as more agitators appear or as overwhelmed police and national guard troops try to avoid the bricks and Molotov cocktails thrown at them without harming innocent protestors of using “excessive force” against those who are rioting.

As the Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said after a night of unrest, “this isn’t protest, this is chaos.” I had to agree with her. I also think she might be right when she says Trump needs to stop talking. TV viewers leave with the impression that protestors think looting, burning buildings, and destroying police cars helps their cause. In most cases, it appears to me that bad apples appear once the protest starts and play out their own criminal agendas.

I hope most police officers are not guilty of racial profiling and so-called “street justice.” The trouble is, there are more than enough incidents every year that show everyone, especially African Americans, that our police departments need more training and a fresh agenda. We can start by getting rid of the trend of militarizing our police, and we can follow that up by firing officers who are guilty of racial profiling. This anger we see on our streets didn’t come out of nowhere.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

Remembering May 4, 1970

The Kent State shootings occurred 50 years ago today when the Ohio National Guard fired 67 sounds into an unarmed crowd of anti-war protesters, killing four and wounding nine. Among other things, the “Massacre” is said to have helped end the Vietnam War, bring down the Nixon administration, and ask hard questions about just how police and national guard personnel are supposed to disperse protestors.

At the time, the shooting led to a strike of some four million high school and college students and the closure of many schools. Nixon, of course, had been elected (among other things) on his stated objective of ending the war. The protest was sparked when the U.S. expanded the war by bombing Cambodia.

While I was still in the navy on May 4, 1970, I would leave the service as a conscientious objector four months later. I supported the protestors but disagreed strongly with protests that caused violence. Riot control police have become more dangerous to everyone since Kent State as the police become have more militarized. This isn’t helpful now and it wasn’t helpful then.

I took part in anti-war protests prior to joining the navy (to avoid being drafted into the army) and my sympathies were almost always with the students UNLESS they committed the kind of violence they were protesting.

I wonder if we have learned anything since Kent State. As I watch news stories which show police SWAT teams that look more like Army Rangers and Navy Seals than the police, I tend to doubt it.

–Malcolm