We lost the brief love and unity our nation felt on 9/12/2001

Wikipedia

The days that followed, much like the days after Kennedy’s assassination, were days of communal grief and processing. Let it be noted – it is important that this be noted – that in those first days after the attack, unlike the ugliness of the military misadventures that have come to mark America’s official response to that day over the last twenty years, the people of the United States were beautiful. In our heartbreak and horror people were vulnerable, actually, and open. – Marianne Williamson

When a family experiences a tragedy, they draw together and support each other and console each other with love and compassion that they may feel uncomfortable displaying on normal days. So, too, a town wiped out by a flood or a tornado or a nation hit with a terrorist attack that takes nearly 3,000 lives.

Those feelings of national unity and concern for each other didn’t last. We lost our chance to keep that focus during the last 20 years. Now we find ourselves in a polarized nation where the default response to the smallest of things is often uncvilized hatred.

“Hey, there’s an old lady without a mask; let’s beat the shit out of her.”

“What do you mean I can’t come in your store without a mask? I’ll be back tonight to torch the dump, teach you a lesson you son of a bitch.”

I guess if one feels righteous enough, they can be immature.

Some of you will disagree, but I place a substantial amount of the blame for today’s polarization and uncivilized behavior at the foot of the U. S. Government. In my view, its response to 9/11 was about as inept as its response to leaving Afganistan. The so-called “Patriot acts” are an example. When a government spies on its own citizens, what kind of result should it expect? We can’t even get on an airplane without being searched. So much for probable cause.

The remains of our country’s once great news media have taken chaos and turned it into biased reporting, and that includes both CNN and Fox news. Both networks highlight divisiveness because it’s good for the ratings even thought it harms the country.

So today, while I will not forget 9/11, I also will not forget the unity and compassion of 9/12. We lost 3,000 innocent people on 9/11/2001 and then in the years that followed, we lost our national soul. Two paths diverged in a wood, and we took the low road, the one that’s killing everyone who survived 9/11. Today I wish we could, as a nation, look at how things anded up and resolve never to allow them to end up that way again.

I don’t think we will, but I can hope.

Malcolm

U. S. complicity in the brutal 1950 repression in South Korea

Lisa See has written a wonderful novel, The Island of Sea Women,  about the women who worked as haenyeo divers on South Korea’s Jeju Island during the 1930s and 1940s. The focus, in addition to the matriarchal-world of harvesting food from the seafloor, is on the long-term relationships between the women and their families during a very dangerous period on Korean history.

In 1950, there were brutal purges in South Korea by the U.S.-stalled government of Syngman Rhee against real and imagined communists in the south, including Jeju Island. Multiple villages were burnt, thousands of innocent people were brutally tortured and killed, all based on the lame excuse that a communist walking through the countryside proved everyone there was a potential sympathizer.

I found myself growing more and more angry about the complicity of the U.S. in these massacres as I got farther into the novel. See mentions in the afterword that Jeju citizens were forbidden from speaking about what happened for 50 years under pain of death.

The Americans, who occupied South Korea at the end of World War two classified anything having to do with the purges, the pictures of which look like something out of Nazi Germany. Our military could have and should have brought order to the land it governed. Instead, as General MacArthur claimed, the U.S. viewed the executions as an “internal matter” while local commanders surreptitiously cheered the brutal putdown of the left-wing uprisings, and even took pictures of the mass graves of innocents killed in the process.

To learn more, I suggest http://islandstudies.net/weis/weis_2016v06/v06n4-2.pdf, an author mentioned by See in the novel’s afterword.

As a grade school student, I saw news reports about the Korean War. What I did not see–since it would be classified for years–was any news about the South Korean president we installed killing his own people. Once again, we were cut off from the truth about what our country was doing, or in this case, not doing.

Lisa See has not only written another powerful novel that teaches us much about a culture far away but one that sheds light on another failure of our civilian and military leadership.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism and contemporary fantasy novels including “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”  We are especially happy with the highly praised narration of the audiobook.

Blog for Peace

Yesterday, bloggers around the country were blogging for peace. I should have done it, but I wasn’t feeling very peaceful as I watched the election returns and felt that the country wasn’t going to seem very peaceful no matter who was elected President.

I appreciated Marianne Williamson’s all-to-brief run for the Presidency, not because I thought she had a chance of winning, but because she was disseminating a different message, one of hope and the ever-available possibility of transformation. Her candidacy reminded me somewhat of that of Eugene McCarthy years ago in which he said his goal was more in getting a message out than expecting to win.

I feel these days that Americans are a huge dysfunctional family that can’t quite stop the squabbling long enough to work together. If I had some magic words that would convince everyone to pull back from their most antagonistic stances, I would have blogged for peace. 

Seems to me, no one is listening. Half of the memes I see on Facebook are wrong because those who posted them only care about one side of the story. I’m more of a moderate than those screaming on Facebook, so after finding no common ground with the most volatile posters and groups, I’m at a loss to find anything to say that matters.

Today’s political reality seems forever on the verge of a mog waiting to happen. Yesterday people were squabbling about the Fox News’ call that Biden won Arizona. The mob didn’t seem to realize that Fox News’ decision desk isn’t running the election. I have to idea how to talk to people who have no clue how stuff works.

I should have blogged for peace, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth the effort when everyone seems geared up for a fight.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two contemporary fantasies, “The Sun Singer” and “Sarabande.”

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.