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Posts tagged ‘politics’

Writing about current issues

During the 1960s, folk songs, poems, and books focused on the stormy issues of the day. They seemed to have a large audience, primarily among high school and college audiences. One primary focus was, of course, the war, followed by such things as the military-industrial complex, credibility gap, conscription, ROTC on campuses, and civil rights.

Protest songs and literature seemed to subside for a while; or maybe not. If they did, they have certainly returned now. Sites like Literary Hub, Arts & Letters Daily, and Poets & Writers that post articles and links claim there are more writers speaking out today than ever. The liberal writers, of course, focus their wrath on Trump; the conservative and moderate writers focus their wrath on the Democrats’ move toward the far left.

I think the anti-war movement during the 1960s did finally influence more people to look at what we were doing in Vietnam and whether or not it was worth it. Maybe I’ve just gotten older, but it seems to me that a lot of today’s protests are preaching to the choir; it’s as though the writers have given up on influencing the opposition.

I try to stay away from most of that. For one thing, I seldom write poetry, so I can’t suddenly come out with a new poem that speaks to an issue. While my Florida Folk Magic series targets Jim Crow attitudes and the KKK in the 1950s, I’m not writing present-day fiction that gives me an opportunity to make snarky or wise comments about today’s issues.

I do have hot-button issues such as China’s brutal and illegal occupation of Tibet, so-called honor killings, and the environment, and from time to time, I say something about one or more of these on Facebook. Most people who see my news feed tend to ignore Tibet and honor killing posts while agreeing that we don’t need to be rolling back conservation gains made in previous years. Sometimes I wish I were a badass poet who could write quickly, for then I could speak more about the issues I care about.

So, for the most part, I am silent. Those who champion many issues say that our silence is the same thing as consent. Perhaps so. I feel bad about that at times. However, I’m a long-time introvert, so I’m not going to be out there like AOC with a daily barrage of complaints and finger-pointing. President Nixon popularized the phrase “silent majority,” implying that outside all the shrill protests, a large number of people (presumably) agreed with him. I didn’t like that phrase then and I don’t like it now because it’s just too darned easy to say that the so-called silent majority supports whatever you want.

I do have a volatile Scots temper, so I’m likely to get into serious trouble online if I say what I really think. Plus, I have a general distrust of political parties, so my views are all over the spectrum rather than dictated by the top brass of one group or another. This means that when I do speak out on Facebook, I tend to get bashed by both Republicans and Democrats. General Chesty Puller once said, “We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.” Yes it does, but it’s not a comfortable place to be online.

So, when anybody asks me what I think about the issues, the Fifth Amendment is my friend. That sounds gutless, I know, but at my age, I can’t beat anyone up or run fast enough to get away from them.

Malcolm

 

 

 

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I worry about all the shouting these days

Politics has become very confrontational these days, so much so that the Congress would rather provoke the opposition with tirades rather than work together to actually accomplish something. Even a watered-down improvement in a major issue is likely to be better than inaction.

Most of us know that when a business meeting, city council meeting, or family discussion turns into exaggerations and shouting matches, nothing good will come out of it. Protestors and members of Congress seem to have forgotten this.

In a Facebook discussion yesterday, I got into a debate with somebody who said we are duty-bound as citizens to become counter-protesters whenever a group we despise holds a rally or a “parade.” I disagreed. When certain groups, and their opposites, meet on a city street, the result is shouting. By itself, that accomplishes nothing. Sometimes it leads to violence and property destruction. The news media has a field day and the group that scheduled the march gets a lot of publicity.

I would rather ignore them. Let them have a march that’s met with absolute silence. That hardly makes the news. I grew up in a county where the KKK had a march about once every month or so. Those who supported the KKK stood and watched them go by on the street. Those who didn’t support them stayed away. The result: the news media had nothing to report and nobody got killed or arrested.

Then, as now, anyone yelling verbal threats at the marchers (or getting in their faces) is committing a crime (assault). Is it worth getting arrested to tell members of a group one doesn’t like that they’re really full of it? That’s what they want you to do. That gives them news coverage and lends some of their opposition in jail. Who’s the winner here?

When this kind of thing happens, we all lose. Instead of dialogue that might lead somewhere, we maintain the angry status quo where nothing gets fixed.

–Malcolm

How much politics do you want in the novels you read?

Poets, fiction writers, essayists, and other artists have long been at the forefront of protests against unfair regimes, laws, and negative cultural practices. They still are being censored, imprisoned, and killed. So, I find it hard to protest against the increased amount of political discussion on writers’ sites these days. I suppose if a reader stays within a specific genre or group of authors and mostly reads their material, this increase in politics might be less noticeable. I see it because I’m always searching for writing news sites for information for my author’s page on Facebook.

On that page, I provide four-to-five links a day about recent book news. But my sources are becoming more and more political and making that harder for me to do without politizing the page. That is, I’m finding less information about new releases and author interviews and writing tips, and more information about authors’ views about present-day politics. If I link to such articles very often, I’ve become a political site rather than a books and authors site.

I applaud writers who speak out even if I don’t agree with them. But speaking out is good! Let’s face it, my Florida Folk Magic Series of three novels speaks out against the KKK and the Jim Crow laws of the 1950s.

Let’s face it, politics in the United States at the present moment is–for want of a better analysis–a fractured, polarized mess. It’s natural for writers to speak out about it. Even so, many readers turn to fiction and poetry for entertainment, the discovery of new ideas, and to experience their love of words. I really think some, perhaps many, of those readers do not want the worst of the daily news embedded in every novel and poem they read.

I tend to avoid political books that focus on the current moment because I don’t want to pay $25.00 for a book that contains the same stuff I see on the daily news and that will be out of date in a few years. Even my favorite writers have to wait for the Kindle or mass market paperback versions of their novels to come out before I buy them. As a writer, I think that “too much” current politics dates a novel and makes it unlikely to be read five years from now. So, I’m not going to write a novel about a bunch of people who want to impeach Trump or who want to keep him from being impeached. Stephen King might be able to carry it off, but it’s beyond me, and once Trump is gone, who’s going to read the book?

What about you. Do you look for novels that explore or exploit the current political debates of the day? Or, do you read what you usually read and hope it doesn’t sound like either CNN or FOX news?

Malcolm

 

Does everyone in the U.S. need an anger management class?

“How dare you don’t agree with me, you ignorant bastard.”

I’ve seen responses like that so often on Facebook that I seldom get involved in political “discussions.” Looking at this, and many of the protests, some commentators are asking why “everyone” is so angry.

Maybe we’re just flat tired of the ultra-polarized world we’ve suddenly found ourselves in. There seem to be few shares of grey: you either support a candidate or belief system 100% or you’re scum. There’s seldom an alternative. If you’re a moderate, in years gone by, you might have been a peacemaker, one who’s trying to bring together extreme views into a consensus. Now, moderates get beat up online by the extremists on both sides of the political aisle.

We’re told that our silence is consent in so far as nasty issues are concerned. Yet when we speak out, we’re lambasted by a lot of angry people when we don’t buy into one extreme or the other hook, line, and sinker. I see more shades of grey than either/or, but there’s little I can say online to combat those who are 100% for XYZ and those who are 0% against XYZ because all of those people sound like they’re getting their talking points from the same kinds of places. That is, they aren’t speaking for themselves but for a point of view, that’s (apparently) beamed into their minds by a BORG mothership or a PAC or a political party.

It appears to me that a lot of people feel very uncomfortable when the views they’ve had for a lifetime are questioned by others. Quite often, those views were considered mainstream, the kinds of things that “everybody” in the country believed in. Now, people are finding out that the kind of views that might have seemed reasonable in the 1950s aren’t reasonable today. So, they don’t know how to respond other than with anger and profanity.

Some people wonder if all this anger will send the country into another civil war. I don’t think so, though I can see why many people might think that our differences cannot be healed peacefully. In general, I have a live and let live viewpoint. If another person or group is not a real and present danger to you and others, why get upset about it? Yet a fair number of people apparently think that their religion and their value system and their yardstick of right and wrong should be applied to everybody else. I don’t get it.

I have always believed that the tenets of one’s religion apply only to those who subscribe to that religion rather than the public at large. A lot of the anger seems to come from the belief that “whatever my god tells me to do applies to those with other religious beliefs.” I think that’s an arrogant stance. Why do any of us need to control another person based on our own religious beliefs? Why do people fight like hell to impose their religious beliefs on others via state and federal law? Anger often seems to be a result of this kind of thinking.

We seem to have gone past the point where civilized debate is possible. Personally, I think that if a protester or a politician or an activist cannot listen to the opposition, their cause is suspect. That is, they are not sure of their enough of their stance to be civil. Or even human.

If you look at the political speeches of the day, the commentaries about those speeches, and the fallout on social media, you’ll see–I think–that more people want to be aggrieved than want to find unity.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

The OSCARS risk becoming irrelevant

Once upon a time, I watched the Academy Awards on TV without fail. I loved the movies and everything about them. But not anymore.

What’s changed?

On a practical note, I’m too hard of hearing to go to movies. I don’t see them until months after their release dates when they finally appear on TV with closed captions. So, as of OSCAR night, I have seen none of the nominated films and, other than a few news stories and trailers, have no clue what they’re about. That pretty much kills my interest in the broadcast.

But even if my hearing were fine and I had seen a fair number of the nominated films, I wouldn’t watch. Yes, I might care about the winners, but I’d learn about that the following day on the news.

I am tired of actors and actresses using the OSCAR broadcast as a political pulpit. Like most viewers (I hope), I see the broadcast as being about the movies, not poltical statements in opening monologues, sketches, and acceptance speeches. I get more than enough of this from the news and social media day in and day out and think it’s out of place on an awards program.

Hollywood stars have just as much right as anyone else to express their opinions. Nonetheless, the Academy Awards broadcast is not the forum for that.

When they speak of politics during the broadcast, they appear to be stumbling over each other to prove that they are the most liberal, the most intelligent, and the most politically correct person in the theater. Do they not realize that everyday people see them as members of the so-called filthy rich? I want to shout, how dare you lecture me on politics when you earn more in a year than I do in a lifetime and own multiple homes, each of which is worth more than my entire neighborhood.

You, dear actors and actresses, who can afford the taxes that you might be forced to pay if your left-leaning social programs were implemented, fail to realize that the rest of us cannot afford a government that looks like an unlimited charity. Sure, we support many of the same ideas, but you go too far because you can afford to go too far. You stand on that stage in clothes worth more than my annual income and–with a knowing wink and nod to the audience–advocate programs that will raise my taxes to the point where I cannot afford to live in this country.

Of course you believe you can do this because believe you are America’s royalty, right? We wish we were you, right? We wish we could sit for a few moments in your presence, right? We go to your movies because we love you and know that you care about all of us, right?

Frankly, I would be embarrassed to be you.

So you are turning the OSCARS into a PAC, so to speak, that’s out of sync with most of the country. That’s why, one day soon, we’ll stop caring about you and your awards program. You want us to think OSCAR night is about the movies. But that’s not true, is it?

–Malcolm

 

 

All of you political PR flaks need to quit bugging me

God forbid you should ever donate to a cause because once you do, your in-basket will be filled with dire warnings such as DONATE NOW TO STOP WORLD FROM BLOWING UP.

Does this almost-SPAM really work?

I associate it with the kinds of pitches I see aired with late-night TV shows where actors who look as reputable as Hannibal Lector try to push “miracle” products that I can get delivered immediately at 99% off if I call now. “Operators are standing by.”

So now, it’s politics. The bogus theme I hate most is, “Hey, Malcolm, we need 100,000 signatures by midnight to stop [whoever] from doing [whatever].” Are you serious?  What’s with the deadline? This crap has been going on for years and suddenly I have to sign some silly petition with no legal standing by midnight?

And, “Malcolm, are you with us? A mysterious donor will triple match all contributions made in the next 15 minutes.”

I wonder how long it will be before this shrill rhetoric turns into outright threats. “DONATE OR DIE. Killers are standing by to rub out everyone who fails to support our nonviolent loving kindness campaign by high noon.”

When I see a lot of this schlock from the same place, I unsubscribe, assuming I can figure out how and can get through the barrage of questions I have to answer: “Don’t you love us anymore?” “Did we do something wrong?” “Do you think we’re just a bunch of assholes?”

Then, after I unsubscribe to something I never signed up for in the first place, guess how much good it does? Nada. Zip. The dire messages and pleas for money keep coming.

I figure e-mail SPAM and blog comment SPAM must work because they aren’t going away. I’m starting to think that I should use this technique to sell my books: “Hello, buy a copy of Conjure Woman’s Cat by midnight or I’ll put a hex on your ass.”

Okay, it was just a thought.

But seriously, you political bastards asking for money and signatures before midnight need to shut the hell up. Let’s see, if given the choice between donating to your petition drive or buying a bottle of Scotch, what should I do? I’m buying the Scotch because it tastes good while the petition drive probably isn’t going to do squat.

I saw an article today that said most cell phone calls will soon be from spammers. I can believe that. Most of the e-mail in my in-basket is SPAM. Thank goodness WordPress weeds out most of the SPAM comments on my blog. Everybody’s talking and nobody’s listening.

The reason is simple: those doing the talking are selling snake oil.

Malcolm

 

 

 

Candidate Discriminated Against Due to Silver Spoon in Mouth

Junction City, Texas, August 6, 2017, Star-Gazer News Service–Mayoral candidate George Argentite, 47 Metallica Way, filed suit in federal court under the Americans with Disabilities Act claiming he was being discriminated against because he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

“Slanderous statements by incumbent Clark Trail alleging that a man with a silver spoon in his mouth cannot possibly govern fairly or understand the needs of the majority of prospective voters have not only poisoned public opinion against me in the current election campaign, but have cost me my job at P.S. 47, gotten me kicked out of my role as head deacon at the church, and essentially banned me from local restaurants, movie theaters and grocery stores,” Argentite told reporters outside the courthouse this morning.

Political commentator Joe Everyman, who says his family uses stainless steel flatware, believes Agentite’s troubles stem from Trail’s campaign slogan “My opponent thinks he’s a privileged man or possibly a god.”

Members of the family have mixed views about the origin of the Wallace Silversmiths Grand Baroque teaspoon that protrudes from the left side of Argentite’s mouth. 50% claim that the spoon was swallowed by George’s mother Anne at a Rotary Club dinner while she was pregnant and 50% say the spoon–which is completely fused into Argentite’s jaw bone–resulted from a gypsy curse.

Hospital records indicate that early attempts at removing the spoon threatened to destroy Argentite’s head, “potentially transforming him into a two faced individual.” The pediatrics department believed he would grow out of it by the time he lost his baby teeth while surgeons discovered that cutting off the spoon at the gum line resulted in the object “regrowing rather like a lizard’s tail.”

“Prior to Trail’s smear campaign, most people didn’t realize I couldn’t get the spoon out of my mouth any more than a real rich person could pretend he wasn’t rich,” said Argentite. “People just thought I sucked on the spoon in the same way other people walk around with cigarettes, toothpicks and bits of straw.”

Trail told reporters that “saying your opponent has a silver spoon in his his mouth is a traditional method of vilifying the rich as a class of people who deserve to be tarnished for reaching the pinnacle of the American dream that the rest of us have yet to attain.”

According to informed sources, Argentite has received lucrative offers from monarchs, mob bosses and dictators to serve as an official taster since silver can detect the presence of arsenic in food.

Agentite’s wife, Flora, said, “We’re too scandalized to kiss in public any more,”

–Story by Jock Steward, Special Investigative Reporter

 

Mayonnaise Users Are At Fault

Today’s politics is a highly polarized mess. People on both sides of the political aisle have been asking how this happened, why there’s not more love in the world, and why people would rather spout weird beliefs rather than seek compromise.

The short answer is: mayo, which, as you can see (unless you’re a user) is a four-letter word.

The United States is composed of several kinds of people:

  • Good people: We use mustard and possibly ketchup (but not catsup) on our hamburgers.
  • People on the wrong side of the tracks: They use mayo on their burgers and probably break into grocery stores in the middle of night when they run out of it.
  • Special Sauce Scum: They use thousand island dressing mixed with God knows what else on their burgers.

True Americans know what belongs on a hamburger. Americans who are supporting the wrong political candidates and putting the country in peril are people from the Mayo and Special Sauce camps.

Some of us add stuff to our burgers, but we don’t force our beliefs on others. I like bleu cheese (the scum spell that as “blue cheese”) and a dab or horseradish on my burgers. Some years ago, I accidentally got addicted to guacamole sauce  on burgers, but I have been clean for over twenty years.

I never force my habits on others, much less go to Congress or the Supreme Court to get my likes and dislikes codified one way or another into the national psyche. But I draw the line a mayonnaise.  Why the hell (pardon my French) would anyone want to spoil an all-American hamburger with (as Wikipedia defines it) “a stable emulsion of oil, egg yolk, and either vinegar or lemon juice”?

As a survivor of the cold war, my first thought is “Commies.” But the conspiracy is wider than that. Have you noticed? A lot of so-called “regular people” are slathering mayo on their burgers–and just about everything else. Yes, it works in chicken salad and tuna salad, but that’s about it.

If you’re a mayo user–or even a thousand island dressing user–please stop for the good of the country.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “En Route to the Diddy-Wah-Diddy Landfill While the Dogwoods Were in Bloom,” a new e-book short story available on Kindle, iTunes, Kobo and Nook.

 

 

Should I be writing about political issues?

Arts, publishing and books websites are showing us a large number of links about writers and politics these days. Some writers are speaking out (from one side of the aisle or the other) at rallies, via letters to Senators and Representatives, and posts on Facebook profiles. Others are writing poems, entire poetry chapbooks, essays, book reviews, short stories and novels that reflect their concerns about a wide variety of political, economic and social issues that became part of the very polarized national debate during the Presidential campaign.

Somebody–I forget who–once said that all fiction and poetry is at one level or another political. Perhaps so. My contemporary fantasies can’t help but show sadness over a world that relies more on technology than spirituality. My two Florida conjure novels shine a light on the racism of the 1950s. Nonetheless, my primary intent with these novels was telling stories I was passionate about rather than creating “message novels.”

When I think about the folk songs of the 1960s–and a lot of the poetry and fiction as well–I remember them as being intensely political, about “the military industrial establishment,” segregation, poverty, and the Vietnam War. We seem to have come full circle back to writings of protest and resistance against conservative policies as well as writings suggesting that that previous liberal policies created a mess that needs to be cleaned up.

Of course I have opinions about the issues. One opinion of longstanding favors a better approach to the environment, conservation, protection of wild areas and natural resources, and more care about not polluting the environment. Since these views go all the way back to the days when I was in the Boy Scouts and first began to participate in conservation organizations such as the Wilderness Society and the National Parks and Conservation Association, I will keep writing about this–and referring to it in my stories.

While I respect writers and others who feel a need to speak out for or against the issues that now threaten to further divide this country into camps that refuse to work toward consensus, I’m not going to do it. For one thing, I have no credentials that give me any special insight into whether we should be doing ABC or XYZ.  For another thing, much of the debate in both the news media and the social media is being driven by biased or skewed news, sensationalism and other misleading information, and voters on both sides of the issue who approach discussion with a “my candidate right or wrong.” All of this divides us further and makes the truth harder to find.

So my “voice” is going to stay focused on environmental issues and in writing fiction even if the two things get stirred up together a little bit. None of the rants–even those I basically agree with–on Facebook and elsewhere are changing people’s minds. Why not? Because they’re skewed toward the far right or the far left rather than a more centrist approach where people can really discuss the issues sanely rather than throwing gasoline on the fire with dueling wisecracks and graphics.

I welcome those journalists and other writers who do their best to look past the hysteria and tell us the facts and/or to carefully analyze the practicality, ethics, and legality of the issues in their news stories, features, essays, poems, and fiction. Anything else is pretty much spitting into the wind.

–Malcolm

 

Nightbeat: Every lie is true somewhere and vice versa

Washington, D. C., January 23, 2017, Star-Gazer News Service–Woke up this morning and worried about the fact that my waking up might be a lie. In a post-truth, alternate facts world, it’s easy to doubt oneself, because wrong is suddenly the new right.

My therapist asked me to talk to a sock puppet named Billy Joe.

“Tell Billy Joe how you feel about your lack of certainty,” my therapist prompted.

“I feel bad and that ain’t good,” I said.

“Don’t we all,” said Billy Joe.

“I don’t know who you are anymore,” I said, “much less who I am.”

Wikipedia graphic

Wikipedia graphic

“Well, I’ll tell you. Most people don’t know what happened on Choctaw Ridge,” said the puppet as he settled down on top of a copy of Carl Jung’s Red Book. “I went up there to talk to my guru, and he said, ‘Every lie is true somewhere and vice versa.'”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

My therapist was furiously taking notes, and by that I mean, writing quickly rather than with anger.

“It’s cutting edge quantum theory,” said Billy Joe. “Unfortunately, the world didn’t understand such things very well in 1967. Personally, the guru’s revelation led to that embarrassing Tallahatchie Bridge incident.”

“I’m sorry that happened,” my therapist said.

“Don’t fash yourself over it because I’m not really dead. Sure, that’s a lie in this universe, but not in the universe next door. As my guru explained, everything that can happen does happen. But the things that happen split off like a family tree into many universes with hundreds of worlds, worlds more numerous than the stars in a clear night sky over the rock of waters.”

“Does that mean alternative facts are true in another universe?”

“It does,” said Billy Joe. “Once a person learns how to listen to the spirit of the depths, he’ll understand that.”

“You’re still up at the sawmill in alt-reality?”

“Alive and kicking along with the cat in the box.”

“So, somewhere else, I’m still asleep,” I said.

“How do you feel about that?” asked my therapist.

“Empowered.”

“That’s why you pay Billy Joe and I $375 for a 38-minute hour,” she said.

She stood, tossed Billy Joe back in the sock puppet bin along with “Big Bopper,” “Buddy Holly” “Ritchie Valens,” and “Judge Crater.” When I walked outside, I saw morning had broken and realized for the first time since February 3, 1959 that the music never died and that even though the spirit of the times loves alternative facts and post truth, the truth will never die either.

As a journalist, my job is to remain neutral while writing a story, but I still think it will be fair for me to ask those whose facts don’t ring true, “What universe are you living in?”

–Jock Stewart