I’m back and I’m political

It’s been awhile, months even, since I’ve posted. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, a lot of writing, and a lot of talking (face-to-face) with people particularly skilled in the art of communication. I’ve come to terms with many things about myself, my life . . . . Introspection, I believe, is the term. It’s been rough. But it’s been real. In the 39 years I’ve been alive I’ve made some mistakes. I’ve done some things I regret. I’ve misunderstood the way the world works. I’ve always thought I was enlightened but I was wrong. And now I can no longer stay silent in my safe white male privilege about the situations arising everywhere. Better late than never, right?

Anyway.

Here’s what I got.

To those marching, I support you and though I was not able to make it out last weekend, I’m sure there will be more. When there are, I will go and be a white male shield if that’s what I need to be. To those protesting, I support you and will join you as well. Hell, to those rioting, I can find reasons to support you too, for it was Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Much like him, I don’t like violence. That said, much like him, I get it . . . and the future isn’t written so who knows . . . someday I may join you too. I may not have grown up a minority, but I spent the first 10 years of my life bouncing from trailer park to trailer park. My children both benefited from Iowa’s WIC program. I’ve been poor. Because of that, I’ve felt unheard. True, my white male privilege has prevented me from feeling it as keenly as minorities, immigrants, women, the LGBTQIA community, and many many others, but I’ve felt it.

Anyway.

While Trump and his cronies have duped many like me into believing someone with power is finally listening to the little people, they haven’t duped all of us. The size of the marches says this. The overwhelming anti-Trump content on social media says this. The underwhelming size of the crowds at the inaugural parade and festivities says this. The fact that many of us are noticing that Trump’s inaugural speech was (among other things we won’t speak of) about giving America back to the people, while his first official act made it slightly more difficult for the poor to get and maintain homes, says this. The fact that Trump’s press secretary’s first official press conference was a vitriolic lie parade says this. The fact that Trump’s advisor went on Meet the Press and used the phrase “alternative facts” to describe Spicer’s (the press secretary) lies and was summarily destroyed by Chuck Todd . . . and the internet says this.

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I don’t know who made this, but the person is a satirical genius.

Anyway.

It also says something else, something better.

It says that Trump’s presidency, Brexit, and the rest, are not symbolic of the end of an era of Change. Rather, they are the petulant and ignorant dying gasps of an outdated mode of thought. As I observe this moribund shift, I’m reminded of Denethor from JRR Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Denethor fears Change too. Denethor blames others for his woes. He cries foul at his friends and falls victim to the whims of his enemy. While outside his fortress, his people fight actual evil invaders, Denethor, because of his fear, succumbs to the Eye of Sauron. As he succumbs, he tries to murder his son and eventually kills himself on a brutal pyre. Trump, and those who follow/agree with him, are Denethor. If left unchecked, their fear will lead to policies that will destroy the world and the society we’ve built, and in that destruction, so too will they fall. But that is something they refuse to see, for they are blinded by fear. It is not so much that they are all racists or that they are all homophobes or bigots. Many of them are simply afraid of Change. They are afraid because their ideals have no place in our ever progressing world. They are fading fast. Unfortunately, much like a dying animal, that is when they are most dangerous.

We progressives, however, are not afraid of those afraid of Change. We are also not afraid of White Nationalists (Nazis). We are not afraid of racists, homophobes, and those who mock wisdom, intelligence, and education. We are not afraid of the climate change deniers and those who hide hate behind religious rhetoric. We are not afraid of the super rich and remarkably unqualified who will make up the next presidential cabinet. We are not afraid of the politicians (on both sides of the aisle) who have lied and lied and lied and hoarded wealth like hundreds of Scrooge McDucks. We are not afraid of their talking heads, any of them.

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Here is where Scrooge McDuck keeps his money… I wonder where your senator keeps his… probably right next to his all-inclusive healthcare.

Instead, we pity them and the impending end of their rule, of their ideals, and their selfishness. We pity them and their inability to Change.

Truth be told though, we probably shouldn’t. They have worn blinders and willfully ignored History which is all about Change. In case you’ve missed it, this fear of Change has been and always will be their downfall. I’ll admit, with Trump and Brexit, it looks like they’re going out with a bombastic bang. But Change, much like her brother Time, cannot be stopped. Virtually any history book not published by a massive Texas-based text-book company shows the truth of this statement.

As a middle-aged white man in middle America, I may look like many of those blinder wearing conservatives, but while they gaze longingly at an imagined past with nostalgic (hallucinogenic?) eyes, I, much like Peter Leyden, look to the future with hopeful ones.

 

 

Dystopia NOW!

Recently The Novel Fox published my book FormerIt’s a somber tale about what is left of our society after a zombie apocalypse. It’s been said that it is something “new” in the genre. One reviewer posted, “This is not your typical horror story.” Another claimed, “Almost immediately, I could tell this wasn’t going to be the standard, technical, science fiction zombie novel.”

These are great complements and I take them humbly. But recently I’ve come to realize that my dystopian novel and all the others that serve as warnings for a possible horrible future are more than allegorical. Former speaks of racism and a society beholden to businesses. It speaks of weak, money hungry politicians and a powerless public. It speaks of disease and death. It speaks of NOW: racism, society beholden to businesses, weak/money hungry politicians, powerless public.

Yes. Most great sci-fi novels do this in one way or another and have for some time. They address certain aspects of current society that frighten and unnerve authors. They think, “What is the worse possible outcome of this current political, social, religious, environmental, etc, etc, etc. problem?” Then they write and we get books like 1984, Brave New World, The Walking Dead, World War Z, Planet of the Apes, Ready Player OnePhillip K. Dick’s entire library of work, and yes, FormerWe get to be afraid for the future, we get to be warned about what could come. We get to maybe, just maybe, see the horrible possibility of what’s at the finish line of the race we’re on. Hopefully, we can do something to prevent it.

But look around, kids. You can’t prevent what’s already happening. We’re living it. Sure, all things considered, the United States is doing okay . . . I mean other than this, this, this, this, this . . . ah . . . . You get the idea, right? It isn’t perfect.

Truth be told though, from a strictly quality of life, pragmatic sort of view, for most Americans, it isn’t as bad as it is for people in a good chunk of the world. I mean, Africa, for instance and its far-too-powerful warlords, AIDS epidemic, and general unrest seems worse. And don’t even get me started on the human rights violations in certain parts of Asia. Or how about those poor refugees who die trying to get to safety? Also, for those of you who find The Handmaid’s Tale particularly disturbing, theocratic governments (the kind of government that exists in the fictional Republic of Gileadexist today to various degrees of comfort for their people. And just to remind you that the First World is pretty damn culpable in all this, I’ll lead you here and here.

And that’s the point . . . .

Anyway.

Two things are clear to me now.

  1. We’re living in a dystopia and, despite our problems, the United States and a good chunk of the First World are the ones at the top of the ladder. We are the ones with the power to change things or keep our entire planet marching toward self-destruction. Right now, we are the hero’s enemy. I mean, if real life was Star Wars you can bet the First World wouldn’t be the rebellion. And we are, by and large, blind to it.
  2. I need to stop reading, listening to, and watching the news altogether. Just cut the cord. Go cold turkey.

Seriously though, do our sci-fi books, films, and television shows help people see the fact that we are living in a dystopia? To some degree, I think, yes, they do. On the other hand, They do not do so quite enough because there is always a subtle safety net. Most of the dystopian stories I know of take place in the First World’s future. It’s ironic then that many of the situations characters live through (The Hunger Gamesmuch? Much too much.) in these dystopian stories are, to some degree, actually taking place on this planet right now to real people.

These real people work in sweat shops. These real people fear for their lives from military, religious, or political overlords. These people work to die. These people suffer illnesses that are easily treated here. These people are living sci-fi authors’ fears. And now that we have the internet, we have no excuse to ignore it.

This modern-day dystopia is here, like a disease, slowly eating at all the world’s parts.

The question now though is: What’s the cure?

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