The Caravan and Thoughts of Charity

I was thinking about political correctness today. The right scoff at the ‘snowflakes’ and the left rail at the ‘facists’, and in between it has become impossible to have a decent conversation.

The caravan of Central American refugees, that the Republicans have made such as election issue of, has dropped from public view. But the entire debate was framed as a ‘Be tough, show resolve, defend the borders, build the wall, send the army’ conversation. The rebuttal was non-existent. It was politically impossible for anyone to show the kind of traditionally conservative Christian values I grew up with, and that is heartbreaking. What have we become?

I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve. If anything, I would call myself a ‘closet’ Christian. And I feel too many people who call themselves Christian seem to live in the Old Testament, forgetting the messages from Jesus in the New Testament. I remember Sunday School lessons about compassion and empathy for our fellow men. The good Samaritan, the Seven virtues, Kindness, Charity, Compassion and Mercy.

When one side frames the debate about who can be the toughest, the other side commits political suicide by admitting any of these virtues. How did this happen? When did the voices of all the good people cower in fear?

This is not who we are. Sure, we all get angry sometimes. Life can be tough. But we have it good compared to those people in Central America who are fleeing totalitarian dictators, civil wars, corruption and abject poverty.

We need to show a little empathy. Recognize that these people are fleeing a humanitarian disaster. And since the Americans have told the rest of the world to stay out of the Western hemisphere, via the Munro Doctrine, Americans have a responsibility to address this disaster.

Bob Hope once said that ‘A man with no Charity in his heart, suffers from the worst kind of heart problem.’

As the bumper stickers say ‘What would Jesus do?’

Close the #Trumpcamps

Over the last few days we have seen images of children being torn from their mothers. There are reports of camps being setup in Texas and children in cages. The similarities to concentraction camps is too easy to make.
And now Jeff Sessions and Sarah Sanders are holding up the bible to justify their heartless cruelty.
There is no empathy in this Administration. That Donald Trump was damaged as a child and is now a narcissistic socio-path incapable of seeing people as humans is a given. Trying to appeal to his heart is useless.
But he does care about something. His Name. How he is percieved by the public. His image on TV and Twitter. His brand.
Trump towers are supposed to be luxurious. Mara-Lago is better than Disney Land. Trump University, Trump steaks, Trump Casinos. He loves to see his name on everything. So let’s put his name on this. Let him own it. #Trumpcamps.
Every conversation, every story, every image of families being torn apart and people being thrown in jail for misdemeanor crimes and having the audacity to beg for asylum , needs to be tagged and branded as a trumpcamp story.
Right now it is a bargaining chip. Let it be more. Let him own it. Let it be Donald Trump’s legacy,his place in history. #Trumpcamps

The English Language as a Lesson in Resiliance

It has been beaten, invaded, subjugated, enslaved, driven underground, sneered at and crushed like a cockroach. Yet it has rebounded to become the world’s first Universal Language. English.
Around the time of Christ, Londinium was the furthest outpost of the Roman Empire. As the empire fell the Romans withdrew. The few Celtish tribes that still existed made themselves at home.
Until in AD499 the Germanic tribes invaded: Angles and Saxons, bringing with them their language that was to become German.
In AD597 a peaceful invasion happened, as St. Augustine brought Latin and Christianity to the Island of Albion. And the language of Celt, German and now Latin merged.
Next the Viking invaders came, raping, pillaging and speaking that mix of Danish, from which the locals again borrowed and stole words and phrases.
Alfred the Great brought together the English clans in AD793 and the basic English language became the common through the realm.
Until 1066 when the Normans defeated the English at Hasting, and imposed a French speaking aristocracy that lasted 300 years. Again the locals absorbed the words and grammar of their overlords, until the overlords were overrun by English, so that French became a second language to them too.
With the hundred year war, French fell out of style, and English was the language of the land.
So came onto the landscape Geoffrey Chaucer in the 1300s, and then Shakespeare in the late 1500s, followed by the King James bible in 1600 or so.
And the dye was cast. The language that would traverse the world with the British empire, take root in the new world, and spread to become the worlds first global language.
It holds a lesson. Bend but do not break. Adapt. Learn, hide if need be, absorb from others. But never surrender.

How to Avoid Cultural Appropriation

This thread comes from the ‘Writing Ethnically Different Protagonists’ thread and concern I have from a reviewer.
I have a character in my work, Ruth, who is a North American Native woman from Saskatchewan. She is abused. I am neither a woman nor native. An artist friend who is reading the draft suggested I could be called out for Appropriation of Voice with this character.
I have done some research and found the Canadian Author Margaret Atwood was accused of the same thing with Pauline and Surfacing.
I don’t want to change her background, her culture or her history. She plays an important role in the story and as a metaphor for our Canadian society.
But I want to be empathetic to the Aboriginal culture, history and concerns. Does anyone have any thoughts on how to avoid the charge?
thanks

 

Book review of Frances Itani’s Tell

I recently finished reading Tell as a NVCL Book Club book. I was underwhelmed. In fact, I had to force myself to complete the novel.
I had trouble visualizing the characters. Tall, short, dark, fair, I couldn’t see these people, the descriptions were lacking. But that was only the beginning of my issues.
The story revolves around secrets that are kept in the small town. I grew up in a small southern Ontario town, so I thought I could relate. Not so much.
In truth most small towns are full of busy-bodies who love to talk about each other. That these secrets could be kept for decades was a little dubious. But reading fiction involves a suspension of disbelief, so I will give the author that. That the secrets were only revealed at the end felt a little forced.
The ice rink. If it was a metaphor for something, I missed it. Maybe the big snow wall. But there was too much description of building the rink for my liking. As above, I lived in Southern Ontario, I get it.
Too often I wanted to take the characters and bang their heads together. Just speak for god’s sake.
But the final killer for me was that the novelist showed a lack of caring and empathy. The main female character Maggie cheats on her husband Em. Neither Itani nor Maggie showed any thoughts to the pain they were inflicting. Not a second thought. My idea of a good writer is one who has empathy for the world, and shows it in their work and their characters. Itani failed at this.

Danny

Consenting to Learn in Public

“Consenting to Learn in Public”

I am beginning a journey.
A flag was raised when I had my first draft of a fictional story reviewed. A major character in that story is an aboriginal women named Ruth. She is a North American native from Wood Mountain Saskatchewan. She is abused. And a reviewer suggested I drop the native character as I might be accused of Cultural Appropriation or Appropriation of voice.

I don’t want to change her story or her background, or make the issues invisible. Native people are a real part of the Canada I love and call home. I do want to be empathetic to the real concerns of the community. I don’t want to steal anything. What to do?

The plan is to do some research. To read. Books, web sites, blogs. And to speak to the people I know who have a Native background.
To look for organizations that can teach me, inform me, educate me.

So the journey begins.

I might make some mistakes. I may ask some really dumb questions. I may publicly show my ignorance. Please forgive me in advance.

 

#Consentingtolearninpublic

Anais Nin’s letter to the collector

I had never read this letter until today. It’s wonderful. And puts into words what so bothers me about sex scenes without emotion, passion, love.

“Dear Collector: We hate you. Sex loses all its power and magic when it becomes explicit, mechanical, overdone, when it becomes a mechanistic obsession. It becomes a bore. You have taught us more than anyone I know how wrong it is not to mix it with emotion, hunger, desire, lust, whims, caprices, personal ties, deeper relationships that change its colour, flavour, rhythms, intensities.

You do not know what you are missing by your microscopic examination of sexual activity to the exclusion of aspects which are the fuel that ignites it. Intellectual, imaginative, romantic, emotional. This is what gives sex its surprising textures, its subtle transformations, its aphrodisiac elements. You are shrinking your world of sensations. You are withering it, starving it, draining its blood.

If you nourished your sexual life with all the excitements and adventures which love injects into sensuality, you would be the most potent man in the world. The source of sexual power is curiosity, passion. You are watching its little flame die of asphyxiation. Sex does not thrive on monotony. Without feeling, inventions, moods, no surprises in bed. Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine.

How much do you lose by this periscope at the tip of your sex, when you could enjoy a harem of distinct and never-repeated wonders? No two hairs alike, but you will not let us waste words on a description of hair; no two odours, but if we expand on this you cry Cut the poetry. No two skins with the same texture, and never the same light, temperature, shadows, never the same gesture; for a lover, when he is aroused by true love, can run the gamut of centuries of love lore. What a range, what changes of age, what variations of maturity and innocence, perversity and art…

We have sat around for hours and wondered how you look. If you have closed your senses upon silk, light, colour, odour, character, temperament, you must be by now completely shrivelled up. There are so many minor senses, all running like tributaries into the mainstream of sex, nourishing it. Only the united beat of sex and heart together can create ecstasy.”

 

Anais Nin

Vancouver Maker Faire, So Great

A good friend invited me down the the Vancouver Maker Faire at the PNE yesterday. I am so glad I went. http://makerfaire.ca
I was impressed by the people. I am a techy from way back, so the robots and 3D printers and laser cutters were right up my alley. But what I was really impressed by was the energy of all the people. Every booth was staffed by people putting their hearts into things. Real enthusiasm. There were electronics & robots, beside furniture makers & hand spinning wool exibitions. There were rocket launchers & jewelry makers, Lego machines & Hack space providers, Bee keepers & Sailors, Universities and the Boy Scouts.
But the most impressive thing was the people. These were bright energetic people putting their hearts and passion into whatever they were showwing. I spoke to a few and evesdropped on a dozen more conversations. It was worderfull to find such a large space full of so many positive happy people. I know it is hard work, my friend told how long it took to setup on Friday night, and I am sure it will be just as much work to break it down and take it home. Plus all the long hours staffing the booth. They all do that. But you could see they loved what they were doing.
Go for the crafts, the tech, the learning. But savour the dozens of interesting, passionate people. It is good clean fun. A really great event.

http://makerfaire.ca

Review of Eudora Welty’s ‘The Optimist’s Daughter’

I don’t know why I had never heard of this book. It was incredible. It is not often I read a novel start to finish in a single session, but I couldn’t put it down.
The language, the prose is perfect. I am embarrased to admit I have never read a Eudora Welty book or story before, but I will read more now.
Laurel, Dr.Courtland and Judge McKelva are perfect Southern characters. And poor Wanda Fay, trailer trash before it was called that.
The funeral scene at the McKelva home is so awkward you can feel for Laurel in your heart. And a great writer makes the reader feel.
And think. The things that Wanda Fay cannot comprehend or know or value. ‘Without power of passion or imagination.’
I would love to know what becomes of Laurel. I am sure it is good.
A wonderful book. 5 Stars.

Book Review of ‘The Faulkes Chronicle’ by David Huddle

I really liked Huddle’s ‘The Writing Habit’ so decided to try one of his fiction works. Mixed opinion.
Whether by design or not, the use of ‘We’ to describe the children was confusing. Who exactly was talking? And the number of children, their names and ages and characteristics was impossible to keep straight. Maybe that is what he wanted, to show a group who were more alike than different.
I first thought it might be something like Aislinn Hunter did in ‘The World Before Us’ with all the spirits, and it was a puzzle to put together. (And incidentally, the best book I have read this year.) But with the Huddle book there is no payoff in trying to sort out the voices.
I like to pride myself in always finishing a book I start. But near the half way point I put the book down and was not going to finish it. I wasn’t enjoying it. But one night I had nothing to do, and that pride kicked in, and I tried again.
I am so very glad I did. Because the second half of this book is magic. It was a real joy to read, and I finished it in one sitting. The character sketches of Karen as a young girl are so delicate, touching and moving. Absolutely beautiful narrative. Some of the chapters could well stand as sweet short stories in themselves, not surprising as Huddle is an accomplished short story writer.
So I am happy I read this book. It is a quirky, beautifully written, loving portrait of characters and story.