The Destiny Is In The Details

Not to bore you with details, but a large thematic component of my novel in progress is based on family lore.

As part of my research I’ve signed up for one of those analyze your DNA/create your family tree websites.

Quick side note: My wife is a fan of the various TV shows—Who Do You Think You Are, Finding Your Roots—that traverse this same territory with well known actors, politicians, journalists, academics. I’ve watched several episodes, and while I get the intrigue, the discoveries hadn’t up to the past couple weeks scored an emotional hit.

Fast forward to now and my own revelations about the various family and DNA components that brought me here. I’m struck by the many, many stories that are knitted in my chromosomal past.

I’ve had to confess to my wife that I better understand the appeal of her favorites shows.

Another quick side note: Many of my ancestors were scrappers and farmers who fought for whatever necessities and comforts they could. I was part of the first generation to go to college, and I didn’t realize what a monumental feat that was based on my history. I took it for granted.

Looking over that familial history, it’s very difficult to shake the evidence - social class was destiny. Opportunities were scant. Education was always the one societal mechanism for potentially pushing that destiny aside. Many in my background didn’t or couldn’t use that mechanism.

Which leads me to my reaction about the college admissions scandal revealed this week. This is a class issue. It’s disgusting, it’s cynical and it’s ultimately not surprising. There are many others who have worked harder and suffered more for the their college educations than I have, so I won’t go there, but the audacity of entitlement that this scandal (which I’m sure has just barely begun to reveal itself) has exposed underscores what we all know and live:

There are those with means—those who have always had means—and there are the many who have to pick their way through corrupt systems and do their best to survive with whatever tools they have available to them.

Here’s to the scrappers.

And After Everything Ends with A Whimper?

At some removed juncture, years from now when American society has the space, the time and the clarity to review the Trump Administration’s impact on the health and well-being of American democracy, some think-tank should commission a study on the impact of Trumpism on the nation’s creative output.

Did the Trump era spurn or spark increased creative output?

I would have once thought that an antagonism to the current regime—which is what Trump and his barely functioning ilk pretend to be even though they are laughably incompetent at almost* everything—might fire the creativity of myself and the artists around me, resulting in some kind of Renaissance of artistic awesomeness.

Perhaps this is occurring outside of my ability to recognize it. Speaking for myself, I’ve struggled to maintain my word counts and my writing goals for the past several years. I recognize that’s not all due to a reaction to the Trump Administration bringing out—or perhaps just exposing—the very worst in America. But watching our nation fold hasn’t helped my writing.

Art just doesn’t seem to matter like it once did.

(*With guidance from an enabling GOP congress, Trump’s attack on the rule of law and their placement of right-leaning federal judges has been expert.)

Situation Abnormal

Not an excuse, but I can't deny that the current American political shit-scape has affected my writing. 

Creative acts haven't seemed as important as remaining vigilant and active to the many ways that the current presidential administration is trying to screw over the American people.

(I know this is wrong...not about the crass and openly opportunistic actions of the Trump administration and its salivating and obedient GOP lapdogs, but about creative acts. We must continue our artistic endeavors especially in times such as these.) 

This is not a political blog; however, I acknowledge that the personal is political, and when the political becomes personal, writing has often lost out on my priority list. 

So, like the rest of us, I'm doing my best. I wish I had more faith in American politics to correct itself, but the GOP is hopelessly lost, and the Democrats can't seem to organize or codify an effective strategy.

Partisan politics won't save us.

We have to push from the bottom up. We have to get out from behind our screens and engage each other. That takes time, and it takes energy, and it's the only way to fix this mess.

Thus I turn again to writing and the minutiae of my own life. Maybe I can finally complete a project.

Yesterday in Charlottesville....

There is much to react to, much to be shocked by—much to be enraged by—so it’s difficult to know where to start.

The 'Unite the Right' protest was a glaringly public display of American racism’s ‘all-clear’ to crawl out of the shadows and dance in the daylight. These men and women brandishing their swastikas and their confederate flags and their message t-shirts sense that in a country that has voted Donald Trump into the highest office, their hatred is free—is welcome—to display for all to celebrate.

The president—a uniquely un-qualified non-politician who embodies the words ‘epic and embarrassing failure’ more than any president in the history of the office; a man who just two days before was taunting North Korea with rage and nuclear fire because that’s how temper-tantrum prone man-babies behave when they have no other skill-set—drew a false equivalence between the 'Unite the Right' demonstrators and the counter-protestors as if racial hatred and the reaction to that hatred are the same.

They are not.

Those marching in support of 'Unite the Right' are driven by a loathing (and by extension fear) for whatever and whomever is not them. It’s prejudice that was long-ago sewn into the fabric of American society, into our institutions, and into our individual lives. It’s racism that we’ve all learned and had modeled for us, it’s hatred that we ourselves have given voice to and have spread.

Our job—collectively and individually—is to acknowledge that this gut-level acrimony is wrong. It is evil. It is a response and way of being that one should in fact be ashamed of. Racism is a base human reaction that we must work on in ourselves and within the broader social fabric. Giving into it—celebrating it, killing in the name of it—denies our ability to grow and to evolve. It holds on to a retrograde way of being ‘white and right’ that is dead. Gone. The ghosts have not yet given up the body. But they will.

The ideas, theories, emotions expressed by those marching on behalf of the 'Unite the Right' are not of equal weight and value as those who counter-protested. A president worth anything would have seen and acknowledged this, but we don’t have that kind of president.

We have Donald Trump. And we live in his America now.

Suffering Suffrage

I don’t seek them out, per se, but when I encounter Trump Supporter ‘outrage’ over the investigation into the Trump’s administration conduct during the 2016 presidential election, what I hear is fear.

Fear that the obvious question before American citizens will be raised: Did Russia’s interference extend to the 2016 vote counts themselves, ultimately altering or negating votes intended for Clinton?

Once we ask that question, once we raise the possibility that our supposed democratic process is compromised, how do we shore up the flaws in the technology in order to re-gain trust in the results of future elections?

(I’m setting aside the just as consequential detriments to voting rights -- gerrymandering and voter suppression -- only because they are each topics too large for this post. And frankly, I can only take on so many depressing topics in one morning.)

Although I work with cyber-security experts, I am not one myself, and I don’t claim to have access to classified intel about how far the Russians penetrated our voting system. I am, however, a US citizen who thinks it’s time to tolerate the inevitable discomfort around this topic and address the concern directly.

Regardless of your political affiliation, regardless of where you stand with the current presidential administration, we can (and should) all agree that the sanctity of the American voting system is paramount.

Several recent articles and podcasts of late have shown just how vulnerable the technology supporting the American voting system is.