It’s been a tough year for everybody. Hundreds of thousands of people have died from COVID-19, millions have contracted the virus, and still millions more have had to put their “normal” life aside to take care of sick relatives and homebound children. Many with psychological challenges have seen their suffering worsen, and people who have never known depression and anxiety are now having to navigate that nightmare.

And still, there is so much to be thankful for. Those who know me know I am definitely not a Pollyanna. I struggle at times to find the positive in circumstance, but I am – almost always – able to see, understand, and find validity to opposing sides in nearly everything.

There’s so much to say about this year, but for now I’m going to leave it there and focus on…

What I am grateful for:

  1. I have had several months to sit back and re-evaluate my work life, discovering where I fit in the world and what I can do to make it better.
  2. I was able to spend quality time with both of my cats before they died, three solid months with ‘rissa and seven with Silk. I can’t imagine how it would have been if I hadn’t been home every day during that time.
  3. More than anything else, I think, I’m grateful for my cats and the years we had together. I am so blessed to have had them in my life.
  4. My 85-year-young mother. She is my best friend – loving, caring, goofy, silly, and I love her, even if she doesn’t care for cats. LOL
  5. The natural world. I have always felt deeply connected to all aspects of nature, but this year I renewed my awe in and love for trees, insects, birds, and all things non-human. We are all a part of the same world and there is no other choice but to honor them and offer them the same dignity and respect we offer our fellow humans.
  6. My health and the health of my family and friends. No one in my family has contracted COVID-19 and friends who have were able to recover with few ongoing issues.
  7. Hope for a safer, friendlier, saner, and calmer year moving forward.
  8. Friends, near and far.
  9. Did I mention cats?

I know I’m leaving a lot of stuff out, but it’s a good start, don’t you think?

* President Trump signed the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act that provides funding for states to develop maternal mortality reviews to better understand maternal complications and identify solutions & largely focuses on reducing the higher mortality rates for Black Americans.

MMRCs have been around for awhile – this was just a reauthorization. But yes.

* In 2018, President Trump signed the groundbreaking First Step Act, a criminal justice bill which enacted reforms that make our justice system fairer and help former inmates successfully return to society.

True.

* The First Step Act’s reforms addressed inequities in sentencing laws that disproportionately harmed Black Americans and reformed mandatory minimums that created unfair outcomes.👀👀

* The First Step Act expanded judicial discretion in sentencing of non-violent crimes.

* Over 90% of those benefiting from the retroactive sentencing reductions in the First Step Act are Black Americans.

This is true.

* The First Step Act provides rehabilitative programs to inmates, helping them successfully rejoin society and not return to crime.

Well, that is the thought behind it. It doesn’t, though, provide enough funding to do the kind of rehabilitating necessary.

* Trump increased funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) by more than 14%.👀👀

True.

* Trump signed legislation forgiving Hurricane Katrina debt that threatened HBCUs.

This is true.

* Made HBCUs a priority by creating the position of executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs.

True. A good move. Unfortunately, like all of Trump’s picks, he had no government experience and no experience or contact with the organizations he was hired to help.

* Trump received the Bipartisan Justice Award at a historically black college for his criminal justice reform accomplishments.

True.

* The poverty rate fell to a 17-year low of 11.8% under the Trump administration as a result of a jobs-rich environment.👀

Hm…not entirely. Social security moved millions out of poverty and the median income level showed no significant change. And still, more people were without medical insurance since 2009.

* President Trump signed a bill that creates five national monuments, expands several national parks, adds 1.3 million acres of wilderness, and permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Trump waffled on the LWCF. Planned to gut it entirely and only came back to sign the bill as a political move.

And NO, H.R 2546 (the 1.3 million acre claim), which was a democratic-sponsored bill that passed the HOUSE, but has not been signed into law.

* Trump’s USDA committed $124 Million to rebuild rural water infrastructure.👀👀

In 23 states. Yes.

* Consumer confidence & small business confidence is at an all time high.

Well, that’s a very general and arguable statement. And now, I would say consumer and small business confidence is likely about as low as it can get.

* More than 7 million jobs created since election.

Well, 6.7. But yes, there has been a significant increase in jobs. Of course, that started in 2010 and Trump has not seen anywhere near the same monthly gain in jobs that Obama did.

* More Americans are now employed than ever recorded before in our history.

No.

* More than 400,000 manufacturing jobs created since his election.

But the total number is still below that in 2007.

* Trump appointed 5 openly gay ambassadors.👀👀

Yep.

* Trump ordered Ric Grenell, his openly gay ambassador to Germany, to lead a global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality across the globe.

And yet, what sort of things is he doing to accomplish that and what sort of results has he seen? (No need to hunt for that. Little to none is the answer).

* Through Trump’s Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam) initiative, Federal law enforcement more than doubled convictions of human traffickers and increased the number of defendants charged by 75% in ACTeam districts.

Lots to unpack on this one. Yes, generally true.  Trump, though, has been accused of rape by women who were underage and, as it turns out, being trafficked at the time.  Kind of like the head of a substance abuse program who goes home after work and drinks while he does crack.

* In 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) dismantled an organization that was the internet’s leading source of prostitution-related advertisements resulting in sex trafficking.

Backpage.com was seized, yes.  There has been little significant progress since, though.

* Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations arrested 1,588 criminals associated with Human Trafficking.

True, but this is less than those arrests made in 2015.

* Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services provided funding to support the National Human Trafficking Hotline to identify perpetrators and give victims the help they need.

Obama’s DHHS also provided funding.

* The hotline identified 16,862 potential human trafficking cases.

I’m afraid Trump had nothing to do with this.

* The Department of Homeland Security has hired more victim assistance specialists, helping victims get resources and support.

Also a program not started with Trump.

* President Trump has called on Congress to pass school choice legislation so that no child is trapped in a failing school because of his or her zip code.👀👀

Basically attempting to eliminate public schools rather than improving them.

 

I decided to stop here, as so much of the remainder of this document is simply bullshit.  The vast majority of the “accomplishments” cited had absolutely nothing to do with Trump and many had already been done in the Obama administration (or before).  I will address a couple of other statements made by the original author, though:

* Because so many people asked for a document with all of this listed +in one place, here it is. No links provided to remove bias as Google search is easy.

Providing a link for a resource only shows bias if the person doing so doesn’t do thorough research.  In fact, providing word-for-word text without the original source cited may be a violation of copyright, which is illegal and can be punished by jail time and a hefty fine. 

*Trump did all of this while fighting flagrant abuse and impeachment charges.

LOL.  Indeed.  When I have the time and the inclination, I’ll provide a document that lists the abuses, lies, and stupidity of Trump.

*Please explain to me why you have a problem with OUR president? Because he has misspoke a few times? Tell me when you find a perfect person, please….I’ll wait!

It’s “misspoken.”  And how do you define “few?”  At last count, Trump had made nearly 20,000 false or misleading statements. This is what disturbs me the most.  He can say something on video or twitter and turn around a couple of hours later and claim he never said it.  When there is documented evidence that he did.  And then say you are reporting fake news.  This is the gaslighting he uses.  This creates an environment of distrust, not just with US citizens, but with people all around the world.  That’s a problem because we are not isolationists.  Countries actually depend on one another in a variety of ways.  Besides this, he is racist, misogynistic, uses the presidency for personal gain, has absolutely no understanding of how governments work, has no knowledge of US or world history, and everything he does is to benefit him or someone who can do for him. And yes, there is documented evidence that proves all of that. Oh, and the American people don’t want a perfect person as president, we only want someone who is competent and able to hold some empathy for us.

*I’ll tell you why, because the media has skewed him in such a negative light and unfairly report his accomplishments to undermined those achievements! Why? Because the media is complicit in every single thing this man is trying to undo! Start thinking for yourself!”

—>>> I actually do think for myself, but I also utilize reliable sources to gain an understanding of those things that confuse me (and that doesn’t include DJT’s Twitter account).  The media doesn’t *have* to skew anything; Trump is quite adept at providing a wealth of material for them.

 

On May 28, 1977, Southgate’s Beverly Hills Supper Club was destroyed by fire, taking with it the lives of 167 people and changing the surrounding communities and, indeed, the nation forever.

I lived in a town just over the hill and a minute away from the night club.  I was 16 and remember that night like it was yesterday.  I remember the wailing of sirens all night long, how I picked up the crackly urgency of confused and panicky police and fire personnel on my scanner, and the massive explosion I saw when I went up on the avenue to see what was going on. I remember the refrigerated trucks that carried the dead to the makeshift morgue, my mom’s friend who was in labor and turned away from our local hospital which was closed, the kids from school who volunteered to help whose pictures were in the paper, walking among the debris and the dead.

I was an active volunteer for the Committee for Fort Thomas in high school and knew most of the city officials, in addition to the two physicians who acted as coroner and deputy coroner in the days and weeks that followed the fire.  Our town was pretty close-knit; even though we had 15,000 or more folks living within the city limits, it was uncommon to run into someone you either didn’t know. I knew a lot of people who volunteered to work at the fire or who were first responders and a whole lot more who were affected by it.  And I saw how, over time, fire codes and laws were changed within the community and, by extension, in the rest of the country.

What Happened and How Fire Codes were Changed

The death toll and physical destruction of this fire doesn’t come close statistically to many other tragedies in the US.  But the changes it inspired for the safety of all of us were monumental and far-reaching.  And the lessons learned were some that should continue to be taught and reiterated and continue to inform.  Instead, I’m afraid, the lessons were never incorporated into peoples’ thinking at all, and for some, lessons learned were never taught.

Now, after 43 years, plans are moving forward for the development of the 80-acre site.  Proposals made in the past were met with disapproval, but both the planning commission and several survivors have given the go-ahead, with some survivors demanding  a couple of changes before work begins. Included in the plans are high-end single- and multi-family homes, luxury apartments, a for-profit assisted living facility, a neighborhood park, and a memorial for the victims of the fire.  In the original/current plans, the memorial is planned to be under the control of the HOA and not accessible to the public. This is of primary concern to the survivors and many have said they will not support the project unless the memorial is made public.  Another thing some would like to see – and honestly, it is quite surprising to me to hear that this is even a concern – is a sweep of the area to make sure there are no more human remains on the grounds.

Although I certainly understand the desire and push to develop such a large area of land, I am really just appalled that there would be the choice to plan luxury living spaces and a for-profit facility on the land where so many lost their lives.  It feels enormously disrespectful to the suffering and to those that died there.  At minimum, I would have hoped that the area where the building and surrounding grounds were would be developed into a simple public memorial and, at most, a museum or other space to tell the story and to serve as a place of education.

Development plans for the site

Continuing with responses to the following post circulating on social media. There are more accurate statements in this batch, but it should be noted that several were taken directly from Trump’s twitter account and/or the top searches on Google:

* Trump signed the biggest wilderness protection & conservation bill in a decade and designated 375,000 acres as protected land.

Ok.  Some of this was a good thing, but the only thing Trump did was sign the bill.  This was a bipartisan effort and Congress should get all the credit.  Also, if you look at his executive actions, he has removed far more protections than this bill creates.  The bill also allows for the continued displacement of land and wildlife for oil interests.

* Trump signed the Save our Seas Act which funds $10 million per year to clean tons of plastic & garbage from the ocean.👀

Nope.  This is a misinterpretation of the act (and determined by a number of fact-checking sites as such).

* He signed a bill this year allowing some drug imports from Canada so that prescription prices would go down.

Um…no. There is a proposal for this, but there are also a great many concerns within the administration that will likely water down the proposal or prevent it from ever seeing a vote.

* Trump signed an executive order this year that forces all healthcare providers to disclose the cost of their services so that Americans can comparison shop and know how much less providers charge insurance companies.

True.

* When signing that bill he said no American should be blindsided by bills for medical services they never agreed to in advance.

True.

* Hospitals will now be required to post their standard charges for services, which include the discounted price a hospital is willing to accept.

True.

* In the eight years prior to President Trump’s inauguration, prescription drug prices increased by an average of 3.6% per year. Under Trump, drug prices have seen year-over-year declines in nine of the last ten months, with a 1.1% drop as of the most recent month.

This depends on how you measure drug prices but in any case, Trump had nothing to do with it.

* He created a White House VA Hotline to help veterans and principally staffed it with veterans and direct family members of veterans.👀👀

He did.  There are lots of problems with it, though, and they are not being escalated to Trump, as was his promise.

* VA employees are being held accountable for poor performance, with more than 4,000 VA employees removed, demoted, and suspended so far.

True, although they were held accountable before – even before the Trump administration.

* Issued an executive order requiring the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs to submit a joint plan to provide veterans access to access to mental health treatment as they transition to civilian life.

This is true.

* Because of a bill signed and championed by Trump, In 2020, most federal employees will see their pay increase by an average of 3.1% — the largest raise in more than 10 years.

Trump’s proposal was different and the bill signed only because Congress passed the higher 3.1%.

* Trump signed into a law up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for millions of federal workers.

True.

* Trump administration will provide HIV prevention drugs for free to 200,000 uninsured patients per year for 11 years.👀👀

True.
* All-time record sales during the 2019 holidays.

Not entirely true.  While sales records were high, some retailers saw high(er) sales in previous years.

* Trump signed an order allowing small businesses to group together when buying insurance to get a better price👀👀

True.

 

Part 3 to follow…

 

This will be the first in a series of pieces in response to a post going around on social media.  I want to address some “truths” laid out there, many of which are just not or do not tell the whole story.  It’s interesting to note that, if you do an internet search on these items, you will see that most are almost verbatim from the first entry on Google.  Clearly, no real research was done in presenting these “facts.”  I appreciate and fully support the right we have in the US to speak our mind and to have/share our own opinions,  but I believe that, in order to progress as a democracy, it is crucial to think critically when taking information in and sharing it.

I am not sure who wrote this, so cannot give credit; it was shared by a friend and I suspect she did not write it.  My apologies to the author and, if someone can let me know who wrote it, I will gladly update this post with credit.  As noted above, though, many of the following statements were taken verbatim from another source, so that author did not source his/her own writing.

I have not provided sources below, but can if needed.

“What have PRESIDENT TRUMP and his cabinet accomplished?

Here you go.

* Trump recently signed 3 bills to benefit Native people. One gives compensation to the Spokane tribe for loss of their lands in the mid-1900s, one funds Native language programs, and the third gives federal recognition to the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Montana.

Generally true, but not the whole story.  The Spokane tribe, for example, has lost the ability to claim revenue from the dam, which they were previously entitled to.  Additionally, Trump has made (yes, since the signing of these bills) repeated racist and stereotypical remarks about Native Americans which would suggest he isn’t quite as concerned about them as he purports.

* Trump finalized the creation of Space Force as our 6th Military branch.

Do I even need to say anything about this craziness? $738 billion spent on the creation of another branch of the military to defend us against an enemy that doesn’t exist.  And the homeless still sleep on the streets and millions are without health care. That the flag has an insignia very similar to a popular TV series should signify to anyone paying attention that this was more a political stunt than anything else.

* Trump signed a law to make cruelty to animals a federal felony so that animal abusers face tougher consequences.👀

Again, true (and appreciated!), but not the whole story.  What else did he do?  He made significant changes to the Endangered Species Act that are to the detriment of the very animals it was created to protect.  He supports the restriction to limiting hunting in National Parks, which would allow bear cubs and their mothers (among others) to be killed in their dens.  The list goes on.

* Violent crime has fallen every year he’s been in office after rising during the 2 years before he was elected.

Some violent crimes *have* decreased across the country, but crimes not under this umbrella – rape, vehicle theft, and assaults – have increased. And btw…who says rape is not violent?!?

* Trump signed a bill making CBD and Hemp legal.👀👀

This is true.

* Trump’s EPA gave $100 million to fix the water infrastructure problem in Flint, Michigan.

Also true, although millions of the funds are unaccounted for and not being used on the water problem in Flint.

* Under Trump’s leadership, in 2018 the U.S. surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest producer of crude oil.

True.

* Trump signed a law ending the gag orders on Pharmacists that prevented them from sharing money-saving information.

Again, true.  However, his promise was to bring down drug prices and that hasn’t happened. It hasn’t come even close to happening. In fact, Trump has supported Big Pharma and the people directly involved in it. People are dying because the cost of drugs is exorbitant and the assistance to pay for them is simply not available to those needing it the most.

* Trump signed the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” (FOSTA), which includes the “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” (SESTA) which both give law enforcement and victims new tools to fight sex trafficking.👀

True and possibly a good thing, in at least some respects.  It also has the potential (and does, in some legal and workers’ opinions) to violate First Amendment rights not related to illegal prostitution and trafficking.

* Trump signed a bill to require airports to provide spaces for breastfeeding Moms.

True.  And a very good thing, I might add.

* The 25% lowest-paid Americans enjoyed a 4.5% income boost in November 2019, which outpaces a 2.9% gain in earnings for the country’s highest-paid workers.

Wages have been increasing since 2011 (before the 2016 election), but a big portion of this is that the states and local governments have increased the minimum wage over time.  The federal minimum wage remains at $7.25, which is not a livable wage, putting a family of 2 at poverty level.

* Low-wage workers are benefiting from higher minimum wages and from corporations that are increasing entry-level pay.

This is not a federal issue and completely out of Trump’s control.  All the federal government has to enforce is the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25.

 

What does it mean to think critically? From the dictionary:  “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.”  Critical thinking here involves looking at what has been shared as “fact,” verifying it, asking how this and the accompanying actions affect the subject as a whole, and exploring how it may affect the future.  With the advent of the internet, very few people actually think through things anymore.

I will follow with part 2, which addresses additional “truths,” later today.

 

 

I have told just about anyone and everyone who would listen that I don’t believe there are any shoulds or should nots in writing (except, of course, the use of verbatim dialogue in nonfiction.  That’s a non-negotiable given for me.).  Grammar and spelling are important, of course, but a good proofreader or editor can help with that if it’s not your forté.  Style and content have their place in developing a piece, but to lock yourself in to what is considered the “right” way to write is to deny yourself and your audience     I’ve always been a go-against-the-grain kind of person and with my writing it is no different.

A few years back, after I graduated with my MA in Creative Writing, I sent a copy of the first draft of my memoir to a couple of friends who are also writers and writing instructors to read.

Both were very gracious with their feedback. They described my writing as “beautiful” and “courageous,” saying I had written a book that they believed belonged out in the world.  I wasn’t so sure about the beautiful and courageous parts, but I did believe the writing I was doing was important and I wanted the chance to share it with the people I thought would benefit from it most.

This memoir was somewhat unconventional in the way it is written.  I relied heavily on old journal entries for some of the chapters and it was written from a variety of different perspectives.  One of the writers who read my manuscript commented that the only thing he saw that could be an issue for me was that it didn’t really have a narrative arc, and that most works of this type do.  Still, it would likely capture the attention and interest of any reader without one.

I’m not different from most writers. We are insecure, carrying the surety that our writing is…well, crap.  We write and write, then rewrite, then write again.  Years ago we would have thrown out reams of paper trying to find the right words; these days, we fill hard drives and flash drives, we write and delete and then kick ourselves for not keeping what we know was better than the rewrite. We write long essays or poems or even books, then put them away for years because they are no good.  Yeah, I’m not different from most writers.  And the feedback I received reinforced that (false) belief that my writing sucks.

So I put it away.  For a long time.  I struggled with it during that year or so because I had no idea how to create a work about my own life with an arc.  My life has (or had, at the time) no neatly defined arc.  I was still in an immensely difficult place and would likely stay there for the foreseeable future.  I decided it wasn’t worth it, so it yellowed in the back of a seldom-used drawer.

During this time I read a lot of articles on writing in general.  They all espoused the correct way to write, the language and formatting to use, the amount of time a writer should spend at the computer, whether to write in longhand or electronically oh, and one of the most critical pieces of advice: never submit to publications that don’t pay (and pay well).  The list goes on.  It seems there are a LOT of things we should be doing as writers and, if we aren’t, we won’t be successful.

Every writer (and, arguably, non-writer) needs to define for him/herself what it means to be successful.  For some, it is simply seeing their writing in print.  For others, it’s a means for putting food on the table.  And for still others, it is only about being able to express one’s self; the public display is unimportant.

I’ve pulled out the memoir from time to time to read and to decide if it needs rewriting.  I started a rewrite, deciding maybe it did need an arc.  I put it away again, running into the same issue I had the first time.  My life doesn’t fit into a neat little arc and it likely never will.  So what if I write it without one?  Will the world come to an end?  Will I be ousted from the writing community because I violated one of their rules?

I have come to understand that the “shoulds” don’t matter at all.  In fact, if we don’t entertain some of the “should nots” occasionally, our writing will be like everyone else’s, dull and formulaic.  For those of you who made it through this rant, how many errors did you find?

As my mother would say, “you understood what I meant, didn’t you?!?”

 

 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you have, by now, heard of the incident in Washington DC that occurred on the day of the March for Life and the Indigenous Peoples March.  Videos like the one below are circulating all over social media and news outlets; do a Google search and you will find a countless number of discussions and videos about the incident.  By far, the following video is the one you’ll find:

 

Less often, you will find this one:

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bs1fQR0ne4S/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=1hc9j11jtop6b

There is a debate – and a strong liberal-conservative divide – about what actually happened here.  Those videos most prominent on a quick internet search and being played in popular media (first above) show a large group of white students wearing MAGA gear surrounding a Native American drummer, shouting and laughing in a taunting manner.  They focus on a single student, standing inches away from the man, smirking and stifling a laugh while the man drums.  Other videos show the Elder approaching the students and holding his ground, beating on his drum and chanting.  One of the longer videos also shows intense and often vulgar dialogue between the white students and a Native American, as well as  religious and homophobic rantings of a black man.

Nathan Phillips, a Vietnam-era Vet and the Native American at the core of this story, talks about the incident and explains his actions:

 

There are basically two camps in this discussion.  The first, typically seen as the “liberal/Left” bias, is that the group of students surrounding the Native American drummer was taunting; they smirked, laughed at, attempted to intimidate, and mocked Mr. Phillips and, by extension, the Native American community.  The second or “conservation/Right” side claims that there either is no “hate hoax” or, because Phillips approached the students, he was wholly responsible for the confrontation.

Phillips says he approached the group after witnessing a generalized tension and unease among individuals and the group; his intent was to bring peace and resolution to a situation he saw as dangerous and one that might escalate into violence.  Folks supporting the students say, since they were not violent (assuming here they mean physically violent), they did nothing wrong and the Left is making a big deal out of nothing.

Here is another write-up of the incident that focuses on media bias, and the verbal attacks on the (mostly white) students (by Native Americans, a black man, and a Muslim), and suggests the reader reverse the roles of whites and others and imagine the reactions.

https://spectator.us/what-makes-a-liberal-want-to-punch-a-child/

Whatever you believe happened, a close look at this confrontation and all of the opinions surrounding it shows that this was so much more than mostly white conservative students facing a Native American.  It is symbolic of the hate that divides our country, of the gross misunderstanding most of share about cultural differences, of the way our children are educated, and of the racial tensions in the US.  Whatever you believe happened, this conflict and its ensuing (sometimes vicious) analyses should bother you.  Whatever you believe, I hope you share the notion that one act of hate does not deserve another.  Hate truly does beget hate.

Dialogue in Nonfiction

Posted: January 13, 2019 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I’m a sort of in-the-middle person.  The Grey Zone was so named because I think there is very little all-black or all-white about, well…pretty much anything.  There is always another side, if we take the time to ask.

I think I have known this for a very long time, but it really hit home one day when I saw the following on Facebook:

 

There was considerable discussion (and argument) about the solution to this equation. I was fascinated (and a wee bit disturbed) because I’ve always accepted that math was a constant – maybe the only true constant – in our world, not subject to the whims of humanity.  But after doing some research, I discovered that the “Order of Operations” this video describes is really just an opinion and not even included in all text books.   If a student is not taught to solve equations in this way, s/he will come up with a completely different answer.  So…who’s right?

https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/user_ed/2014/08/05/the-origin-of-the-order-of-operations/

Completely shook the very foundation of how I interpreted the world.  But that is worth its own post.

Now…to the subject of this post: writing dialogue in nonfiction.  There are a couple of ideas about this and writers who stand on either side hold onto their opinions like their lives depended on it.  It – and by association, truth – is, I discovered, one of the few things I believe is an absolute.  Even after coming to understand that almost everything falls in a grey zone (based on opinion), this seems quite black/white to me.

Some writers believe that if quoted dialogue is included in a nonfiction work, it must be actual verbatim dialogue, taken from the writer’s own interaction with or observance of the speaker or as documented on tape.  Others believe that it is perfectly acceptable to “create” dialogue based on what they think the speaker may have said or how s/he likely would have responded in the interaction.

I fall into the former category. If I write that my brother said, “I am going to kill you,” then you can be assured that is exactly what he said.  As I see it, a work cannot be called nonfiction if dialogue has been created.  Not even in creative nonfiction, which is not “creating truths,” but rather using various literary styles and techniques to create a rich, relatable but truthful story.

If I’m not exactly certain of what was said, then I can say, My brother was upset and said something like he would kill me or My brother was upset and that he would kill me.  It may not *pop* like dialogue but with it, I am assured I am being truthful and I won’t get an angry call or subpoena from my brother saying I misquoted him.

When writing memoir or other nonfiction that incorporates real  people – dead or alive – I believe we have a responsibility to honor their place in the story.  As a writer, I think we must treat our characters with respect, even if they play(ed) a difficult role in our lives. One way to do that is to be true to their words.

There are lots of arguments for creating dialogue.  A common one is that as long as we capture the essence of the conversation, that’s really all that matters.  But that is an interpretation of what someone said and as writers we need to allow the reader to interpret what is said and done in the work. I think that if we are unable to write nonfiction – creative or otherwise – without lying (or embellishing, if that makes you feel better), then we shouldn’t be writing it at all. We already have a designation for writing that is allowed to play fast and loose with both facts and truth – it’s called fiction. When I write memoir or any other kind of nonfiction, the “creative” part comes into play, not in what fiction I can create to make a scene pop, but rather in how I weave my words through the tapestry of my story. If we decide to redefine nonfiction, we lose all respect and any trust we may have had for the writer of same. How can we possibly know what in a story is truth and what is borrowed or “reconstructed” for the sake of art?

Everything is Political

Posted: November 22, 2018 in Uncategorized

When I was studying for my Bachelor’s degree, I had a controversial and brilliant professor who had lived in over 65 countries and served as Jamaican deputy ambassador to Canada. Dr. Clinton Hewan is the person who opened my eyes to the world of politics and, in particular, US foreign policy in the Developing (Third) World.

Dr. Hewan was not shy about expressing his opinions.  Even if you didn’t like what he said (and many didn’t), he always had logical and well-reasoned thoughts – almost always based on fact – for what he believed.  People called him racist (with respect to whites) and thought that his attitude and approach was aggressive.

One of the most important things I learned from Dr. Hewan was that everything is political.  He used to say just that in nearly every class and it would rile everybody up (his intent, I’m sure).  They’d snicker and argue and he would fire back with examples from his years of work as a diplomat, from our day-to-day lives, and from an endless list of resources he gave us.  I came to understand that everything in the human realm does have a political connection.  I was not happy with that realization.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “political” as:

Relating to the government or public affairs of a country.

Several years ago when I was preparing a workshop on international affairs for The Red Cross, I searched for my own example of how politics has infiltrated our world in seemingly mundane ways.  And I came up with one people immediately scoffed at:  toothpaste.

Crest is a household name.  Many dentists provide it in their take-home kits after a cleaning, it holds a prominent place on grocery store shelves, and it is on the ADA list of approved toothpastes. Crest actually shares at least two qualities with political connections/influence.

Proctor & Gamble makes Crest.  “…P&G GGRPP focuses on legislative and public policy issues that impact the Company’s bottom line and long-term business interests. Where permitted by law, P&G GGRPP engages and educates policy-makers and key stakeholders on issues that impact our business; facilitates the exchange of information between key decision makers and public policy organizations in the United States and abroad; and leads Company actions on policy matters both unilaterally and in industry coalitions and associations.”

(https://us.pg.com/structure-and-governance/our-political-involvement/)

The company allocates a part of its budget for lobbying and the support of specific organizations: for example, it allocates no funds for the National Environmental Develop Assoc-Clean Air Project (NEDACAP) or the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT). It does, though, support the United States Council for International Business (USCIB) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

(https://assets.ctfassets.net/oggad6svuzkv/1hdbXIOSrSe4Eqow4802IS/0db1300cd226e4f9f23b5e836e2a6183/PG_2017_Political_Associations.pdf)

Crest also contains fluoride.  The ADA only recommends toothpastes that contain fluoride, a substance proven to cause a myriad of health issues, including neurological damage.

“All toothpastes with the ADA Seal of Acceptance must contain fluoride.”

(https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/toothpastes)

The politics of fluoridation is a book in and of itself, but if P & G sold a toothpaste without fluoride – which is detrimental to health – it would not obtain the ADA seal of approval, not be able to push it on the market, and likely not achieve the popularity it has today.

This is a very brief synopsis of those politics as they relate to fluoride:

http://fluoridealert.org/fan-tv/politics/

Not voting, not engaging in matters that affect this country and the globe, and telling yourself “it doesn’t/won’t affect me,” are to leave every decision that influences daily life in our society up to others.

Because everything is political.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every year at Thanksgiving – and sometimes beyond – people share the things they are grateful for.  I’ve done it myself with gratitude lists.  Although it feels almost obligatory over the holiday, thinking about and giving voice to our blessings today can help us develop that habit all year long.

It’s different for people who are moderately to severely depressed or with anxiety or PTSD, though.  There is a kind of shame that comes from living through a day when everyone is giving thanks for everything from family to the sun and moon, when everyone suggests finding gratitude will make you feel better and you are struggling just to breathe.  It’s a little like hearing people say that positive thinking will bring light to the darkness, that “merely” changing our thinking will make all this worth it.  I actually do believe that feelings follow thoughts, but I also know that divorcing the two is the norm with depression and anxiety and PTSD. And I know how very hard it is to connect them.  Impossible, sometimes.

My gratitude list today is much different from those in previous years.  It’s shorter and with greater substance.  Although I am thankful for having a place to live, it is only through very hard work that I do.  Work that, because of the depression, is some days like climbing K2 barefoot, without rope or companionship.  Although I am grateful for the freedom to read whatever book I want or to write whatever I choose, most of the time I can’t concentrate enough to do so.  Or I don’t believe it will matter.  The “little” things are truly not small at all, but in a dark world they matter less than the larger, deeper stuff.  And having understanding and tolerance and giving space to allow that in another person is a gift few are willing to give.

So, for my obligatory but deeply held offering of thanks this season:

  • I am grateful for family and friends. I am especially grateful for those who “get” me. Who treat me with understanding and not judgement.  These days, those folks are few and far between.
  • I am beyond grateful for ‘rissa and Silk. I never expected that I would be sharing my life and home with such heart-beautiful, attentive, and loving cats. They get me through each and every day. And they teach me patience and the importance of enveloping myself in an accepting and inviting energy.
  • I am thankful that, after all these years, I now have the opportunity to do my soul’s work. Grateful for Healing Touch for Animals® and for the incredible, loving community I am now a part of and the new friends I am making.
  • I am grateful for all the creatures on this planet, from microscopic plankton to great, majestic elephants. They teach me, in profound ways, that every living, intricate being has value.
  • Finally, I am grateful for spiritual tradition. Although I have a bit of an adversarial relationship with many belief systems, I know how important they are to people and what a critical role they play in peoples’ lives and in their deaths.