What Unites Us?

In today’s blog title, the question mark is all mine.

Right now, there are calls for unity and for people to put aside their differences to work together for a greater good. The problem is, these calls are ringing out in a very hollow way. They ring out in a hollow way because this call for unity is disregarding accountability and justice for those that broke the law and committed murder, and continue to call for violence and killing.

Even if people renounce violence and hate, even if they express and show genuine remorse and take full responsibility for their guilt, it still won’t be enough. At least not in the present. The only thing that eases pain is time, a lot of time. And even after a lot of time, the pain is always there. Worst of all, the pain comes back up no matter how time has passed, and sometimes it comes back up like the wound was just inflicted yesterday.

Can there be unity without trust?

My answer to that question is this: for me, I can’t be truly close to someone who has hurt me before when I did nothing to deserve that. Because as I think that thought, I hear what my mother said to me: if they’ve done it once, what makes you think they won’t do it again?

For me, the only bridge of unity I can think of is this: to ask those who are truly repentant and remorseful not to hurt anyone else like they did. The damage is done to me and nothing will take it away. But if my pain can save someone else from going through what I have, then I will find peace and healing.

Another thing I think can build a bridge to unity is people letting go of revenge though this would mean people would have to take full responsibility for their wrongdoing, and for causing pain to others by embracing lies and cruelty. It means they would have to accept their loss of power was caused by their own wrongdoing and the pain they caused to others. This would mean taking responsibility for wrongdoing and committing to a life of not doing that again. They would have to realize this commitment is not a loss of pride, but of going onto the right path in life. There is no pride and dignity in causing pain and suffering.

Now I look to history for answers to my question on unity:

After World War Two, the first war crimes trials were convened in Nuremberg, Germany and Tokyo, Japan to bring the perpetrators of the war and mass murder to justice. It was the first time in human history perpetrators of war and genocide were brought to justice and the full extent of their crimes against humanity were shown to the world. This in turn showed the world was done, and that it couldn’t be done again. In the decades since, the people of Germany and Japan have confronted their past and sought to educate the world in order for it not to happen again and so that others wouldn’t to suffer and die like so many did before.

In 1987, US President Ronald Regan stood at the Berlin Wall and said to the Soviet Russian Leader, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. I honestly thought I wouldn’t see that happen until I was the age I’m at now (46) and not the age I was in 1989 (15). I didn’t expect it because I thought the wall was so much higher than it really was even though I knew there were people behind that wall who didn’t want to be there and were just imprisoned by fear and lies.

For there to be true unity, walls built on hatred, fear, pain, and suffering must be torn down. Perpetrators of crimes against others must be held accountable and brought to justice. History must be taught in truth, and the stories have to be passed down from generation to generation. Most of all, we have to let go of the desire for revenge, and learn to trust enough to move forward to make life better for future generations. People will have to learn that every single person on this planet has to find their own place in this world, and that if that journey is not causing harm to others, that they can’t be held back from following their own path and living their own lives truly, freely, and without fear.

Most of all, I believe unity comes from accepting that each person has a right to their thoughts and feelings no matter what they are, good, bad, ugly, or anything in between. And that they have the right to deal with them in whatever they choose.

What Divides Us, Part 2: Never Good Enough

A few days ago, I wrote about what I feel divides us as a nation right now. Not just a difference in ideology and politics, but of facts and truth. But there’s more to that as I’ve come to realize.

All my life I struggled greatly with feeling like that no matter how much good I did, how hard I worked, how much I tried to learn and be a good person, that it was never good enough. Worst of all, I felt like that whenever I made a mistake, even a mistake that I took ownership of and fixed as much I possibly could, I felt like that mistake proved that people were right about me: that no matter what I said or did, or how I lived my life, I would never be good enough.

Luckily, five years ago this April, I stopped thinking that way. That’s a story for another time but on that fateful day in April when I was told I should have known better, which is just another way of saying I would never be good enough to succeed at anything, a thought came to my mind:

Everyone else is just as full of shit as I am sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.

What this means is I’m wrong sometimes and I make mistakes. But so does everyone else and no one has all the answers, nor has the ability to be perfect every second of their lives. And to expect anything like from someone else is wrong, and incredibly mean and cruel. I know. I’ve spent the last four years working through that and unloading huge amounts of shame and guilt I should never have taken on because of that.

But to narrow my discussion here, I will say this: if presented with verifiable facts and unaltered visual proof and someone says that’s not good enough, then I think you have to walk away from people who say that. Because if someone says that facts and truth are not good enough, you can’t get through to them. And until that person lets go of their belief in lies and cruelty, there will be no unity with them.

Right now there are calls not to impeach the President of the United States for what he said last Wednesday. There are calls not to prosecute those who broke the law simply because it might further inflame tensions. To say that I say: no way in Hell. Justice must be served because without it, the actions of the guilty will continue. Even those who renounce their beliefs and apologize for the word and actions must be held accountable for them.

Being held accountable for your words and actions is not the same as being told you’ll never be good enough no matter what you do in life. If your words and actions were wrong and caused pain and suffering, then you must answer for that. And if someone chooses not to forgive you, or trust you, that doesn’t mean you’ll never be good enough for that. It means that you were never good enough to be trusted to begin with. When someone knowingly and willingly chooses to do wrong, they will suffer the consequences of their actions sooner or later, in this life or the next. Those of us who have been hurt have to work through the pain and find ways to heal, learn that is good enough even we’re told to forget, or deny, or minimize the wrong that was done to us.

I believe in our system of justice in the United States, that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. That they are afforded legal representation even if they can’t afford it. They have the right to remain silent, and not to incriminate themselves if they choose not to. I believe the burden of proof is on the State. But in the face of facts and hard evidence, I don’t believe you have the right to say that’s not good enough and never will be. That’s not justice. Justice is truth beyond a reasonable doubt, and punishment that fits the crime.

So until we live by the idea that truth and evidence must be accepted, and reject the belief that will never be good enough, we will be divided.

I’m going to close out with something I saw today from Bernice King on Twitter:

We cannot unify around injustice and lies in an authentic quest for healing and peace. Healing requires honesty. Peace requires justice. May God, who is Love, be with us.

Fiction and Truth

“Truth is stranger than fiction.”

“You can’t make shit like this up.”

First, fiction writers get shit when they write stuff some asshole says is too outrageous and could never happen in real-life. The mystery writer Carl Hiaasen said this happened to him and he replied that nothing he’d written even came close to what he reported on as a newspaper reporter in Florida. Because of that, I think fiction writers may be discouraged from writing about truly outrageous and crazy-ass shit that can happen. But after this week, hell after this past year, I think all bets are off in the fiction-writing world.

Second, books about racists taking over the world through violent insurrection is in  books have been put as propaganda by governments, such as ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, or books written by known racists such as ‘The Turner Diaries’. I will not provide links to either book, especially ‘The Turner Diaries’ as money from that book is still being funneled to white supremacist groups. ‘The Turner Diaries’ was also what was found in possession of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who is now burning hell for the mass murder he committed.

I think most fiction writers though are on the side of good, especially those who write for mass-market success. This is why I believe superhero movies have become so popular, not because they’re awesome and well-made, but because we need heroes more than ever. We need to see good triumphing over evil more than ever, especially after the events of January 6, 2021.

I write fiction about people winning against the odds, kicking the shit out of the bad guys, and finding love and hope. I make no apologies for that and instead if anyone does come at me I’ll tell them to fuck off. And because I chose to write in the romance genre, I’ve gotten shit for what I write as have all of my fellow romance writers. But since 2016, we’ve taken a stand for what we write and what we believe in and now, you don’t come for us unless we send for you.

My father once said to me the world needs happy endings. Because we all know too well that we don’t get to live forever. We will watch loved ones die. We will watch innocent people die. We will watch bad people rise to power. We will lose connections to those we care about when their choices become clear, and are turned against us as weapons of pain and cruelty.

Fiction does tell the truth, even in genres such as science-fiction and fantasy. Many science-fiction and fantasy authors have denied the allegorical nature of their work but I don’t see a need to do that anymore. Fiction writers create fictional worlds to work through things in a theoretical or experimental environment like a scientist does in a lab. We publish our results as scientists do for peer-review so I believe this is where the camaraderie between scientists and fiction-writers comes from. We come up with a premise, or hypothesis in the case of a scientist, then we observe, experiment, and write up our conclusions.

Truth is only stranger than fiction when a fiction writer doesn’t restrain their imagination. We’ve known about the rise of white supremacy over the last four years yet we’ve been told to deny it or minimize it, or worst of all, rationalize it to a harmless state. I believe as fiction writers we need to use our imaginations and the truth we are living through to hypothesize, observe, and through the writing process, experiment and find conclusions and answers. Most of all, we need to be brave and courageous in sharing our words in the face of those who will deny our truths and observations.

In some ways, I believe we have begun to talk about the infiltration of radical hatred as in the show ‘Star Trek: Picard’ which was about the infiltration of the Romulan cult that believed artificial life would destroy the Universe. Their belief was so intense they led the attack on the efforts to rescue their own people from their home-world that was about to be destroyed by their sun going super-nova. Luckily, since this is ‘Star Trek’, heroes rose up and saved the day.

I know there are many heroes in this world today: doctors and nurses on the frontlines of this pandemic we’re still living through, poll workers and voter registration organizers, frontline workers, law enforcement and military who uphold the law and serve and protect. Good, kind people of all walks of life.

I’m proud to write about heroes and heroines, good over evil, happily ever after, love and hope. And maybe I won’t write anything stranger than what happens in real life, and maybe I never will be able to. That’s okay because I don’t need to justify what I write, apologize for it, or defend it.

There is truth in fiction, just as there is truth in reality.

Never Again, Never Forget

In 1945 survivors of the Holocaust emerged from concentration camps and said one thing to the world:

“Never again.”

These words became the foundation for the modern Jewish state of Israel. The Jews who founded the state of Israel vowed never to be rounded up and exterminated again. They vowed to fight and die like their ancestors did on Masada two-thousand years ago. I have issues with things the Israeli government has done over the years and continues to do now in regards to the Palestinians, but I fully support the right of the state of Israel to exist. The dwindling number of Holocaust survivors can tell us their stories of evil are real and that anyone who talks of doing evil has to be stopped.

What we saw with the domestic terrorists who stormed the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 was not a surprise to anyone who has watched right-wing racists in action. I’ve believe every word that comes out of their mouths, their views, their goals, and their intentions. This isn’t just shit-talk no matter how many times they try to walk it back like some are trying to do now.

Words matter. Words matter because words can become actions. In 1933 the words of the Nazi Party became action that culminated in a World War and genocide.

On April 19, 1995, the words of right-wing extremists culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing in which one-hundred and sixty-eight men, women, and children died. I was watching tv when it happened and one image was burned into my mind forever: a group of nurses were running towards the building but then were told to turn back and go get body bags. There were the horrible images of children dead and dying being brought out by first responders. Today a memorial of chairs, including child-size ones is there to show the world the loss of life.

After that terrible day, we saw exactly how the threat of right-wing extremist violence was real. And I’ve been afraid ever since, and more so in the last four years. Yesterday was a dress-rehearsal for what these bastards have been telling the whole damn world, and because of modern technology, we have a record of their words in sight and sound. What more proof does anyone need these bastards are for real and have to be stopped?

President-Elect Biden announced Merrick Garland as his nominee for Attorney General. Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court was thwarted by now Senate Minority Leader McConnell in 2016. Merrick Garland was also part of the team that prosecuted the Oklahoma City bombers. I said this nomination was poetic justice for the Supreme Court nomination denied to him. I want to see him lead a team at the Justice Department to do to the bastards who stormed the Capitol yesterday, and others like them, what was done to the Oklahoma City bombers: investigated, tried, and convicted in a court of law.

Using the system against these racist bastards is the best thing we can do to live by the words ‘Never Again’. Record voter turnout in November and just this past Tuesday brought in candidates of worth (Joseph Biden/Kamala Harris, Rev. Raphael Warnock/Joel Ossoff). And we have to keep doing that no matter what happens, no matter what violence happens. We can’t give up. Ever.

Most of all, we can’t minimize it, argue it away with ‘both sides’ bullshit, or ‘what about…’ bullshit arguments, or just not talk about it at all. We stop talking about it, we stop speaking out against it, it rises like steam from a warm pile of shit. This is why I have vowed never to stop talking about it. Hopefully when I’m very old it will be just mostly stories of decades before, like my father told me. But even if it’s just stories, stories always need to be told so we don’t forget. We have technology to keep the stories on record long after their storytellers are gone from this Earth. And we have our oral tradition, and memory.

Oh, and choose your damn side once and for all. Don’t talk about solidarity with Holocaust survivors and then try to lie about white supremacists who storm the Capitol wearing shirts that say ‘Camp Auschwitz’. There is no middle ground with racist evil. There never was, and there never will be. I chose my side as a child, and have affirmed it as an adult, and will stay on my side until the day I die.

I’ll tell the stories, say the words, and vote like my life depends on it.

Never Again

Never Forget

The ‘Both Sides’ Argument Is Invalid

I’ve been wanting to write this for a very long time and now I’ve got the guts, the raging fury, and the words to do my dead-level best to try and blow some ‘both sides’ arguments to Hell and back.

First, comparing liberal and conservative ideologies is like comparing apples to oranges. They are so different now there is very little common ground to meet on so trying to make them equal or alike in any way is an invalid argument. The basic tenet of liberal ideology is that every person has the right to live freely, without fear, and to have every opportunity available to them regardless of their race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnic origin. The basic tenet of conservative ideology is that everyone has their place and has to stay in that place even if causes them pain and suffering.

Before I continue on with my comparisons and contrasts, I want to say this: I condemn violence in any form. Violence is never the answer to any problem. Yes, there was violence from left-wing protestors last summer. But that violence was quickly condemned and a non-violent approach to protests was implemented, in addition to adherence to public health advice with masks and social distancing.

In the last week, liberal or ANTIFA (which stands for anti-fascist) protestors were told to stay away from Washington D.C. because right-wing protestors were threatening violence. And after last summer, we saw how right-wing protestors, now domestic terrorists, were more than willing to commit acts of violence. They did yesterday in the United States Capitol. And in response to the argument that those domestic terrorists in the Capitol were ANTIFA protestors in disguise, I ask this in return: then what about all the social media calls to violence from the right-wing side of the house here? Are you saying these right-wing domestic terrorists don’t really exist and are nothing but ANITFA protestors in disguise? Because I’m sure if you said that to the Proud Boys, a known hate group, they wouldn’t take that too well because they don’t lie at all about their racist and violent shit.

Now, about the argument that these domestic terrorists are angry at the results of the election and have the right to express their anger in public. Okay, they have the right to voice their opinions and shit. They don’t have the right to trespass, threaten, or harm another human being. Do you agree with that or do they get a pass on that because they’re racist white motherfuckers?

Okay, now I’m sure some of my readers might be a bit ticked off at me using the term ‘domestic terrorist’ for right-wing racists. I’m not backing down on that term because these bastards have been calling for another civil war, arming themselves to the teeth, carrying their guns in public, and talking about murder. They haven’t been sitting around in a circle singing ‘Kumbaya’ so the argument that their harmless is invalid. See the pictures from the Capitol yesterday if you want to see what they’re capable of.

Another argument I’m going to blow to hell here is this: a person of color has more rights than a white person. Like that person of color got the job instead of me (the white person) simply because that employer wanted to meet a quota. Did that employer come right out and tell you that? No, and not just because they don’t have to or choose not to at all, but because it’s their freaking choice as to who to hire, not yours. You’re not special because you’re white, and you’re certainly not special if your black, brown, female, gay, transgender, or anything other than a lily-white ass. White privilege is real and a white man especially doesn’t live in fear even if says he does.

Yet another dumb-ass argument I’ve heard over the years is that both political parties are corrupt as hell. Okay, smart-ass, why do the number of prosecutions add up higher in the Republican column than they do in the Democratic column? I’m sure the response is that Democratic administrations prosecute more than Republicans. Then if that’s the case they must have more to work with, right? Both sides have had people in their parties caught with their pants down and yes, Slick Willie (aka Bill Clinton) managed to not get convicted of lying about it. But in the last four years it hasn’t been about pants down. It’s been about treason and now as of today, sedition.

But none of this means shit to a conspiracy-theory Q-Anon, anti-vaxxer, flat-Earth believing dumb-ass. The cognitive dissonance is too strong with these people. But to anyone who is offered their Kool-Aid I’ll say this: if someone wants you to drink something but won’t tell you exactly what’s in the cup, you might not want to drink it at all.

I only wrote this because I wanted to shoot my mouth off and drop a few truth-bombs. It won’t change minds because I can’t do that. But if I plant a seed in someone’s mind with these words… well, that’s not the same as changing a mind, right? 😊

People Save Lives

Four years ago next month, after the Presidential Election of 2016 I asked myself a question:

How many people will have to die for this insanity to end?

Next week, we’ll find out. As of today, the number is 225,000 dead from covid-19.

But this cooled-rage and pain gave rise to a thought:

People save lives.

I say this because when I first moved out on my own in 2003, my father offered to buy me a gun and teach me how to use it. I turned him down because I told him I didn’t feel I had a need for it. There was another reason I couldn’t articulate at that time, and one I won’t share for a good long while yet. But even if you have a gun, if you pull the trigger and take a life even in defense of your own, you will have to live with it. You will have to live with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is no cure for this.

Nuclear weapons have not prevented World War III. That has prevented by cooler heads prevailing. By President Kennedy in 1962 not doing what General Curtis LeMay wanted him to do and bomb Cuba. And by Soviet Colonel Stanislav Petrov in 1983 when he refused to call the Kremlin because he knew the computers at his base were malfunctioning and the United States was not launching a nuclear strike.

Guns and bombs don’t rescue people from natural disasters. People do. Very brave and extraordinary people we call first responders.

Guns and bombs don’t save people in hospitals. Those are healthcare workers.

Guns and bombs don’t lift people out of poverty. People do by creating jobs and educating people to help them advance in society.

Guns and bombs don’t bring about changes in laws, or overturn them. People do that by running for elected office or arguing in courts.

Guns and bombs don’t bring peace. Why?

World War II didn’t end genocide on this planet, it didn’t end war, hatred, or mass death and destruction. In fact, the end of World War II created a whole new set of problems for the world: a nuclear arms race and a Cold War fought by proxy.

Guns and bombs didn’t put men on the moon. People did that.

Guns and bombs don’t cure diseases. People do that.

Guns and bombs don’t comfort the grieving. People do that.

This is what I believe with all my heart and soul. That people, individuals and groups save lives and change the world for the better. Not guns and bombs, or hatred and cruelty. Or selfishness and greed. Or fear.

This is not a weak philosophy. This is a strong philosophy because it is faith over doubt, faith over pain, faith over grief. It is grief into purpose, as Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden says so well.

I believe we have the power to save ourselves, and each other. We may not be able to save every life, but we can try.

This is the world I want more than anything.

And for me it starts by saying:

People Save Lives