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.

Truth Wins

Last night, Uber’s Instant Pay for drivers went down. This is a feature that allows drivers to cash out their earnings by putting them immediately onto their debit cards attached to their bank accounts. It’s enormously convenient and since most of us drivers live pretty lean, essential to our survival.

Two years ago, Uber Instant Pay went down for close to week in some parts of the country. And yes, it put the hurt on a lot of drivers including myself. There was a lot of chatter on social media about this but as my late father used to say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. For this current outage, I found a message on the main website through my laptop saying Instant Pay was down due to scheduled maintenance which I tweeted out to Uber Support. What I didn’t tweet out was this: if that was the case then why didn’t you give us a heads-up in the first place so we could plan accordingly?

In the corporate world, there would inevitably be someone who would take a foul-up like this and try to blame on the people affected by it, even though they had nothing to do with this in the first place. This ‘someone’, aka asshole, would try to make something someone else’s fault when that wasn’t the case. I call this ‘deflection’ and it needs to come to a screeching-ass halt right now.

Now you may ask, why do people do stupid shit like this? Well, I’m going to barbeque a few possibilities in reply to that question.

First, some people are just dumber than a bag of dog-shit and because of that, they can’t take any responsibility for their actions and shouldn’t be trusted with anything other than a rubber-toy hammer. These are people in positions of authority who honestly don’t know how to think at all yet they think they know everything and the price of it. And if they’re presented with evidence of their stupidity and incompetence, they can’t deal with that because they don’t have the brain cells allocated for intelligent thought in the first place.

Second, some people are just assholes who won’t take any responsibility for their fuck-ups. To them, it’s always someone else’s fault even though they were the ones in charge of the fuck-up in the first place.

Third, they honestly believe in their own version of the truth when reality clearly shows otherwise. These ‘true believers’ are dangerous because some of them can get other people to believe in their lies and bullshit right alongside them.

But the worst thing any of these asshole-types do when confronted over their lies, incompetence, and bullshit is to try and blame everyone else. In my previous wimpy-life phase, which I’m pretty much done with, I used to think these assholes were right. That somehow, someway, I should have known or sensed their bullshit was coming.

Bullshit to that. I should not have to be on constant guard against someone’s bullshit stupidity and be afraid of their deflecting that on me. I don’t have to jump up and down and rant and rave like a lunatic to make my point because I know I can be polite and courteous and present the truth. And if that makes someone squirm and wish they’d worn an adult diaper, then I hope they get to a toilet before they really shit all over the place.

If someone has a problem communicating necessary information, they need to be taken out of that position where that is a requirement. There is no need to figure out why they’re like that or if they can be changed. That sounds harsh but no one should have to take a crowbar and pry someone’s head out of their ass.

So what really needs to change here?

Stand up and be firm in the truth of the matter. I had a few seconds where I had second thoughts about tweeting out what I did to Uber. I had a few seconds of tiny fear that I would muck things up. Then I thought: no, I’m posting something I found online that THEY posted, not me. If someone comes at me for something I found I’m probably going to reply with: “Really? I found this. I didn’t post this myself. But that’s not the issue, the issue is a problem that needs to be fixed.” Years ago, I would have been shaking like a leaf in a hurricane over this. Now I’m taking deep breathes and being calm knowing that truth will win eventually.

What we need to do now is stand up and stop every attempt to deflect from the truth and blame someone innocent person for a fuck-up that wasn’t theirs. We need to say in a calm way, ‘No’. I have spent way too many years cowering in fear of incompetent fools but no more cowering. I may have a stray second thought or two but in the end, truth wins.