Mon. February 18, 2019: Love of Country #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, February 18, 2019
Almost Full Moon
Presidents’ Day

We survived Valentine’s Day. We all deserve a prize.

On this President’s Day, on a month of essays about love, it’s appropriate to talk about love of country.

This is a contentious issue right now in the US, with two factions with opposite ideas of the definition of “love of country.”

I can’t think of any country whose history hasn’t been built on blood and pain. We keep hoping culture and society evolve into a better form of humanity. Sometimes it moves forward for a few years, and then back for a few hundred.

Too often, we don’t know actual history, just propagandized bits of history. Although it’s painfully obvious we don’t learn from it.

What inspires love of country?

For me, it is a set of ideals about humanity, justice, education, art, compassion, and inclusion that I see the country in which I currently live abandoning. Ideals that were set out by the Founding Fathers, and built on by our Founding Mothers and children, and all the rest of the anonymous people who actually did the work. There are always people devoted to their country who are willing to fight for it — be it joining the military or working on various fronts at home. But a country survives and thrives by its citizens holding a shared vision of what that country stands for, and everyone working to bring that vision into reality for ALL its members.

One can learn a great deal by re-reading documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution — and then reading diaries and letters of regular people who actually lived through those times.

One of my favorite experiences was a discovery I made in the Philadelphia Archives. I was there to research Betsy Ross, for a project for which I’m still trying to find the proper form.

By accident, I saw a diary by a Dr. James Allen. I’d gone to elementary school with a nice guy named Jamie Allen, and I thought it might be fun to read about this Dr. James Allen. So I asked for the diary, which arrived, written in absolutely gorgeous penmanship.

Dr. Allen was a medical doctor. Well educated, well read, with a strong sense of justice. He was there, at Independence Hall, listening to the original public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 2, 1776. It shook him, transformed him. He ended up joining the Army and serving under General George Washington. He was part of that Delaware Crossing.

I read his diary, knowing how it all comes out in the end, but, of course, he didn’t as he wrote it. His concerns, the times his patience and his integrity were tested — I wish I could get a grant to transcribe the diary, research his history, and publish a book about him!

I learned more from reading this man’s diary than I did from any history book.

It also reminded me how much more complex actual history is than a line in a textbook or a tweet or a sound byte.

Skipping ahead in history a bit, Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe are two of the reasons I became a writer. I admired both their work and their lives so much. As an aside, as much as I admire Emerson and Thoreau, I’m always reminded that there they were, talking and studying and writing and walking in the woods, while the practicalities of daily life were handled by the WOMEN around them. This frustration was reinforced by Susan Cheever’s terrific book, AMERICAN BLOOMSBURY (which I highly recommend).

I re-read Louisa’s diaries regularly when I get tired and discouraged.

Harriet is best known for UNCLE TOM’S CABIN. There’s plenty to discuss about that book on so many levels, both positive and negative, which could take up an entire college semester. But Harriet wrote plenty of other books, too, many of them domestic comedies. Some of her writing is very, very funny. She came from a large, lively, intellectual, daring, engaged, and flawed family. Her brother Henry Ward Beecher’s scandal when he led a church in Brooklyn, and, again, how the woman in the scandal was the one thrown under the bus, is detailed in Barbara Goldsmith’s wonderful social history, OTHER POWERS.

Both Harriet and Louisa were considered “difficult women” and
ahead of their time.” Reading their letters, their diaries, their books, one sees how they were both ahead of their time and PART of their time (and prejudices, although they were far more progressive than many of their contemporaries). We hope we’ve evolved in our understanding of humanity, although too often it feels like we’re going backwards.

History is made up of people and their messy, beautiful, terrifying lives. Societies are too often built on breaking the individuals that actually do the work to build the society. Where can you give someone room for individuality? Where does someone going too far become a threat to someone else’s basic human rights and dignity? What are basic social constructs that allow people with vastly different beliefs and points of view to co-exist in peace and dignity and prosperity for all? How does one teach people that having enough for all doesn’t necessarily mean taking away from anyone, but that everyone must contribute fairly? How can we craft laws that have more to do with justice, and less to do with religion, which, in my opinion, has been used as a tool of oppression ever since it was invented?

All of that feeds into our “love of country.”

It’s not an easy issue. Especially when competing factors have vastly different ideas of what the society that inhabits the defined “country” should believe, live, and build.

As a writer, of course, all this is fascinating. But living it (and we are all living history, every moment), can often be exhausting.

We supposedly live in a democracy (which is under serious threat), that is set up as a republic. Therefore, as part of our love of country, it is an obligation to keep up with the news (actual news, not propaganda feeds), to stay informed about upcoming legislation (you can read the text of past, present, and proposed bills on Congress.gov), and to interact with our elected officials, on local, state, and federal levels. It takes time, but the alternative is to lose our country. So it’s worth it. We need to vote. We need to serve on jury duty when called. We, as individuals and collectively, need to speak out when human rights are denied, and stop it.

This President’s Day, think about what you love about your country. Think about what you believe needs to be changed. And then take action. Because history is built by people.

Be a History Builder.

 

Mon. Sept. 10, 2012: Great Writing News!

Monday, Sept. 10, 2012
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cool

It feels like a month has passed instead of a weekend. So much going on!

Great news! My one-act play “The Effie Effect” has been chosen as part of Tilden Art Center’s PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD Festival. It’s going to have a reading on Sept. 28. I will post more information as I get it. I’m very excited — it’s my theatrical debut on the Cape!

Last week’s paper for the Sustainability Course was “Sustainability Vs. Human Greed”. We can talk about what we “should” do in order to be sustainable all we want, but as long as there are people making huge profits from unsustainable practices, nothing will change. Cut off the money source, and we’ve got a chance, because the greedy special interests who line their own pockets aren’t going to change. That got some pretty good responses.

This week’s paper, “Education, Equality, and Rape”, which I wrote and uploaded on Sunday morning (after several days’ research) is also getting good feedback. There’s all this talk about how population growth/fertility rates remain highest among the poorest, most uneducated women — um, yeah, because they’re kept like brood mares. When you educate women, give them access to health care, equal rights, et al, which includes child survival rates rising, the population growth slows (although there’s still debate as to whether we’ve hit carrying capacity or can create the sustainable “S” curve). Of course, if the special interest right wing-nuts in this country get their way, women will be stripped of their rights and turned back into brood mares again, but that’s an argument for another day. The reason I wrote the paper is because the experts talk about the importance and impact of education and equality for women to affect sustainable population growth, but they all ignored rape and sexual violence as a tool of war, and the children that are born of that violence. Northern Sudan, Darfur, Bosnia — throughout history, rape is used as a tool of war. There aren’t even reliable statistics, because of the shame associated with rape. So last week’s paper addressed that issue.

Once I read this week’s material and see what annoys me about it, I’ll have my topic for this week’s paper!

I also wrote and posted the proposals for my two milestone projects. We only need to do one, but I can’t decide between them, so I’m doing two. The first is very traditional within the realms of the class, dealing with the Flood/Drought Rebalance and how I think it can be done in the US. I’ve got a bunch of sources, I know what I want to say, it’s something I’ve discussed with my Senate and Congressional offices, and I’ll finally have a document to hand them. The other project is fiction — which is rather out of the realm of what they’re used to in a class like this. It’s an environmentally-sustainable series that will give actual information in an entertaining and engaging way without falling into the cliches most fictional characters in this realm do. For the purposes of the class, I do the vision for the series, and the outline and first three chapters of this book. So that’s all good, and both projects are getting solid support from my classmates.

Got the welcome message from the World History Class, which starts next Monday. 70,000 in that class, which is a little depressing! And the textbook is so far out of my price range, I can’t even consider it at this point. So I will try to track it down in one of the many libraries to which I have access.

I’ve also been invited to submit to another project — 15K as soon as I get get it done. I’m having fun with it, so we’ll see.

With all that, I’m deep in edits for the second Jain Lazarus, OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK. Billy Root has a few things to say about it here. AND I’m scrambling to get book #3 to the publishers on time.

I ran into some frustrations getting the text smoothed out for the anthology — there are formatting issues that take me longer than I’d like to resolve, and sections I have to re-key by hand. I want to get it off my desk today or tomorrow (I planned to finish it by yesterday), because I need it off my desk and onto the publisher’s! 😉

And I need to chase down some payments this week, start another article that’s due, do some more pitches, and finish the material for the latest Confidential Job #1. And, in a moment of weakness, I agreed to be a contest judge, so those materials should hit my desk today.

I drove to P-town yesterday to have brunch with some good friends in from NY, friends I haven’t seen since I moved to the Cape. In spite of the weather, it was great fun. We laughed a lot.

Tarot class is doing well. I’m having fun with them.

And I was mentioned in THE CAPE COD TIMES — they gave me a few paragraphs about my upcoming writing workshops in Falmouth.

I even got some mowing done on Friday, before the next round of storms hit! Isaac’s gone, but Leslie is affecting the surf here.

Got a big day of writing ahead of me, so off I go!

Devon