Thursday, April 26, 2007

American Cynics

The cynics will tell you that everybody has a price, that every politician is a crook and nothing matters anyway because the human race is doomed to destroy itself in some horrible cataclysmic explosion and its only a matter of time.

Looking around, it's hard to believe that at one time Americans were the most optimistic, forward-looking of people. These days we go down without a fight and no one believes tomorrow will be better than today.

The current administration deserves a lot of the blame for that.

They've given us the Iraq war, Abu Ghraib , the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and the Patriot Act. They've taught us the beauty of torture, the joy of privacy invasion and election stealing. They've committed a string of outrages, lied, straight-faced over and over again and made manipulation of public opinion into an art form and yet the American public barely has the energy to stir itself to murmur a protest. "What's the use?" we tell ourselves. "They're all the same."

I resent that with their callous, self-serving manipulation, they've taken away our ability to hope.

American cynics who buy into their me-first, take no prisoners and give no quarter view of the world think they're being smart and realistic. They deal with the cold hard facts in a cold hard world, replete with terrorism and globalization. If you're an idealist, the cynics say, you're nothing but a self-deluded dreamer, out of touch with reality.

But that's exactly what they want you to think.

If you think the world is a lost cause, you won't stand up against injustice or fight for impossible ideals like health care or quality public education for everyone. You'll turn a blind eye when they pass self-serving legislation or hand out government contracts to their cronies.
Cynics give lip service to lofty concepts like freedom and justice but they don't believe they actually exist. To a cynic, free speech or equal opportunity are just empty meaningless phrases.

It's easy to give up and give in to despair. It's much harder to look for good in people, to believe that difficult problems can be solved and to accept that, while there are lots of selfish, corrupt people in the world, there are far more who care about fairness and tolerance and lofty way-out-there ideas like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Out of Time

If I could add an hour here or there and jam a just a little more time into this overflowing day, there are quite a few things I would like to accomplish. For instance, I would read. There are many, many books I want to read, stacked on my nightstand, crammed in my bookcase, stashed in boxes and bags in my closet. I wish I could absorb them in an instant and with a blink of my eye, carry them in my brain. I don't have the time to consume them slowly, one word at a time, savoring each plot twist and turn of the phrase, the way a book is meant to be.

With a little more time I'd write my autobiography. Or I'd arrange the family photos into chronological order and paste them into scrapbook albums. I'd get around to filling out the baby books, now that the children are halfway through college.

I would call the friends who I mean to keep in touch with but never do, the ones waiting futilely to hear from me until I suppose they probably give up and move on with their lives.

There are family members who I once was close to who have turned into strangers, babies who have started kindergarten and made it through most of grade school before I've had a chance to meet them.

Life just keeps churning on while I'm mired in the mundane challenges of daily life and the important things, the meaningful things, fall by the way side. I'm just doing the dishes, paying the electric bill and trying to drag myself through another morning rush hour.

Friday, April 20, 2007


I have to admit I found the photos of the man responsible for the tragedy at Virginia Tech very disturbing. It was just too horrible to look at that bland face and those cold, dead eyes and to see him handling that gun like he thinks he's some kind of action movie hero. And of course you can't help but realize that that image was the last thing so many beautiful, innocent young people saw--it's just too awful. It scares me to think how many people looking at those photos are getting some kind of ghoulish thrill out of them.

It's even more disturbing is to listen the dialogue that has since ensued concerning gun control--the kind of dialogue you expect to hear after a tragedy like this-and to hear the rhetoric from gun shop owners and the NRA fanatics, who say this tragedy wouldn't have happened if more people had guns. Huh? So then I guess their vision of a Utopian society is where everybody's packing (legally, course) and anyone can just pull out a piece and shoot the bad guys whenever necessary. And gun battles in the streets are supposed to feel make us safer? Kind of blows your mind.

But the most disturbing thing of all is that after two days of looking at those sick photos, they don't frighten me nearly as much any more. It's scary how quickly you can get used to unspeakable horror.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Day 2-The Blogging Goes On

Time to blog. It's tough to come up with a subject to write about every day. I discovered this when I wrote a humor column for my college newspaper. The first few were easy, but then the pressure was on and it was a struggle coming up with interesting, funny topics that would entertain and inform. I eventually stooped to writing rants about the crummy food in the school cafeteria. Let's hope it's easier this time.

I've been writing the same novel for a very long time--11 years--no one can say I don't stick with a project once I start it. It's a very long novel, but it should never have taken me this long. Life is always getting in the way--work, family, American Idol. And, of course, this blog is a very good way to procrastinate.

My novel is a fantasy novel. (Think Lord of the Rings with a girl as the main character and no elves or hobbits.) I like writing fantasy because I like stories that involve imagination, that ask the question, "what if?" Basically I'm just a big daydreamer. Fantasy and science fiction stories are great because they allow you to explore serious topics outside of the bounds of reality and without preconceived notions about how about something is supposed to work.

I already told you I love history. Writing fantasy is like creating my own history.

Friday, April 13, 2007


This is the inaugural voyage of my blog. I've never blogged before so I suppose I will have to start slow. I don't know what this blog will be about or what I really want to say. Right now, this is a voyage of discovery. I hope that you will join me as I try put words to feelings and feelings to words.

I am a writer--or at least that's what I hope it will say on my business cards one day--but life has been too crazy lately--my dad passed away last month--I have to go into the hospital for an operation in the next few weeks--so I haven't been writing at all. I'm very rusty and this blog is my way of stretching those writing muscles again. I hope it will help me find my voice.

My other interests are current events and history. I would like this blog to be a running commentary on modern life, with all of its pitfalls and pratfalls. I'd like it to be a reflection of how events of the past influence where we are today.

Perhaps this is too ambitious and all-encompassing. If it is, I may have to split off and create other blogs. I'm very excited. It's been a long time since I allowed myself any free flow creativity.

My Eureka moment: The other day I came to the realization that I should never be afraid to write the truth--even if its painful or embarrassing. Writers must hold up a mirror, even if people gazing into it don't like what they see. I've always known this but I've never before felt it on a visceral level.

Thanks for reading this.

Catch Phrases:

"Stories, like conjuring tricks, are invented because history is inadequate to our dreams."
From"Eisenheim the Illusionist" by Steven Milhauser

"...Come, I will teach you the death of roses, the emptiness of orgasms in sun-flooded loveless rooms."
From "A Game of Clue" by Steven Milhauser