Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Let's NOT take this road...

I saw a meme on Facebook yesterday.  It read “If you cross the North Korean border illegally, you get 12 years of hard labor. If you cross the Afghanistan border illegally, you get shot. Two Americans got 8 years for crossing into Iran.  If you cross the U.S. border illegally, you get a job, a driver’s license, food stamps, a place to live, health care, child benefits, education and tax fee business income for 7 years? No wonder we are a country in debt!”  It urged everyone to share it. It was created by an organization called seano.org.
I immediately wondered if the person who came up with such a brilliant comparison realized how utterly ridiculous it sounds.

The first thing that occurred to me was that the writer was urging the U.S. to act in the same brutal, heinous, violent, and inhumane way that North Korea, Afghanistan, and Iran act toward immigrants (not to mention their own their own population).  Let’s not forget that most of the brutality issues in those countries stem from tribe fighting tribe or religion trying to eradicate other religions.  Sounds hauntingly like Adolph Hitler, his rabid followers, and the extermination of millions.
The actual demographic data of non-combatant lives lost during the holocaust include the following:

6 million Jews (all countries)
5-7 million Ukrainians
3.3 Russian POWs
2 million Russian civilians
3 million Poles
1.5 million Yugoslavians
½ million Gypsies
¼ million mentally or physically disabled
5K Jehovah’s Witnesses
Tens of thousands homosexuals
Tens of thousands Spanish Republicans
Anyone considered socially, racially, or politically undesirable (Jews, Blacks, Gypsies, criminals, prostitutes, homosexuals, and mental patients, socialists, communists, pacifists, anti-Nazi refugees from Germany and Austria
, and anyone else they just didn’t like.)

The problem with picking on one ethnic or religious group, such as Mexicans, or Syrians, or Muslims is that it never stops there.  Hitler led the German people by making them believe that the Jews were their enemy and all the problems with their lives could be blamed on the Jews.  He made them believe, or at least look the other way, in the hope that elimination of that one group would make German lives better.  But he didn’t stop there.  It was one “common enemy” after another, as seen in the list above, and the citizens of Germany believed the lies and followed like sheep.  The Nazis stripped all those people they killed of their wealth and possessions, but none of those billions ever filtered back down to the citizens.  Their lives did not get better, no matter how many “undesirables” they murdered.
Right now, the far right and the religious right are stirring up their constituents in the same way Hitler stirred up the citizens of Germany.  It is not the Mexicans, or the Syrians, or those of the Muslim faith we should fear.  It is those that seek to profit from the misery of our citizens.  By giving the people a “common enemy” and telling us that all our problems stem from immigrants and non-Christians, they are doing EXACTLY what Adolph Hitler did.

We cannot afford to take that path.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it

I was mortified by the story of the Chicago TV station that used the yellow star of David, a Nazi emblem the European Jews were forced to wear so they could easily be herded onto trains for the death camps, in a Happy Yom Kippur story.  Obviously we have learned nothing from the past.

We are being overtaken by younger generations who are ignorant of the incredible amount of hard work that was required to get us to the place we are today.  I was at a writing meeting last night and a young member voiced her opinion that she was tired of hearing about what women and African Americans had gone through years ago and that they should “get over it already.”
I wanted to deck the poor kid, but instead, I tried my best to make her understand that the past should NEVER be “gotten over,” and indeed, needs to be remembered vividly and accurately.  She looked at me quizzically as I described what women my age had to tolerate from society and what women had sacrificed to make sure that she could get whatever job she wanted, be better paid, and have legal recourse for issues in her life that we didn’t have 50 years ago.

I tried to make her understand that discrimination was discrimination regardless of the genre:  gender, race, religion, sexual preference, or citizen status.  I pointed out that repression was unforgivable, and being ignorant of or forgetting that people died and suffered for the freedoms we have right now is unacceptable.

I hope she remembers what I said, because our history is not something we have to “get over already.”  It is something we need to hang onto for dear life, so we don’t get sucked into repeating its atrocities.

Friday, September 11, 2015

An attempt to keep myself honest...so far, so good

In the 12 days since I returned from Middle Bass Island, I have managed to increase the word count in the novel by 8,000 words.  I was shooting for 500 words/day, but although I have skipped a day here and there, I am averaging 667 words/day.  My goal is to hit the total word count by the end of September, then give it to a few of my “readers with red pens” to see what they can find and to offer me their suggestions.  Once corrections have been made, and all suggestions taken under advisement, I’ll ship the manuscript off to Liz Petry for a once over.  In spite of the fact that I am neither Jane Austen nor Tony Hillerman, I am certain she will read it with a critical editor’s eye.
I know, I know.  I once had a publisher take a book on because she not only loved the content, but she didn’t find a single error in the entire manuscript.  I can be pretty anal about my writing.  But even I make typos, and the eye sees what the mind thinks it wrote.  Self-editing can be an excruciating task.  Generally, you have to step away from the manuscript for weeks, or even months, before you can distance yourself enough to edit your own writing properly.  In this instance, I want the book in print before the holidays so people can buy it for gifting; therefore, I need all the editing help and suggestions I can garner.

I will be absolutely ecstatic if I can have the book up on Amazon for purchase by November 1.  That entails a good bit of work between now and then, but I promised Steve FitzGerald I would keep up with my social networking sites, sooooooo, I guess I’ll be posting here, Tweeting, Facebooking, and Linking-in as well as writing, editing, and working full time.  It should be an interesting fall.  Oh, and there is the small matter of making notes and outlining Book 2 in this series!  I think I’m going to have to be a bit more disciplined about sleeping.  Feel free to ask me how I'm progressing...guilt can be a wonderful thing!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sad reflection will remain an annual journey for far too many...

I hate this night.  Each year I dread it with an intensity that causes my stomach to roil and my head to ache.  I usually handle my demons by reiterating my 9/11 story, but not this year.  If anyone wants to read it, they have only to search back through the blog to 9/11/14 or 9/11/13 or…

But tonight, I can’t get my mind off those left behind:  the parents who should never have outlived their children, the children growing up without parents or grandparents, the husbands and wives still trying to reinvent their lives as singles or with new partners they had never even met those many years ago.  The heartbreak goes far beyond Manhattan, or the East Coast, or the Pentagon, or a lonely field in Pennsylvania.  My heart hurts when I think of those who lost someone on 9/11 unable to sleep tonight, perhaps crying until the tears can no longer flow.
I can’t help but recall the eerie silence in the following days, when not a single plane graced the sky and not a single vapor trail patterned the horizon.  It was as if the whole country had stopped to regain its breath and its perspective.  I’m not sure we managed the perspective part.
Sadly, the legacy of 9/11 continues as the responders fall to illnesses undoubtedly caused by exposure to smoke and debris and the death toll continues to rise. 

To all who read this, I encourage you to send your warmest thoughts and prayers to those left behind, and to those who came to the aid of the victims that are paying such a high price for their heroism.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Once again, I have returned home from a highly productive week at the President's Cottage on Middle Bass Island, owned by fellow member Steve FitzGerald. I made huge inroads on a novel that I now hope will be finished by the end of September. Steve's opinions and advice were instrumental in many of the decisions I made as to where the novel was taking the reader...and where it was taking me. 

There is no place that I have written with more inspiration, or accomplished as much toward my writing goals, as I have in my solo retreats on Middle Bass Island. If you are serious about completing a project, I highly recommend that you start now by setting aside a few dollars each week in a writing fund, and take advantage of what Steve is offering. You won't regret it!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Drug Testing Controversy - We Need a Closer Look

I've been watching this debacle closely for some time. I think it is a mistake, because not only does it seem that the premise flawed, but the numbers don't prove out the theory.

1) There are people complaining that it is OK to drug test people who work for their money but not those who don't? 

First, our tax money is not paying for the drug testing of those who are applying for or working at jobs where the EMPLOYER has mandated testing. This is not the government wanting applicants tested.  It is the EMPLOYER and accordingly, the EMPLOYER pays for it. 

When the state drug tests welfare recipients or applicants, WE pay for it.

Second, this comparison is similar to, for example, all attorneys have to take the bar exam to practice law, but those who had to take that exam feel it's unfair that everyone doesn't have to take that same bar exam, even when they have no desire to practice law. 

Or, I have to endure the pain and humiliation of taking a drug test because my employer demands it, so even people who are not qualified to hold my job, and are not trying to take my job from me in some sort of revolt, should be made to suffer the same humiliation that I agreed to endure as a condition of my employment. For those who have never had to rely on public assistance, even for a short time, I can tell you it is an incredibly humbling experience in itself. Adding forced drug testing makes having to ask for help even more painful.

2) If we can believe the numbers being reported by independent bean counters, the national drug use rate is approximately 9.5 percent of ALL people working and not working. But testing of welfare recipients / applicants in states that mandate testing shows that, while the rate of positive drug tests in welfare applicants ranged from 0.002% to 8.3%, in all states but one, the rate of positive drug tests was less than 1%. That's 8.5% LOWER than the national average. 

As in most cases where the government overspends our tax dollars on the ridiculous, these states have collectively spent nearly $1 million on the effort, and will spend many millions more in coming years. So where exactly does the "massive abuse" of our system end up?  With the state, of course. They will raise our taxes to perform unnecessary testing on people who have a rate of drug abuse significantly lower than the general population.  It's like the proverbial beating of the dead horse.

Yes, there will always be those unethical types that try to game the system, no matter what the system is. A determined enough criminal will find a way to cheat or steal, but that does not justify punishing the other 99% who are not.

Personally, I'd rather see our tax money spent in our schools and on our deteriorating infrastructure. At least we would see something that actually benefits the people, creating decent paying jobs and fixing what needs to be fixed. Perhaps we should stop taking out our frustrations on the poor and powerless and create jobs that pay enough to help them move back into productive society.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Second Annual Writing Weekend

After having such a wonderful time last year, my friend, Liz Petry, and I each packed our cars and headed across the country to meet in the middle.  That midpoint, via the Southern Tier (I-80), is Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  We each had traffic difficulties with construction zones.  I hit the road at 10:30 a.m. and had passed only two exits on I-90 before I ended up in a nasty, full-stop traffic jam.  I lost at least half an hour before I hit Route 11.  Once I turned East on I-80 it was one construction zone after another.  I finally arrived at the hotel around 5 p.m., which means my 4.5 hour trip took 6.5 hours.

After I got settled in, Liz and I went to Peter Herdic House for dinner.  The parmesan crusted shrimp was quite tasty, but I had to settle for spinach salad as they were out of fresh local cherries for the salad listed on the website menu.  One of these days, I’ll get there while the cherries are still in season.

It was bloody hot all weekend, and frankly, I’m not quite sure how Liz went running without dropping like a rock on the hot pavement, even early in the morning.  Just walking the 4 or 5 blocks to Herdic House, Rumrunners, and Bullfrog Brewery was extremely taxing in the high temps and stifling humidity.
We took a break from our writing and researching activities on Saturday night to visit Wine and Design, an art studio that offers painting parties and paint-n-sip classes for the public.  The painting of the day was an old anchor in an old shed.  It was rather fun, but I have to admit that I can’t draw straight lines with a brush even when I’m not imbibing in a lovely Barolo.

On Sunday night, after another day of writing activities, we braved the heat to walk to dinner at the Bullfrog Brewery.  They had gorgeous copper and stainless tanks, and the food was quite tasty.  We passed a gift shop (Gustonian Gifts) that had interesting locally sourced stuff in the windows, so I decided to delay my departure on Monday and peruse the shop.  I bought a beautiful walking stick for Jim.  It was numbered by the artist and had some lovely wood burnings and relief carvings.

It was a terrific weekend.  Both Liz and I made progress on our writing projects, and we had the chance to get a good visit in as well.  For those writers who can’t seem to get anything done at home, I highly recommend that you get away, alone or with a writing friend, and get your word counts up.  There are many options for low-cost accommodations, even a cabin in the woods.  As long as it has electricity to keep your laptop running, you’re good to go.