Category Archives: Yikes! Politics!

Forlorn

That’s me.

First I saw this on Twitter:

Then I saw this:

I’ve also been watching “Runaways” on Netflix, and in episode 9, the Karolina character out of nowhere expressed her physical attraction to Nico by kissing her. I say out of nowhere because I saw nothing to indicate Karolina was attracted to anyone, let alone Nico.

It’s almost as if the writers sat down after episode seven and decided, “We need gay characters. Who should we pick?”

It seems we can’t watch a single movie or television show that doesn’t at least suggest one or more characters are gay, especially in the speculative genres. Even animated films geared to young children aren’t free of it (such as “How to Train Your Dragon 2”).

As a writer who wants to see my stories in print, I can’t help but wonder if I have wasted decades improving my craft. I don’t avoid writing gay characters; it’s that most of my characters aren’t gay. Nor will I make them gay simply because some want gay characters, even if it makes no sense, and doesn’t move the story forward. It’s an unnecessary distraction.

I’m also tired of agenda and politics-driven storylines, whether they’re pushing homosexuality or so-called climate change. I just want to read and write good stories with interesting characters.

Some might accuse me at this point of being a climate-change-denying homophobe.

To the first. Climate changes. That’s its nature. As for whether or not it’s all caused by Man, sorry. I haven’t seen enough evidence to convince me.

As for the homophobe accusation, the short answer is “no.” Truth is I couldn’t care less a person’s sexual preferences. I’ll say it again: I don’t care. No one will never make me care, and I wish they’d quit throwing it in my face. How do you think they would feel if someone walked up to them and said, “I’m heterosexual. I really like to kiss and have sex with the opposite sex. Now love and accept me, because if you don’t, you must be a heterophobe!”

But I digress. As a writer, what am I to do? Are there still enough people who don’t need or want to read about at least one gay character in every story whether it’s organic to the story or not? Or am I a social dinosaur where everything I write deserves to be tossed on the trash heap of the unenlightened and set on fire? Should I therefore give up, and take nature pictures instead? After all, no one can accuse me of being a name-your-phobia-du-jour for posting pictures of clouds.

A Pixelated View

Have you ever zoomed into a digital photo so close all you see is a bunch of fuzzy, colored squares? If someone were to walk by the computer screen, they’d never guess what the photo actually shows, or that it’s even a photograph.

Only after zooming out does the picture become clear.

I think politics does the same thing, especially if we spend so much time delving into it, and from a single point of view. For instance, I mention President Donald Trump, and some people will react with a visceral loathing while others will want to cheer “MAGA!”

Polar opposite reactions over the same human being.

For the last few months, I’ve grown tired of politics. Anyone with a phone or computer uses their electronic soapbox to opine, and usually with either a progressive or conservative point of view. It’s tiresome and predictable.

As one also armed with multiple electronic devices, I am tempted to follow only those who fall in the same political spectrum as me. After all, why follow those I disagree with when all they do is cause anger and frustration?

Still, I refuse to give in to the temptation, and the answer is simple: I don’t like pixelated photographs. They look choppy, out of focus, little to no contrast to make the subject pop, too few colors, and the details are non-existent. Uninteresting. Boring.

Another word people use to describe looking at things from a single point of view is “myopic.” It means “lacking imagination, foresight, or intellectual insight.” Isn’t that a great word? And so accurate!

Since I never want to be accused of having no intellectual insight, I’ve decided to zoom out, and attempt to see the world as a whole in all its shadows, 16 million-plus colors, contrast, depth and richness.

I resolve to push my political biases behind me, and when I see a post or article I’ll likely disagree with, I still read it, gritted teeth and involuntary shakes of the head notwithstanding.

In doing so, I’ve stumbled on a few gems of wisdom. Did I agree with everything I read? Not at all. Sometimes as a little as ten percent. But still, one piece of new knowledge or wisdom out of ten is one more than I had before.

The impetus of this entry comes from comments made on a political website about commentator, Ben Shapiro. The comments were particularly viscous for the simple reason he was critical of Donald Trump during the primaries — a so-called “Never Trumper.” I often listen to his podcast, and while he’s still critical of Trump, he also gives him credit when it’s due. The funny part is, the commenters refuse to give Shapiro credit when it’s due. Since I know their political leanings, they would find more in common with Shapiro than not. Based on their responses when I tried to defend him, however, they are suffering from their own myopathy. Or to stick with my original analogy, they prefer to stare at pixelated photographs.

It’s a shame, really, because we are so much more than our labels, and opinions. Yet too many of us aren’t willing to step back from staring at a smattering of pixels to get a larger and deeper understanding of the entire photograph.

Sins of The Christian Voter

I’ve heard a lot of talk to the effect of: “How can you call yourself a Christian for voting for that candidate?”

From both Christians and non-Christians alike.

Let’s use Alabama’s most recent senatorial election as an example. Of the two main candidates, one is pro-life and an alleged sexual predator. The other has no sordid accusations, but is staunchly pro-choice.

The Christian is faced with a hard choice: Vote for the alleged predator who believes life at all stages deserves protection, and the second candidate who thinks abortion should be legal up until birth, but was never accused of preying on young women.

This Christian voter needs to decide which sins the candidates have committed is the more and least egregious.

The Christian can also not vote, or write in a better candidate. Perhaps a third party choice if one is listed.

That’s not the end of the struggle, however. Once the choice is made, the Christian has to decide to never reveal the choice, or openly support said chosen candidate.

This is a difficult one. By staying silent when unfair criticism of chosen candidate arises, the Christian can continue to remain silent, or risk being counted as (and accused of) supporting either sexual assault or infanticide.

Most Christians expect criticism from the worldly no matter what they do. After all, the world hated Jesus first (see John 15:18).

What Christians don’t expect is to hear such vitriolic criticism from fellow Christians. Aren’t they all members of the body of Christ, united in a common cause and inseparable?

Here’s how I see it.

Government is a secular institution. Any person we vote for is a fallible, sinful human being, and they seek to occupy an office equally secular in nature. It’s neither a religious nor spiritual occupation. Therefore, I think our standards shouldn’t be the same as voting for a new pastor or priest at a church. The qualifications and expectations are too different.

Aside: Do we all want good, moral people to lead us? Absolutely! Still, even moral people are flawed, so no matter how good they appear, they are still sinful (That and what society considers moral is in constant flux). Voters, Christian and otherwise, are too often faced with deciding which candidate holds to their own world-view the closest — the least of evils to use a cliche. Perhaps not vote at all, and let the chips fall where they may.

What concerns me is how willing so many Christians are to judge, condemn, and divide over political lines.

Paul warned us against divisions in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, and how we’re all parts of a single body with different roles to fulfill in 1 Corinthians 12.

When we allow the world generally, and politics specifically, to divide us, the Body falters, and we lose both sight and effectiveness of our mandate to lift up others and spread the Good News. Those we seek to save instead laugh at us. Because of our petty and public arguments, and the constant finger-pointing, we deserve to be mocked.

The only remedies are to quit mixing in politics when discussing spiritual and Godly matters (especially in public), vote our conscience (including not voting at all), and remain silent about both our choice, and the choices others make. Let God judge the heart and intent of the voter, because the rest of us are far from qualified.

In other words, watch for those planks instead of scrounging around for specks (Matthew 7:5).

Is There An Echo in Here?

The easiest temptation on social media is to follow people, blogs, websites, etc. who reinforce what we already believe.

More difficult is to follow those who have near the opposite point of view. The exceptions of when we do, it’s usually to laugh, scoff, or get offended by. We don’t do it to learn, and listen but to argue, sometimes in the hopes of convincing the opposition the rightness of our cause.

Too often, though, the opposition has no more desire to listen and learn than we do. In the end we give up, and return to our little echo chambers filled with people of like mind.

I don’t often read so-called news sites such as Vox, Slate or Salon. I find their news rife with too much bias for my taste.

Sometimes, however, I run into a headline that so intrigues me (and not in a good way), that I have to read it.

This is one such headline:

When I debate or discuss, I make sure I have truth and facts to back me up, otherwise, not only will I fail to convince, but I waste my time and that of my opposition. I don’t argue with emotions, because emotions are not rational or logical. Too often they are baseless, and fleeting. Too often they are based on misunderstanding of a smattering of facts, and can do more harm than good when trying to debate a specific point.

As Ben Shapiro likes to say, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”

You can understand then, why I found this headline befuddling to say the least. Why would anyone give up facts in favor of emotion to win people to their side? It’s idiocy. And temporary.

Out of morbid curiosity, I decided to read the piece. Too many news websites love to write provocative headlines in order to get people to read it (such as me). Click-bait as it’s called. Often, however, the headlines can also be misleading to the point that the article ends up making the exact opposite point.

As a writer, I found a lot of the opinion piece objectionable such as using emotions as a weapon. It implies that the author doesn’t want to convince, but to manipulate. It read less like a professional article and more like a personal journal entry (kind of like this lovely blog entry). The author isn’t trying to make a specific point so much, but exploring his/her thoughts in order to discover that point.

Still, after weeding through the verbosity, I surmised the author’s overall point was not to give up on facts, per se, but to appeal to a person’s emotions with facts instead of presenting facts alone. It’s a valid point, because in this day and age, regardless of what side people take on an issue, they are so emotionally entrenched in their point of view, facts proving their contentions false won’t deter them.

The entire article can be found here.

It’s worth thinking about, and for me will be one heck of a challenge. I don’t argue emotionally. Only facts matter to me, because they’re immutable. Still, I have to see the other person’s emotional point of view, and try to understand it before I can debate a specific issue.

I have to learn how to speak their emotional language, otherwise communication will be near impossible.

If I hadn’t stepped out of my own self-imposed echo chamber, I wouldn’t have discovered, let alone considered the idea.

She shoves her fingers in her ears and sings, “La la la la.”

I go through days when I can’t stand politics, and I do whatever I can to avoid it. Other days I eat it up like chocolate during that certain time of the month.

One of my political craving days happened during President Trump’s inauguration. I perused Twitter afterward, and I tweeted this:

Fascinating how people listening to Trump’s speech are having such opposing reactions and all based on political leanings.

As a writer, in order to create believable characters, I have to study human nature. This includes studying myself. Time and again, I discover that in many ways I am not unique. I have the same automatic responses to stimuli – both mental and physical – as everyone else.

Part of our humanity demands acceptance of our peers. We need to be loved and understood. It’s written into our DNA as a matter of survival of our species. Strength in numbers, and all that.

We all learn that discrimination is bad, but that isn’t always true. We discriminate when choosing our friends, and most especially our spouse (or significant other depending upon your chosen verbiage).

Whenever we’re thrust in the middle of a crowd, we will – often subconsciously – look for people similar to ourselves. Why? Because if we surround ourselves with like-minded people, we feel that much more safe, and understood. It’s not necessarily about race or gender, either. In a crowd, I will seek out older people to converse with rather than a group of teenagers, because the chances of me having more in common with the older folks is greater. Plus, those teenagers might look at me a bit askance wondering why an old woman would choose to mingle with them. It’s not because I hate teenagers, but more to avoid any awkwardness on both our part. It’s much easier to be myself around those similar to me, just as it is for a teenager to be more relaxed around people his/her age.

To step out of our comfort zone is never easy. That includes politics.

I find myself spending more time on political sites that agree with my own leanings than those that don’t. I don’t delve into politics much on Facebook, but I do on Twitter. If you look at the people I follow, I share similar political views with about 80% of them. When I see a post (both on Twitter and on Facebook) contrary to my political an/or religious leanings, my eyes unfocus and I scroll past as fast as I can.

We’ve all heard the phrase that the truth is somewhere in the middle of two extremes. By spending all my time on like-minded sites, and with like-minded people, I may be getting a skewed, flat, and biased version of the truth.

To put it more simply let’s say I see a flat square in front of me. If I don’t step out of my self-created cage and see the square from a different point of view, I’ll never discover that it’s really a cube.

I have to remind myself that life is far more interesting in three dimensions, and the whole truth is far more complicated than a flat piece of paper.

Everything we hear is an opinion. Everything we see is perspective, not the truth.

– Marcus Aurelius

The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from the motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.

– Elizabeth Cady Stanton

It’s Personal

The message in church today was about how to keep love in a marriage. The scripture my pastor used was Ephesians 4:28-32:

If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

I focused mostly on verses 29 and 31-32 (in bold), because we need more of that – and not only within the context of marriage.

This also occurred to me during the sermon:

In the realm of politics, we can’t help but take things personal. This is especially true when someone personally attacks the candidate or leader we supported and voted for. We see it as an attack upon ourselves.

This is something we all need to be aware of when we criticize our leaders. Are we criticizing their policies (good), or their dress, looks, heritage, or mannerisms (bad)? I always hated the personal attacks on Obama and his family (some of it downright horrific) even though I disagreed with his policies. It was unproductive, cruel, and never gained a single convert. The same holds true for the nasty rhetoric against Trump and his family.

A friend of mine, Jessica, wrote this on Facebook a few days ago:

I’ve been trying to be better about checking my motives before posting stuff on Facebook. Often I decide my motives are wrong so I don’t post. So, I’m starting to wonder about the purpose of Facebook beyond being able to see pictures of people’s babies. If, after thinking about it some more, cute baby pictures turn out to be Facebook’s only redeeming purpose, I will stay on here because I totally love seeing pictures of people’s babies. People with babies: keep posting pictures of your babies. They are not only adorable, they also remind me how good our God is. And I need to be reminded of that. Especially after scanning past all the political posts.

I, too, need to keep in mind my ultimate and ulterior motives, not only in my Facebook posts, but in my blog. I’ve written plenty that I decided against posting (and others I probably shouldn’t have posted), because they sounded condescending and pretentious. I realized that I wrote them in an attempt to make myself look good, to appear “better than everyone else.”

Ugh. Humility isn’t one of my strengths, and it needs to be. If not for my sake, certainly for those around me.

Also highlighted in today’s sermon: Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. – James 1:19

Unfriend Me If . . .

Every once in a while someone will post, “If you don’t agree with me on this particular subject, unfriend me now.”

Thankfully these posts are rare, but they nevertheless make me sad, especially when that person claims to be a Christian.

I’ve only unfriended one person, and that’s because she changed her profile picture to a particular politician (who shall remain nameless), and 95% of her posts were so politically divisive, I had unfriend her to keep my blood pressure down. This was before I knew about the “unfollow” button. Had I known about the “unfollow,” I would have gone that route instead, and remained her friend. Since then, I’ve only “unfollowed” one person, because it seemed she posted a link to some cat video (for example) every five minutes. Her time-wasting posts so saturated my feed, I spent way more time than I wanted scrolling to find anyone else’s posts.

The only time I will “unfriend” another person is if they physically threaten me or my family. Other than that, opine away.

Now when someone tells me to “unfriend” them due to a difference of opinion, I’ll admit I’m tempted. Especially if I indeed disagree with them. I don’t, though, because I understand where they’re coming from. I don’t think they’re right to do so (more on that in a minute), but I do understand.

Whenever I’m a bit stuck on how I should respond to others, I look to Jesus as my example (I don’t always succeed, but I do try). Many disagreed with him, but he turned away no one. He gave them the riot act for sure, but he never held up his hand and said, “Shut up and go away, because you don’t agree with me.”

I have many of friends with whom I have stark disagreements, whether it’s politics, religion, and a myriad of other topics. Some of them I disagree with from 10% of the time to 90% of the time. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. They enrich my life more than I can ever express. I have even altered my own point of view because of theirs at times. If nothing else, they teach me to keep an open mind.

Knowing other points of view – especially those opposite of mine – is not only useful, but necessary to a writer. How am I to write complex characters with opposing views (both antagonists and protagonists) if I don’t expose myself to them? By keeping monochromatic friends, I will only be able to write monochromatic characters. If I try to write a character so opposite of me without knowing people opposite of me, I decrease my chances of writing a believable character. Part of the reason I don’t attempt to publish a non-fiction book is because I’m not that interesting. Why would I want to constrain myself to write only characters who think and act like me?

We’re all different, and it’s those differences that make life so darned interesting.