HAVE I Arrived?

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Have I Arrived?

It was a valid question. “Do you feel that you have arrived?” It was asked of me the other day by a thoughtful interviewer, Johnny Tan of “From My Mama’s Kitchen” BlogTalk Radio, as we neared the end of the hour we’d spent discussing my new book, my old book, my music, writing process, and the long and winding road of my particular creative journey. He posed the question and my usual quippy self took a pause; I had to really think before I answered.

Had I arrived? It was clear he meant in the context of my career, but given my penchant for deeper analysis, could any answer not take into account the full spectrum of my life? Mine couldn’t. And it made me ponder: what was the status of my ETA?

Here’s the thing: until the day we die, we are all in the process of little arrivals—the fruition of life-plan elements (the job[s], marriage[s], kids, the vacation to Sydney; a house with the nice back yard); the transcension of injuries, obstacles, and barriers thrown in our path; the fulfillment of chapters and milestones; the accomplishment of incremental goals; sometimes just the courage and wherewithal to get to the end of the day! We have plans, thoughts, dreams, even of the smallest kind, that keep us in a state of constant arrival, and that’s good. It means we’re still up, moving, vibrant and engaged, still embracing life and looking ahead to our next steps, wherever they may lead. That keeps the blood pumping, keeps us from the inertia and apathy of life deferred, life over…and that is a very good thing. Since we’re living life, we may as well stay in it.

But beyond philosophizing, heartfelt and authentic though it may be, there remained the intent of Johnny’s question: have I arrived?

That can only be answered in two parts…because my life has always been, for better or worse, divided into two essential and very different entities: my personal life and my creative life. I’m quite certain Johnny was referring to my creative life, so let me focus first through that particular filter:

Lorrie 80sNO. Let’s be blunt. I have not arrived. If I had, more people would be reading this blog, more of my books would be flying off shelves, my Tweets would get LOTS more attention than they do, my pithy offerings would get viraled all over the Internet, there’d be lines at my book store signings, and I would not feel like I’m still auditioning in some areas of my life. So, candidly? ETA undetermined.

I’m getting there, at least I think I’m getting there, but since I’m framing the word to mean “reached my goals, summited the peak, hit the mark, bullseyed the target,” I have definitely not yet accomplished all that. Some of it, certainly. And I remain indefatigable. I still believe I can fly. But for whatever reasons—voracious appetite, unbounded ambition; desire to have impact—my targets, peaks, and goals have always been BIG ones, high ones, the hard ones that don’t make themselves particularly easy, for me or anyone, really, to summit. So I’m still climbing…still on my way. It may be true that there ain’t no mountain high enough, but damn if this one ain’t giving the saw a run for its money!

And, hey, I’ve had some significant “smaller arrivals” worth mentioning: bands that were pure and utter exhilaration; productions that sparked creativity-highs; songs that came together like Muse-magic; records that soundtrack each glorious moment of their creation; books that pulled me in while writing every single chapter. The list goes on. I’ve had, so far, a great, exciting, well-traveled, and brilliantly collaborative creative journey, and I’m not done yet. But I’m also not there yet, to that place where my platform is high enough, my reach far enough, my voice loud enough to touch as many lives, as many ears; create as much change, inspire as much inspiration, and have enough resources to get done what I want to get done before I arrive at the end of my particular journey. I intend to get there. I will holler far and wide when I do. You’ll hear me; I tend to be loud. For now, I’ll keep climbing.

Walking with our pursesBut where I have arrived? At that other side of my life, my personal life. A place that for many years was a struggle for me, both internally and within the realm of relationships: partner, wife, friend, mother, daughter, aunt, cousin, mentor; lady next door. There I have arrived. 

However it happened—and believe me, I am not only grateful to the many mentors involved, but take full responsibility for my part in getting myself to those hard-won benefits—after years of crashing and burning, countless missteps, dubious detours, bad behaviors, selective judgment, pink hair, and some really fucking stupid decisions along the way, I have found peace, and created and surrounded myself with the most spectacular network of people I could possibly have imagined. A beautiful, loving, supportive husband, an absolutely stellar son, a lovely stepdaughter who’s created her own lovely family; ten incredible sibs who are all creative and fierce in their own right; a circle of extended family setting the world on fire in their various ways; so many friends of so many personalities, talents, historical attachments, and unbelievable contributions to my life I couldn’t possible list them all, and a bevy of warm, supportive, talented peers in my artistic circle, far and wide, who make that other side of my life feel connected to this one.

I am lucky. Because there I have arrived.

And since life never ceases to surprise us, never ceases to change—the plans, the players, the ground beneath our feet; the rules of the game—I will take stock of this particular arrival with great awareness, knowing my time in this precious place is finite and worthy of my most attentive appreciation. I will revel in it, enjoy it, nurture it, and keep moving forward to that other “arrival” up ahead where my Muse beckons, knowing that really, in the ways most important to me, I’m already there.

Top photograph by James Johnson Photography; second by Tina Romanus; third by Jennie Willens.

LDW w glasses_rTo leave a comment, click the “dialogue bubble” to the right of the title, or the comment box below individual article pages.

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The New Novel Is Here! HYSTERICAL LOVE Hits The Book Shelves

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HL on the rocks

Like a gestating, beloved baby, Hysterical Love has been nurtured, polished, fed well, spit-shined, and lovingly led to glorious life in the last many months, coming to full creative fruition, and finally, right on time, stepping onto the stage:

HYSTERICAL LOVE now available for purchase!  

For those who’ve asked, it is, in some ways, a bookend to my debut novel, After The Sucker Punch. Though very different stories told from very different points of view, both books involve adult children reading the written words of a father and being propelled onto a journey of a personal and/or transformative nature as a result. In the case of Hysterical Love, the story is told from the first-person perspective of Dan McDowell, a man knee-deep in a burgeoning existential crises:

Dan McDowell, a thirty-three-year-old portrait photographer happily set to marry his beloved Jane, is stunned when a slip of the tongue about an “ex-girlfriend overlap” of years earlier throws their pending marriage into doubt and him onto the street. Or at least into the second bedroom of their next-door neighbor, Bob, where Dan is sure it won’t be long. It’s long.

His sister, Lucy, further confuses matters with her “soul mate theory” and its suggestion that Jane might not be his… soul mate, that is. But the tipping point comes when his father is struck ill, sparking a chain of events in which Dan discovers a story written by this man he doesn’t readily understand, but who, it seems, has long harbored an unrequited love from decades earlier.

Incapable of fixing his own romantic dilemma, Dan becomes fixated on finding this woman of his father’s dreams and sets off for Oakland, California, on a mission fraught with detours and semi-hilarious peril. Along the way he meets the beautiful Fiona, herbalist and flower child, who assists in his quest while quietly and erotically shaking up his world. When, against all odds, he finds the elusive woman from the past, the ultimate discovery of how she truly fit into his father’s life leaves him staggered, as does the reality of what’s been stirred up with Fiona. But it’s when he returns home to yet another set of unexpected truths that he’s shaken to the core, ultimately forced to face who he is and just whom he might be able to love.

Hysterical Love infuses a deft mix of humor and drama into a whip-smart narrative told from the point of view of its male protagonist, exploring themes of family, commitment, balancing creativity, facing adulthood, and digging deep to understand the beating heart of true love.

I realize these are wild times in the book industry, traditional, independent and everything in between. Hundreds of thousands of titles are published each year and it’s a challenge for readers to know what to buy, what books will engage them, and which authors they want to explore and follow. As a reader myself, I know it’s hard to ferret through the tsunami of supply to find the work that resonates with you. Given that, I hope you will take a look at this new book of mine. I guarantee you will find something within it to engage you, make you laugh, pique a thought or two, and, hey, there’s much mention of ice cream and pie… that can only be good! :) 

Pick up a copy…and ENJOY! I’ll be most appreciative, I promise.    

Hysterical Love on Amazon
Hysterical Love on Smashwords

Photograph of Hysterical Love by Julie Schoerke @ JKSCommunications.

LDW w glasses_rTo leave a comment, click the “dialogue bubble” to the right of the title or access the comment box on individual articles.

Follow LDW via links at sidebar or visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.comFind her books at Amazon and Smashwords, and be sure to stay current with her adventures in publishing at AfterTheSuckerPunch.com. Don’t forget to FOLLOW THE BLOG (box above/left)!

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The Weight of Words and What I’m Doing With Mine

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I can’t write anymore.

Actually, that’s not true. I write constantly. I just finished my second novel and spent enough hours a day, over enough months, to get it done in about a third of the time I’d have expected… or it took to write my last novel. Of course, my left eye exploded in the process, making me look like a pugilist in service to my Muse, but dammit, I met the publicist’s deadline, I love what I’ve wrangled into being, and we all know burst blood vessels look way worse than they feel.

What I can’t seem to write? Articles. Opinion pieces. Analyses of the world around us.

Which is odd. Because I used to. I used to put out two to four articles a day during my Addicting Info “all politics/crime/current events all the time” phase. Now the last piece I wrote at Huff Post has been up for over two months (although it is a very cool piece about Lisa Schultz of The Peace Project!) and even here I barely manage more than one or two posts a month (if I’m lucky!).

What gives?

Clearly some of this has to do with getting the aforementioned novel to its deadline. But, to be completely honest, that wasn’t it. The real reason: I lost my jones. And I had an epiphany.

I used to be compelled to write articles. Things would happen in the world, in my life, and I had to say something for my own sanity; I had to organize my swirling thoughts on the topic to help me frame it, make it make more sense to me, then try to make it make more sense to readers. It was a form of therapy. I also felt like I was providing a service, “giving voice,” as one reader said, to things others felt and believed but couldn’t put into words. I felt like a thought crusader, noble, in a way.

Then it changed. I started feeling less like a thought crusader and more like part of the screaming mob at the gladiator pit. A fist-pumping, blood-lusting, click-baiting mouthpiece for the worst of the world. Not pretty. And I never looked good in togas.

pitchforksThe process of throwing in on stories already being written about, talked about, screamed about by millions of voices—social media users, pundits, talk show hosts, cable news anchors, commenters, your next door neighbor, newspaper writers, web journalists, bloggers, that guy on the corner, and everyone in your Facebook circle—simply lost its glow. Our 2.0 world of “all media of all kinds at all times” has, yes, democratized commentary and opinion writing across the board—meaning anyone anywhere has access and a platform to share their own…and pretty much everyone does. Which has led to a media crush of biblical proportion. It’s also led to redundancy and oversaturation, misinformation and ugliness, and loads of ALL CAPS and exclamation points (!!!!!), often drowning out, or at least neutralizing, the best of opinion and commentary from our most seasoned, experienced writers.

And I admire the best of those writers, figuring Nicholas Kristof, Michael Tomasky, Frank Bruni, and others doing the job with aplomb have got it covered. I’m not needed. There’s too much noise anyway.

Maybe it’s because I’m one of eleven children, but I learned early on that jumping up and down, screaming and waving your hands to be heard over the din is not necessarily effective or particularly useful. When things get too cacophonous and out of control, it’s sometimes better to go off to your own stillness to sort out how best to get a point across or affect change where you believe change is needed. That’s where I am… in my stillness. It’s quiet in here, there are no screaming commenters, and it’s amazing how much more insight and direction one finds with the news off.

Certainly I’m flattered that readers have commented that “we miss your voice,” or have written asking when/if I might write about Ferguson, grand juries, racial politics, NYC cops, Charlie Hedbo, Nigeria, Keystone, Mitt Romney, even Bill Cosby. But this is where the second part comes in. My epiphany.

Beyond losing my jones, beyond figuring there were enough voices already covering the news, I simply stopped wanting to focus my readers’ attention on the darkest corners of our world, whether events, people, or bad behavior. Instead, I wanted to focus their attention in another direction. Towards positive thought and action. Which is not easy. Not as interesting. Not as buzzworthy. Not as virally. But still, epiphanies are rare and not to be ignored.

See, about eighteen months ago I realized I needed to reassess my life, my priorities, the ways in which I framed my world. I went off by myself for six weeks and spent a great deal of time exploring, researching, reading, meditating; did a workshop, learned about forgiveness, talked to wise people and insightful guides, and one of them asked me, out of the blue, without even knowing I was a writer: “What are you going to write about? What do you want to write about? Ponder that. See it as change.” And that struck me.

I had already decided to pull out of the click-bait world of sensationalized political reporting, but this seemed to push me even further. I began exploring the subject of how what we think and verbalize tangibly impacts our lives, and that brought me to something I already knew but had forgotten in more recent years:

The World We See

Thoughts matter. Particularly persistent thoughts. Words matter. The words we think, the words we say, the words we read and share publicly, both verbally and in writing. We create the world (certainly our own world) by how and where we focus our attention, by what we consistently think about and talk about; by what we believe, hold on to, and put forth about ourselves, our lives, and the world in which we live. And I realized that by spending so much of my time on the negative—skewering, critiquing, exposing, and analyzing the very worst of the world, the very least admirable people, the most egregious crimes and misdemeanors—I was adding energy to a great many things, events, and people I did not want to add energy to. And I was putting my readers’ attention on those very same things.

I didn’t want to do that anymore. So I stopped.

You can say that’s all a bunch of new-agey hooey; you can accuse me of going soft, of abdicating responsibility to illuminate the dark corners of humanity; you can even dismiss me as an “old woman who just doesn’t want to deal with conflict,” as one pissant writer I used to edit said to me. You can say whatever you want about me and my perspective, that’s okay. You’re free to think, do, have your own experiences, even about me. But my life—particularly in the last eighteen months—has unequivocally demonstrated to me that I’m on to something.

When I see people with their cable news on all day, see them spending hours in scream fests on Facebook, immersed in the recyling click-bait of the moment, it’s clear to me that modern society has been fed a bill of goods about the value of “staying informed.” It’s been misled by the way media “illuminates the dark corners of humanity.” Media is doing that, certainly, but why do we think we need that? Why have we been led to believe that being a responsible, caring, proactive citizen requires this immersion? Especially when news all too often skews reality rather than just reports it. When it misinforms, distorts, propagandizes, repeats to the point of indoctrination, and regularly spins life in its most despairing of hues. We can barely breath for the day-to-day onslaught of horrific events, fear and anxiety are mongered in epidemic doses, and the primitive, teeth-gnashing battlegrounds of those who take to the threads to “debate” have become positively neanderthal. Yet, what most us don’t realize (or believe) is that by putting our attention, our thoughts, our words, so firmly on the very things we don’t want in our lives, in our world, we are participating in keeping them energized into being.

Hope Never DiesI can feel some rolling their eyes. I can hear others hollering that “activism is sparked by rage!!” (someone’s justification to me for, both, the Ferguson riots and the tendency of people to scream at each other on social media). I can imagine some claiming righteous indignation at the notion that righteous indignation may not, actually, be all that effective… or righteous. I’ve lost “friends” and readers because I’ve chosen to climb out of the mosh pit and put my attention elsewhere. All of which is fine. We each gotta do what we gotta do. But if I’m going to spend the precious time of my life doing something, it better be of true value, of considerable use, and I’ve come to believe that consistently focusing on, verbalizing about, and angsting over the worst of life is counterproductive. At least for me. And likely for you, too. Noise is not always power. Sometimes, as Francis Bacon said, “Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.”

So what do we do instead, those of us who care about what’s happening, who want to see the world and the people in it become better, more evolved, less hateful? It’s a fair question. Because the ubiquity and ease with which we receive horrifying news has created a painful conundrum for compassionate people. It’s caused us to hear and know about some of the most egregious acts humans can commit upon one another, while having very little real, true power to do much about it. Once we’ve signed our petitions, written the letters we might, marched when and where we can, joined whatever groups make sense, or decided where we’ll put our charitable giving, there is a limit to our power to intervene in matters beyond our control. So what do we do?

We embody and exemplify what we want the world to be. We become the best versions of ourselves. We make every single thing we do, think, intend, create, touch, say in this world a moment, a creation, of grace and enlightenment. As parents, we do our best to exude love and exemplify honor, raising smart, loving, compassionate, tolerant children. As artists, we seek to inspire, reflect, provoke thought, and share meaning, passion and joy. As family members and friends, we allow others to have their own experiences without judgment and interference, being there and getting involved as invited, as is compassionate, and when we can. As members of our communities, our towns, our countries, our human race, we embody ethics and ideals that hold to the highest standards of human behavior, and we apply that ancient—yet completely perfect—Golden Rule: do unto others as we’d have them do unto us. We live good lives, think good thoughts, intend good things and, even while making note of the many tragedies around us, keep our attention focused on positive forward motion in the lives we each are living.

As for me, when I pondered what I wanted to write about, as I was asked to do, I made the decision to write about what inspires and interests me, click-bait be damned. I consider it part of my job to stay optimistic and uplifted, even in the midst of madness, because I can. Because I’ve discovered life gets better when I do that. And my energy, my thoughts, and my creativity, are best used toward that goal: making life better. Activism comes in a great many varieties… that’s one of mine. I hope you’ll turn off the news and find your own.

Feel free to let me know in the comments your own thoughts on these matters.

Photos by Lorraine Devon Wilke

LDW w glasses_rTo leave a comment, click the “dialogue bubble” to the right of the title, or the comment box below individual article pages.

Follow LDW via links at sidebar or visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.comFind her books at Amazon and Smashwords, and be sure to stay current with her adventures in publishing at AfterTheSuckerPunch.com. Don’t forget to FOLLOW THE BLOG (box above/left)!

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Are YOU a Propagandist?

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Those old enough to have ever watched a World War II movie are likely to remember the infamous Tokyo Rose, the name given to any number of Japanese women (though largely ascribed to Japanese American Iva Toguri D’Aquino) whose role was to get on the radio to croon Japanese propaganda to the American military, offered with the intent of crushing morale. Given the outcome of that war, it’s safe to say the endgame didn’t quite meet the mission, but propaganda has long been a useful tool in pushing agendas and designing how the world and culture-at-large receives and perceives information.

Certainly it played a major role in the Cold War (how many kids were uniformly terrified of Russian spies or nuclear bombs hitting their grade schools?); it’s been an essential tool in how religion mesmerizes its masses, and, without a doubt, it is the machinery that foments discord between partisan politicians and their opponents. Yet even as heinous and manipulative as it is, propaganda has become so insinuated into the fibers of day-to-day American discourse that we barely notice it anymore; certainly we don’t seem to realize how affected we are by it or how we tend to use it ourselves to promote our own agendas and beliefs. In fact, we’ll raise a fist in objection to propaganda on one side of the divide while actively bandying our own version of the same. Social media has, in many ways, become a breeding ground for propaganda and I wonder if culture wouldn’t be better served if we rethought how we use it.

Constitutional scholar, Jonathan Turley, argues that the word itself, propaganda, translates literally to mean “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.” Helping or injuring. Yet we seldom think of propaganda in the “helping” column, it’s so often used to divide more than bring together.  Even Turley acknowledges that the almost totally negative connotation of the word has sprung from its cultural use as a “value loaded” activity, one that uses selective language and cherry-picked ideas to manipulate people toward one thought or another.

Manipulation is hardly viewed as a positive force, and that is, in fact, how most people view propaganda: as manipulation. The taking of facts and using them selectively, disproportionately, even untruthfully, and often at the expense and exclusion of balancing information as counterpoint. We see that every day on Fox News, on partisan talk radio, cable news and websites on both sides of the political divide. We see it on social media, translated through what photographs, articles, and memes are posted and shared, what words are used to introduce those images; how headlines are focused and spun. Propaganda is everywhere and, to some extent, if you partake in sharing its messages, you’re a party to it.

Don’t think so?

Well, here’s a thought: propaganda is an equation that works with the energy of thought. The more you think something, the more you say something, the more you breathe life into that idea by your thoughts, words and actions, the more a thing IS. It’s just a matter of physics. Propaganda uses that equation for its own purposes: Think it + Focus on it + Say it + Talk about it + Share supporting information + Discard countering information + Argue it + Denigrate disagreement + Be relentless in promoting it = More of IT in the world.

Racism? That’s a big topic these days, one in which propaganda is being flung around every which way, and while it authentically remains a substantial and important issue in our society, the way we discuss it, frame it, and propagandize about it is exactly how it will remain manifested in our world. Scream and yell every generality, every inflamed accusation; attack on both sides with hyperbole and viciousness, and that’s what we’ll keep manifesting.That’s just the way it works. We can’t inspire change when we’re too focused on kicking the crap out of each other.

Don’t get me wrong; shining light where it is needed is a good thing. Pulling racists and racism out from the closet or from under the rug, the basement, or from behind a robe or computer screen is necessary. Honestly confronting the issues we cringe from is essential to productive conversation and practical progress. And certainly many of these steps occur in explosive ways after events like the Rodney King beating, Trayvon Martin’s death, or the more recent Ferguson case. But wise people understand that rage and demands for justice have to be channeled judiciously and with utter candor and openness, clear that each of these cases (and others) is individual, not necessarily comparable, with specific and differentiated facts and meanings. And despite the incendiary nature of all these events, none of them mean ALL of America is broken, or race relations have all gone to hell, or civil rights have no meaning in this country. None of these are true. Elements of each are true in specific cases, but the sweeping generalities being spewed like so many litanies are not only not true, they’re propaganda, and they’re demoralizing and damaging to productive forward motion.

Remember that equation? Now, think about what your goal is as a person communicating in the world, a person sharing information and engaging in conversation. If your goal is to promote peace and bring honest, tangible change to the world; to educate, uplift, inspire, challenge, reach out, and bridge divides, you’ll communicate with equanimity, fairness, specificity, intelligence, truth, compassion, and a willingness to listen and hear new information.

If, on the other hand, your goal is to relentlessly vent and call it activism; attack and insult and call it “debate”; promote greater divides between the races, or to push the meme that racism is utterly hopeless and unstoppable, do this instead:

• Keep talking about how all whites/all blacks are all fill in the blank.
• Create and promote as many false equivalencies as possible.
• Spin the news so that only the part that supports racism is featured.
• Post as many stories as you can find about bad cops and prosecutors.
• Generalize heavily and focus on the very worst of humanity.
• Comment and promote the idea that all whites “don’t value black lives.”
• Generalize widely that all black men are criminals/victims/innocent/guilty
• Ferret out and share stories that support that all cops are vicious.
• Keep pounding the drum that ALL of America is broken/unfair/insensitive/racist.
• Look for and share media that promotes that all politicians hate people of color.
• Support the notion that all who disagree with Obama are racists.
• Make it clear by what you say and post that in all tangles between cops and people of color, the cops are always wrong;
• And be sure to only post stories that promote all of the above.

If you do all that – as many, many people are doing online these days – you are being a propagandist. And you are not helping to educate, heal, or raise the consciousness of this country. You are, instead, publicly promoting your own anger and outrage, potentially at the expense of positive change. You are promoting thoughts and ideas that focus energy and agreement on the very worst of society. And the more the very worst is agreed upon, the more it is accepted, the more it is envisioned, the more it is tweeted, posted, shared, argued about, etc., the more it will continue to become, to grow and metastasize.

That’s just the way it works. And we don’t want that.

Without propaganda, without all this fire-stoking, people would be left to their own devices to analyze, adjudicate, and form their own opinions of current (even past) events. We’d be obligated to get beyond the caterwauling of others to smartly weight pros and cons, do our own research to ascertain what’s true and what’s hyperbole. We’d not accept sensationalism on face value, but would be open to ideas that might fly in the face of what we’d held as fact. We might even have the magnanimity to change a viewpoint or embrace an ideal that had previously eluded us. We’d talk openly and civilly share our, perhaps, contrary opinions without fear of attack or ridicule. We’d boldly allow for the option to not agree with propaganda, but instead promote notions of equilibrium, personal responsibility, and each and everyone’s obligation to take control of their own actions. From there we would likely have a better chance at bringing real change to the problems that harm us as a culture.

I’m all for that. By the way, he was too.

MLK_love not hate

Media Propaganda poster by Trosious @ Deviant Art
MLK poster from OurTimeOrg

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Follow LDW via links at sidebar or visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.comFind her books at Amazon and Smashwords, and be sure to stay current with her adventures in publishing at AfterTheSuckerPunch.com. Don’t forget to FOLLOW THE BLOG (box above/left)!

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There Is Noise, Then There Is Your Voice: VOTE

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Nothing’s perfect. Nothing meets every expectation or fulfills every wish or desire. We engage in jobs, marriages, college careers, sporting competitions, cultural challenges, parenting, etc., with a presumption of one set of results and often, very often, a different set emerges. It’s part of life; we’re taught to adjust and we do. But does that mean we don’t, then, engage in those activities once they’ve failed to meet our expectations? We eschew marriage because too many end in divorce? We don’t go to college because too many expensive educations don’t result in high paying jobs? We don’t bother with jobs at all because too many disappoint with sustainability or advancement issues? We give up on sports because our team lost or a coach failed to pull out the season? We don’t engage in activities, causes, creative endeavors, and the like because we experienced disappointments, failed candidacies, unmet financial goals, poor ticket sales? We don’t have children because… well, children…. God knows what they’ll do?!

Fact is, most of don’t give up on all those many elements of human life just because they disappointed us. We may rage, write blogs, post comments or sign petitions, but once we shake off whatever frustrations, heartaches, disappointments, and tragedies life has to offer, we climb up from the depths and jump back in. We reinvent. We try again. We give it another shot.

So why do we stop voting because we’re disappointed in politics and politicians?

Muslim women voting

All week I’ve been reading articles about voter apathy, weak turnout, low approval ratings, election shenanigans (that again!), and so on. I’ve seen posts on Facebook bemoaning the futility of voting, cries of “what’s the point?”; lots of wordy treatises (some by celebrities) on the pointlessness of choosing “one devil over the other,” and the cynicism and negativity is just breathtaking. Honestly, I want to shout “FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS, PEOPLE!” as loudly as I can and, in fact, it really is only in the First World that we so take for granted our right to vote and the ease with which we can do it. When you see lines of Muslim women in India eager to make their voices known, Iraqi voters with purple fingers, Sudanese in line for hours, and others in beleaguered countries actually putting themselves at risk to get to the ballot box, the bizarrely enervated, whiney responses of far too many American voters is gut punching.



Seriously… vote. Spend today and tomorrow boning up on the many propositions, compare who’s for and against, get an idea of what they’re about; look at endorsements, see if they align with your thinking, then CHOOSE. DECIDE. VOTE.

Don’t know who all those judges are? Who does? Again, check endorsements, do a little research. Some big newspapers made it easy and have done the research for you; all you have to do is decide, again, if that newspaper is generally aligned with your political sway, read a few biographies and voting records, then DECIDE.

Might you get it wrong if you make a choice and later discover the proposition was weak because it wasn’t written well or it didn’t pan out as expected by its authors? Yes. You might. So what? Right now, in this election, take the time to make the best possible choice you can based on your research and your gut… just DECIDE. If it turns out to be a failure, so what? You tried. They tried. We’ll all try again.

There’s lots to say (and, oh, so many people saying it!) about Republicans and Democrats and this guy and that gal and all the usual partisan politics about who cares about women and minorities, who doesn’t, who might win the Senate, who might not, and that’s a BIG conversation filled with lots of noise and a modicum of sense… mostly not. I don’t need to add to it. My party affiliation is clear to me, I know who I believe is more concerned about my rights as a woman, a parent, an American, and a member of this human race. I will vote accordingly. But I’m not here right now to try to sway anyone to one side or the other, browbeat any particular candidate or applaud another. That’s all being done by countless others and the noise is deafening.

All I’m here to say is: VOTE. Period.

Voting in Sudan

It may be a cliche, but if you don’t vote you have no voice in the government of the country in which you live. You have no position from which to complain, to argue, to raise a ruckus. You’ve offered no energy toward being part of and, hopefully, improving a — yes — corrupt, flawed, manipulated, and seriously pot-holed system. But it’s our current system and we ARE the government. It often doesn’t feel that way for a whole host of valid reasons, but it is our vote, each and every vote, each and every election, that shifts and changes — albeit ever so slowly — the government, the laws, the leaders, the country. Don’t abdicate the power you have to protest the power you don’t have.


College kids voting for the first time
Ben Sargent Voting Cartoon: Reboot Illinois
Muslim women voting: Jezebel
Iraqi voters with their purple fingers: Wikipedia
Voting in Sudan: Wikimedia Commons; Jenn Warren, USAID Africa Bureau 
College kids voting for the first time: College of New Rochelle

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