Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Compressed Tragedies: Thoughts on 9/11

Yesterday was a tragic anniversary. Fifteen years ago, three hijacked planes crashed into American buildings. Thousands died in New York, and the last rescue dog from 9/11 passed away recently. Airplane regulations changed, so that you could no longer walk a loved one into the airpor tot say goodbye. People are now judged by their names, if they wore headscarves, and they have new labels: "terrorist," "fundamentalist".

I remember the classroom; it was a trailer with a portable classroom inside, with chalkboards (which I adored seeing) and a small television for morning announcements. In the middle of class someone, probably the teacher, turned the television on to show the planes. I didn't understand what was going on, why we were seeing the same footage. To a kid whose father had just died that summer, death on television seemed very far away.

Image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/84/September_11th_Tribute_in_Light_from_Bayonne,_New_Jersey.jpg

Fifteen years later, I wonder if we have become kinder. This past June a man with a history of domestic abuse and anger shot up an Orlando nightclub for LGBTQ residents, desecrating a safe space on the day that Broadway would host its Tony Awards. In the United States one school shooting happens a week, with one happening last week at the start of the school year. Refugees flee from Syria in the face of war and drought, to face prejudice in Europe, while during our election cycle there are people that enact violence to protestors and suffer no repercussions. An oil company set attack dogs on peaceful protestors in North Dakota and have issued an arrest warrant.

 Even though I know that people are cruel, and that haters will hate, it still boggles me that people will act on the hate, believing that it's right to kill on either side. A minority with power doesn't comprehend that the terrorists that hijacked those planes are very different from the everyday Muslims that want to be left alone, just as they didn't comprehend that the Japanese Americans living peacefully on American soil did not stand with the Pearl Harbor attackers. School board members insist on printing textbooks that leave out unpleasant facts and reinforce racism. We have had many moments of kindness and small victories this year, but the hatred feels cyclical and weighing.

Image source: https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3700/13212853555_73526723f2_b.jpg

We remember 9/11 because it defined my generation, and the generation that came after it. People poke fun at the 1990s because it had interesting hair choices like mullets, funky pop music, and advertising that tried to be "hip". In the 1990s, however, when I went to school I had the reassurance that things would work out as an adult, that all the hate was in the past and in our history books. I also had the reassurance that if I went to the airport I would only have to worry about saying goodbye to family and arriving on time. After 9/11, that sense of security departed. We could no longer pack shampoos or soaps onto planes unless they were a certain size, and if our names didn't pass scrutiny we could no longer fly. In the meantime the tragedies keep increasing, and we have more pain to remember.

We can't control all the problems of the world, and we as individuals need to figure out which ones we want to tackle. We need to figure out how to remain kind, and how to stay hopeful. Some of us are fighting the bigger problems, one by one, and some are handling the smaller ones. I've recently seen hatred on a smaller scale, that has angered me in turn because of the victims. It's been an effort to restrain my anger to the private sphere, and to try and turn all the negative feelings into good art, and into good lessons. The best good I can do is to tell other people what happened, to comfort those that the harassment hurt, and to restrain the urge to hope that this particular person is exposed and forever branded as a liar.

 Image source: https://lh5.ggpht.com/74nHQ9PMvvu49xfCNf3AXoShjvDwsHd3bd34N-GK7aooWtCgSXFT8Nu4dpmswb-Pu9XiC7AKGZEv8cvjg-YhvMIdx2o=s0

Next year, I hope that we don't have to keep remembering the tragedies, and that we can outnumber them with enough large acts of kindness. The hurt weighs too heavily on my mind, and on our collective minds. Maybe on September 11th in 2017 we will remember the good that has happened and how far we have come.

We have a lot of work to do in the next 365 days to make that possible. I believe it is possible, however. What kindness can take the weight off a great tragedy, and many tragedies? What will you do to combat the overwhelming hate?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Two Months In Two Hundred Words or Less, and My Inner Editor

Hi everyone, happy Labor Day weekend. It's been too long, and there are so many things to blog about, like the Hugo Awards and my most recent short story publications ("The Farthest Nebula" in Mantid Magazine, "The Gnome in the Rosebush" in 9Tales from Elsewhere) and upcoming ones.

The main reason is that I've been job hunting while writing short fiction, and my mother broke her arm. In the middle of August she slipped in our front yard and landed on her right arm hard. She was unable to bend it, and  When it wasn't feeling better the next day I drove her to the ER after dinner, and the doctors wrapped it up in a cast. We didn't get out of the hospital until 4 AM, and I got up around seven AM to go to Toastmasters.

Image source:https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d1/Spain_traffic_signal_s23.svg/2000px-Spain_traffic_signal_s23.svg.png

My mom's arm will be okay; the cast comes off in a few weeks. My older brother and I have taken over the cooking, and learning all my mom's recipes. I've learned how to make rice and lentils in a pressure cooker, fry chicken with olive oil, turmeric powder and garlic bits, and curry various vegetables. My respect for my mother has grown knowing she makes a three-course dinner every night.

With that, my goal is to resume the attempts at blogging once to twice a month while job hunting and writing. I'm this year's Treasurer at my Toastmasters club, so I need to update some balance sheets and pay dues soon. In addition, I had started a job as a columnist at Panels online; Panels has become a part of Book Riot, the online website, and so I'll be writing two articles a month related to literature and comics.

So with that, I want to turn to a more writer-like topic. I was reading a Positive Writer post about a writer's Inner Editor. The Inner Editor, or the Internal Critic, is the voice in your head that discourages you from writing, judges the quality of the work you produce and the amount, and compares you to other authors. The Positive Writer post suggests to visualize your inner critic, since having a concrete image can help one talk down that critical voice so that you can do your job and write.

Image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f1/Kitten_and_partial_reflection_in_mirror.jpg

My inner editor looks like my mirror image. She has curly black hair, square glasses, brown skin, and light brown eyes. She means well, and has been meaning well, but she's noted how often I forget to write things down, how I don't organize my plots or develop my characters. When she talks, it's like hearing a snippier version of myself. She asks why I don't write more, why I'm not submitting to more magazines, why I let myself get down and disappointed by real life so easily. Inner Editor makes me go to Sweater Town, to quote from Gravity Falls

I'd probably sit down and talk to Inner Editor over coffee. Sometimes she makes good points, like about submitting for anthologies well within deadline briefs and limits. I'd like her to help me adapt her criticism, and others' constructive words, into building better routines. I'd like to turn her doubts into reassurance. We can work together, and she wants to help.

If Inner Editor won't listen, I'd like a strategy for her belligerence as well. I'd like to leave her presence, and stay with my thoughts for the day. Meditation can help with that, and refocusing on my goals for today. Maybe she'll listen after a day of not seeing me. Or maybe she'll try to barge in and make her opinion known. Either way, I'll ignore her.

Here is to a new month, a new perspective, and some new writings. Have a fun Labor Day!