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There seems to be overwhelming outrage around the internet concerning President Obama’s decision to ask Congressional approval for attacks on Syria. Whatever is going on here, there’s one thing we know for sure; there are politics involved. Our government has long since lost its ability to do what’s right. If Obama truly thought this was the righteous course of action, why make a big show of asking Congressional approval? Many presidents have used their status as Commander in Chief to order military action without asking anyone permission. In fact, since absolutely nothing the President runs through Congress ever comes out the other side as legislation, he probably knows full well these strikes will not happen. So why make the show of “military strength”? Is this a chance to prove he’s not as weak as some think he is, while passing the buck on to Congress? If that’s not weak, it’s definitely not strong.

I’m not even going to pretend to fully know and understand the politics here, but I will tell you that innocent human lives are not meant to be political pawns.

Moreover, depending on which articles (or for most of America–memes) you read, there is still some dispute over what really happened in Syria. Was this an accident? Was it really an attack by a leader on his own people? Did another group perpetrate the action? I don’t know what’s real here. I do know, though, that something smells funny–and not just poison gas. Isn’t this the argument we’ve heard just about every time we want to justify military action against a leader of some nation most of us couldn’t find on a map?

“The monster turned poison gas on his own people! Children have been killed by this beast!”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

I’m guessing that the actual reason the Obama Administration wants to attack Syria is only known by a select few. It may, in fact, be for the public good. It may, in fact, be to fight a moral battle against a dangerous leader. It may, in fact, be a national security maneuver in the best interest of the United States. But any of us without Top Secret security clearance can’t pretend to know the true motives here–whether moral or political.

That having been said, I find it interesting to consider what the public reaction would be if this were to happen inside our own borders. What if it happened in France or England? What if it happened in, say, Germany? There are tragedies and injustices going on all around the globe, but we often don’t intercede. We leave the violence in Columbia alone, violence that has been raging for over 100 years. What about Mexico? The American people tell these countries, and countries like Syria, to deal with their own issues. That we shouldn’t get involved.

But what if they were countries with people that looked “more like us”? What if they were countries that were “whiter” or “less Muslim.” Make a joke about any race in a public place, and you will draw the ire of almost everyone in the room. Make a Muslim joke, even in a room with a few Muslims, and nobody bats on eyelash. Are more of the people of Syria going to die needlessly because Americans are still blaming an entire region of the world for September 11, 2001?

There are convincing arguments on all sides, but I’m not convinced any of them are the right argument. Is making sure a man who did something awful pays for what he did enough to blow up buildings in a country that may be housing completely innocent people? That is what typically happens in these “strategic military strikes.” Are the “collateral damage” of American missiles any less terrible than Syria’s “innocent victims”? And in the end, how many leaders have we bombed just to see them fall out of the news while continuing to do the same horrific things that got them into the news?

For me, I’m not concerned with geopolitical machinations. I don’t care if it’s in our best interest or not or any of America’s business. Life is precious and to be valued no matter whose borders that life is born within. Life is precious and to be valued no matter what color its skin is. Life is precious and to be valued no matter what religion it practices. So, yes, we should do something about Syria, Mr. Obama. However, is killing more Syrians going to bring back dead Syrians? Of course not. Is killing more innocent Syrians going to right the wrong of poisoning innocent Syrians? Not a chance. So then what should we do?

I don’t know.

I kind of like the ‘ole “what-would-Jesus-do” answer here. So what would He do? I don’t pretend to know that either. But I can with 100% accuracy tell you that it wouldn’t be a tomahawk missile attack. But it wouldn’t be nothing either.

The rest I’ll leave up to you.

 

Just this afternoon, while taking my regular stroll down to Niantic Bay, half to prevent heart disease and diabetes, half to take in the sites of my beautiful seaside town, I ran into a protester set up near the corner of Hope Street and Pennsylvania Ave–poetic. She had a table and several large signs instructing us to “impeach Obama.” Some of the pictures depicted Obama with Adolf Hitler’s mustache. I paid no mind and strolled on, my cause much more impressive than hers.

I’m glad I saw her, though, because the second I walked by that table and saw those signs, I knew I was going to blog about them. I just didn’t know why. This gave me something to ponder while I walked and listened to The Offspring on Pandora. And this is what I came up with.

There’s one thing that we all have in common that transcends all the other commonalities and differences. I could wax poetic about us all sharing the environment, all needing love, all having insecurities, or I could talk about the violent split in our society between various political and religious beliefs. But those similarities and differences aren’t nearly as important as the one thing that has always been, and always will be, the great equalizer.

We are all going to die.

When I see those guys you all label as crazy standing in the middle of the sidewalk in New York City with signs proclaiming “The End is Near,” I can’t help but see the truth to that. Near is a relative term. Each of us are pretty close to our end the moment we’re born. Add to that the chance of instantaneous death and dismemberment from countless different diseases, accidents, and tragedies that can take a life at the drop of a hat, and it might be nearer than you think.

The point?

Set aside religious ideals on this one, and just humor me with a philosophical exercise here. Let’s pretend that right at the moment of death, you literally do have your life flash in front of your eyes. Only imagine your life flashed before you on a spreadsheet broken down into categories, each minute accounted for. Think about that. What would that spreadsheet show? It doesn’t really happen like this, but it doesn’t mean your life cannot be measured in just this way.

How many minutes did you spend worrying about what someone else thought? How many minutes did you spend causing others to hurt? How many minutes did you spend bringing more hate into the world? How many minutes did you spend making others feel inferior just so you could put a bandage over the wounds of inferiority others had inflicted upon you?

I know I for one am not comfortable with my estimates.

Now how many minutes did you spend making others feel better about themselves? Feeling good about yourself? Enjoying the little things in life? Guiding a misguided youth? Showing others how to love so they can spread it like a happy disease? How many minutes did you actually do something worth while? Read a book? Write one? Smile at a stranger? Breathe fresh air? Appreciate the beauty of nature? Think thoughts nobody else has thought before? Think thoughts others have thought but in your own way? Wondered why? Did just what you wanted no matter what society thought?

It seems with such a short amount of time on Earth, we should be ashamed of how much time we waste on things that don’t matter. I know I am. And just imagine when you look at a world that you can barely stand because of all the hatred, division, and greed festering in it, that some of your precious minutes have actually been spent adding little droplets of hatred, division, and greed to the ocean we are now drowning in. You helped make this. I helped make this. With so little time, we chose to spend some of our minutes creating what we’re hating.

I’m glad I walked by that table without confronting or questioning her. I’m glad I continued on enjoying the scenery, thinking deep thoughts, listening to good music, and getting exercise to help increase my minutes on Earth. Why add to the hatred? Why add to the division? Why waste my time?

I’m sure there was something much more important she could have been doing with hers.

I’m a spaz.

I’m a wacko. I’m a dork. I’m a loser.

I have serious issues. I know this. Not ashamed. Even though I’ve only just sent out a couple queries yesterday and the day before, every time I look at my email inbox I’m like a contestant on Deal or No Deal waiting for the next case to be opened. It doesn’t help that I look at my email inbox ALL THE TIME. Those who know me know that the second I receive an email, they pretty much receive an answer. I just love connecting with people. I take it personally and begin to doubt myself and my relationships when people don’t get back to me on Facebook, email, and texts as quick as I get back to them.

“The t-shirt vendor hasn’t gotten back to me about our designs in more than seventy two hours! I wonder if they hate me for choosing that hard-to-find color!”

Sad, I know. So when I send out any email, including queries, my mind still hasn’t come to grips with the fact that the rest of the world isn’t filled with spaz-wacko-dork-losers like me.

And then I got a smart phone…

Why am I confessing this? Why am I telling the world how pathetic I am? Well, like I said, I’ve just started spinning the big wheel that is agent querying. After two straight books of rejection, I’m putting myself out there again, ready to have my heart broken upwards of fifty times, no after no after no. Everything from the form rejection that means they have no desire to talk to you at all–the “I have to go to the bathroom” bar rejection of queries–to the “I love your writing and this story, and someone will definitely publish it, but it’s not the right story for me at this time” rejections.

It’s not you; it’s me.

I’m pondering this upcoming psychological torture as I hear more and more about self-publishing and Amazon.com. I see writer friends trying it. In fact, they have customers on Amazon writing reviews of their work and giving them stars and everything. They’ve made some pocket money (not much more). So why not? Why do I keep querying, getting my heart broken, and creating mini emotional events every time I open my email? Okay, mini kind of downplays the reality of the torment I inflict upon myself.

I can’t do it. I feel like going that route is giving up. I don’t give up. Ever. I can’t remember the last time I failed at something. If I do, I just keep going until it’s fixed. How can I give in? It sounds self-aggrandizing to say these things, but it’s more a problem with stubbornness and insecurity. If I publish through Amazon on my own, then they win! All the doubters and nay-sayers get the last laugh. I can’t bring myself to admit that I’m not good enough. And as a former anti-establishment punk, and a current anti-establishment member of the establishment, I feel like I need to beat this arbitrary, soul-crushing, emasculating system of publishing.

Even if I were sixty five years old, on my fifteenth novel, and had a good one hundred rejections piled up on each one, I can’t imagine giving in. I imagine thinking, I still have a good twenty to twenty five more years to try. I can’t quit now!

So I’m making a new plan as of today. If I remain unpublished, I will Amazon self-publish under the following conditions:

I’m about to die.

There it is folks, a commitment from me. Right before I die you will be able to go on to Amazon and download for free every novel I write from now until then. If you’re older than me, you’ll probably miss out. Sorry. But the rest of you will have some pretty damn good books to read in your retirement homes. You can thank me in Heaven.

As for right now, I have to go. I haven’t checked my email in twenty four minutes and might be missing out on my future. I only have about fifty or sixty years to get this crap published, or I’ll have to give up.

That would suck.

Down with the man. Power to the people. Party on.

I’m getting so close to being done with revisions on my novel that I thought I would waste time blogging instead of working on it. Why? I don’t know. Maybe I’m too close to being done. Finishing the rewrites just means it’s time for one last line edit–catch all the typos and all that. And that’s so boring!

I always get ahead of myself. I know nailing this story, this character’s arc, is what’s important now, but I can’t help but thinking of the what ifs. What if this gets published? This is my first work of Christian YA. What if this is the one–and it very well could be–that gets published first. Am I stuck at that point? Can I write other things?

I know the answer is write what you feel and the rest will take care of itself, but I’m not really the letting things take care of themselves kind of guy. I plan my planning. That’s me. I have ideas for about eight different novels that I could dive right into next summer, but none of them are compatible with Christian literature. They could be. But should they? And what about what I’ve already written? If All We Know of Heaven gets published, does that mean I should add a Christian element to those?

How easy is it to get “type cast,” and how important is it as far as marketing yourself? I’m too close to finishing this novel to be wasting my time worrying about this kind of thing. In fact, I’ve got so much to worry about in my life, there is no room for this bologna.

Yet here I am blogging about it. God help me!

I felt like posting something about the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial yesterday, but I decided to take some time and think about it, read about it, and not let my post be simply fueled by emotion. But now that I’ve done that, my thinking, reading, and waiting has all come back to one thing–emotion.

I’m not concerned about the emotions of shock or rage. I don’t much care about the emotions of disappointment, sadness, or confusion–all feelings Treyvon’s family must have felt yesterday. I’m also not too concerned with the feelings of jubilation, vindication, and celebration George and his family must have felt yesterday when the verdict was read. I don’t care about the relief, release, and righteousness some jurors felt. And I don’t care about the frustration and guilt others might have felt.

The media, politicians, special interest groups on both sides–see, all of them play on emotion. Emotions like the ones I’ve listed above. They use these emotions to get action, to win over public opinion, and to get you–yes you–posting on your Facebooks, tweeting, commenting on news articles, voting, writing letters, and even–if you live in Oakland, California–to break shit. But there is an emotion the media, your elected representatives, and lawyers hide from, one they sweep under the rug except maybe twice a year when it’s possible to use this emotion to sell you something under the pretense of caring about you and your relationships.

Love.

Was the shooting racist? Was the verdict? We all know racism exists. We’ve all heard racist comments, probably from some of our friends and family. Knowing there’s racism is not a news story. This is not an incident to look at and say, “We all thought electing President Obama meant we lived in a post-racial society, but this case is a historical marker showing it is not yet gone.” Really? Do you actually believe this? Let’s stop talking about whether or not racism exists and talk about what causes a racist. How do you combat racism? Not through laws and government requirements and education.

Those are treatments, not preventative care. They don’t stop Treyvon Martin from being shot. They don’t bring him back.

Was the shooting something else–something about fear in our society? Are we so afraid that we’re ready to shoot anything that comes near us that might be dangerous. One could argue a white Treyvon Martin gets shot just the same in that situation. Zimmerman was sick of the violence in his neighborhood, felt threatened because of the history of violence in his neighborhood, and pulled the trigger. The media bombards us with fear. Lock your doors, buy a gun, wear name badges at work, see-something-say-something, lock down drills for third-graders, duck and cover videos, duck-tape on the doors, shoe searches, and the list could go on for days. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Those are treatments, not preventative care. They don’t stop Treyvon Martin from being shot. They don’t bring him back.

The scary thing about this is that a jury of his peers said that what George Zimmerman did was justified. If they were facing this young, unarmed boy in a hoodie and they had a gun, they’d pull the trigger too. This wasn’t murder. This was collateral damage in the war against violence on our streets. We shall stomp out violence, end it all together, by shooting those who may be violent, and then we will protest that violence by looting and rioting in Oakland, breaking store windows and vandalizing, destroying the property of those who we have no grievance with to make a point against…what…violence?

Those aren’t even treatments, they’re side effects of bad medicine, and are certainly not preventative care. They don’t stop Treyvon Martin from being shot. They don’t bring him back.

We need more emotion in the world, yes, but not these emotions. We need more love. Perhaps if we lived in a world where we instinctively, regularly, and freely showed love for each other, no matter how different we may seem, these things would stop happening. What if George Zimmerman saw a boy on the street he thought was a drug dealer or gang banger or just a plain old crook, someone dangerous, and he took the chance to do what seems to be the really dangerous thing, to love. What if he said, “Young man, I love you. I don’t know why you’re in this situation, but I can get you help. You’re not alone. We all have problems. We all need help. What do you need from me. Let me help you”?

If–and we know he wasn’t–Treyvon did have a gun, what would have happened? Would he have shot Zimmerman dead right there? How would things be different? Would Martin have fallen to his knees and cried, seeing true love for what it was, a helping hand? Would he have pulled a trigger? Maybe Zimmerman dies in this imaginary scenario. Maybe he gets shot. But someone died that day anyway, and the world might be better off with a martyr for the cause of universal love instead of a martyr for the cause of “safer neighborhoods” or a vindictive “taking back of our streets.”

And since Treyvon wasn’t armed, wasn’t dangerous, we would be left with an untold story of a peaceful and heart-warming meeting between two men from different circumstances. A bond formed between two men who have nothing in common other than their ability to love. Sound naive? Sound stupid? Sound cheesy? Well, until these things don’t sound that way, we’ve got work to do.

And the work starts with you.

I once tweeted a phrase that just kind of came to my mind. “Find a way to make someone’s day; love like there’s no tomorrow.” For Treyvon Martin, there is no tomorrow. No, all of us loving each other unconditionally won’t bring Treyvon back. But it might make his death mean something more than a trial, political infighting, angry Facebook posts, and violent Oakland protests.

You may say I’m a dreamer. But I hope to God I’m not the only one.

I’m finding lately that when it comes to my writing, I’m very impatient. I just want it to be done. No matter what I write, from a short poem to a novel length manuscript, I want to have a perfect final product now, not later. It’s not being lazy. I work like a dog getting the draft done.

But now that I have a draft of a novel, and I’ve knocked out a round of revisions to catch a bunch of big issues, the finer points of revision seem just too daunting. It’s not that I don’t want to do them. It’s that I’ve imagined them already, and I just want them to be done so I can start querying.

I’ve already got the agency picked out, read their requirements, am starting to envision the pitch, and started writing the synopsis. I can’t help it. I’m like the pregnant woman getting close to the due date.

“Just get this thing out of me!”

I’m wondering why all this is and if it is common. I’ve read other writers talk about the revision process being “where the magic happens” and as “the exciting part of writing.” I don’t see it that way at all. I just want to be done. I know I have all summer before the pressures of the school year hit, but I can’t help it.

I can’t be the only one that hates the revision process, that just wants to be done already. Am I?

Well, I’m off to revise some more. I’m finding a lot of great places for improvement, which I guess is exciting. And many of the image systems, motifs, and themes are coming together nicely as I make changes. The language is becoming more concise. The characters are becoming more defined. It’s really going very well. Thank goodness for revisions!

The Bipolar train has left the building.

YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday: In honor of the just ended National Pride Month, what’s your favorite LGBT novel?

I have a confession to make. This one is painful. I have to admit, ashamedly, that I have not read any LGBT novels. Fail. My last two novels include straight protagonists who partake in some homosexual experimentation. I wonder what that means. Perhaps I should ask Dr. Freud. Either way, I can’t answer this question.

I also have to admit that I don’t even know of any LGBT YA novels, so I’m looking forward to the answers from others on this blog post to get some suggestions. I’m going to The Book Barn today, so maybe I’ll pick something up. As a firm believer in being a true ally to the LGBT community at the school at which I teach, I kind of think I should read something on the subject.

So instead, I’m going to take this time to reflect on the Supreme Court decisions of this past week. Without going so far as to create gay marriage for all from sea to shining sea, the court took a bold, yet timid approach, giving federal recognition to marriages in gay marriage states and allowing California to be one of those states. Interesting.

I know this is an occasion to celebrate, but I keep going back to the Civil Rights movement and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Was it enough for Dr. King to allow integration and equal rights in the Northern states but not in the South? What was it Dr. King said about “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism?” It seems to me that if we’re going to live up to our creed that “all men are created equal,” we’re going to have to go further.

Dr. King asked the crowd outside the Lincoln Memorial that day almost 50 years ago, “When will you be satisfied?” The answer, of course, was when true equality rang from sea to shining sea–not just in New York, California, and Vermont, but also in Mississippi, South Carolina, and Florida. This issue is no different. Until we have equality for all of every race, religion, nationality, age, social class, and sexual orientation, we just ain’t being the America we advertise.

It’s about time for one of those events in Washington, and it’s about time for a LGBT version of Dr. King to step up and lead the gay community to the promised land. The time is coming. The time is near. The time has come for another dream to be realized. And as Dr. King said so well all those years ago, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

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