Demagogues

I’ve been thinking and reading about demagogues a lot this summer. Demagogues are political leaders who appeal through pathos rather than logos. For the non-Greek, feelings rather than logic. Most commonly, demagogues manipulate our fear and anger, and they generally direct those emotions at an other or a “them.” Demagogues require opponents as scapegoats. They require division.

We’ve seen their kind many times throughout history, yet I’m optimistic about them. For every one that has risen to power, I like to think many failed to gain any traction. Recognizing them is simple, something I expect any American should be able to do instinctually, yet if you find yourself caught by their influence, it may all seem a bit vexing and complicated. That’s because some of what they’re saying, on some level, makes sense and is, on some level, true. They require reality distorted.

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On ‘Salute to America’ and Questionable-at-Best Leadership

Despite his country continuing to face a historic pandemic and unaddressed racial tensions, Trump is proceeding with his “Salute to America” celebration tomorrow, and that tracks, considering the kind of questionable leadership he has exhibited not only throughout these crises but also throughout his term.

While I’m seeing talk about how much the event is costing us and the wisdom of holding such an event right now, I’m wondering why more people aren’t more outraged about the principle that he’s once again co-opted our most sacrosanct holiday for personal and political gain. Independence Day used to be a day of unity for all of us to set aside our differences and come together to celebrate the best ideals of America, but Trump has turned it into a divisive campaign rally to highlight the worst of America at our expense. Regardless of politics, this should set off even the most adamantly self-proclaimed patriots among us.

It’s not right, and it’s just one more of the countless reasons you shouldn’t vote for him in November. Of course, it is far less compelling of a reason than the thousands of Americans who have died from Covid-19 due to his poor leadership; his woefully inadequate response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the far too many others, and the social movements clamoring for change; and the countless other indicators of his ineptitude and harm; but I digress.

Healthcare in America

Tonight, I went to the ER because I thought I was dying (I wasn’t, and I’m following doctors’ recommendations; I’ll probably be fine). For anyone who has been to a doctor in America, I don’t have to tell you this was a miserable experience. However, maybe you’re super healthy or have just forgotten how bad healthcare in America is (or maybe you’re one of the about 60 million Americans who can’t really afford access to healthcare). In any case, I feel it’s important we all consider the state of healthcare in America this year because we have a really important vote coming up in November.

I felt inspired to write something about this because it’s something I care about. I felt compelled because I’m a writer and that’s what I do. I care because the flaws in the U.S. healthcare system have harmed me and my family, because we call ourselves the greatest country in the world and can shoot a rocket down a brown person’s throat from halfway around the world using a remote-controlled airplane, but we can’t provide adequate healthcare for our own people.

Coincidentally, John Oliver’s first feature story of the new season, which aired last night, does a good job covering some of our healthcare system’s failures and the potential for a medicare-for-all system. And it’s funny. And you can watch it instead of reading it. You don’t like John Oliver? I’m sorry. Maybe it’s his accent, or maybe it’s his personality, or maybe it’s because he’s often right and persuasive and nobody likes to be proven wrong. My advice is to get over that because, if you can’t accept being proven wrong, you’ll never learn anything or grow as a person. Like our president. Maybe you aspire to that. Maybe there’s something else entirely we need to talk about.

Anyway. Personally, I’m skeptical of medicare for all because it would be a big change, and there are a lot of uncertainties, and that’s scary. But I think one of our primary goals as a society should be to reduce and minimize suffering wherever and whenever possible, and there’s a lot that just doesn’t make sense in our current healthcare system, which necessarily has to balance profits with the wellbeing of people, and no matter how you try to make sense of that, it is and always has been cruel.

Maybe there’s some bitterness in the above. That’s probably because I am bitter. There are many reasons for that, but for tonight, I’ll stick with this one. Maybe I’ll talk about more later. Yay, 2020.

Holiday 2019 Update

My first semester in an MFA program has come to an end. I wrote a lot and liked some of it. I read a lot and liked some of that, too. I tutored a bunch of students and think I even helped some of them. I did some work in selections and layout for a literary magazine. I found every writer in this program is brilliant, and I think some of them even like me.

It’s been good, is what I’m saying.

Creatively, I came to George Mason University wanting to push myself into trying new things, and not only do I feel I accomplished that, but I think the teachers and other writers helped open doors I wouldn’t have been able to open on my own. The first semester was difficult but a success, and even though I’m off for winter break now (a prospect that still seems bizarre to me), I’m eager to keep pushing forward.

But first, happy holidays, everyone! I hope your celebrations are merry.

‘So you’re a writer? Let me ask you, where do you get your ideas?’

When you’re a writer, one of the most common questions you get is about where your stories come from. I don’t know about other writers, but in my experience, stories begin like a loose thread you one day notice on your shirt. Smarter people will get the scissors, cut it off, and toss it aside, but not you. You’re compelled to pick and tug at it because there’s something satisfying about drawing it out.

The more you work it, the more your shirt unravels. Before long, the seam is open, and you can see something of what you look like underneath. You keep pulling, and eventually, the sleeve is in tatters. You keep going, and often, the thread jumps off the seam. That’s when it becomes grueling work.

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I Have Some News

The short version is I was accepted into George Mason University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. I’ll be starting this fall with full funding, including tuition remission, a stipend, and a GTA position. For the next three years, I’ll be taking classes, writing, reading, and teaching full time.

So that’s pretty neat.

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Anatomy of an Ending

There is a popular sentiment that stories, like life, are about the journey, not the ending. I think good fiction has to differentiate itself from life, so stories are about the journey and the ending.

Maybe I’m hopelessly morbid, but I think about death all the time. I know I’m not the only one, but how I’m going to check out is constantly on my mind. It doesn’t frighten me or stop me from living, but like a good story, I do want to know how it all ends. Like reading a good story, though, I’m not eager to get there. It’s a paradox. I don’t want it to end.

You can stop psychoanalyzing me now.

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Come See Me at Awesome Con

So what are you doing the weekend of April 26-28th? If you’re planning to be in D.C., you should check out Awesome Con downtown at the convention center. If you’re not planning to be in D.C., you should plan to be in D.C. and come check out Awesome Con downtown at the convention center

I will have a table (Q-09) in Artist Alley with three other local writers: Nick DeWolf, Slade Grayson, and E.J. Wenstrom. We’re going to be planted across from Wild Bill’s Olde Fashioned Soda, which I’ve never heard of, but I think it’s reasonable to assume Wild Bill knows how to party. I mean, his name is Wild Bill. We’ll also be adjacent to Dark Horse Comics, which, cool!

Friday evening, Nick, E.J., and I will be on a panel of local writers with Neil Cohen, David Salkin, and Alton Simpson, so you should come ask us questions. “Ask us questions” may also be read as “heckle us.” Earlier that day, E.J.’s on another panel, and then Neil has one on entrepreneurship on Sunday. Mostly, I’ll just be hanging out, enjoying the con, and hoping I get to meet some cool people (and hopefully sell a few books).

If you decide to come, please swing by and say hello. Mention this blog post, and get a free bookmark!

Under New Management, The Walking Dead Shambles On

I haven’t written about The Walking Dead for a while. I haven’t felt like it’s been worth writing about for a while. But now that it’s under new management and a major cast member has exited the show, I was interested to see where the series stands after nine seasons, an eternity on network television.

(Coincidentally, this ended up being 3,600 words, an eternity on the Internet, so if you don’t feel like reading that and want to leave right now, I really can’t blame you. I wrote it, though, so I’m posting it, dammit!)

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