Memory Day

It’s Memorial Day.  Lot’s of flags flying around the neighborhood, most of them made in China.  Barbecues will permeate the air with the hunger-inducing aroma of charcoal and burning meat, the pop-spritz of cans opening will mingle with the sounds of conversation, laughter, and portable stereos pumping out classic rock or C & W quasi-patriotic gunk.

We bought a push mower this morning from Home Depot.  Go green.

I would like to take a few moments to tell you what I feel and have felt about this country.

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I grew up on a steady diet of John Wayne and wanting very much to make my dad proud.  He’s very much a patriot, in his own way, although he’s also a fair man who tries to understand other points of view, something I didn’t quite realize when I was a kid.  This made little difference until I entered high school.

I was 14 in 1968, one of the most contentious years America has ever experienced.  Literally everything America stood for was called into question that year.  Our involvement in Vietnam and the fall-out from the Civil Rights movements culminated in riots, the breakdown of social order, rampant anti-authoritarianism, and rifts opening at dinner tables.  I was affected in what now seems a peculiar way, because I went into high school very much my father’s son.

I wanted to write.  The logical thing to do was to join the school paper, which I did.  What I found was a collection of students who had more or less fully embraced the various left wing political agendas of the day, which made me the odd one out because I came into this group espousing the conservative viewpoint.  I stood out because I was in a very singular minority.  I thought what we were doing in Vietnam was just (because we were fighting communism); I thought hippies were scuzzy, soft-headed losers and like many people failed to differentiate them from the anti-war movement, who I considered a bunch of cowards; I bought the Love It Or Leave It ethos of blue-collar America; and I thought we were the greatest country on Earth.  Ever.

People who know me now may be very surprised by all this.  I look at that list now and I’m surprised.

Very quickly I acquired a reputation and a nickname from the assorted long-locked lefties of the Roosevelt Rough Rider—-the neo-nazi Polish warmonger.   (After a couple of years of being quite visibly without a girlfriend, the label “frigid” was added to it.)  After years of being bullied in grade school, I came out of my victimhood with a do-or-die attitude that pretty much embraced the Fuck You ethic of resistance to ridicule, so I basked resplendent in my isolation as the lone Right Winger in a coven of communist-leaning radicals.  At assembly, when the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, I was the only one of the bunch who stood up and put my hand on my heart and spoke the words.

The clarity of my thinking!

But, you see, I was very much my father’s son then.  It was not so much that I believed all the America The Beautiful stuff I spat back at the others, but that he did, and night after night we talked about it, and I did not till later realize that I actually missed the whole point of his nightly Socratic engagements.  I was taking his views to school and loading them into my rifle and shooting them at the pigeons who kept flying up in front of me with what I now understand as far more thoughtful and considered arguments than mine.

On my eighteenth birthday I had to register for the draft.  This was 1972 and Nixon was about to be re-elected and he had promised to wind down the fighting in Vietnam.  I didn’t give it a lot of thought.  I didn’t particularly like the idea of being drafted, but if I were I would pack my stuff and go and be a good soldier.  The only lottery I was in, though, my number was very high and shortly thereafter the draft ended, so I never had to go.

Other things caught my attention and pulled me along, so it never occurred to me to enlist.  But something was changing by then.

I’d worked on enough stories with the others on the Rough Rider and had enough conversations with them and done research for history classes (especially world history, which was a nightmare, but made me work harder than I’d ever worked before in a class because the teacher hated me) that some rather uncomfortable notions had begun floating around in my skull.

When I finally looked into the full history of the Vietnam Conflict, I could not maintain the illusion that we were justified being there.  It was a civil war.  Before that it had been a war of independence, a French colony that wanted its own identity back, and try as I might I could not continue to ignore that direct parallels with our own revolution and desire for independence.  It still took years before I could sit across from my father and say “No, we were wrong.  We should not have been there.  It was an immoral war.”

But I certainly didn’t learn that in school.

What I did learn in school, most vividly, in my freshman year, was that speaking the truth can get you in serious trouble.  My American history teacher, Mr. Maurer—a kind, sincere man with tremendous affection for his students, who had not yet been soured on the idea of public education and believed in open discourse—let a discussion go on in his classroom about the true nature of the American Civil War in which a strong argument was presented that it had nothing to do with the slaves, because Lincoln himself had said if he could preserve the Union and maintain slavery, he would do it.  (We did finally conclude that the War had been about slavery but not necessarily about the slaves, a view I still more or less hold.)  It got contentious, but for that week we were an engaged classroom.

Unfortunately, during that week, one of the administrators came, twice, to listen, and suddenly Mr. Maurer was in trouble for not following the syllabus and for causing disruption in his class.  Basically, the line was that you stick to the text and don’t bring in anything that might call into question the program—like facts not in the book.  It was a profoundly chilling lesson for us to see a much-chastened Jack Maurer return and shut down the whole discussion on the Civil War and then by-pass Reconstruction altogether and go on to the Gilded Age.

When you look at the reality of America’s wars, you find they don’t conform to the image we like to believe.  They don’t.  I’m sorry, but we have not as a nation been very nice.  The Revolution was what it was and in the end we should feel proud of that.  But the War of 1812 was a picked fight that we nearly lost because we wanted a piece of Canada and possibly cut Britain out of the Caribbean.  The slave trade was being interfered with and certain Southern interests supported a war with the idea of pushing British warships out of the trade lanes.  There were other reasons, but the stated reasons—unwarranted impressment, harrasment of American shipping, and the vestiges of an alliance with France—were being settled diplomatically.

The Mexican-American War was a simple land grab on our part.  We refused to control our borders, Mexico complained, started doing something to eliminate the presence of illegal immigrants (us) and we went in and took Texas and New Mexico and California.

The Civil War was a political war that resulted from a unpleasant compromise at the Founding.

The Spanish-American War was pure imperialism and you don’t even have do any creative interpreting to understand that, they stated it right up front.  The European powers all had colonies, we ought to have some, too, and we picked a fight with Spain.

World War I was a pointless exercise that undermined American credibility at Versailles and led directly to World War II.

World War II has been called the Good War, and it’s almost impossible to argue that we had no choice and that we were really fighting true evil.

The Korean War was in support of treaty promises and to support the infant United Nations.  We should feel okay about that one, though it is often overlooked.

Vietnam was a thorough-going debacle.  We were suckered in by France, kept there by a combination of Catholic interest and cultural misunderstanding, and hoist on the petard of our sense of being the World’s Policemen.

Oh, and the ongoing Indian Wars—almost completely an exercise in imperialism and genocide.  We wanted their land.  This becomes obvious when you look at such things as the Cherokee migration of the 1830s as a result of the Indian Removal Act.  We had said for decades that if the Indians would settle down and stop being nomads and hunters and develop their land according to our practices, then everything would be fine.  The Cherokee nation did that and were removed anyway.  We wanted the land.  Period.

I won’t even get into our current messes.

The mistake made in the contentious Sixties was spitting on the troops.  It was not their fault.  The idealists of the anti-war movement expected them to abandon everything they believed in, break their word, and refuse to fight.  There is a very tangled culture in this country of keeping reality out of patriotic discourse.  Be that as it may, a soldier gives over a promise to serve those duly elected who are obligated then not to abuse or misuse their sacrifice—which has happened more often than my conservative mindset in high school could comfortably absorb.

I said my father is fair and tries to understand other viewpoints.  Years later, after I had decided that my politics in high school had been bankrupt and ill-considered and I had more or less become sympathetic to the Left, we revisited the arguments of the Vietnam era.  He did not understand me when I told him that had I been drafted, I would have gone, not because of my patriotism, but because it would have been easier.  Go along to get along.  Belonging is a powerful inducement to deny principle sometimes.  But he declared that had I run to Canada, which many did at the time, he would have hunted me down.

“What good would that have done?” I asked.

“That’s just the way I am.  You don’t run away.”  And before I could say another word, he added.  “If you believed the war was wrong, you stay and fight—I’d have paid for the lawyers.”

My head spun around at that and I realized my whole perception of his attitude was skewed and he just skewed it again.

You don’t run away.

So from all that, I can say what it is I believe is good and worth preserving about America.  It is all in the Bill of Rights, but often we misconstrue the point of that document.  We assume (and technically this is correct, but it’s more than this) that these are principles laid down to restrict and constrain government.  We forget that they are also principles to live up to, that this reflects who we want to be.  We want to be tolerant, we want to be able to conduct our own lives, we want to be honest and unashamed, we want to treat our fellow human beings with dignity.  That the history of this country is one battle after another to convince many of us to live up to these standards does not diminish them, nor does it detract from the idea of America that we have to continually press the argument.

We don’t run away.

Right now we are in a period of uncertainty, where what it means to be American is a mix of guilt and pride and misdirected zeal.  We are being bought by sides in an fight that goes back to the Founding and sometimes it looks like we’re losing.  People don’t vote because they think it does no good.  People support mouthpieces who try to tell them this or that is unAmerican because many of us don’t understand the difference between change and chains.  People let pundits make up their minds for them because it’s easy, especially when the pundits validate our anger and give us an excuse for our uncertainty.  We have been letting ideologues divide us over solutions that, if implemented, would cost some corporation market share, and we have swallowed the idea handed us by Reagan that American means market share.

But we don’t run away.  We stand and fight it out and come to a consensus and do something that may work better—and if not, we try something else.

I stopped pledging allegiance to a flag.  It’s a piece of cloth and the idea that we should have a law protecting a piece of cloth is silly.  I do believe in the idea of America—that individuals, regardless of social status, bank account, ethnicity, religious conviction, or political persuasion, are the primary purpose of our institutions, that preserving the rights of the declarative “I” in the face of sectionalism, bigotry, fashions and fads is the whole point of the experiment—and that’s something I’ll defend.  That supporting that idea does not mean abandoning others to die wallowing in despair because they don’t have the wherewithal to pay for membership in the club and no individual has the right to blight others in the name of a false status.  And the idea of defending America, the idea of America, is embodied in the oath administered to soldiers, who pledge to defend the Constitution.  That’s where our identity lies, in the structural document that, along with determining how we shall govern ourselves, also includes a series of proclamations about who we want to be. Part of that is to live in a country where you should not have to prove it to anyone what you believe and who you are.  I have always mistrusted people who wear their affiliations on their sleeves—little American flag lapel pins or a baker’s dozen of them spread on the front lawn—because it would never occur to me to doubt that they’re who they are.  But by displaying it like that, they make it a challenge to everyone else—“I’m an American, are you?”  That’s not my country.  That’s not how I live, that’s not what makes being here worthwhile.  Being an American should mean being the best human being you can.  It means treating people decently because we believe that’s how people should be treated, and they shouldn’t be made to pass a test to deserve it.  I’ll back that.

I was a pretty stupid kid in high school.  But I grew up and got over it.  And I’m thankful that I live in a place where I could do that and not have to explain myself or apologize, either for believing one way back then or for changing my mind now.

Have a good day.  Remember.

Still Here

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So, it’s the 23rd of May now.  I heard on the radio this morning someone claiming that we’re now in the Tribulations and that we’ve got 153 days before the actual end of the world.  That might be just about enough time for me to finish the rewrite on my desk and the new novel I am now half-finished with.

I thought about writing something scurrilous and amusing, but why?  People who would laugh at it don’t need to be reminded that this was silly and those who wouldn’t laugh likely wouldn’t read my blog anyway.  And there’s the story about the kids whose parents, utterly convinced that this was the weekend, had quit their jobs and went on Mission, handing out tracts and stopped paying attention to the college fund the kids were acutely aware of.  How many people have basically torpedoed their futures by reacting in similar ways to this thing?  It’s not funny, it’s sad.

But it’s not like this is the only thing people spend inordinate amounts of time and money on that make no sense.  Dedicated conspiracy theorists, the Area 51 crowd, Birthers, white supremacists, STURP fanatics, various fan groups dedicated to a tv show or music group among whom there are certainly members whose entire lives are dedicated to worship to the exclusion of all else, including personal relationships…

So I think I won’t crack wise about this.  It seems to me that the truly Left Behind are all those folks who’ve basically given up on life in order to feed their obsession with  being one of the Elect.  I just can’t really bring myself to find it amusing.

Aye of Newt

Okay, I’ve been trying to get some sense of how the GOP intends to retake the White House in 2012 and not having a lot of luck.  Now this nonsense with Newt Gingrich.

On Meet The Press he was asked what he thinks about Paul Ryan’s budget plans—plans which include massive eviscerations of social programs like Medicare—and he made one of his rare reasonable statements.  He criticized the budget as, basically, right-wing social engineering and went on to say social engineering from the Right is as bad as social engineering from the Left. Think what you will about the merits of that in terms of national policy, it is nevertheless a self-consistent, reasonable statement.  Ryan’s budget is counter to democratic expressions of support for some of these programs and Ryan and others in this Congress have been struggling to cast their efforts in terms of fiscal responsibility, which clearly has nothing to do with why they won’t axe the military budget or do anything about corporate welfare.

Be that as it may, here is Gingrich being reasonable and setting himself up as an independent thinker.

Then came the backlash.  A big no-no to openly criticize a fellow Republican, especially someone who is seen to embody the Tea Party aesthetic of “gut the government!”  And what does Gingrich do?  Back pedals.  Not only that, he makes a prepared statement to declare that anyone using the footage from that Meet The Press interview to claim that, (a), Gingrich believes the Ryan budget is bad or (b) Gingrich disagrees with the social conservative agenda or (c) that Gingrich himself is flip-flopping and kowtowing to the Party is lying.

So now I’m baffled.  Because Ryan’s proposed cuts in Medicare at least are unpopular, so how does aligning himself with a position Gingrich initially criticized make points with voters?  How does coming out of the gate with confusion aid his campaign or reflect well on the GOP?

And what social engineering?  The idea that a popularly elected government should do nothing to promote justice—and in this instance we’re talking about economic justice—and that people who need help should just either rely on charity or go away?  Well, if you look at the out-front rhetoric of the most vocal segment of the GOP, the Tea Party, they seem to be backing an exhaustively libertarian approach.  But even so, at the heart of it is a desire to reduce government to little more than a few offices on the Atlantic coast that deal with rubberstamping whatever the private sector wants and is capable of doing.

I’m still mulling some of this over, but even though I disagree with Gingrich about the nature of social engineering, I am disappointed that yet again we have someone campaigning to achieve the office and will say or do whatever it takes, front any idea, kiss any ass, subvert any consistency to reach that goal.

This whole social engineering thing, though, is starting to annoy me.  It sounds ominous, but really, every society, if it has a common vision of itself, indulges social engineering, some more benignly than others.  It must be so.  Consensus is necessary to have a functional social mechanism.  The notion that we can be free of social engineering is a utopian fantasy that is poorly thought through.  Do you know what a country looks like that has no social engineering?

Somalia.

Food for thought.

Rapture Ready

This weekend, it’s supposed to be all over.  Harold Camping of the Family Radio evangelist organization has announced the Rapture for May 21st—at six P.M.

In my own little patch of interest, the SFWA Nebula Awards will be given out this weekend.  If Mr. Camping is right, this will be the last of these.  Going out in grand style, that.

I don’t have a lot to say about this other than it’s silly.  It’s one more reason that makes me wonder about the people who follow this kind of nonsense.  I can’t help but think that, beneath all the sanctimony and babble, a lot of these folks are just, well, unfortunate.  Wishing for it all the Be Over so they don’t have to deal with reality anymore.  Unfair, perhaps, but from my encounters with folks like them over the years I’ll stand by it.  This is the ultimate “grass being greener” thinking and I no longer get angry at the absurdity but feel sad at the wonders they pass up spending so much time anticipating the end of wonder.

On the other hand, I have a pile of work that will take me a lot longer than the next three days to get done.  It would be pleasant, at least for a short while, not to have to worry about it.  But at some point I’d start to resent the interruption.

I asked some Jehovah’s Witnesses once if they ever thanked Zoroaster for the very idea of the Apocalypse and they returned blank stares.  What?  Zoro-who?  After all, they keep coming up with new predictions for something which, according to their founder, Charles T. Russel, should have happened back in 1914.  (This was his final guess after previously predicting Christ’s return for 1874, 1878, 1881, and 1910.)  They got that one wrong, but Russel’s successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford (who gave the movement the name Jehovah’s Witnesses) revised the date to 1916.  Later it was moved up to 1918, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1984, and 1994. 

William Miller, founder of the Seventh Day Adventists, had predicted the Rapture for 1843 using a complicated bit of figuring based on Daniel.  He revised it to 1844 when the January 1st rolled around and everyone was still here.

More recently, Edgar Whisenant, a former NASA engineer and self-taught Biblical scholar, published a little book, 88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988.  He gave 300,000 copies away for free, but sold 4.5 million.

There were dueling predictions about 1994, one from Pastor John Hinkle of Christ Church in L.A., who claimed June 9th.  Our Mr. Camping held out for September 6.  Obviously he’s revised that estimate.

Still, the one to bet on by virtue of it having been figured by a true mathematical genius remains Sir Isaac Newton’s prediction that 2060 is the year.  No sooner than, Newton claimed.

But then there are the words of Mr. Whisenant to keep in mind: “Only if the Bible is in error will I be proved wrong.”  Might turn out to be that he was the shrewdest of the bunch—unless some of them play the stock market and contrive to short stocks that might fall as Rapture approaches.  For myself, this Saturday is another coffee house at which I’ll be playing music and indulging a different kind of rapture.  Oh, and it will be in a church, in case you’re wondering.  The once-monthly event takes place in a Methodist church in the neighborhood.  So if it comes, I’ll be doing something I love, and that wouldn’t be a bad way to go.

A Different “Doctored” Photograph

For something less fraught with the concerns of the day and a bit more fun.  They say you ought not take photographs from a moving car, but sometimes it’s the only way to get certain shots.

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And yes, this is heavily worked over.  I wanted an extra rainy effect.  This is something I was never able to achieve in color before and in B & W only by chemical abuse of the film.

I’m completing some of the online galleries—this one finishes out the Experimental gallery, which is filled with images that I have played with at length.  It might not be immediately obvious in some of them that they are, indeed, experimental insofar as the extent of manipulations are concerned, but they are all distortions of what was Actually There.

Anyway, something more pleasant.

Invisible Women

I’m taking time out (already) from all the rewriting I have to do to complain and restate a principle.

Here’s a lovely little bit of misogyny.

Read the article?  A newspaper took the photograph of the ready room where Obama and his cabinet received the news of Bin Ladin’s death and photoshopped out the women present.  For reasons of “modesty” they claimed.  They then apologized but asserted they have a First Amendment right to have done this.

Inadvertently—and I am sure they didn’t think about this when they did it—they gave Bin Ladin a small cultural victory out of his own death.  The religious view Bin Ladin asserted, supported, and fought for includes the return of women to second class status, to the status of property.  By doctoring that photograph, the editors of Di Tzeitung tacitly approved this idea.

Modesty.  Really?  They erased Hilary Clinton and a staffer in the background.  You look at the photograph in question:

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Is there any way to look at that and perceive immodesty in the way we usually use the term?  I don’t see any scanty clothing or alluring, over-the-shoulder glances at the camera.  No legs, no cleavage, no hint of sexualization, which is what is normally meant by use of the term, even—especially—within the context of religious censure.  This sort of attitude is intended as a guard against titillation and “impure thoughts”, but I’m having a hard time seeing anything like that here.

In fact, this has made clear what the real problem is and has been all along.  Rules about “modesty” have nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power.  Secretary of State Clinton—the Secretary of State of the United States of America, the most powerful nation on Earth, is a woman!—is a female in a position of power.  She is the boss of many men.  She is instrumental in setting policy, which affects many more men, men she doesn’t know and will never know.  She wields power and that is what is feared by these—I’ll say it because I’m pissed about this—these small-minded bigots.

And in their effort to make sure their daughters never grow up with the idea that they can have power or any kind, not even in the say over what to do with their lives (because they don’t even have any say over how they dress, who they can talk to, where they can go, what they can aspire to), these “proper” gentlemen handed Osama Bin Ladin a final supportive fist bump of solidarity.  “Yeah, brother, we hated the fact that you blew people up, but we really gotta keep these females in their Place.”

Cultural relativism be damned.  I’m one hundred percent with Sam Harris on this.  Subjugating half the population to some idea of propriety and in so doing strip them of everything they have even while hiding them head to toe and keeping them out of the public gaze is categorically evil.  The fact that this is resisted so much by otherwise intelligent people—on both sides of the issue, those who perpetrate it and those who refuse to outright condemn it for fear of being seen as cultural imperialists—is as shameful as the defenders of slavery 150 years ago.

Now, at least, they’ve made it hard to miss.  This wasn’t a photograph of some beauty pageant or a spread in Playboy or the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue; this wasn’t a still from the red carpet runway at the Golden Globes or the lurid front page of a Fleet Street tabloid.  No, this was a photograph of powerful people doing serious work and two of them do not have a penis.  This is the issue—power.  Women the world over have no say in their lives.  They are wives, concubines, prostitutes, slaves.  If they wish to change the way they live, they are forbidden, sometimes killed for their ambition.  In many places still their daughters have their sex organs mutilated so they won’t ever fully experience sexual pleasure and, theoretically, never want to stray from the men who own them.  They are denied the vote, denied a voice, denied even the courtesy of Presence in life.  They are made background, wallpaper, accoutrements for  the men who are set against yielding even a token of consideration toward the idea that “their women” are people.

People who happen to be women.  People.

I am sick of this crap.  I am sick of people who don’t understand the issue.  I am sick of the tepid response among people who should see this as an unmitigated evil who won’t speak up to condemn it outright.  By their reluctance to condemn they allow this sickness to grow in their own backyard.  There are groups in this country who but for a few “inconvenient” laws would—and in some cases do—treat women exactly the same way.  I am sick of the constant onslaught on family planning services and the idea that women should not be in command of their own bodies.  I am sick of the feckless insecurity of outwardly bold and inwardly timid males who are afraid of the women around them, that if these women actually had some choices they would leave.  I am sick of men who can find no better use for their hands than to beat women, no better use for their minds than to boast of their manliness, and no better use for their penises than to keep score.  I am sick of women who are made to appear at fault for their own rapes because of the way they dress or walk or talk or because they thought, just like real people, they had a right to go anywhere they chose, free of fear.  I am sick of seeing the human waste of unrealized potential based on genital arrangement and the granting of undeserved rights and authority based on the same thing.  I am sick of being told by people who obviously haven’t stepped outside of their own navels that this is what god wants because some preacher or imam or shaman told them and they like the idea that there is someone who can’t say no to them no matter how abusive or failed they are as human beings.  I am sick of seeing women pay the cost of men deciding for them what they should be.

For those of you who read this and agree, excuse the rant.  Shove it in the faces of anyone who gives even lip service to the idea that women are somehow other than and less than males and that maybe a little “modesty” would be a good thing.  Modesty in this context is code for invisibility.

Back now to our regularly scheduled Wednesday.

Working

I tell hopeful, wannabe writers all the time, when they ask that marvelously optimistic question, “what’s the secret to being a writer?”  It’s a deceptively simple question, because the answer…well, I give the same answer no matter who’s asking, but the expectations differ from person to person.  I suspect most want to know what the “trick” is, like there’s a gimmick, a magician’s sleight of hand, a way around the essential thing, which is hard damn work.

But I tell them all: persistence.  Those who never make it are those who quit.

Obviously this begs a few questions.  What if they have no talent?  What if what they’re writing has no audience?  What if they’re subliterate?  What if they don’t like to read?  (This last, while apparently absurd on its face, is nevertheless a more common fact than you might believe—aspiring writers who don’t read.  I’ve met ’em, talked to ’em.  It’s like a photographer saying he doesn’t like looking at photographs.)

All of that varies, though.  The one single element that binds them all together in their quest is persistence.  Persist and you will find out.  But if you don’t persist, you may never know.

This is what I do.  I persist.  I refuse to give up.  Granted, I have a bit more reason to be optimistic than most, since I have actually published, but that’s no guarantee that you will continue to do so.  The market is a fey beast, fickle and heartless, and has crushed the souls of many a writer before.  But, smart as I am, I’m an idiot when it comes to this, and it seems to finally be paying off a bit.

I have signed with the Donald Maass Literary Agency. This is a fairly big event for me.  I’ve been shopping for a new agent for a long time.  This one finally paid off.  (My thanks go out to Scott Phillips, who introduced me to the obviously talented Stacia Decker, who then introduced me to the talented Jen Udden, and my thanks to both for taking a chance on my potential.)  My last published novel was Remains, back in 2005—almost six years now.

This is not a sale.  But this moves me closer to getting back into print than I was three months ago.  Both Jen and Stacia have gone over my work, made substantive editorial recommendations, and allowed me to move forward on these books.

I feel very lucky right now.

But also, I have a lot of work to do.  I have already rewritten my alternate history, Orleans, per Jen’s recommendations, and she’s beginning work on the marketing strategy.  This morning I talked over The Spanish Bride with Stacia and will set to work on the revisions of that novel in the next couple of days.

I have no problem admitting that I need editorial input.  And I like it.  When someone who knows what they’re doing tells me “You should fix that” and I see what they mean, I’m delighted.  (This has changed over the years.  Once, all it got from me was a howl of pain—“but I already wrote that one!  I want to move on!”  But persistence teaches you through experience.  If it doesn’t, you should find a different career.)  With good recommendations in hand, I can make a better book.

So anyway, the bottom line here is that if I am less prolific here in the next few weeks or months, it’s because I’m working.  I will update as developments occur.

Atavistic Pleasure

Since hearing the news this morning I’ve been trying to find a calm space wherein reason and judgment will allow for a rational response, but for the time being I can’t help it.

Osama Bin Laden is dead.

I can’t help feeling glad about that.  There is an atavistic part of me responds to this kind of thing.

I have a number of other thoughts—for instance, where they finally found him is suggestive of a whole bunch of negative assessments about out “allies” and the uses to which historical fulcrums are put—and there will doubtless be backlash over this, but done is done and I cannot find it in me to feel in the least sorry.  He seemed to have become the ultimate in revolutionary narcissists and chose to believe his “wisdom” trumped the lives of all his victims.  There has been and is much that is wrong in our relationships with the Middle East, but slaughter frees no one, and where clear heads and earnest consideration are needed to solve problems, terror guarantees their absence.

Burying him at sea was a clever move—there will be no grave to be turned into a new shrine.  In the end, he harmed his own people far more than he hurt us, and the last thing this planet needs is another monster elevated to the status of demigod.

What we need to do now is take those sentiments to heart—slaughter frees no one, terror banishes reason—and stop reacting like offended adolescents.  We must be careful that we ourselves don’t fill the void left by Bin Laden’s death with our own self-justified nationalism and continue what we know to be bad policy.

But for now, I’m a little more pleased by this than not.

That’s the way I feel.  I’ll have a more rational response some time down the road.