Books I Love

Why Aren’t You Walkin’ the Walk?

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s been almost a month since Dylann Roof shot nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. And wow. Folks far and wide have been acting like Chicken Little over the Confederate Battle flag and what really caused the Civil War.

But I’ve heard a common statement that I agree with, especially when it comes to the Battle Flag. We need to change our hearts and minds if we are to end racism. 

Yes. Good! Let’s do it!

So when my local Barnes & Noble organized a reading of To Kill a Mockingbird, I signed up as volunteer reader. Yesterday’s event was to promote the release of Harper Lee’s new novel, Go Set a Watchman.

What better way to promote the change of hearts and minds than with a reading of a beloved piece of literature which illustrates the evils of racism?

I probably should have promoted the event. But I get nervous when I speak in front of crowds, so I figured I’d let B&N do the promoting. They are better at it than me anyway.

I also figured, hey, everyone says they want to change hearts and minds, so there should be plenty of people there supporting such a book, right?

Right.

I had signed up for the evening read slot because my five- and seven-year-old boys probably wouldn’t sit for a reading with the lure of the Thomas the Train table calling to them from the children’s section. So they stayed home with Daddy while I went by myself.

And then I sat…by myself.

B&N had a great set up with a banner and a large circle of chairs with several copies of To Kill a Mockingbird for people who wanted to follow along with the reading. But like Kathleen Kelly, I was a lone reed.

Where were all the people who wanted to change hearts and minds? Huh? Everyone was talkin’ the talk. So why was I the only one walkin’ the walk?

Apparently, there were people there reading earlier yesterday. Kudos to them for walkin’. It was an all day event and folks still have things to do. Like me. I wouldn’t expect them to stay for the whole day.

But after hearing all the talkin’, I expected to see SOME people there for all parts of the reading. I wonder how many people would be there if it had been a reading of Grey?

While reading comments whenever the news outlets publish an article about the Battle flag, I find the reactions dismaying. What I see as the problem has less to do with North vs. South and more to do with a breakdown of comprehension and communication. Everyone is talking history but hardly anyone is citing sources. When did everyone become a credible historian?

And then there are the ones who go completely off topic:

Original Commenter: “The Civil War was about slavery, not States Rights. “

Replier: “You ain’t taking my flag away. It’s my First Amendment right!!!”

That “argument” might as well go:

Original Commenter: “French Fries are made from potatoes, not cauliflower.”

Replier: “You ain’t gonna eat all the pepperonis off of my pizza!!!”

As a fellow writer friend pointed out, “When two people are shouting no one is listening.”

Pretty much.

The thing is, I’ve illustrated what I would hope would happen among arguing people within The Stone of Kings. This scene calls to me over and over because I wish there were a way to get more people to see it and use it to bring about peace.

If you’ll indulge me, here it is. Ireland has had their own North vs. South problem. In my book, Ciaran has tried to pull a Dylann Roof (remember, I published this almost a YEAR ago) by murdering innocent people in Northern Ireland. Thomas is tasked with talking sense into him. I liken him to the beautiful families of the nine victims who forgave Roof.

Ciaran fired back his answer. “Because he wants to be a Brit! He wants to defile his Irish blood by subjecting himself to the British crown. On our own Irish land, no less! It’s an abomination. The Brits must either clear out or die!”

“What have they done to you that you feel this way?” Thomas lowered his voice again, displaying an image of calm intelligence.

“They have seized the North of our country. The whole of Ireland must be free!”

“That is not what I asked. Did Robert, or any o’ the British, take your home, your land, your language? Are you prevented from representing yourself in a political assembly? Have they taken your livelihood, murdered your family?”

“Well…no. But they’ve maintained their grip on the North of our country.”

“Do you want to live there?”

“No.”

“Then why should you care?”

“Because they’re dirty Brits!”

“I see. And you are a true Irishman to the core?”

“Absolutely.”

“And no one from the British island deserves to live here in any part of Ireland?”

“Not even their dogs.”

“So how do you feel about Saint Patrick?”

“Huh?” Ciaran blinked and stared at Thomas, obviously unprepared for this turn in their conversation.

“Since only true Irishmen deserve our country, we ought to find a different patron saint. Better still, we shall leave off Christianity altogether since ‘twas Patrick who brought it to us. And we all know how villainous those Brits are.”

Thomas paused a moment to let his words stew. Ciaran opened his mouth, closed it, and frowned. He opened it again but could not seem to find the right word to say.

Finally, he said, “But that was different. That was Saint Patrick…”

“I wonder if Patrick would approve o’ you murdering your cousin and all those strangers in the pub. If he lived in your time, would you kill him simply because he was a Brit living in your country?”

I would love NEED to hear from you!

Do you think anyone will ever be able to “argue” as effectively as Thomas? Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird? Do you cite your sources when discussing history? Are we EVER going to live up to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream? Please! Please, tell me there is hope. I’m so disappointed about all this bickering!

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Writing

How the Confederate Battle Flag Could Have Been Empathetic

All week, I’ve heard people argue history. “The Confederate flag is not a symbol of racism and hate.” They go in circles about the flag’s true meaning. I’ve heard all those arguments before last week’s shooting. Others say “This is not the time to debate the Battle flag.”

However, none of those people seem to have used the power of empathy. Maybe I can help them. After all, I’m a writer. This is what I do. I’ve never been to the State House in Charleston, SC. But this is how I’ve felt this week.


I stand in the sun at the State House of South Carolina. Drops of sweat slide down the side of my head. I wipe them away with the sleeve of my shirt. Tears remain on my cheeks for the nine slain. Dylann Roof wasn’t a lone wolf in his ideals. He may as well have been one of my students who exhibited similar notions in the superiority of their own race. My race. Ugh. It hurts to think about it.

What could I have said or done to have gotten through to them?

There is a Civil War monument on the north side of the grounds. Such a dark time in our history. Our history. We still argue over why it was fought. I suppose, in a way, it rages on. Some people like to pick and choose which parts of history they’ll affirm actually happened. Kind of like picking and choosing Bible verses to live by. Forget the rest because secretly, it makes us uncomfortable.

An occasional wind passes and the Confederate Battle flag flaps above the monument. I saw that flag all too often as a teacher. The racist students wore them all the time. It bothered me. It was jarring at first, but I got use to it. It was their right. I wouldn’t want someone telling me that I shouldn’t wear something with an Irish flag on it.

But Dylann Roof didn’t show off the Irish flag. He showed the Battle flag. He also showed flags of Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa. But it’s the Battle flag that flaps above my head.

Why isn’t it at least at half-staff? Oh, there’s no pulley. Can’t they at least take it down temporarily? It looks arrogant. The US and State flags are at half-staff. But the Battle flag could care less that nine people lost their lives.

If it would come down just for the mourning process, then I could give some credit to the people who keep shouting that the Battle flag is not a symbol of racism and hatred.

But it didn’t.

The same flag that the killer proudly waved, flies high while the rest of us grieve.


Yes, I understand that the law keeps the flag up there. That particular law has as much empathy as the flag.

We are humans. We identify with symbols and have done so for centuries. If the Battle flag had come down out of respect for the nine slain, it might have taken on a new meaning. A meaning that would negate the images of Roof and his ideas of white supremacy.

Whatever it’s history, whether Civil War or Civil Rights, we had a chance to CHANGE the meaning the Battle flag holds for many Americans. It was time! Not two years from that day! If you believe that the flag isn’t a symbol of racism and bigotry, then prove it isn’t. You had a chance  – but you didn’t take it. That might make you uncomfortable, but I value the lives of our multi-ethnic country more than your comfort. Perhaps if you had been more empathetic, there wouldn’t be such a call to have it removed from government property.

Uncategorized

Sometimes, Friday Is Not Fun

In light of the horrible massacre in Charleston this week, today’s post will not be my usual Friday Fun style. There are no words to express the sadness I feel over what took place in that church building. At the time of the shooting, I was doing the same thing as the victims. I was with my family, engaged in prayer and Bible study. Why should they have to die because their skin is a different shade than mine? They were people with as much right to happy life as me.

Someone said that haters like Dylann Roof are bent on bringing back “the good ol’ days” and not regarding how those days were not good for minorities and women. In what warped way can those days possibly be labeled “good?”

But this… this struck me worst of all:

Roof allegedly said, at the attack, that black people were “taking over our country. And [they] have to go.” These words echoed the sentiment that floored me when I was a teacher.

This attitude makes no sense to me. The white race wasn’t even here first! If people like that want to start shipping races back to their countries of origin, then they need to get on the boat too.

This is why I create characters like Ciaran. Please, learn from them.

The USA is country that is a tossed salad of cultures. If people like Roof and that former student of mine want a plate of plain lettuce, then they need to go somewhere else. I can’t imagine where ever they go to be very populated.

Personally, I prefer color and flavor in my salad.

My prayers are with the families and community affected by this senseless tragedy.

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

#27 What Do You Like To Blog About The Most?

Neverending silliness!
Never-ending silliness!

Okay, so don’t get me wrong, I love blogging about my boys. They’re funny and always come up with great stuff to entertain. Be on the lookout for a few things on my adorable nephew too, who, due to distance, I don’t get to see nearly enough. But that’s all info I can easily share on facebook.

So I’ll be honest. I blog because I don’t really want to blog. It’s a writing challenge – that’s the purpose. It’s a way for me to improve my skills and build my author platform at the same time.

I’d have to say that I mostly like to blog about anything that pertains to whatever I’m writing. Lately much of it has been about Ireland because that is where The Stone of Kings is set. But I’ve also talked a bit about the evils of bigotry and prejudice because that is also a big theme in the book.

Come December, I may be writing more on the bigotry issue because my NaNo book is a mystery/suspense about the Civil War. I guess that’s why part of me really wants to get back into teaching. Just the four months of seeing the racism evident in the students that I taught…well, it shook me to the core. I had no idea that there were still people out there teaching their children the useless idea of hate.

It made me so sad for them.

That’s why I’ve titled my blog the way I have – Author of Open-Minded Fiction. I may move on to something else that I feel more people ought to be more open-minded about, but for now, it’s urging my readers to influence others to push hatred aside and find commonalities with each other.

When I begin to write my dystopia, I’ll probably start blogging more on making sure that we think for ourselves. Because, is it just me, or does it feel like our society is allowing the media and government to think more and more for us?

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 24,464

Writing

I Also Have a Dream

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This Wednesday will mark the 50th anniversary of the delivery of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, “I Have a Dream.” I’d like to think that if I were alive at the time and had the means, I would have been in Washington when he first said those words. I cannot think of a more influential speech delivered in that century.

However, a recent speech has struck me.

In President Obama’s speech after the George Zimmerman verdict, he talked about how it’s not uncommon for a black man to be followed in a department store, or for him to hear the click of car door locks while walking down the street, or see a woman clutch her purse nervously when entering an elevator. I respect and understand the point the president made with those statements. But the whole while I’m thinking:

Why does this have to be about race?

I honestly wouldn’t think twice about my purse if I were in an elevator with a black man, unless the waistline of his pants hung down past his butt. A white man dressed the same way would make me just as nervous. I’m not saying that all men should dress in a coat and tie, but to at least wear their clothes the way in which they were designed and not in a way that emulates criminals in prison.

What makes me the most sad is that there is still this racial stigma 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 50 years after the March on Washington. President Obama’s words stung me. It really hurts that a black man would think he makes me nervous just because my skin happens to be white. I do my best to try to get to know someone before I pass any kind of judgment on them.

No one can choose the color of their skin. So why would a black man who chooses to wear his clothes properly make me nervous?

I don’t know what happened between between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin that day. Maybe no one will truly ever “know.” It is not my place to judge. All I can do is to pray for all involved. But what I do know is that they both had/have the same color blood as the rest of us. And I believe that they both have the same Divine Judge as the rest of us. Shouldn’t that be enough to make us all equals?

I’m not a great speaker as Dr. King was. I’m not a great writer either. But I have a dream that one day I can be influential. I have a dream that I can help people remember that no matter our race, our destinies are tied up and our freedoms are inextricably bound. I have a dream that I can, by example, illustrate how no one should be judged by the color of their skin, be it white or black, but by the content of their character.

How has Dr. King’s speech inspired you?

Books I Love · Writing

“I ain’t no Yankee!” – Dealing With Irrational Hatred

Yup, looks like what I did too. This was a line waiting for the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Image attributed to Zack Sheppard from San Fransisco, CA via Wikimedia Commons.

In reading Kristen Lamb’s book We Are Not Alone, I’ve learned (so far) that I must define my blog a bit better. Well, I already knew this, but her book has been showing me how. However, it’s difficult to pin point exactly what kind of writer I am because even my book ideas are wildly different. Up to now, I’ve got romance, historical/fantasy, historical/adventure, dystopia, historical/sci-fi, and mystery. Yeah. So I can’t just say, “Shea McIntosh Ford – Regency Romance Novelist.”

But a common theme in all my ideas is learning to be open-minded. Hence this post’s title.

*sigh* I may be from the South, but I would never say “I ain’t no Yankee” in such a manner unless you replaced the word “Yankee” with “hater.” (I’d probably fix the grammar too. 😉 ) Since we’re in the season of ending school, I thought I might post one of my experiences from teaching.

A bit of background: I taught High School English for one semester. When I decided to resign, I thought it was due to burn out. I was frustrated because I loved the job and wanted very much to make a difference. I had no idea at the time what gluten was doing to my body. Once our youngest starts kindergarten, I may give it another try.

Back to the topic.

While reading through the textbook, trying to decide on the next piece of literature to teach, I read two essays that I loved, especially the first which was a light-hearted and witty satire on the difference between Canadians and Americans. (I wish I could remember the name and author, but Google has failed me on this one.) I chuckled through the whole reading and thought, “We could have a lot of fun with this!”

Then my 4th period class gave this idealistic teacher the proverbial kick in the pants.

Being from Canada, the author called Americans, “Yankees.” As a rookie teacher, I was so caught up with lessons plans, and trying to grade for accuracy, that I forgot how many Confederate flag mementos these kids were wearing. They took such offence to being called a Yankee, that all the humor in the essay completely missed them.

How sad!

They were so caught up in their own inherited hate, they couldn’t see something for what it was. The companion essay was worse. It was about growing up in Texas on the border of Mexico and the beauty of blending Mexican and American cultures in the author’s life. During discussion, a student made the statement, “We need to send ALL Mexicans back to Mexico.”

I will never forget the look of horror on his classmate’s face. She was Mexican-American.

Had I been a seasoned teacher, I may have been able to handle such things with more finesse. Perhaps I could have asked to which country that kid’s family should return, as it was obvious that he was not Native American. As it was, being caught off guard, I pushed through the lessons hoping that I’d opened the minds of at least a few in my classes.

A few months later, after my resignation, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. I cried while reading it. Not so much because the plot moved me to tears. That indeed was part of it. But through the whole reading, I kept thinking, “What I wouldn’t give to be back in that classroom, armed with this book.”

To me, it read like an account of the Holocaust. Voldemort was Hitler and the Death Eaters were his Nazi soldiers. There was no mercy shown to anyone who did not have an approved heritage. Age, skill, intelligence did not matter. How sad to be filled with such hate!

The beauty of Harry Potter? Rowling illustrates the horror and evil of bigotry without “offending” anyone because it happens in the fictitious world she has created. This, in a nutshell, is why I love the Harry Potter series.

If I do get back into teaching, I’ll certainly be assigning certain essay topics from Rowling’s series for extra credit points.

Have you ever suffered from hatred and bigotry? How did you handle it? How would you have handled my racist students?