Procrastination. Oh, my friend, I know thee well. When it comes to writing, or doing something that I don’t particularly want to do, I will find just about anything to do instead. Now, for most normal things, I will eventually suck it up and do it, but when it comes to writing . . . Oh, when it comes to writing . . .
I love writing. It is as essential to me as breathing, and if I go without writing for too long, I get cranky. Hell, I even get downright mean. But there are times when the words just won’t come, or where I know exactly what the scene is that I want to write, but I can’t get it to come out on paper the way I see it in my head. And, so what do I do? I avoid it. I have been known to clean my entire house from top to bottom, including steam cleaning the carpets, simply because I am fighting with my muse.
But then, the writing I’m doing now, is different. This isn’t the fiction work that I’m used to doing. It isn’t the flights of fancy with the crescendo of action and emotion, drama and suspense, that eventually leads to the harmonic suite of woodwinds and strings, the love song and finale where all is right with the world. Instead, this writing is what amounts to running scales and breath exercises. (Did I mention that used to be involved with music? I was a flautist in primary school.)
I still enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not quite the same. This is a touch more formal, less freestyle and more . . . structured. Not that there’s anything wrong with structure, per say, but it’s like telling an abstract artist to paint by numbers.
I’m trying to get myself more used to writing in this manner as I’ve been looking into writing opinion articles for journals and newspapers. It feels odd to try to write for a newspaper knowing that I’m not a journalist, and have never been formally trained as one.
There are voice out there, Tom Brokaw and Anderson Cooper, to name a few, that I greatly respect and admire, and to me, that’s what a journalist should be. Someone who researches their stories, fact checks the information, goes straight to the horse’s mouth, as it were, for the inside scoop.
But that’s not me, and maybe that’s why they call those articles ‘opinion pieces’. They know that the author isn’t a professional journalist, and while held to a certain level of responsibility, you’re not held to the same level of accountability. Cognitively, I understand this, but it’s still odd. Maybe it always will be.
In all the information I’ve found about writing these pieces – opinion based missives – everything has said to write about what you know, but I keep finding myself asking: What do I really know? Well, let’s take a look at that together, shall we?
Since I became a member of the workforce back when I was fifteen (and dinosaurs roamed the earth), I’ve worked in customer service and technical support. I work closely with people. People. Well, that’s something to offer, isn’t it? So, what has working in those fields taught me about people?
In short, it’s taught me that the American culture is downright willfully ignorant, happily disrespectful, and so damn self-centered and narcissistic that they have no concept that the person behind the sales counter, at the register, or over the phone is, in fact, another human being. I pray for the days that I get someone on the phone from another country. Do you know how sad it makes me to realize that I am shown more respect over the phone by a person calling in for technical support from Egypt, or India – even Qatar – than I am by someone calling in from Illinois who is a born and raised American?
I see in the news and in the papers about all of these people yelling at immigrants to get out of this country – to make America great again – and all I want to do is yell back at them that they are the problem. Not the immigrants. Not people visiting our country. Not people of color who have been born and raised here.
I will be completely honest, with you. I am a white Anglo-Saxon 6th generation American woman, born in the Midwest, raised in Florida, and now living in the Pacific Northwest, and more often than not lately, I find myself ashamed to admit any of that. I have always loved this country, but not its people, and certainly these days, not its government.
The voices of hate and intolerance that are shouting louder than ever before, seem all too happy to forget the truth. Or maybe, they’re just content to ignore it and pretend that the history they’ve fabricated is what is real.
What is now known as the United States was not a barren unsettled country until white men appeared on her shores. This country was home to the Native Americans for thousands of years before Europeans ever even knew it existed. There were hundreds of Native American nations – some peaceful, some not – but this was their home, and their once great numbers are now only a shadow of what they once were.
Christopher Columbus did not “discover” America. He stumbled upon it, crashed into it, all while looking for India. Basically, he was stumbling around in the dark, blind and drunk, and stuck his flag where it didn’t belong. Sound familiar? Then in the early to mid-1600s, English refugees came to the shores of what is now Massachusetts. They were kicked out of England for being radical religious extremists. So, what did they do? They boarded a boat, set out to sea, and immigrated illegally to what would later become the United States.
Yeah, I said it, and I’ll say it again. The country you know today was founded by illegal immigrants who were religious extremists. But not just that. Did they even attempt to live peacefully with the native peoples they found?
Instead of trying to learn and understand the culture of the natives, instead of trying to learn their language, and make peace with them, the white settlers – those illegal immigrants (Oh, you can bet I’m going to keep saying it.) decided to take what was never theirs to start with. The Puritans raided the villages, gunned down the native peoples, and when that wasn’t enough to satisfy their bloodthirst, they offered tribes “gifts” of dolls and blankets and so many other things that they knew were infected with diseases like small pox, yellow and scarlet fevers, things that the native peoples had no immunity to because those things didn’t exist before the Puritans brought it to them.
Mass shootings. Biological warfare. Willful torture of humans and animals. Rape. The slaughter of women and children. The suppression and destruction of other cultures. The intolerance of other religions. Setting fire to homes and farms. Terrorism at its finest. That, [white] America, is what the truth of your culture is, and if you want to shout at other people to go back to where they come from, why don’t you look in a fucking mirror first.
It took almost 150 years for the Founding Fathers to rise and to say “enough is enough”. They fought for religious and cultural freedom. They made a clear separation of church and state. They created the constitution. And it is the freedoms that they helped fight for that so many are all too willing to ignore now.
So, in short, what have I learned from my experience in customer service and tech support? Americans, by and large, are disgusting human beings. But sometimes, just sometimes, on a rare day, you can meet one person who might bring you the slightest glimmer of hope. And while it may not be enough to offset all the bad, it’s just enough to allow you a little breathing room, to remember why it is you want to fight for something better.