Devon Wilke's writing is focused on the creative arenas - film, theater, fiction, music; art - as well as politics, culture, and human interest. Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for links & details.
[Awarded in Rocky Coast Essay Contest sponsored by The Maine Review]:
Tucked in her lift chair, chilled and uneasy, she waits for tea and dry toast to calm her daily quarrel with queasiness and hunger. With a raised eyebrow and sardonic grin, she remarks, “It ain’t easy gettin’ old.” I commiserate, but she dismisses my empathy; tells me I’m too young to understand. I don’t bother to correct her.
It’s tough. We like our presidents admirable. We like them smart and shiny, with verifiable resumes, successful academic careers, a lack of ongoing lawsuits, demonstrably adult speech patterns, and character traits like integrity, honesty, intelligence and political gravitas.
We’ve had a few of those. We’ve also had a few who were less so — less shiny, less honest; occasionally less elected (Bush v. Gore still rankles). But even in those lesser cases there was still the sheen of presidential distinction and stateliness; still the expected standards of respect, decorum, and good manners (even when spun homey by Carter, Bush or Clinton); still the aura of loftiness surrounding not only the office, but the man (yes, still just the man) who held the office.
Then Election 2016 happened.
Maybe it’s the God-syndrome; the idea that having the power to create is what life is all about, what ‘godliness’ is all about… or at least closer to that vaunted status than ‘cleanliness,’ for God’s sake, which is what we’ve been told all these years!
My day started with a video. A grainy scene shot on a school bus by a child with a phone; it captured a few seconds of some jolly middle-schoolers from Maryland chanting, en masse: “1,2,3,4, how many niggers are in my store?” Voices brimming with hilarity and excitement, they no doubt repeated that phrase over and over, while children of color heard, listened, recorded, and felt... what? What does a child of color, a black child, feel when his or her classmates sit on a bus singing about “niggers,” that most notorious of pejoratives meant to denigrate those with black skin?
Oddly, we seem only to ascribe the concept of legacy to those who are famous. We speak rarely in those terms about the uncelebrated, the not-famous, the every-day folks unknown beyond their small circles. They are, or were, after all, just “regular people,” certainly not meritorious enough to bear the burden of legacy... right?
I don’t think so. In fact, I think the misassignation of “legacy” as a responsibility only of the famous and celebrated has done a grave disservice to our human race.
We give power to, and rely on, the protection of police officers who literally have our lives in their hands, and yet we know nothing about their prejudices, their worldviews, or the degree of their compassion and overall humanity. We have to accept at face-value the depth of their training, their skills and reflex abilities, and we allow them to carry weapons they can point and shoot without knowledge of their aptitude to be judicious about that power. Which means when people get stopped by a cop, they simply cannot know what will happen... it becomes a matter of life and death.
The verbiage, the lines and phrases; the words and meanings are so familiar, so regurgitated, we can almost write the script blindfolded. We’ve heard the language spewed over decades of sexist thinking on the topic of rape, spouted by crafty, amoral defense attorneys, desperate, self-serving parents; entitled, clueless perpetrators, and hardened, sociopathic criminals. Whatever their disparate positions, the goal for each is the same: diminish the crime, denigrate the victim, point the finger away from the rapist and toward the person he’s raped, usually a woman and often a vulnerable one.
t's a tough time to be courageous. Fear is all the rage, the currency of politics and pontification. For a country built on ideals of intrepidity and dauntlessness, how strange that we've become a culture hiding behind walls of artillery, clinging to the coattails of our most xenophobic and narrow-minded.
Which got me to thinking about the people in my own life. My friends. My circle. Those with whom I share this world. In doing so, I couldn't help but recognize what a courageous bunch they are, which, in the quaking of our current zeitgeist, seemed worth noting.
I don't have to name names; we've all seen one famous face after another tumble down the rabbit hole of peer pressure, cultural expectations, show business demands, sheer vanity, fear of death, revulsion of aging and the simple miscalculation -- pummeled and propagated by the media and culture -- that the only beauty is youthful beauty. It's a heavy burden.
Authors' Chat | indieBRAG-- Let’s face it: bad reviews suck. We can get hundreds of good ones, countless accolades and acknowledgments, but regardless of the applause that accompanies our endeavors, we tend to hold onto the words that pierce our creative skin, hurt our fragile sensibilities; shake our sense of who we are as artists. Frankly, even with their potential for destruction, we need them. We want them. We seek them out; promote, push, and pander for them.
In the glory days of good old-timey journalism, the mandate was to report, to chronicle the events of the day, absent of opinion and rife in verifiable fact. Nowadays, as we march onward in our digital revolution to accrue ever-more 24/7 online news/media sources, the sheer demand for content is so relentless that any story, any opinion, any slant or perspective is granted the same status as actual news. Which means much of what we perceive as news is actually an unholy mix of bias, misinformation, rushed reporting, and facts twisted so precipitously as to resemble bias, misinformation, and rushed reporting.
Authors' Chat | indieBRAG: Beyond a prerequisite respect for learning the art and craft of writing; beyond your integrity in terms of quality standards, let’s be honest: writing, as a career, is not an easy road. Nor is it, no matter what anyone tells you, a slam-dunk in terms of making money. Considering the hundreds of thousands of writers who jump in every year, relatively few actually make any appreciable income (with plenty of statistics to prove that out).
When some first read about the Cosby accusers and asked, "Why did it take them so long to report anything?" "Why didn't they fight back at the time?" Why did some of them go back or stay within his circle?" "How could a strong woman not see ahead of time what he was up to?" "Why are they only coming out now?", it was clear the questioners, the naysayers, didn't fully grasp gender politics. Particularly those between a wealthy, well-regarded, famous, powerful, beloved man, and, well, a bunch of no-name (at the time) women. The power imbalance drips off that equation like so much battery acid.
I swear to God, I've aged eons since this election cycle began; the image above would be funny if it weren't so true. Why does it take Americans so damn long to elect a president? Why? It only took eight months for me to decide to marry my husband; just half a year is needed to grow enough wheat to feed the nation; hell, only nine months is required to gestate an entire human being... why does it take two freaking years to elect a president??
Empathy may sound like one of those idealized concepts that reads well in print but is, in fact, too high-toned and elusive to be effective in changing the true, tangible, earthbound problems of our society, but it's not.