This blog will be a bit of a departure from my regular ramblings about the writing process or my journey toward the release of my first full-length novel. My book is at the editors and so I'm taking this opportunity to write about something that's been on my mind for a while now.
I believe it's important writers...hmm...no, make that humans...to be active participants in the discussions and debates that regularly take place on topics of significant importance—topics which can often also be controversial. I'm not talking about who should've won American Idol, or if the SEC is a better college football conference than the Big 12. I'm talking about the topics that tend to dominate local and national headlines. Topics that draw in massive amounts of attention on social media, and which, at times, even lead some members of our society to commit acts of violence against those who disagree with them or who are "unlike" them in some way. I'm talking about the big ones—politics, race relations, religious intolerance, discrimination against individuals for various reasons, whether it be gender, age, sexual orientation, or some other reason, along with the many other subjects that affect us daily, not only as a nation, but as a planet, as a people and as a species. There are important Issues out there that concern everyone. So much so, that I believe it is a moral imperative for each us to involve ourselves in the discussions and debates that take place, in an effort to understand one another better, and perhaps find resolution. At the very least we should all be aware that the discussions taking place.
Unfortunately, there's a larger issue that keeps us from having the kind of important, productive, discussions we as a people need to have.
Before I continue, did you notice what I did in the paragraph above, when I listed the "topics" of discussion? Among the legitimate topics of race relations and discrimination, I listed "religious intolerance." Sounds okay doesn't it? I suppose it does, unless you're not religious, or you've been wronged (severely or otherwise) by those who claim a religion. For the record, I consider myself a Christian, but if you belong to one of the latter demographics, than you're removed from the discussion of "religious intolerance" before it's even began. This leads to the larger issue I mentioned earlier. Our media outlets, whether they be mainstream, social or otherwise, position themselves to generate controversy and conflict, rather than any kind of reasonable discourse among rational individuals. The reason is simple, as any storyteller knows: the greater the conflict the better the story and conversely, no conflict, no story.
But here's a thought—what if we try speaking and listening to one another with honor, decency and respect, even when...no, especially, when we disagree. No conflict, no story, perhaps, but when it comes to resolving some of our deepest issues, perhaps we don't always need to make it into a story.
Or perhaps, just perhaps, there can be a different story to tell.
My wife and I enjoy watching "The Good Wife" television series. It's well written, funny, poignant, and relevant, without being preachy or condescending. In a recent episode, one of the side stories directly broached the issue of LGBT couples who believe they are being discriminated against when a business refuses to sell goods or provide a service to them based on the grounds of religious freedom. In the spirit of full disclosure, I support the rights of LGBT couples to marry and receive the same protections and benefits as any other married couple. Be that as it may, I also understand the arguments of those who do not feel comfortable providing a service to said couples on the grounds of their religious beliefs. When you take the emotional element out the equation and look at it pragmatically, it is a difficult issue. The rights of one person or group are in direct conflict with the rights of another. In this episode of The Good Wife, the service in question was wedding planning, and what I enjoyed most about the show, and what I truly respected the show's producers, writers, actors, etc. for, was the way they considerately portrayed both sides. Within the storylines of the show, there were straightforward arguments between intelligent, educated people, who strongly believed in points of view that were diametrically opposed to one another, but never once did they denigrate each other as individuals, nor did they attempt to belittle the other's belief simply for the sake of "getting in a good zinger." By the end of the show, they had made it clear that this is, by no means, a simple cut-and-dry, right-and-wrong, yes-or-no issue. I believe this is true for most of the important issues we face today.
And guess what? It made a pretty compelling story, too.
So, what is my end game with this blog? What do I hope to accomplish? Not much, I suppose, other than to say that, as the title of the blog states, I refuse to get drawn in to pretend "debates" that are clearly meant to be nothing more than "conflict creators," with the goal of keeping us closer to one another's throats, and further away from real resolution.
Anyone care to join me?