This was a difficult post for me to write. I stopped and started at least five times. I was going to post about something much lighter. Why was this so hard for me to get out?
Because I fear I don’t have a real answer.
The news is full of unrelenting turmoil and bad news. In my social media feeds lately, I’ve seen a ton of writers despairing about the current state of the world.
Many of the sentiments boil down to this:
How can we do something frivolous like write books when what we need right now is concrete action? I’m too depressed to write.
I’m not entirely sure myself how to write while the world seems to be turning into ashes around me. So first, I read some essays. I turned to greats like Toni Morrison. If you haven’t yet, I recommend you read “No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear.” Though it was written in 2015, it is utterly prescient. Here she describes how despots work:
Select a useful enemy—an “Other”—to convert rage into conflict, even war.
Limit or erase the imagination that art provides, as well as the critical thinking of scholars and journalists.
Distract with toys, dreams of loot, and themes of superior religion or defiant national pride that enshrine past hurts and humiliations.
It’s important, Morrison points out, to remember other writers from history who wrote under much more difficult situations. Through jail and torture, threatened with death and exile, writers have insisted on making sure their voices are heard.
Vision of the Truth
Next, I read a speech JFK gave at Amherst, honoring Robert Frost and the arts. In part: [Read more…]