News from Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Monday, March 25, 2013

Critical Thinking on Same Sex Marriage

I've become a fan of critical thinking. By that I mean: Consider what the experts say, but reserve judgment. Never mind all those authoritative books that explain how it is, and assemble your own facts, connect the dots, and draw your own conclusions. This is especially important when your decision affects another life. Last week there was a prime example of a city council having the courage to draw their own conclusions.
           The City of Bisbee, Arizona  decided that there are two kinds of marriage: the secular, or civil union that bestows legal rights on a couple wanting those rights defined as legal, and the religious kind, sanctified in a church of your choice.   
            Well, it’s about time. The mixing of religious dogma and civil law in the matter of marriage should have never happened. It is a blatant violation of our Founding Father’s intent to keep church and state separate. 
            Civil union is a legal document of entitlement giving the rights and privileges of a couple to manage their finances, their health and welfare and the welfare of their children within the limits of the law, without discrimination. This is a freedom we've forgotten we advocated in the Declaration of Independence. 
             Religious marriage commitments, another thing entirely, are within the authority of the church, and a private matter between couples and their religion.
            My town became the first in Arkansas to grant some rights legally by legislation passed in  2007. We call it the Domestic Partner Registry.  The sitting council realized State law did not recognize common law marriage or domestic partnerships. That meant that these disenfranchised couples had no survivors’ rights over guardianship of their children, nor were those partners or their children able to be included in company hospital plans. Partners were not even allowed in hospital ICUs. 
             I was on the council at that time and we all, unanimously, felt that this was discrimination against children and partners. We could at least remedy some of that by passing an ordinance, recognized by many states and corporations as legal, if presented signed from anywhere, that would grant the right to be on a partner's company hospitalization plan. So we passed the DPR. 
             Kudos to Bisbee for their courage, because the religious right is going to come down on you in a big way, uttering the rallying cry of “Same Sex Marriage.” During passage of that bill, I received at least a thousand e-mails from all over the world, instigated by something called “The American Families Assn.” or whatever, telling me hell awaited if I voted for this thing.  I didn’t care because they didn’t live here. I was even featured in their hate film, They're Coming To Your Town.
            So congrats to Bisbee. The following is a partial quote from the news release in The Los Angeles Times.
             “It is in the best interest of the city of Bisbee to refuse to continue to remain silent on this issue, in the face of discriminatory practices that are inconsistent with the principles upon which our country was founded,” the ordinance states.
            Zavala Badal, Mayor of Bisbee, said,  “A civil union certificate would allow a slew of city benefits for an unwed couple, such as disability or compensation for the partners of city workers and even family discounts at the local pool. Currently, partners don’t qualify. As it stands now, there are several important life decisions that are not available to unwed partners, For instance, partners cannot give authorization as to where their loved one should be buried in the city’s cemetery. Only family members can make that decision. 
            The Supreme Court of the United States is now considering the matter. It will be interesting what they conclude.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Women in the Military – 1860’s Style

The political and financial chaos in the world last week, continuing into today with the European plan to raid private savings accounts to bail out inept governments while Syria attacks Lebanon, both colossal messes brought on by weak male leaders, I began wondering what has happened to the voice of women leaders in the world. Will there ever come a time when the world’s women will say, “Enough,” and take over?
From the inception of this democracy in the 1700’s we cast our women in the role of the submissive, the pious, the conciliators, concerned with family and children—a notion reserved for the upper-class Victorians, because real life required a different set of survival skills. Of necessity, women worked at low-paying, menial jobs, the only ones open to them, because they had hungry children. They followed their husbands westward to live in sod huts, because that what women did, and died from the hardship.
But not always. History changed in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, when women claimed for themselves the inalienable rights men granted to themselves in the Declaration of Independence. It began in a small way, most of it ignored by historians. 
Were you taught in grade school about the women in England who died in jail because they dared demand the right to vote? Probably not.
And did you know that the Revolutionary and Civil Wars in this country provided the chance for hundreds of women to dress as men and enlist in the military? That 250 documented cases of women serving as soldiers and the probability of many more is one of the best-kept historical secrets of the Civil War?
They Fought Like Demons, a book written by DeAnne Blanton and Lauren Cook, Louisiana State University Press, 2002, tells the story of these brave women who, disguised as men, fought and died, enduring hardship without asking for any quarter.
Why did they do that? For many, it was simple patriotism. Northern women fought to preserve the Union; Southerners fought to preserve a way of life threatened by the hated Northerners. Some joined to be near loved ones; others to escape the sheer boredom of Victorian life as women knew it. The pay was better and often there was a signing bonus. Many joined to escape unbearable marriages or an untenable lifestyle. Thus the legend of the female warrior, which prevails in our literature today, was born.
After reading this book I asked, “Where are women like that today--the ones willing to defy convention and persecution?” I can think of a brave Muslim teenager. Where are the rest? Surely we can see the state the world is in after a thousand years of male dominance and incompetence. Catholic women are speaking out, demanding a role in the church, why not Muslims?
You know that any five women in a room can have the nation’s budget balanced in a week. Getting elected President of the United States is not rocket science. You tell the electorate what they want to hear. In this last election they wanted security, safety and predictability in their life. Even though the one candidate was showing alarming signs of not having a clue, his opponent was such a wimp he let the other party beat up on him like a schoolyard bully. This was the guy who would tell North Korea if they so much as lobbed one nuclear bomb at us they would be a pile of dust within 24 hours? I don’t think so.
So, it’s time to take charge. You will have to do it. I’m entering my eighth decade and find being a local elected official is all I can handle, besides being a published author. If you can find the courage to speak out, expect to be trashed by the liberal media because we all know they’re terrified of what women united can do. Have at it and the rest of us will rally the troops.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I Want To Write A Book--How Do I Begin?

     I belong to several social media groups along with published authors and those waiting to publish. The conversation, all on the Internet, very often turns to questions like: How do I start? In the case of the more optimistic it will be, I'm almost finished with my book so how do I find a publisher, or an agent?
     Understand, I'm on the writer's side. I think everyone should be writing something to keep their mind sharp and stir the adrenaline. We are losing our ability to speak. Live conversation is almost a lost art. Cellphone gibberish is the rule of the day, and the only way you learn to talk is to read and write; otherwise the words won't be there when you need them, and you do need them--to explain your problems to tech support or your doctor, to straighten out your cable bill, to convince your boss you're a budding genius. If you don't think the right words are important, read my blog on the last election.
      Learning how to write a book is a lengthy and sometimes painful experience, but if you do it in the company of a writer's critique group, you will learn how to say the words. It won't happen overnight.
     So what makes me think I can offer advice? Well, I've been at this for fifteen years, attending a writer's critique group once a week, ten months of the year. My mentors taught me to write. I sold my first novel, a Western romance, Maddie's Choice, this year after fifteen years of trying and five completed novels. That is par for the course. You will probably write five books before you sell one. There are cases of instant success, but I'll bet those authors, up until they took pen to paper, led interesting lives full of conversation and varied experience, so it was stored in their brain, ready to come out.
     My first rule. Find a writer's group in your area which meets often, where you will be reading several pages of what you have just written. You will listen to the experienced writers tell you what's wrong and you will make notes and change your manuscript. That is how you learn. There are a bunch of books you can read, but nothing works like a published author telling you what's wrong.
      Pay attention. You will have to learn 'point of view,' and 'sense of place.' Those are what happens when you start a chapter or introduce a character, and they are not negotiable. You will learn that some words, like 'as,' or 'seem,' and probably 'just,' are not used. No more than three 'was' words a page. Do not use the same verb twice on a page. If she looked at him once, the second time she'll glance.  Watch out for sentences that start with noun/verb. Two or three to a page.  This might sound a little nit-picky, but it identifies the novice to an editor instantly. Above all, you will hear, "show, don't tell," every time you read. It is a matter of craft and you will learn it or never get published.
     Get acquainted with Writer's Digest and Writer's Magazine.
     Rule two. Understand the task before you. There are 250 words to a page, 70,000 to 80,000 words to a novel. Yeah. There has to be a lot of stuff going on to cover that ground. You WILL type your manuscript in 12 point type, double spaced, Times Roman font, one inch margins all around. Since most editors use Microsoft Word, it saves a lot of time if you do, too.
     Finally, when you have a finished product, edited several times to make it perfect, you will start the dreary job of writing the dreaded synopsis and query letter and begin submitting to hundreds of agents and publishers in the hope that somebody out there thinks you might have something of value to say.
     If you get this far you'll run smack into "platforms," and social medias, and blogs and web pages. That's for later. If you find out what you're expected to do once you've managed to write the book, you'll never start.
Good luck, and let me know how you're doing.