This isn’t over. Not yet. Maybe never.

Look. I’ve spent years into studying societies, how people fuck them up, and how they unfuck themselves. Politics is history happening, science fiction is the history of the future, and I write hopeful dystopian fantasy & science fiction. So of course I’ve been glued to the news for, um, ever, but especially the last few months. It’s mesmerizing.

This post contains meandering musings about this & that, life the universe, and so on. No particular idea where it’s going, so bail now if you’re looking for a Dramatic Point or a Conclusive Proclamation.

I wish I was surprised by the direction politics have been heading in the US since, oh, since we hit the twenty-first century, but I’m not. I’ve been doing deep research on the history of religious cults, separatist groups, American fascism, racist organizations, Confederate true-believers, insurrectionist movements FOR 35 YEARS.

All this time, I’ve been disappointed and fearful about national politics more often than not, but I cling to hope that my country’s leaders would avoid total collapse. I am too optimistic, perhaps. Still, I remain confident the world won’t end, no matter what.

That’s because I’m a biology major who studied ecology. I have immense respect for matters straightening themselves out on a planetary scale. Global warming may wipe out all life down to bacteria, but life will go on. It’ll be different, it won’t be a place anyone human can live, but…okay, maybe I have a weird perspective.

AND I DIGRESS. Ha. Big surprise. Moving on…

Here’s one thing that sank in early in my fascination with studying ways the future might careen towards hell in a handbasket: wars don’t happen the way I learned about them in history classes. They only look obvious in hindsight or from a distance.

The questions history likes to answer are ones like, “what caused the war?” “how bad did it get?” and “how long did it last?” No one can answer those from the happening side of a conflict. Worse, war in the modern world is messy. To borrow from Dr. Seuss, war can happen without uniforms, it can happen without guns, it can happen without declarations, legislation, or sides.

“War: a state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state” (italics mine, definition courtesy of Oxford Languages)

By that definition, the United States has been in a state of war for months now, and I don’t think it’s anywhere near over.

Skirmishes have been happening for years (Occupy movement. Bundys. Border detentions, Charlottesville…the list goes on and on.) Since June 2020 fighting has broken into the open and gone through multiple cycles of violence, truce, and renewed conflict. BLM protests. Pandemic protests. Pre- and post-election Trump rallies. The mob assault on the Capitol.

Yeah. That last one. That’s the one that seems to have finally tipped the scales into “HEY WTF IS GOING ON” for a lot of people.

Looking back, it’s always much easier to connect the dots.

I’m gobsmacked by how stunned people were that the “pro-Trump” rallies “turned violent.” It takes a whopping big dose of denial to ignore the open calls for sedition from a movement so obviously, violently fascist that it embraces the use of the Nazi swastika, one whose followers put bullseye targets on pictures of their enemies, and who call for lynchings and firing squads against their own elected officials.

But hey, denial and lies have served conservative political representatives so well for so long that maybe they forgot that the people they were lying to believe the lies. There’s a dangerous false security in downplaying calls to violence that don’t meet the historical standard of “warfare.” (They aren’t fascists, pfft. That was 1930’s Germany. This is now. They aren’t racist, they’re making jokes. They aren’t proposing the overthrow of the elected government, they’re merely objecting to results they don’t like, and, uh, talking about holding the people who disagree hostage until they change the result…or lynching them…or…yeah…hm.)

I’m glad the Capitol incident made an impression. It barely escaped being a bloody, gruesome wake-up call. Call it a rally gone wrong, call it a riot, call it an organized insurrection–those labels can be discussed. But it escaped being a mass murder only by a chance combination of heroic actions coupled with good luck. It was almost an undeniable act of insurrection. It was almost the first battle in an undeclared war. (have you noticed how Americans only tend to call things wars if they happen somewhere else?)

I wish the immediate aftermath gave me more hope. Sadly, there was also an immediate return to the same old playbook of minimizing, and that doesn’t stun me in the least. The whataboutisms, misdirection, false equivalencies, ad hominem dismissals, and wholesale denial of reality–those tactics have served certain government representatives for so long they can’t seem to accept that they’re not riding the tiger any more, that they’re being batted back and forth by it.

It’s been a quiet fortnight since January 6, in the news at least. It hasn’t been peaceful, and too many people are suffering under the awful laws of the current regime, but the insurrection threats are being taken more seriously by the institutions that are still functioning. So there’s that.

And tomorrow, if all goes well, there’ll be a new president, one who has plans ready to go, a commitment to make the job more than a 4-year series of election rallies, and a team of idealists who want to make systems work better, not just make life better for some people under the current systems.

But those insurrectionists? They’re not going anywhere. Most of them are home, and they live all over the nation. They live in my town and your town. In our neighborhoods. In our families. They work where I work. They shop where I shop.

That isn’t going to end when control of the executive branch of the government changes hands.

But that’s a good stopping point for my post. Time to go do some dreaming, hoping that the world will get better tomorrow and the next day, and maybe for a few thousand tomorrows after that.

Until later.

A Host of Things Viewed

This post is made of movie & TV reviews. NO, NOT AVENGERS. all the same, ahoy, maties, SPOILERY WATER AHEAD.

Shape of Water: Yes, it won umpteen awards, and I can see why.  The movie is an phenomenally cohesive, polished work of cinematic craftsmanship from start to finish,  from the acting and directing right through soundtrack, cinematography and costuming.

It’s also still Creature from the Black Lagoon Falls In Love, so despite the amazing ambiance of the scenery, the moody music, and the adept acting of the cast, it…didn’t wow me.  I guess I like my creature love stories with a lot less messaging about Othernesss meaning people aren’t whole, a LOT fewer of the Obvious Evil style of baddies,  and happy endings that involve a inclusion WITHIN society rather heroes than having to flee into isolation to be their true selves.

I over-think things, perhaps. Doesn’t make me wrong.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. Yes, yes, I watched a documentary. GO, ME.  Depressing as hell, about a brilliant, beautiful woman whose brilliance was dismissed–even declared impossible–because she was also beautiful, a woman whose government and bosses cheated her, a woman whose reputation was blackened and misrepresented by a media machine more interested in headlines than truth. A woman who ended up broke and broken by the system.

Outrageous. Me being me, of course I went out and did a bunch of booky research to fact-check and bias-check the film’s claims. Result: turns out the movie bent over backwards to give the impression that no malice was ever meant when in reality, there is plenty of evidence to suggest jealousy, bigotry and misogyny played large roles in her defeats.

The careful approach the creators took makes sense. Any appearance of outrage would have gotten it ignored as weak girly shrieking about unfairness.

Because that tactic still works, doesn’t it? The events in the documentary took place decades before the long-running campaign to tarnish and diminish Hilary Rodham Clinton’s reputation ever began.  I wasn’t expecting to see resonances. But there they were, BIG AS LIFE.

Anyhow. That was my takeaway.

Darkest Hour. Ah. Hm. Maybe I was not in the right mood for Oscar-nominated/winning movies? Because this was 2+ hours of brilliant acting, fabulous costuming and cinematography, but at the end it left me wondering WHY WAS THIS MADE?  The plot covers a momentous month in Britain’s history, (NOT, its darkest hour by the way, only the time leading up to the “FINEST Hour” speech being given) but it wasn’t not exactly a month that lends itself to storytelling drama in London.  Dunkirk? That got its own movie. Ditto all the other places major action and sacrifice were taking place.

So despite a whole lot of fictional dialogue and dramatic elements being added, it felt like a long parade of “Golly, Churchill, wotta character, eh?” moments. To me.

The YMMV principle applies to all my reviews.

One more! The new Lost In Space. TV series, season 1. Did I gush about this one already? I don’t care. Among my social circle this show  seems to be a polarizing topic. People either love it or hate it.  I  love it with a passion equal or greater than my loathing for the 1990’s era movie, and I LOATHED that movie.

Why do I love this one?

Scientists winning with science instead of science being Dangerous and Not To Be Trusted. Characters who are true to the campy originals without being the campy originals (because traits that were acceptable in the mid-60s do not always translate well to today’s mores.)   A plot that keeps an optimistic, we-can-fix-it feel without falling into perky positivity.  Is it perfect? Oh, hell no. Plot devices and coincidences abound, the dialogue is sometimes painfully stilted and the surprises were, with one exception, telegraphed well ahead of their reveals. So there’s room for season 2 to get better or for the whole thing to crash and burn. I’ll watch it and see.

That’s it for now. I also watched Into The Borderlands and the latest Avengers movie, but I’ll hold off on reviewing either one until I’m done with them.

Which for the Avengers won’t be until next May.  Until then…

I write books.  They’re quite excellent, or so people tell me. You can buy them all. & judge for yourself on Amazon or anywhere books are sold. Choose from paperbacks, ebooks, and even audios.  Click the BOOKS link on this site to get a free peek.

Or, you know, not. Your choice. Until next blog.

 

Telling stories again

I saw some articles on two topics recently that made me stop and say, “Hm.”

Topic 1, how the United States military is drawing from an ever-smaller pool of soldier families and geographic regions, so there’s a growing disconnect in the public view of what the military is and does and what it ACTUALLY is and does–because fewer people in general come into contact with serving military members. (And the articles discussed that can feed prejudice and dehumanization and a wide array of other dangerous issues…)

2, how the concept of evil and what evil groups have done in the past has become so abstract, so disconnected from the daily experience and the personal narratives of whole  social groups. This feeds the human tendency to create false equivalencies between groups exhibiting similar behaviors (Nazis vs anti-Fascists, for example.) Supporting false equivalencies is also Not Good.

Basically, both topics boil down to the problem of “people losing a sense of the importance of things.” Awkward phrasing, but there it is. It’s an awkward situation when things past and the distant become deniable because they don’t feel real.

I don’t know how to be that detached from the world.

I suckled history at my mother’s breast. Well, I would’ve done, if she’d breastfed me, but women didn’t much in the era when I was born. She was a history teacher, though, and an english teacher, and my father was an avid consumer of history and narratives himself, and loved to share every new discovery, yes even with his babies. History was never a school subject for any of us Morris kids. It was all around us, everywhere we went, and it connected everyone we knew.

Visiting ANY destination meant collecting fascinating tales of the local heroes, villains, any gruesome disasters, and other trivia.  Meeting people resulted in stories about their backgrounds and how they came to be where we were. Learning to sing Waltzing Matilda so we could serenade the new neighbors from Down Under came with stories of Australia’s culture and founding, so we knew why there were swagmen as well as what a billabong was…just to name one of many, many such memories.  And dinner conversation could turn to any old topic that struck Dad’s fancy, from apocryphal tales of obscure British monarchs to Russian folk stories that offered insight into political decisions we were seeing on the nightly news. (Because yes, we watched TV over dinner. As a family.)

I thought all families were like this until I started visiting friends’ homes for meals in fifth & sixth grade. Not so much, it turns out. Nope. Kids were seen & not heard most places, or else we were sent to eat and socialize without supervision.

Teaching moments, that’s what some people call the sharing of knowledge and life experiences as they relate to past and present. I call it conversation. Seriously, I don’t know any other way to relate to people.

I think all of us need to look closer at wherever we happen to be, ask when and what, where and who, and then share those tales for their own sake. Histories. HERstories. OURstories. This casual tale telling keeps fresh the easily-dropped point that people are people.  Relating then to now through narratives brings together past and present, distant and near, them and us, so we understand better how all these things are connected.

And most importantly, it reinforces the reality that what we do now is how history happens. Or so it seems to me at the moment.

Okay, I’m done. Until next time.