The Emperor's New Clothes

Sunday, May 26, 2019
The title of this blog is the title of a story by Hans Christian Andersen. I know my mother read it to me as a child, and I’m fairly certain it was one of those stories Captain Kangaroo either read or had an animated version of on his children’s television show. If no one read it to you as a child, I recommend you click on this link and read it now.
In brief, it’s a story about vanity and an obsession with what others think of you. In the end, the only one willing to speak the truth is a little child who, rather than going along with what everyone else is saying, tells the truth as he sees it.

I think we have a serious case of The Emperor’s New Clothes going on in America. A few years back, the buzzword was “politically correct.” Now, it’s disguised behind words like inclusiveness, gender dysphoria, and triggers. Suddenly, society at large is responsible for the wellbeing of everyone. If you don’t believe in open borders, guaranteed income, and sexual reassignment for any who want it, all at government expense, the name-calling begins.

If someone has a different opinion than these progressives, they’re immediately labeled as Nazis by people too young to have grown up in the shadow of World War II. Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party were very much on the minds of everyone when I was growing up. Almost all of our fathers had served in the military and fought in the war. The Holocaust, with its slaughter of six million Jews and more millions of non-Jewish people, was a living nightmare in our all-too-recent past. Using this epithet against people who are nothing like Hitler gives me chills… and enrages me. A difference of opinion does not a Nazi make.
The desire to be accepted, to not be thought unfit for his office and unusually stupid, has led to a nation that willingly espouses the latest demands for equality and sensitivity without thinking for themselves whether or not the emperor has no clothes. Very few want to take the time to investigate if the clickbait headlines are true or not.
This state of affairs has led to removing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from what’s now called the Children’s Literature Legacy Award because she used a racial slur in one of her books. In fact, it was a common term in those times and, when she heard the objections to it, she changed it in her lifetime. But she’s still guilty, according to a group of very vocal people.
Confederate statues have been removed from public places because they, in the eyes of the left, supported racism. Similarly, roads, buildings, and landmarks have been renamed for the same reason.
And just this week, it was suggested that Thomas Jefferson’s name be removed from the name of an annual Democratic dinner because he owned slaves even though he knew it was wrong.
There’s also the ever-popular idea of “reparations” that tends to get trotted out in election years. There’s a group of people who think that all Native Americans (they call themselves Indians in Arizona) and black people should be paid a sum of money for the wrongs committed against them by white people in the past. So, people living today who have never been fired upon by the U.S. Military or been a slave should collect money from people who weren’t alive when these things happened. How does that make any sense?

The people who do not take these judgments at face value are largely silent, afraid of what the response will be. We’ve all heard about what happened to the bakers who didn’t want to make a custom wedding cake for a gay couple, the demands for boycotts of Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby because their owners are Christian and patriotic. The people wearing MAGA hats or tee shirts who are attacked in public.

But there are two people who are not afraid to voice unpopular opinions. One of them is Donald Trump. I’m not going to get into whether the President is right or wrong on specific issues. That would be too long a blog post and I don’t have the time to research all the points before voicing my opinions. The fact is, he was duly elected by the American people under the rules of the U.S. Constitution. Since then, the Democrats have spent an amazing amount of time and money trying to prove Donald Trump is unfit for office.
The people of the United States of America have spent two years and somewhere between twenty-five and forty million dollars on the Mueller Investigation. The conclusion was that there was no collusion with the Russians and no obstruction of justice. But the Democrats aren’t satisfied with that. They want to conduct more investigations, many of them calling for impeachment (for what high crime or misdemeanor?), waste more time and more of our money, and basically not do their jobs until the next election, when they believe they’ll finally be able to get rid of him.
Meanwhile, what meaningful legislation has Congress passed in the last two years?

The other is Jordan B. Peterson, who became famous in America for his book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos”. He’s been famous in Canada for a lot longer for objecting to a Canadian law for adding "gender identity and expression" as a prohibited ground of discrimination. He claimed that it was “compelled speech,” and that just because a person with XX chromosomes identifies as male, he shouldn’t be forced to call her “him.”
Peterson is an incredibly intelligent man. Although his training is in psychology, he has also extensively studied philosophy, biology, history, and religion. He espouses such unpopular ideas as all people are not equal and that a hierarchy is inherent in nature. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe in equality, but it does mean that he objects to men identifying as women being able to compete in women’s sports. Looking at the facts of that, it’s obviously true. Men are stronger, more muscular than women. I think the fact that transgender women (whether taking hormones or having had surgery or not) have been allowed to compete and win in track events and wrestling is a travesty. The fact that they want to is not enough. It’s the equivalent of letting me replace Tom Brady as quarterback of the NE Patriots.
I’m not going to go into more detail about Peterson. This blog is already too long. He has a YouTube channel where you can watch dozens of videos of interviews and lectures. Let me warn you, though, that these are not cat videos. Many of them go on for two-three hours and are very dense. He brings up references from all of the various fields he’s studied and it helps to know something about them in order to understand the references.
But to get back to my original point, Cambridge University rescinded Peterson’s visiting fellowship because “(h)is work and views are not representative of the student body.” In other words, some students didn’t like what he was saying, so he wasn’t allowed to say it.
This is a very frightening trend in the land of free speech. What happened to I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?

Finally, I’m going to tie this back to Hans Christian Andersen’s original story which, if you have gotten this far, I’m going to assume you’ve read, so what I’m about to say won’t be a spoiler. At the end, when faced with incontrovertible proof that the clothes don’t exist, the emperor decides to continue his parade down the streets of the town naked rather than giving up his belief in them. I’ll leave the modern analogy to you.

Climbing Mountains and Shiny New Toys

Sunday, May 19, 2019
I’m happy to report that I’ve written over 9,000 words on my new western romance so far in the month of May. That’s not nearly as many as I should have. In fact, since I’m writing this on May 19th, I should have at least twice as many words as I do. But it’s a lot more than I’ve written in each of the past two months.

Writing a book is often like crossing over a mountain. You start off full of energy and enthusiasm for this new story you’re about to tell. The opening words come easily, and you’re sure this is going to be your best book yet. After a few thousand words, the path gets steeper. This isn’t as easy as you thought it would be. You realize you didn’t develop your characters as thoroughly as you should have before you started. You’re not sure what order those scenes you envisioned need to come in. (There are some writers who don’t write in order. They write whatever scene intrigues them at the moment. Then, when they think they’ve written them all, they shuffle them around until they form a story.)

As you get toward the middle of the book, you’re getting tired from the struggle. You can see the top of the mountain shrouded in clouds, but you have no idea what’s on the other side. But you break out your pitons and rope to help you up. Sometimes the path gets so difficult, you need to pull out an ice axe and chisel out your way. That’s the phase I’ve been in for a while.

Finally, you reach the summit. The thrill of approaching victory courses through your veins. You might even give a fist-pump and shout “Yes!” You can see the way down from the mountain. That’s the stage I reached this week. The writing is starting to be fun again.

There’s a long way to go yet, and then a major editing session. I already know I have a sequencing problem early in the book that I’ll have to work out. And, as always, I’ll have to add transitions between scenes and more sensory details. Often as I write, I know there are chocolate chip cookies in the oven, but I might forget to write that down. Or, if I do, I haven’t mentioned the delicious sweet smell that fills the house.

Since I can see the end now, my brain has started to think about the next writing project I’m going to tackle. The problem is, there are so many stories I want to start. I know I need to write the next African Violet Club mystery. I’ve come up with a brand new idea for a different mystery series, this one more of a traditional mystery rather than a cozy. And part of me wants to go back to that first series I wrote and finally write the fourth book. And give it new covers.

This is referred to as shiny new toy syndrome and is common among writers. They have so many ideas and so many stories they want to write, they can’t decide which one to do next. They might start all of them, then jump from one to the other because the one they’re working on isn’t quite as shiny as they thought it would be. They’ve reached the steeper part of climbing the mountain. The problem with this approach is that no novel gets finished in a timely manner. With new writers, you can just say no novel gets finished.

So my next step is to finish the book I’m working on, then prioritize the other books I want to write. Wish me luck!

Reading the Bible

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Six weeks ago, I decided to join a women’s Bible study on Saint Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews. I’ll be honest. My primary motivation in doing this was to get to know some people at my church. Being an introvert, I’m not very good about hanging around during coffee hour and making small talk, so I hadn’t learned the names of too many of my fellow worshipers. The women’s Bible study seemed like a non-threatening way of meeting new people and, incidentally, learning something of interest to me.
I have met some women—Barb and Jo and Margie and Nancy—and it’s nice to recognize familiar faces when I see them again on Sunday morning. I can’t say any of them are friends yet, but I see the potential for friendships. So, I’ve accomplished what I thought was my primary goal in joining this group.
But, much to my surprise, the real value has been the Bible study itself. Now, I’ve been a Christian for most of my life. I’ve belonged to Bible study groups before and read some books on my own. But this is the first one I’ve belonged to that leans heavily on the concept of scripture interprets scripture.
Each week focuses on the next section, often a chapter, sometimes more or less depending on length, of the book of Hebrews. There are five lessons to work on during the week that further break down the week’s assignments by verse. This is where things get interesting. Most of the time, the words from the verse or verses of Hebrews refer you to other passages in the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments.

Now, some of these are obvious. The Gospels often quote from Old Testament prophecies to show how Jesus fulfilled them. Or the apostles in their epistles will quote from the Old Testament to illustrate a point because, especially with the book of Hebrews, which was addressed to the Jewish people, the recipients are familiar with those teachings. But going back and reading those in the original books of the Bible not only gives them context, it also reenforces the lesson. The writers of the books of the New Testament weren’t just making this stuff up; they were leaning on the ancient teachings of the religion they were a part of before Jesus came.
And then there are references to other books in the New Testament where again the same message may be stated in different words or the teaching may reference what is to come by having you read something from the book of Revelation. This study has changed my perspective on the Bible.
To understand this, you have to realize that for ten years I attended a church where the pastor seemed to pick and choose what parts of the Bible to consider correct. In fact, that turned out to be the reason I left that church. He didn’t like apocalyptic writing or Satan or the notion that there was good and evil in the world. In fact, to him the evil was within each individual, a matter of ego more than anything. He cringed any time the lectionary Bible readings for a week included references to Judgment Day or punishment because our God was a god of love and He loved everyone. Over time, I started to see the Bible as a collection of books where some books were more Biblical than others. But it struck me as wrong to see it that way. That viewpoint didn’t sit right with what I had been taught for most of my life.
Through the current Bible study I’m doing with the women of my new church, the books of the Bible are being knit back together into one whole, with one message and focus. And that feels right to me.

Photo Credit: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
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A Clash of Kings
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