PC: Politely Considerate; A study of two viewpoints

I read two editorials in The Washington Post this morning. One was about the Republican Party, the other about J.K. Rowling. Two diametrically opposed subjects that somehow made me think about the same thing.

In his article, Wake up Republicans. Your party stands for all the wrong things now., Stuart Stevens says Republicans have become a party of white grievance in the midst of a population of diverse “immigrants and multiculturalism” by labeling kindness and compassion with a somehow evil label of “PC”. He’s not wrong. I’ve felt this way myself. Political correctness is not evil. It is thinking of others before shooting your mouth off. But this got me thinking about the many times I’ve been browbeat as “part of the problem” by my fellow liberals. Sometimes I’m not PC enough, evidently, to really be considered a liberal. Which I admit. I’m a fifty-year-old, born-and-raised-in-the-South, white lady. What do you expect?

And still, I try.

In her article, Has J.K. Rowling figured out a way to break our cancel culture?, Megan McArdle muses about the intriguing J.K. Rowling case, in which the hugely successful, Trump-hating, liberal author dared to support a woman who said binary sex is a biological fact that cannot be denied, not because she thought the woman was right, but because Rowling believed the woman had a right to her opinion. And the mob swarmed, according to McArdle, but Rowling has yet to acknowledge any wrongdoing. She has not deleted her tweet, she has not scheduled any conferences with groups who could educate her as to why she was wrong, and she has not apologized. Instead, Rowling is ignoring the would-be mob, letting her reputation stand for itself.

I mean, yeah, but damn. That takes courage.

These two articles got me thinking about what troubles me about left-wing liberals. They’ve taken the whole PC thing to a militant level. If you don’t watch every hand gesture, every word, every joke, every casual remark or tweet, you are “part of the problem.” You must stay well to the left of the white line and tread carefully lest you wander into the middle of the road. Because to those on the far left, there is no common ground. But if all the left stands for is being PC police, then we are in as much danger as the Republican party right now. As Stevens says, “Republicans now partly define their party simply as an alternative to that other party, as in, ‘I’m a Republican because I’m not a Democrat.'”

“You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” —Aaron Tippin

Yet, as McArdle says, “we fret about the opinions of officious strangers, possibly thousands of miles away, who swarm social media like deranged starlings…” In other words, instead of forming our own opinions based on our own beliefs, we let others mandate them for us. McArdle does attribute this behavior to both the left and the right (the left being the offender in the case of Rowling), but in my mind, the left is becoming exceptionally less accepting of other opinions, and that is dangerous. If we are to be the party of acceptance and tolerance, we must learn to accept and tolerate a multitude of ideas without attempting to summarily cancel them.

In the end, if we hear out the opinions of those who disagree with us, we can choose whether or not to accept them into our beliefs. Yes, be polite and considerate—in fact, that is what PC should stand for—to all. Even those who disagree with you. Accept into your own heart what you believe is right. Blow the rest away like unimportant dandelion fluff.

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Yes, I did write that last line so I could use this picture.  Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Dear Millenials: It’s okay to have high hopes. Love, Gen X

Yeah, I said it. Before you go making fun of Generation X’s “High Hopes” dance, take a few notes from your elders. (And maybe read the lyrics of that song, too. It is the Generation X anthem.)

I have not yet decided which Democrat I will vote for in the primary election. I like different aspects of several of them. I wish I could combine all these different aspects into one Super Candidate. Lacking that, I wish that all of the other candidates would get behind one candidate in a kind of Super Coalition and promise to help that person defeat the Great Evil, Donald Trump.

I have High Hopes.

You gotta have High Hopes.

Truth is, I started out my adult life with High Hopes. My generation, who hadn’t yet been disregarded as Generation X—not Boomers or Millenials or even The Silent Generation, but evidently not even worthy of a name—at any rate, my generation was the first to realize we needed to recycle. I remember how proud I was to cart my little blue bin from the apartment I shared with my husband while he was in medical school to the larger blue bins labeled by colors of glass, newspaper or aluminum cans. I was making a difference.

I had High Hopes.

Not many dimes, though. I worked for a tiny newspaper an hour away, covering local news in a town I didn’t live in but grew to care about. I covered politics, police reports, wrote features about interesting folks, even tried my hand at writing about sports (baseball was my favorite, basketball a close second, football killed me).

I was going to make it big at the little newspaper and catch the eye of the bigger ones. I pictured myself eventually writing something that caught the attention of Rolling Stone. It could happen. After a couple of years of it not happening (and late nights at the paper keeping me from my new husband), however, I was tired of commuting. Burning your biography and rewriting your history isn’t all that easy after all. A job at the library of the medical school attracted me, just as jobs at libraries always had. I went back to my roots.

But I still had High Hopes.

Twenty-some years later, I still have high hopes. I still write, and it’s not all romance or kid stuff. I write about my politics and my beliefs and just my thoughts, not because I hope Rolling Stone will take note, but because I know words have a way of getting out there. Sometimes in an article like this one.

Maybe my generation hasn’t changed things. Maybe we aren’t the ones who will save the world. But we have the influence and the power to effect change when we find the one (or ones) who will. We’ve got one more run in us, and it’s going to be a sight to see.

We want everything.

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The sun has not yet set on Generation X. We still want it all.

Reflections on the darkest day of the year

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Happy darkest day of the year

Today is the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year, and, in my mind, the day of change. Hopefully for the better. Last year on this day, I got the idea to write children’s books. This year, I’ve written two. Jessica Entirely and Jessica Naturally, the first two books of my Jessica series, are now published and being consumed. Of course, to do that, I had to create a new identity as my romances are definitely not for kids. Thus was born Shelley Gee.

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I have also written a good bit of poetry this year. I like that. I published my first poetry booklet, Times and Ties, which I dedicated to a friend who passed away unexpectedly and tragically. I still miss you, Pam. You were a staunch supporter of my writing, especially my poetry. (By the way, I’m working on getting this booklet online. For now, it’s only available for purchase at our local small bookstore, The Next Chapter Books and Art.

For Pam

By Michelle

 

Oh my brain just couldn’t comprehend

But my treacherous heart heard the news

And held it close and took it in

 

Oh today is gray because you’ve left

Taking your light and helpful spirit

And you won’t be coming around

 

And oh my heart keeps reminding me

You’re gone.

 

Oh my friend what you’ve left behind

Has more value than words can say

More than most with twice the time

 

Oh the legacy of a loving life

The warm work of hands that care

Reminds us we’ll see the sun shine

 

But oh my heart keeps telling me

You’re gone.

 

Last year, I also took about six months of singing lessons, landed a spot in the choir for our local theatre’s production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, and accepted a spot on the board of our other local theatre. So I’m exploring a whole new arena of storytelling.

What will this next year hold for me? Well, I took a bit of a break from my romances in order to accomplish all this, and I’m eager to get back to it. Magic at Sea is calling me. I plan to answer that call today. After all, what better way to celebrate the return of light to the world than by writing about love? Beyond that? I know I’ll be writing more about little Jessica. I hope to be in more theatre and I know I’ll be behind the scenes for more. Tonight, I’ll light a fire and a few candles and think hard about how to make it all happen.

What about you? What will the light bring you?

For more ideas about how to celebrate the winter solstice, check out this website: https://rhythmsofplay.com/ways-to-celebrate-the-winter-solstice-2/

Also, my book Winter Solstice is still available from Lyrical Press:

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Poem: When Justice Falls

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Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

I’ve been struggling with my feelings about the impeachment of Donald Trump. Last night, watching the votes rack up and the opposing sides face off, I felt as if I were torn in half. I never wanted this. But since the day I realized Donald Trump would be our president, I knew it was coming. It was a matter of when. With each of his horrific policies and statements, I wished it would come already. When immigrant children were separated from their families at the border to be placed in group “homes” and “facilities” without protection from God only knows what (death and abuse), I prayed for Donald Trump to be impeached. When he pulled our military out and left our Kurdish allies to bleed and die, I prayed for Donald Trump to be impeached. When Donald Trump overturned the military courts and allowed war crimes to go unpunished, I cursed God for not listening.

And now I am confronted by the reality. Donald Trump is impeached. And every Republican stood behind him, defending the indefensible, turning the truth to fit their own version of reality, spitting in the face of what is right. And I know that when he is acquitted in the Senate by his majority, something precious will die. And all I feel is sad.

 

When Justice Falls

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

You’d think I’d be happier, right?

Justice is blind, but Truth lies at her feet.

How can she not see what lies before her?

Come, Justice, set us free from tyranny!

But she can’t hear me above the multitude of lies.

Blind and deafened, she doesn’t see Truth…and stumbles.

 

You’d think I’d be happy, dancing…

But instead I just want to cry blood and rain.

I want to scream, wake up, stop this!

Please, please…open your eyes.

It’s not a dream, not an illusion—it’s real.

What you grind under your feet doesn’t grow back.

 

You’d think I’d be happy to tell you I told you so.

I’m not—in truth I never wanted to be right.

I just knew, inescapably and undeniably, that I was.

Now I sit, bowed and broken and old and tired,

At the graveside of ideals with Truth for company.

We wait together—eventually, Justice will fall beside us.

A Poem Thing: Four Columns

Our columns are crumbling and we will all perish. Our nation implodes around us, but no one seems willing to stop it. And so the great Democracy experiment ends at last.

Four Columns

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

We stand in a great hall supported by four huge columns.

 

Truth

Justice

Equality

Honor

 

Colossal in height, enormous in strength, radiant in beauty.

Columns meant to support our roof for eternity.

But those columns have not been cared for.

 

Paint peels with each passing year.

We ding them and pepper them with bullet holes.

Long cracks run from ceiling to floor.

 

I wish I could put my arms around them.

Hold them together by sheer force of will.

Someone ties a flag around one, but it’s a poor bandage.

 

And then there is him. He’s bigger than us. He grasps a hammer in one hand.

He takes aim at Justice, strikes a heavy blow.

Yellow-white hair flies back as he howls.

 

What has Justice done to you, I cry, but my voice is lost.

He turns to Truth and strikes again and again.

One blow can’t bring down the mighty column—but he doesn’t strike just once.

 

Stop, I cry, rushing forward, but held back by the heavy mass of others between us.

I scream at them, pummel them with my tiny fists, spit arrows at them…

No one cares. No one listens, and he turns the hammer on Equality.

 

WE WILL ALL PERISH IF YOU LET HIM CONTINUE!

But they don’t stop him, and I wait for the damage to climax, the roof to collapse.

And when it comes, it is Honor that falls first.

 

It makes sense. Truth, Justice, Equality—all can take a beating from him.

But each blow on one of them also damaged Honor, and it crumbles at last.

It topples the others, too.

Another day, another active shooting on a school campus. What are you going to do?

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Photo by Valeriia Miller on Pexels.com

Picture it. Really put yourself there. Stand there on that high school campus in the misty cool November morning. You’re a kid. You didn’t want to go to school but you dragged yourself out of bed. Maybe you had to get there early to take a test you missed last week or to work on plans for the next school dance or maybe you had a club meeting.

Whatever. You’re there. You’re standing on the quad at your high school, maybe talking to a friend. What are you going to do this weekend? Gotta work. But maybe catch a movie after? You’re sixteen and you have your license now. The whole world has opened up to you.

You hear a pop and in the cool fall morning under the open sky, it doesn’t feel important at first. And then you see the small red dot between your friend’s eyes and you feel the warm spray of her blood and nothing is really real except the next pop seconds later and the sting in your shoulder as you spin and fall on the prickly grass.

From there, you try to decide. Lie still, play dead or get up and run while you still can. Another pop and then two more. That’s five. If the movies are right, you get six. But the last one seems to take a while longer. You roll over and look. He’s standing less than twenty feet from you, but the gun is pointed at his own head, not you. You wonder if it’ll work. You’ve heard it’s hard to actually kill yourself that way. You’ve heard of people doing it, losing part of their brain, living the life of a vegetable, or, possibly worse, being horribly deformed for the rest of their lives.

You see his eyes, the hollow, hopeless look there, and you desperately hope that this time it will work.

And the last pop comes and he falls and it’s over. You lay back and tears seep from your eyes as you remember the red dot between your friend’s eyes. It bothers you that you don’t remember her falling, just standing there. Like she’s still standing there above you and not lying on the ground next to you with the back of her head blown out. Who else was shot? They aren’t all dead because you can hear them crying, too. You hear someone retching, coughing. Blood and vomit and tears soak the grass.

And so it happens again. Two lives lost, four more wounded in the time it takes to walk across a room. All because someone had a gun who shouldn’t have had a gun.

Raise your hand if you’ve been in an active shooting situation.

Raise your hand if you know someone who has been in an active shooting situation.

Raise your hand if you’re pretty certain you will soon.

By this point, all hands should be raised.

One moment a maniac…

IMG_1947If you’ve ever read Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, you know it’s full of bitter truths. That love has no reason. That mankind is cruel. That wealth and status are merciless and religion can be flat out wrong. Of course, most of us haven’t actually read the masterpiece. At best, we’ve seen a movie adaptation. At worst, however, we’ve heard the music of Disney’s adaptation at some point.

When Notre Dame burned last year, I cried. I hadn’t seen it yet and it was on my bucket list. It still is, even though I’ll never see the cathedral that was termed “The Forest” for the network of wooden beams that made up the roof. But some of the grand church was preserved. The fabulous rose windows and stone walls still stand. I can see those…someday.

And then I heard one of our local theatres was doing the musical adapted from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was adapted from Victor Hugo’s epic novel. Of course, I had to audition. And somehow, in spite of my audition, I made it into the choir, so I get to sing many of these songs while sitting or standing on stage the entire time. And as an added bonus, I have a couple of lines as a gargoyle.

It’s been fun. Nerve-wracking at times, but fun. I’ve listened to the music so much I may never want to hear it again, even “God Bless the Outcasts” which I’ve been known to blast in my car for no real reason at all. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the people—theatre people are great. Differences don’t matter when you’re on stage. I’ve noticed that particularly with this cast. Race, religion, sexual orientation and the big one—Politics—none of that crap matters when you’re telling the story you’ve been charged to tell.

As for the production, well it’s fun. It’s exhausting. It’s taken a lot of time away from my family, and I’m really kind of looking forward to being done with it. But being in this production has also reminded me of what’s perhaps the most cruel of Hugo’s lessons to his readers: That dreams don’t always come true but life really isn’t worth living without them.