How and why does someone become an author?
As a child growing up in a southern family of modest means, we had a very small library of books. The ones that we did have were oft visited treasures. One of the first I remember was the Bible. I remember it not so much for the mostly incomprehensible text, but for the pictures.
My sister and I would marvel at the series of pictures that represented options for what Jesus might have looked like. Alternatives included a handsome long-haired Nordic looking Jesus with blond hair and blue eyes. At the other extreme was the brooding short haired, dark skinned middle eastern man with scant facial hair.
Other pictures illustrated stories including Jesus throwing the moneylenders out of the temple, the return of the prodigal son, and the remorseful Judas returning the pieces of silver he was paid for his betrayal. Mysterious words such as “virgin” and fantastic creatures such as talking snakes inspired me to read anything I could find. Most of my life metaphors are biblical, except for the ones that are from baseball.
The world opened further when Dad brought home a set of World Book Encyclopedias. We got the red ones, not the expensive leather-bound white ones. I spent most of my time looking at volume “B”, specifically the section on baseball, but a whole world of new information was fingertips away. A yearly update came in the mail as part of the purchase.
Our set of World Books was a perk for my dad’s efforts to sell them to other families. I went with him on several sales calls where he made the pitch that a child’s education depended on a set of these books in the home, the broadband access of the 1950s.
Later would come my membership in the Weekly Reader book club. For pennies begged from my mother, I received six books during one summer. My favorites were Dangerous Island and Mystery in Old Quebec. I raced along beside the bookmobile as it came up our dirt driveway.
Then there was the book about “the facts of life” that suddenly showed up in the living room. No one encouraged us to read it or talked to us about it. But I finally found out what virgin meant.
You can learn just about anything by reading, and if you do a lot of it you might end up thinking that being a writer is the highest form of life, or at least a worthy way to spend your time trying.
Is it possible to consider the origins of our political divide in a dispassionate and intellectual way in the year 2020? Here, is my best attempt.
When I was a child, I had an uncle who was the leader of the local Republican party. His slightly older brother was the head of the Democrats. A third uncle, the youngest boy in a family of ten siblings, took delight in baiting his brothers to fight with each other.
From time to time I wondered how two boys raised in the same family just a few years apart could inhabit opposite ends of the political spectrum.
The political terms “right” and “left” date back at least to revolutionary France when in 1789 the members of the National Assembly were separated based on whether they supported the monarchy, seated on the right, or the revolution, seated on the left.
Since then, much like the identities of named political parties, the meaning of right and left has evolved and changed. In general, left leanings refer to those who endorse diversity, question authority, work for change, would redistribute wealth from the rich to the needy, and value secular approaches to governance.
The political right values authority, often religious authority, sees unmanaged capitalism as the correct economic approach, and works to preserve the status quo.
Each side sees the other as dangerous “elites” and from time to time “populism” upsets any semblance of balance of power by surging to “throw the scoundrels out” regardless of political identity.
Much has been written about the psychological make-up of those who end up one side or the other, but some of the most interesting work has been done by considering the similarities of the extremist members of each side. Eric Hoffer (The True Believer: 1951) describes how low self-esteem and a sense of personal helplessness leads to a rigid and dogmatic endorsement of extremes, regardless of the side.
For the reader who would like to explore right and left in literary works, Atlas Shrugged: 1957, by Ayn Rand is the story of those who champion individualism and unfettered capitalism as a remedy for the failures of governments. On the left, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backwards:1888, is the rendering of a socialistic utopia.
I read. I write. I learn. I’m in a writing group and I have four published books. I’m still pretty sure I’m not Steinbeck, but my heart and soul have found their way back to where they should be.