Archive for January 2017

Apathy – The Eighth Deadly Sin

I got my U.S. citizenship the old-fashioned way: I earned it. I filled out reams of forms, listed every address where I’d every slept more than one night, studied hard for the test, and sat for hours in the corridors of the Atlanta Immigration and Naturalization Service offices as my 9 a.m. appointment slouched toward early afternoon. And that was just the culmination of a decades-long process.

I came to the States in 1977 as a dependent on my husband’s intra-company transfer visa, good for a year, renewable for another year. By 1979, we had a second baby and faced the fact that we were no longer a globetrotting couple with a two-year-maximum horizon. We applied for Permanent Residence – a Green Card. We didn’t retain an immigration lawyer – how hard could it be? We were both college-educated native English speakers. Months later, after humiliating medical examinations, and laughable English language competency tests, we found ourselves waiting with burkha-clad women and nervous students for our INS interview. It was the height of the Iran Hostage Crisis, and every Iranian in the U.S. had been called in to verify their immigration status.

I could have jogged along happily with my Green Card for ever, I suppose. Other ex-patriot friends have done that. But I ached to vote! I was always interested in politics. My undergraduate degree is from the London School of Economics, or “the London School of Bloody Commies” as my conservative father was pleased to call it. I door-belled for Harold Wilson in the 1974 election that returned the Labour Party to power in the UK. I marched against the Vietnam War and boycotted South African fruit at our local greengrocers.

So in 1991, I stood proudly with several hundred other new citizens from all over the world in the Atlanta Civic Center and pledged my allegiance to the United States of America. I have voted in every election since. Not just the big ones, the once-every-four-years presidential, but the mid-terms, the primaries, the judicial (I’m still at a loss why state judges are elected not appointed), the school board, the water board, the dog catcher. Yes, I’m a voting junkie, and I do my research. I read the Voter Pamphlet, I go to the League of Women Voters’ candidates’ forum, and I take notice of endorsements.

I don’t expect every citizen to be as gung-ho as I am, but for God’s sake, people, vote!

In the recent presidential election, the turnout was a paltry 54%. Ninety-seven million eligible voters couldn’t be bothered. Couldn’t shift their sorry asses to find out where their polling place was, or, in Washington State where mail-in voting makes it super-easy, lacked the energy or interest to fill in the blanks and wander down to their mail box.

I looked at other places I’ve lived to see if voter apathy is a global phenomenon, and found that US voter turnout is abysmally low by international standards.

In the recent first round of the presidential election in France, 80% of eligible voters cast a ballot: four out of five Frenchmen and women were engaged enough in the democratic process to vote in the equivalent of a primary election. And that was down from the last presidential election in 2007 when turnout was 84%. Belgium saw an even higher rate of voter participation in the most recent national elections: 87%. I was appalled at the results of the recent UK referendum on leaving the European Union, but at least that decision was taken by 72% of the electorate, a slightly higher percentage than had turned out for recent parliamentary elections. (Figures from the Pew Research Center.)

Like many who were disappointed at the November election results, I have progressed through various stages of grief. I can’t say I’ve reached acceptance, but I’m certainly not going to hide under the covers for the next four years. At sixty-seven years old, four years represents a substantial portion of my future. Life is too precious to waste. There are too many wonderful places to go and experiences to savor. I know how privileged I am to be white, wealthy and living in this beautiful Fourth Corner of the USA. However, one thing still keeps me seething with anger: the apathy of Americans who didn’t cast a vote.

“In a democracy, voting is the least we can do.” Gloria Steinem.

Can I get an Amen?

Author’s Bio:  After a career as an employment lawyer, MARIAN EXALL now writes what she loves to read: mysteries! Like her heroine Sarah McKinney, Marian was born and raised in England. She lived in Atlanta for thirty years before moving to Bellingham where she hikes, gardens and does grandparent duty.

www.marianexall.com

Twitter: @mysterymarian

www.facebook.com/mysterymarianexall

 

 

Writers Resist, Blog One: Sean Dwyer Has a Dream

I have an advantage over you right now. I have battled a brain injury for two years, and at times I speculate that I am lying in a dark room in a long-term care facility. I’m in a coma. I have dreamt of a partial recovery, of the support of my friends, of personal growth and self-awareness.

I also have nightmares. I dream that I can’t read, that I can’t write effectively, that I can’t cry. I dream about the nation. Perhaps the last show I watched before my accident was Celebrity Apprentice, because I dream that its pompous, sadistic host has used his only talents, those of showmanship and façade-building, to jump into the presidential race and preach a false gospel of prosperity for the common white man, the sons of the men who upgraded America during the postwar boom and passed on to their children the ideal that hard work leads to a house, a car, and job security.

I dream . . . That these vulnerable people, whose factories and mines shut down over the course of four decades, clung to the desperate hope that a savior would appear and reopen the monoliths that extracted toil from their muscles and gave them money in return. Their desperation now leads them to ignore the many reasons not to embrace this flawed candidate, whose only words that are useful to them resemble “I’ll make life what it once was for you.”

. . . That these people, who once met their own needs but now depend on government assistance because there is no work, resent that the Other also receives assistance without working. Their resentment then grows if a portion of the Other goes off to college and lands a job, because these people hate that the Other received education funded by taxpayers.

. . . That our world’s most dangerous leader, who controls Russia and is scheming to bring the territory of the Soviet Union under his control again, has our candidate’s admiration–and the ability to ruin him if the candidate fails to do the Russian’s bidding.

. . . That the nation becomes so focused on the Russian connection that few notice when the puppets of the oligarchy in the Legislative Branch give a huge tax cut to the oligarchs who shut the factories and kept the profits, by taking away the only lifeline the common man has, health insurance. The people who voted for the candidate, who will sign into law the soul-crushing legislation, now feel betrayed, because the they wanted the jobs and the insurance. They will rack up medical bills they will never be able to pay.

Worst of all, I dream that citizens who claim to follow a philosophy of loving one’s neighbors, of caring for the poor, and of living without judging others have forgotten that mission. The words of Jesus mean less to them than the laws of Moses. This sect applies only the punishment, and not the love, without regard for the well-being of the poor, the homeless, and those who love differently. Far too often, it is those who disdain this sect who step up and do the work of Jesus. This sect accepts this mentally ill candidate and believes their Pharisee leaders, who call him a man of God for the sake of gaining power for themselves, and then the sect votes for him.

In my coma, I see America trembling as she stands at a crossroads, one path leading to the abyss of fascism, the other leading to a return to compassion, generosity of spirit, and responsible government.

I have a dream. Many dreams, in fact. I hope the dreams I’ve described are merely nightmares, that I am locked in my head, waiting to heal enough to wake up to a world where sanity has prevailed. I would prefer that reality to the one you face now.

My biggest fear on this anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. is that I am not having nightmares, but witnessing with you a terrible reality that, even in my nightmares, I could not invent.

Author’s Bio: Seán Dwyer is celebrating his fifty-first year as a mostly unpublished writer. His completed novel manuscripts include the Chanticleer award-winning Chocolates on the Pillow, All That Distance, and Hijo de madera. He has also won a Chanticleer award for a nonfiction book, Love Is So Brief: A Journey through Neruda’s Poem 20. He expects to finish a memoir, A Year without Tears, in early 2017.

New Blog Theme for 2017

In which we present blogs written by our members on the theme of resistance. We went around the table at yesterday’s RWB Happy Hour and here are but a few of the things we want to resist in the coming year:

APATHY

INERTIA

HATE

INJUSTICE

INTOLERANCE

RACISM

MISOGYNY

If you are interested in contributing to one of the year’s 52 blogs, contact us at rwbarrow@live.com for more information and the guidelines! We will connect you!