Oh, for fuck’s sake!
“If we want to control the spread of COVID-19, the United States must adopt a new testing policy that prioritizes people who, although asymptomatic, may have the virus and infect many others.
We should target four groups. First, all health-care workers and other first responders who directly interact with many people. Second, workers who maintain our supply chains and crucial infrastructure, including grocery-store workers, police officers, public-transit workers, and sanitation personnel. The next group would be potential “super-spreaders” — asymptomatic individuals who could come into contact with many people. This third group would include people in large families and those who must interact with many vulnerable people, such as employees of long-term-care facilities. The fourth group would include all those who are planning to return to the workplace. These are precisely the individuals without symptoms whom the CDC recommends against testing.”
“Modern-day “capitalism” in America is to flatten the risk curve for people who already have money, by borrowing from future generations with debt-fueled bailouts for companies. We have consciously decided to reduce the downside for the wealthy, thereby limiting the upside for future generations.”
“The ability of major companies to receive funding before smaller businesses has emerged as the latest flashpoint in a program that has left many involved dissatisfied since its hurried launch on April 3.”
“Our response to the epidemic is unethical and harmful to health, just like our health system is during normal times. Fundamentally, “choice” of health insurance creates a dizzyingly complex and inefficient morass that reaps profits for insurance executives and shareholders—while creating huge financial barriers to care.
The solution is straightforward: universal single-payer health insurance, or Medicare for All, would cover everyone with the same high-quality care, progressively financed.”
“When Covid-19 reached Italian shores, it found a country in the midst of a private-sector transformation that has been turning the country’s single-payer health care system into an Italian version of Biden’s beloved “public option”—and putting millions of people at risk in the process.”
I hear or read it at least once each year as Pride weekend approaches (or shortly afterward when people post pictures of their local Pride parade): what’s there to be proud of? Usually followed up with comments to the effect that if we are born this way, then there isn’t anything we’ve done to be gay, so why be proud? Why can’t we just be ourselves and go about our day?
The answer is quite simple: because every moment of our lives—from before we were old enough to understand—society at large (including very nearly every single person who raised us, took care of us, taught us, lived beside us, et cetera) has told us again and again that “just being ourselves” is shameful. We have been told that our very beings were wrong. Our selves are a sickness to be cured, or a sin to be despised, or a shameful secret to be hidden. We’ve been bullied, harassed, tormented, shunned, and beaten because of who we are. We have been told (and often shown violently) that our lives don’t matter. We’ve been told we can’t love. We’ve been told that those of us who do fine love deserve what happens to us when the bashers and haters decide to make an example of us.
In a world that insidiously and relentlessly drums that message into us—driving many to attempt suicide as children (and sadly for many to succeed), browbeating us into hating ourselves—just openly being our selves is no small feat.
Merely surviving all of that and managing to piece together lives of authenticity is a monumental victory over incredible odds.
That’s what we have to be proud of.
I used to react to this question by just thinking that the person was clueless. And certainly cluelessness is a factor. But I’ve also realized that it’s just another manifestation of that most basic form of homophobia. “Can’t you just be who you are and not make a big deal about it” is exactly the same as “why do you have to shove it in our faces all the time” which is the equivalent of “go back into hiding where you belong.”
The saddest part of this is that those people don’t think they are being homophobic at all. And they never think about that fact that straight people “shove their sexuality” in everyone else’s face all the time. Have pictures of your spouse, significant other, or children on your desk, wall, or phone’s home screen? Mention your wife or husband in casual conversation? Comment on how hot a particular actor or actress is? Routinely ask about family discounts? Expect that, of course, your spouse will be included in the company health insurance plan? Invite us to your wedding or your kid’s straight wedding? Show us pictures of yours or your kid’s straight wedding? Ever use the phrase “no homo”?
Since we get accused of shoving our sexuality in your face if we merely casually mention the existence of our significant other, we get to count all of those things as you shoving your sexuality in our faces. Straight pride happens 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, yet you begrudge queer people (trans, lesbian, bisexual, gay, genderqueer, polyamorous, asexual, pansexual, gender fluid, intersexed, gender neutral, and those who love and support us) a parade once a year?
Why am I proud?
I’m proud because they tried to drown us in lies, and we’ve risen above to reveal our truth. I’m proud because they have beaten and tortured us in the name of faith, and we’ve found the strength to show the world our love. I’m proud because they tried to smother us with fear, but we found hope in the most unlikely of places. I’m proud because we have endured hate, which has taught us how to love better. I’m proud because we have fled the shadows, and showed the world our light. I’m proud because no matter how many times we’ve been knocked down, we have gotten back up.
When I wrote, yesterday, about why fiction is not the same thing as lying, I may have given the impression that storytellers are in the business of imparting The Truth (the definitive article), or at the very least His/Her Own Truth when telling a story.
I over-complicated things, I think, by including the anecdote about parables and a Biblical literalist of my past acquaintance. I’ll try to steer clear of anecdotes today.
First, I don’t believe in one and only one truth. Yes, in certain circumstances, such as certain types of mathematical problems, there can be one and only one correct answer, but that’s dealing with a very restricted system of factual discourse. Truth, with a capital-T, occupies a different realm than facts. There is always room for another way to look at things. There is always a circumstance that we haven’t considered—sometimes because we don’t have the necessary framework to even imagine the circumstance, yet.
When I tell a story, my first obligation is to tell the story the best that I can, while remaining true to the story. That means, among other things, not holding back. Bits of my self will be revealed in the story. A poet might say I leave a part of my soul in each story; I think of it more as my notions of what is True will be evident—not so much in the words spoken by any of the characters or even the narrator, but rather in the way that things come about. An author’s fundamental beliefs inform how the story is structured, what consequences occur, and how those consequences are framed.
I’ve written about characters whose worldview is diametrically opposed to mine, and I’ve written them convincingly enough that readers assume what the characters say is my belief. I’m not being deceptive when I do this, and it isn’t even something that I’m thinking about at the time I’m writing. Once I imagine a character, I have to write them as they would react and as they would speak. If I don’t, the character isn’t believable. And I don’t mean just unbelievable to the reader—if I stop believing in the character, I can’t write them any longer.
Most stories have more than one character, and often one or more of those characters are opposed to the others. That means that a little bit of each character’s truth has to be in the story, as well.
So even in the first draft stage, a story will contain a number of Truths, some of which contradict each other. And other than trying to remain true to the vision I had when the story first came to me, and to the integrity of each character, I haven’t been thinking about a deeper truth or meaning. I’ve been focused on the story. But there comes that ah-ha! moment, when the story comes together for me, when the story reveals a truth or two I hadn’t been thinking about to me.
But that’s just the beginning.
Once I have put the story together as best as I can and reveal it to an audience (whether I am actually telling the story, or writing it for publication), an entire new kind of truth enters the picture. Because each reader will receive the story through their own perspective, and each will find their own truths within it. They may also see and recognize the truths I saw as I wrote the story. They may see some of the truths I wove into the tale along the way. They may agree or disagree with any or all of them. But if the story works, they will also find a truth of their own in there. And it may well have little to do with any of the truths I put in or that I discovered.
Other readers will also find their own truths, and each may be very different than that found be any of the other readers.
And all of those truths are real.
And by truth I don’t mean a life-changing epiphany. Sometimes we have something like that. More often it’s something as simple and mundane as, “some people never catch a break.” Most often it’s something much more ephemeral, and hard to put into a single sentence.
It’s my story, and I poured some of my self and my truth into it, but once I tell it to you or let you read it, it’s your own meaning that you find.
My story, but in the end, your truth.
When I was 18 and a member of an evangelical touring choir, we were on a weekend retreat. We’d spent the day rehearsing, having a Bible study or two, and otherwise prepping for an upcoming tour. Of course, there was also time to socialize and otherwise get to know each other. And somehow one of those conversations turned into one of the guys asking me and the other sci fi geek why we liked reading lies.
I think my first response was to talk about the value of imagining what might be possible. I thought his beef was with science fiction specifically, but it soon became clear that he thought all fiction—including things such as Romeo and Juliet—were immoral collections of lies.
“If it isn’t a true story, then it’s a lie; and we shouldn’t listen to lies!”
I called his attention to parables in the Bible, and he became offended. The Bible is true, every single word, he insisted.
“But Jesus told parables. They are made up stories to illustrate a deeper truth,” I argued.
“No,” he said. “Jesus knows everything that has happened and will happen to all the millions of people who ever lived. And he told true stories that had happened.”
I just had to shake my head and walk away. As my great-grandpa, Shorty, was fond of saying, you can’t talk sense with someone who hasn’t got any.
I was reminded of this recently when a writer made a joke about writers and politicians, and how they both tell lies for a living. I’ve always cringed when writers referred to what we do as lying, because it isn’t.
Oxford’s definition of lie begins: “an act of instance of lying; an intentional false statement; an untruth; something that deceives; an imposture.” And if you look up imposture, it’s “a willful and fraudulent deception.”
Some people might say that “fraudulent deception” is a redundant term, but they’re wrong. A lie is intended to mislead or otherwise betray your trust. A story doesn’t do that.
A story may consist of a completely fabricated series of events happening to totally imaginary people, but for a story to work there must be at least a grain of Truth in it. When I create characters in a tale, they won’t resonate with the reader unless they are believable, and a storyteller can’t make them believable without drawing on true things about human nature.
When I tell a story, I am not trying to delude you into believing something that will harm you, or steal from you, or otherwise enrich myself by diminishing you. When I tell a story, I am trying to enrich both of us. I hope, in the process of hearing/reading my tale, that you experience some happiness, and perhaps have an insight or two. I hope that I will experience the joy of creating something and sharing it with you.
This doesn’t mean that when I tell a story I start off with a message that I want to convince you of. I have, foolishly, written some tales like that, and have always regretted it.
The best stories, instead, come from a place of wonder and curiosity. Sometimes, such as in one of the collaborative projects I’ve been involved with, it’s reading someone else’s story and having one of the characters in the tale pop up in my imagination telling me what happened next. Sometimes it’s walking down the street, listening to music, and seeing something on the ground that makes me ask, “How did that get there?” Sometimes it’s two characters springing to life in my head and arguing about something.
I don’t know what alchemy happens in my subconscious to create stories. I do know that when I’m writing the first draft, one of my motivations is to discover how it ends. Sometimes I think I know how it’s going to end when I start. And sometimes I’m even right, but I seldom know exactly how I’m going to get to that ending when I do. Other times I know very precisely how it ends, and all of my writing work is trying to figure out where the story starts, and then how do the characters get to that ending.
It’s exploring and figuring out all mixed up. I often learn something or find myself looking at something which I already knew in a new way during the course of finishing the story. And when everything falls into place I experience a moment of joy. That moment of joy is something which a storyteller feels compelled to share. Which is why we tell the story, or rewrite it until it’s ready to publish, or otherwise put the story out there.
Of course every writer dreams of the day when he can live off his storytelling. If someone is willing to pay me for a story, I will take the money. But hoping to be paid for a job well done is not about taking from the reader. What I hope has happened is that I’ve given them an experience which they enjoyed, found value in, and that they think is well worth the time and expense.
And as a reader, when you pick up a book, or open a web page, or sit down to listen to a storyteller, you are asking the author to tell you a story. You know, going in, that what he or she tells you will not be factually correct and the people she or he describes are not actual specific persons who did those exact things. You know it’s a story. You want the author to make you believe in the story for a little while. You’ve agreed to go on that journey of discovery, together. If it’s a story you enjoy, if it is a story that moves you, if it is a story that made you laugh, or root for one of the characters, or cry when one of them was hurt, then the story contained some kind of truth.
And that isn’t being deceitful. It isn’t manipulating. It sure as heck is not lying.