Friday, April 17, 2015

Before you judge...

Before you judge:
How do you know the grandmother with diamonds on her fingers and beautiful expensive clothes, buying food for six grandchildren with a food stamp card, hasn’t suddenly found herself responsible for a family she never dreamed her retirement would have to support? Should she be blamed for taking care of herself or looking healthier than she has a right to at seventy? The clothes she wears are ten years old and bought before her husband got sick, draining all the savings, but she should suffer for the care she's taken so they appear new? She's already sold her home, moved away from all her friends. How do you know she isn’t one dollar from losing everything? You don’t, so shut up!
How do you know that young mother of three didn’t just find out her husband took all the money and ran off, leaving her in mounds of debt with three mouths to feed? Or maybe she's finally starting over after she had to hide from his abusive hands. Or maybe she has a disease that took all they had and will take her too. Or maybe he died, coming home too tired from too many jobs, and now she's alone without hope. You don’t have a clue, so shut up!
How do you know the new car he's loading his food-stamp paid for groceries into wasn’t loaned to him by someone with a non-judgmental heart, who knows he's a soldier and still can't feed his family. Suppose he's that soldier's brother, the one who left his legs in the sand to fight for corporate oil, so you could freely sneer at his young brother trying to help his family out. You don’t know anything, so shut up!
How do you know she isn't a young mother of foster kids nobody wanted, but she and her husband did? She dresses them in nice clothes, teaches them what love is, but you would judge her for having too many and needing help to feed them. How about there are too few of her and too many lost children deprived of loving homes by the attitudes of judgment prevailing today? Just shut up! 
How do you know that young girl with two little babies didn’t believe she was getting out of the hell she grew up in, only to find herself right back where her mother was, clinging to all she has, two babies and a tiny bit of hope, stuck in the cycle of poverty. She was at the top of her class in high school, one of the brightest, but universities are for the dreams of the rich with no responsibilities. You don’t know her pain, so shut up.
How do you know that nine year old didn’t receive the iPad he’s holding from a generous donor, who saw a need and didn’t judge? You don’t, so shut up!
How do you know that king crab leg isn't something promised to a child, the only gift they'll get this birthday, a meal they requested that otherwise would be so out of the realm of possibility, that it can be named as a one treasured wish? You sit in judgment of what others eat? Really? My god, "let them eat cake." No steak for you! You aren't deserving of the meat of the working class!? White privileged asshat males in power, I have something you can eat and deservingly so—your very own bull shit!
How do you know that phone the toddler is playing with isn’t useless, except to dial 911 and the apps are free and it’s all the mother can afford—free entertainment while she pretends not to see the judgmental looks of people from the kingdom of With, who are somehow made to feel better by condemning those from the land of Without. 
How could hundreds of thousands of dollars be donated to bigots who would not serve a pizza to a human being with the money to pay for the meal, who happens to be gay, while others stand in judgment of men and women struggling just to make the dollars and food stamps stretch for one more month, only to start the prayer "make it last" one more month again, and again. Wow, really, you need to mull that one over a bit? You'd save a bigot's business and starve a child on principal? Humans call themselves superior and civilized, when they exhibit such uncivilized behaviors toward one another, and prove their lack of superiority with much evidence to the contrary.
Every system has its scammers. Every system has its heroes. Be a hero, be helpful, mind your own damn business, and offer help instead of judgment to those in need. It isn’t fair to judge all the people using the hand up they are offered. It isn’t fair to judge people period. Feed the hungry. Take care of the poor. Didn’t I read that in a book somewhere?


PS. The author used the system for two years. During that two years, I went to school (paid for with scholarships and work study,) never worked less than two jobs, raised a kid, and made a better life for my family. The help I received has been paid back with interest. The hand up I received helped make dreams come true, but also helped make another contributing member of society able to pay taxes back into the system. To be successful and forget how I got there would be unforgivable. The hateful judgment of others I received will also never be forgotten. 
I hear quite often, that I should not judge all Christians by the actions of a few hate-filled loud mouths. Maybe we shouldn't judge all people in need of help by the actions of a few loathsome scammers. Just a thought. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Things Rita Mae Said: Or, as I call it, my WWRMD list (What would Rita Mae Do?)

Though some of it is dated (published in 1989, much has changed,) Dr. Brown's Starting From Scratch is a dog-eared valuable asset in my writing library. I made a list of excerpts to refer to when I am in the throws of artistic self-doubt.

My top ten writer’s soul-healing words of wisdom from Dr. Rita Mae Brown’s Starting from Scratch

1.            Your readers are your best friends. As time goes by you’ll find out who they are. No two readers are alike. These distinct individuals put down good money for your work and then spend their valuable time reading it… Sometimes people throw tomatoes instead of roses, but hell, they sat at their desks and tried to connect with me. I give them credit. I’ve learned more from my readers than I have from the usual literary sources: other writers, publishers, critics.  
2.            I expect most writers feel about critics the way a fireplug feels about dogs. However, no matter how many dogs befoul your work they can’t really hurt you…A book still sells by word of mouth. You can be sliced and diced from the Atlantic to the Pacific and have a runaway best seller.
3.            On my bad days I think of a critic as someone who’d put a cyanide cap in an Easter egg. Tallulah Bankhead said, “Criticism is the distillation of bias and prejudice.” The truth lies somewhere between me and Tallulah. Most critics can’t create what they criticize. If another novelist writes a review, that’s one thing. If the review comes from anybody else, it’s hard for me to take it seriously. But then, as you may have gathered, it’s hard for me to take anything seriously.  
4.            As a writer my feeling is that the critic can help me only when I am writing the book. I don’t read reviews of my novels. They’re too late to do me any good. 
5.            If you’re one of those people who reads everything written about you, I suggest you be grateful if your name and the book title are spelled correctly. 
6.            Don’t be surprised, if you do read criticism, if you are personally criticized through the book. The more controversial you are, the more loaded the reviews. My advice: Eat the chitlins of forgetfulness. 
7.            Reading into the tea leaves of literary triumph can be thrilling. Sober up, honey. Tomorrow they’ll be on to someone else. 
8.            Don’t believe your own publicity. That way madness lies. You’ll soon be stinking in your own decayed ego. 
9.            Don’t feel responsible for how people misuse your work. Whatever you do can be used against you and probably will be. Keep writing. You’re on earth to write, not to indulge yourself in petty squabbles justifying yourself to pissants. 

10.         Whether fame or notoriety is your fate, put it behind you and put the typewriter in front of you. And put next to your typewriter these words from Albert Einstein: “The only way to escape the personal corruption of praise is to go on working.”