Another Wednesday, another blog. Got to keep up with the boss’s schedule. Well actually, Thursday because Thursday is the new Wednesday.
I don’t like to post political things on social media anymore, but there are thousands of political blogs. That said, I try to keep this blog free from political discourse because political discourse isn’t funny. I admit to being a Democrat, and I lean toward liberal, but also have some more moderate views. It’s not always that I prefer the moderate stance, but that path is often far more realistic than leaning too much one way or another.
But enough with that lecture. We had an election Tuesday and both sides claim some kind of victory, but all I can say is, I don’t recall elections so fraught with worry and consternation. Then again, I vaguely remember the tumult of ’68 and the fear many on the left had when Reagan was elected (which was not unfounded), but somehow, things have felt different for the last few years. More anger. More fear. More divisiveness. More blame. More hate. It’s bad and has caused a great deal of national anxiety.
As much as I don’t want to write about politics here and feel that writing about politics in a comic novel is dumb unless it’s some kind of alternate history or political satire, it’s still largely unavoidable if you write about people in a realistic setting because people talk and fight and worry about politics.
We don’t know the actual politics of any of the characters in Smoking In Bed, except that the protagonist Phil, like almost everyone in my immediate life (see On Writing What You Know), is a liberal, and a bleeding NY liberal at that. But, and here’s a little spoiler, when he meets Dick Cheney (first in a dream and later in real life), he has to fight the urge to tell Cheney what he thinks about the Veep because he needs Cheney’s help to solve a major life or death problem, help that only such a powerful person could provide.
And Dick Cheney remains a divisive figure, not so much as our current White House inhabitant, but during his time in office he was loathed and feared by as many people as admired him. I have theories on what his motivation was when he was in the Bush administration, and who was the real captain of that ship, but I’m still not ready to declare that Dick Cheney is evil.
Sure, some of the policies he supported as VP were, well, evil, but when I wrote Cheney into Smoking In Bed, he came off as a bit brash and full of himself, and with his own agenda, but still kind of funny and friendly. You can’t make this stuff up. I know I didn’t. That’s just how he came out. And the reason for that is, if he was a nasty, narcissistic fascist, he wouldn’t seem real. He’d be a cartoon, not a believable character in a novel. Believe me, I would have been fine with making him diabolical. He wouldn’t let me.
Which is maybe why the political divide is worse now than before. In the past, even when we disliked some political ideals, issues and candidates, we didn’t assume that people who held those ideals or supported those issues and candidates were bad. I’m not talking about white nationalists. They’re bad. I’m talking about “normal” people (whatever that is). In the good old days (5 years ago??), maybe we would get into a real debate, or even argument about certain issues, but it usually didn’t get personal. These days, political discussions, especially on social media, almost ALWAYS get personal. Hence trolls.
Well, this isn’t funny, is it? How about a little comedy break.
So what’s the point? In Smoking In Bed, the characters are connected by dreams, by relationships, by circumstances, by trial and fire, and even by death or near-death. And that’s the point. We are all connected.
One of the best spiritual concepts I ever heard is Thich Nhat Hanh’s idea of “Interbeing.” In this, all things, people, animals, plants, even minerals and rocks, are all part of one, let’s say, energetic field, where when something happens to one thing, it affects everything else. As soon as I heard this, it made complete sense to me.
We might feel the need, for example, to make it harder for people to enter our country as illegal immigrants. And maybe some people might feel safe and secure as a result of such policy, more likely to keep their jobs, etc. But it is undeniable that this policy will also cause suffering for many of those not allowed to enter, especially those trying to escape from deplorable conditions or strife, including many children.
So no matter if you feel more secure, physical, financially or otherwise as a result of keeping certain people from entering your country, eventually, because we are are all interconnected, the suffering caused by certain policies will resonate with, and eventually negatively impact, all of us. Often we won’t experience this effect immediately, but it is there nonetheless.
It’s kind of like being on a big ocean liner. Let’s call it the Titanic. Sure, it’s fine to have some people sleeping below decks in shabby quarters, while those who can afford it sail in opulent luxury, but if you hit an iceberg, even if the wealthy and privileged have a better chance, most of them are still going into the water.
It’s time we start to realize that this is not just a metaphor.
Looking forward to seeing everyone at the Smoking In Bed event on Sunday, November 18, 2018 at Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069. 3 p.m. We’ll have a good time and won’t discuss politics. Probably.
Author event: Smoking In Bed by Paul Kleiman hosted by Kiki Ryan