Non-Violent Extremism

I am reading a fine book called This Is An Uprising: How Non-violent Revolt is Shaping the 21st Century, by Mark Engler and Paul Engler. Mark Engler will speak in Flagstaff next week. Reading the book reminded me of a Facebook Note that I had written on Martin Luther King Day in 2011 — before I was using this blog. Here’s what I said then:

“When one lives through history, perhaps you tend to be less curious about it. Or I least I have been. Also, there really isn’t historical perspective for at least some decades after events. At least in the first 20 years or so, I’d class whatever we say about current events as political commentary.We’ve now reached the point where there is some good historical perspective on Martin Luther King.

In recent years, there have probably been several good books about Martin Luther King’s life. The one that most grabbed me was: To the Mountaintop: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Sacred Mission to Save America 1955-1968. The book reveals that King’s inspiration for embracing the “extremism” label his critics had given him was a woman, Lillian Smith, who bemoaned moderation as “the slogan of our times,” and a dangerous myth that was no longer affordable in the conditions of fifty years ago. (Mountaintop, p. 183.)  I think that is true again, where the slogan of our times has become “civil discourse.” Civility by those who are right cannot prevent injustice and immorality by those who are wrong. Non-violent extremism must be embraced to save our country.”

At the time, in 2011, I was thinking primarily of the drive for equal marriage rights. That battle seems to have been won. Nonetheless, the thoughts apply today. This Is An Uprising quotes briefly from Dr. King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail. This letter, one of his most inspiring pieces, was  written in 1963 in response to local ministers, so-called liberals who complained his appearance in their community was “unwise and untimely.” Here’s some of what King wrote:

“I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms….I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here I am here because I have organizational ties here. …But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

“You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.

“You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise….

“Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

“But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”….. Then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

“I must make two honest confessions to you….First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

“…we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured….

“….We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this ‘hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.

“But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label….So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”

You can read King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail, written in 1963, in its entirety here: http://abacus.bates.edu/admin/offices/dos/mlk/letter.html

Yes, social media DO work for writers – here’s how

I come to writing from a marketing background (17 years in real estate sales). To me, doing social media is a no-brainer. Just do it. Roz says it more fully in this post.

Nail Your Novel

warden abbey 2010 037 (2)Social media are an inextricable part of author life these days – and for some, the value seems dubious. Writers might flog themselves to blog, tweet until they turn blue, but months in, the magic hasn’t happened. Where are the book deals, the viral quantities of fame? Is it worth all the trouble?

I am here to tell you it is. But you may be looking at the wrong things, or have mistaken expectations. Social media have been an absolute transforming force for me, and if the channels were closed tomorrow I’d be howling for their return. So I thought I’d quantify the ways I’ve found it so worthwhile.

Quick background. I’ve been on social media since 2009. My major haunts are Twitter @Roz_Morris  and Facebook. And I blog, obvs. I probably get most of my results from those platforms as they’re where I’m most consistently active, but…

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What is the origin of the word ‘OK’?

ok.jpg__800x600_q85_crop.jpgWhat is the origin of the word “OK”?

I was less concerned with the origin of the word than with determining when it came into common usage in the United States.  I certainly grew up using the word (though my recollection is that it was considered slang and that one should use something more formal, like “I agree” or “Alright”). But my novel is set in the generation before I was born. Were they going around saying “ok?”

Turns out, they were. The word originated before 1850, probably in the U.S. So,  my characters acting from 1914-1950 were free to say “ok” as much as they wanted.

A nice thing about having to do research like this is that one learns things one doesn’t really need to know. I didn’t need to know the source of the word, just the time it originated. But, it’s interesting to know that the word probably came from “Oll Korrect,” a humorous spelling of “all correct.” Or, maybe it came from Martin Van Buren’s failed campaign for a second presidential term. You see, Van Buren was known as “Old Kinderhook” and his slogan was “Vote for OK.” No wonder he lost.

There’s more. If you want to pursue it, here are the sources which the Google Machine gave me:

What is the origin of the word ‘OK’? – Oxford Dictionaries (US).

How the Word “OK” Was Invented 175 Years Ago

Thanks, Kareem

Before the terrifying prospects now available to humanity, we see even more clearly that peace is the only goal worth struggling for. This is no longer a prayer but a demand to be made by all peoples to their governments – a demand to choose definitively between hell and reason.

–  Albert Camus, as quoted by Kareem Abdul Jabbar

John Grisham thinks his new book is so important he’s giving it away for free!

“The Tumor,” Grisham says, is the most important book of his career. It’s not about lawyers, but a new treatment for cancer. That’s interesting, and I’d like to congratulate John Grisham on his new book and his service to this cause.

The reason I post this on my blog, however, is to preserve this quotation from his interview in The Washington Post:

“Writers are thieves,” he said. “We steal stories. We steal names. We steal scenes. We observe the world and we take what we need and modify it.”

Source: John Grisham thinks his new book is so important he’s giving it away for free – The Washington Post

Joyce, via Tin House

I wrote my senior-in-high-school thesis on Ulysses. Nothing is so lyrical as Joyce unless it’s Walt Whitman.

“Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves.

Posted by Tin House on Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Thought on Writing

The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating [her]self.–Eleanor Roosevelt

per Susan Albert, author of forthcoming book, Loving Eleanor

Battle for Modernity

HourglassRecently, Linda Greenhouse wrote commentary about two pending Supreme Court cases: Sex After 50 in the Supreme Court, November 26, 2015. Along the way, she paid homage to Justice Stevens’ 1989 statement, “Our jurisprudence, however, has consistently required a secular basis for valid legislation.” Her conclusion:

Yes, there is a fight over birth control that has never really ended, and a battle over abortion that erupts anew in every election cycle. But what the Supreme Court may or may not grasp is that it has on its hands something deeper yet: a struggle over modernity, a battle for the secular state in which women can make their choices and design what Justice Ginsburg calls their life course, free of obstacles erected by those who would impose their religious views on others and who find in recent Supreme Court decisions encouragement that this time they might get their way.

It is indeed amazing that 50 years after Griswald vs. Connecticut established that American citizens may have access to birth control and forty-two years after Roe v. Wade, the State of Texas has forced its women back to self-induced abortions and secular employers are allowed to deny insurance coverage for birth control prescriptions. Both of these are “theologically based” and, thus wrongfully law.

This struggle for modernity is political, not simply legal. One of our major political parties has been captured by religious political extremists who are fighting to impose their will on their fellow citizens. A politician of that party saw this coming decades ago when he said in a speech on the U.S. Senate floor:

I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?
And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”

— Barry Goldwater, September 16, 1981

But the Republican party gave in. Apparently in its greed to hold power, the Republican Party does allow the “preachers” to dictate its votes in Congress, in the State legislatures, and in the selection of judges. The power it has gained is inherently limited by the depth of the religious base. Unless extreme measures are taken, that religious base will wither with age and the repulsion of the majority. But extreme measures have been taken in the gerrymandering of our legislative and Congressional Districts. At least one of their leading candidates seems to advocate a police state with special IDs for suspects. It seems unlikely that the most extreme measures will come about, but in the early-1990s, who would have thought we would see states which are in control of these extremists closing abortion clinics and owners of secular enterprises allowed to impose their religious beliefs on their employees (Hobby Lobby). We must be active and not passive in the face of the “preachers” push.

I find it sadly ironic that a political party that was born of the progressive notion that the U.S. Constitution should not protect slavery has been captured by such oppressors. The emergence of the Republican Party elected Lincoln and led to the enactment of three major Amendments to the U.S. Constitution that have evolved to guarantee freedom and equality for many. Yet, somehow, one hundred years later, the party was captured by opponents of this arc of history.

Reagan did not overtly preach most of the time, but he caved to the preachers in all of his judicial appointments after Sandra Day O’Conner. We are just now beginning to see the restoration of a secular judiciary.  Control of the judges at all levels of the federal system and control of state governments must be the battle cry of Democrats in the next election. It’s easy to win a Presidential race in the current climate; convincing voters to care about the down-ballot races is harder.

Political discussion these days often uses the words “progressive” vs. “conservative.” I think it more appropriate to call the sides “Modernists” vs. “Regressives.” The Modernists seek to preserve society’s progress and make further advances for the general welfare. The Regressives are simply twisted: They have a vision of an ideal past that never was and wish to return to it – an impossibility. A return to the past is a return to oppression not freedom.

I’m an optimist and believe that the struggle for modernity will ultimately prevail. But the road is tragically long with too many victims.

Over the River…

Over the river and through the woods…

Both of my maternal grandparents were dead long before I was born, but my mother and I sang this poem on long car rides to family dinners (she had many siblings that got together often). I never knew where it came from until now. I imagine she did actually sing it in a sleigh going to her grandparents’ house.

The Grandparent Effect