It has been a heartbreaking week.
How do we makes sense of yet another mass killing? Should we make sense of it? Will we shake our heads, wring our hands and refuse yet again to act against it?
I refuse to rationalize another hate crime. I just can’t do it. I don’t care about the gunman’s third grade report card that clearly indicates an already troubled youth. The subsequent stories coming out about his latent homosexuality, his politics, his wife, his religion, his mental state. Fuck him.
Emotions do that. They rile us, impassion us into reacting, acting out before we think of the consequences. I’m momentarily blinded by despair.
Until. Until commonsense returns. Until the horror of their voices screaming dim and the images soften. Then I can reason. I can make choices on how to respond, how to make sense of this tragedy. How to act, not react.
I picked up Robert McKee’s Story this morning, a passage resonated so loudly I had to jump up and write about it.
Strangely enough, he is discussing a vigilant movie called Death Wish, a movie I abhor, one critics panned, but audiences responded to for its theme, “Justice triumphs when citizen’s take the law into their own hands and kill the people who need killing.” Mckee’s is appalled.
“Of all the vile ideas in human history, this is the vilest. Armed with it, the Nazis devastated Europe. Hitler believing he would turn Europe into a paradise once he’d killed the people who needed killing… and he had his list.”
Striking isn’t it? Not only speaking to the mass murder of members of the LGBTQ community that took place in Orlando, FL this week, but our current political climate of hate and its lead propagator Donald Trump.
Mckee’s point is two-fold. One, he is glad he lives in country where this kind of movie could be made, that he opposes all censorship.
“In pursuit of truth, we must willingly suffer the ugliest of lies…If everyone is given a voice, even the irrationally radical, or cruelly reactionary, humanity will sort through all possibilities and make the right choice. No civilization, including Plato’s has ever been destroyed because its citizens learned too much truth.”
Plato had banned all poets and storytellers thinking their ideas too easily spread via emotions. That emotions were dangerous, the truth is dangerous.
Think about that in context of what is going on now, and the rise of Donald Trump. He lies, he panders to the worst of our self-centered society. His vile ideas, the racism, misogyny and hate spill out of his mouth in direct response to his audience because of emotions, not intellectual discourse. He whips his followers into a frenzy of fervent intolerance, creates a reactionary force that acts against common sense, human decency and its own best interests.
But, I still believe in YOU, America. We will not elect a hate spewing racist bigot.
Secondly, Mckee, talks about story’s power to influence being an artist’s social responsibility.
“… we have no responsibility to cure social ills or renew faith in humanity, to uplift the spirits of society or even express our inner being. We have only one responsibility: to tell the truth… For although an artist may, in his private life, lie to others, even to himself, when he creates he tells the truth; and in a world of lies and liars, an honest work of art is always an act of social responsibility.”
Sure, you’ll get people who will argue that truth is subjective and you’ll get just as many who’ll argue it is clear as black and white, but there are universal truths in humanity by which we gauge a stories success. Truth, in these cases, are about resonance.
Though he is talking about fiction, and how your story reverberates with your reader, I think it speaks to our own personal narratives as well.
Tell the truth.
The marriage of a gay or lesbian couple has no effect on your marriage.
The person’s mode of peeing in the stall next to you doesn’t affect you and is none of your business.
That job taken by an immigrant is one you refused to do.
You pay taxes for the privilege of living here, it is our collective coffers as Americans, and all are entitled to its benefits, as all able to are needed to contribute fairly.
You are better off because of what we accomplish collectively, stop trying to divide us, we are indivisible.
Liberty and Justice is for all, not just you.
These truths are self-evident.
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Truth resonant within even if you try reject it.
There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.
– Anaïs Nin, diary, Fall 1943
You don’t have to like the truth, or agree with it, to uphold its tenets.
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
– Gloria Steinem
Imprisoning others hinders your own freedom forcing you to always be on guard.
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
– Benjamin Franklin
And just because I love a good quote…
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
– Ronald Reagan
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”
– William Faulkner
It’s on all of us, this responsibility to truth and freedom, and each other. All for one, and one for all.