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it’s hard to be shallow when the problems are so deep

January 27th, 2009

So once upon a time I was a Serious Journalist. What this means, in part, is that I traveled around the country—or world in a lot of cases—and looked for people to tell me their bad, sad stories, and then transmitted those bad, sad stories to readers back here in the US. There was an altruistic impulse behind what I did: get the word out on the Very Bad Things happening in hidden corners of the country and world. And getting the word out to teenagers, igniting the social conscience of the next generation, it felt especially important.

It also sometimes felt icky. Like when you were fighting with other journalists over a really good “get,” which is what we called a good story. Or when you found yourself feeling really happy to have discovered a 12-year-old African girl who was not only abducted into fighting as a child soldier but was also raped. Paydirt! Then you double-taked—and felt like crap. Then you make yourself feel better because these dramatic stories are what grab attention, get development aid, government intervention. But whatever, I still felt dirty.

That’s why I love writing fiction. You can still explore serious issues, like  morality, justice, love, death, life, what have you, but you don’t have to exploit anybody to do it. And you don’t have to lie. I mean you do have to lie. But it’s okay. Because it’s fiction. You’re supposed to lie. This is why I don’t understand all the scandals as of late about the made-up memoirs. The latest being Angel At The Fence, the recently discredited and cancelled Holocaust memoir. I don’t get it. If you have a really good story to tell, but it’s b.s. or partly b.s., don’t call it a memoir. Call it a novel! 

But I digress. My point to all this is that now I’m supposed to be writing this blog every. And it’s cool, some days, I think for me to go all serious and even pedantic. But mostly, I just want to be entertaining and write fun poems and profess my undying and totally irrational Princess-Di-like worship for all things Obama Family. (And OMG, Obama giving his first Presidential interview to Al Arabiya TV and telling the Arab world that Americans aren’t the enemy, my liberal, progressive, multi-culti, Brooklyn-girl heart could just about explode with pride!)

But when the front page of yesterday’s paper informs me that 42,000 jobs are getting cut and by the end of the day updates that stat to 62,000 jobs and I have to wonder if my husband’s job is one of them (I’m freelance; the only person who can fire me is me). And then I worry about my parents and sister and brother and friends, a lot of whom have lost their jobs. And then I worry about all the people I don’t know and wonder how bad things are going to get and what we’re going to do and then I get irrationally angry at Mitch McConnel and dumb people in Congress who think that tax cuts are the answer because gee, they’ve worked so darn well in the past eight years. And I just want to shake them and yell at them and scream: STOP WORRYING ABOUT GETTING RE-ELECTED AND JUST FIX THIS! NOW. PLEASE!

So, as you can see, in spite of my best intentions, some days it’s just hard to be shallow with all this gloom hanging over me.

Except, really, if you want to know a secret, though I shield myself with cynical pessimistic hard candy shell, my soft gooey center is pure optimist. I bought this Yes We Can business from the get-go. In spite of what my husband thinks, it’s not that I’m all starry eyed for Barack but because being a journalist, I’ve actually seen the good in people over and over, know how much people hunger to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and how, given an opportunity, people in this country will come together like never before. Or, more to the point, like teenagers, who pretty much walk every one else’s talk, volunteering in huge numbers.

So, I’m optimistic. It will get better. And  I will be frivolous. I will be diverting. Tomorrow is another day. And dammit. I think I’ll dedicate the blog post to haikus about my cats. Feel free to contribute your own pet haikus.