Thursday, November 10, 2016

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

Those words in the Declaration of Independence are a simple, yet universal reminder of what is necessary for the good human life.

Life to be. Liberty to be who you are. The pursuit of happiness to be not only happy, but to just enjoy what life is in the first place.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is also where my definition of social justice begins – and ends. Whatever threatens life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (and opportunity) is a threat to social justice and must be opposed with full force. Whatever is merely offensive – well, that goes on the back burner, at most.

On November 8, 2016, the electorate of the United States (actually, 25.5% of it; 46.9% didn’t even vote, which is a whole other problem) picked a President who is a genuine threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This man is a threat to reproductive rights. To marriage equality. To people wanting to walk down the street without police harassment. To affordable health insurance. To our climate and environment, without which we could not live at all. Period.

As long as this man and his fellow travelers control Washington, I do not want to hear complaints about:
·         Halloween costumes
·         Sexy video games
·         Sexy comic book art
·         Who gets to use what slang
·         Who gets to use what emoji
·         Authors saying things you don’t like
·         Creators not apologizing for creations you don’t like
·         Legitimate criticism of Islam and all other religions

In the last few years, the definition of social justice has been stretched and distorted so much that it is has become illiberal. I’m sorry that a dangerous President may be what it takes for Americans to understand what real injustice is. I just hope we survive long enough to never forget.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

My bookshelves are not an affirmative action zone

Yes, I know my pile of books to be read looks short. The rest of them are on my Kindle.

In all of my time on Earth, I’ve only had one question when it comes to deciding what books to read (required school reading excepted):

Do I want to experience this story?

That’s it. Only seven words. It’s a seemingly simple question, but it is sufficient to its task, which is nothing less than creating the best reading experience for me.

Do I want to experience this story?

Not: Is this book on a best-seller list?

Not: Has the New York Times and NPR given it good reviews?

Not: Does it have “buzz” from the right people?

Do I want to experience this story?

Not: How much melanin is in the epidermis of the writer’s and/or characters’ skin?

Not: What kind of genitalia does the writer and/or characters have between the legs?

Not: What kind of people does the writer and/or characters desire sexual contact with (if any?)

Some readers care very much about the melanin, genitalia, and sexual desires of writers and the characters they create. They are not shy about saying so. They feel they are contributing to social justice by refusing to read books by and about the big bad cisgender, heterosexual white men. 

If that’s the thing that brings you joy, have at it. But it is a choice I will never make.

First, I'd miss out on too many great books that way.

Second, there is a word for denying people things that they deserve because of their innate and immutable characteristics, and it’s a word I don’t ever want to be.

Book Riot, a blog about the book world which has a good podcast and a raft of trendy clickbait articles, once said this: 

[If] you say “I just want to read a good story,” you’re in essence saying “Books from people from other backgrounds don’t meet my criteria for being a good story.” [source]

In other words, if you don’t care about race, gender, and/or sexual orientation when deciding what books to read, it’s exactly the same as refusing to read books based on those three factors alone. That argument is not only false, it’s a form of gaslighting. 

No discrimination on my bookshelves. No affirmative action. No KEEP OUT signs based on innate and immutable characteristics.

Just stories that I loved experiencing.