A happy Declaration Day

Fifty-six folks signed a document 246 years ago this week, declaring that we are created equal, endowed by our Creator — not by a king or a congress or a dictator or a parliament, but a Creator — with certain rights, inalienable rights, that is to say, rights that cannot be taken away.

Those rights include — but are not limited to — a right to life, a right to liberty, and a right to pursue happiness. And when governments, which are supposedly here to make sure those rights are secured, do not do that job, or threaten those rights, or even infringe on those rights, well, then, they declared that folks have a right to leave that government behind and establish a better one. 

Of course, people in power being used to wielding power, signing such a declaration could be considered tantamount to suicide, because the governments of the day did what governments always do to people who challenge their authority: They sent as many men as were available to kill as many people who believed in the declaration as they could.

We live in a time when the government is again treating these certain, inalienable rights as if they are privileges that they may grant or withhold. Heck, they even refer to them as “constitutional rights,” as if the rights were granted by the Constitution, rather than our Creator.

The Declaration of Independence has a whole list of offenses that King George III committed against his American colonial subjects. Some of them are awfully familiar:

“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”

“… imposing Taxes on us without our Consent”

“… depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury”

“In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Now, I am not enamored of the thought that the government could send people out to kill us all, but I’m also not enamored of the idea of violating basic human rights, such as the basic human rights that the Constitution explicitly prohibits the government from violating. You see the dilemma.

The “good” news is they probably don’t want to be seen as killers, either, which is why they seem to be working so hard to incite a civil war, to make people so angry that we go out and do the job of killing each other without bloodying their own hands. I hope and pray it doesn’t come to that, but so many are so easily fooled by these tricksters.

The best way to thwart these tyrants is not to rise to the bait. When they rant and rave and buy TV commercials and newscasters to tell us how we need to hate each other, instead let’s embrace each other and say, “Hey, we disagree on a few things, but if we talk it over, maybe we can find some common ground and work out some solutions together. Obviously the people we supposedly elected to fix things would rather fight, but this is a big beautiful country and there’s plenty of room for all of us to live together in peace.”

Clearly if we refused to hate each other and found ways to work out our differences, it would drive our so-called leaders crazy. But for them, it’s a short trip anyway.

On the best way to take care of the world

This meme caused a mild furor when I shared it on Facebook the other day. As memes go, it’s packed with an unusual amount of implied meaning.

A professional journalist and former colleague took umbrage at the description of news as “a scripted drama.” But I have come to believe that “the news” really can be scripted dramatics more often than not, outside of accidents and acts of God. Does anyone really believe anymore that anything on the political stage is sincere, spontaneous or contemporaneous? Every statement, every scream of supposed outrage, every word out of the practical politician’s mouth comes after much calculation about how best to position one’s self for the next election. Chuck Schumer is reading from a script in almost every sound bite I’ve seen, for example.

Some people were unhappy with the meme’s notion that if they are upset about recent events, they have been “triggered by every news event.” (For readers in a more enlightened future, “triggered” is a word describing the emotional reaction to a word, phrase or event.) In this illustration, the person riding the bus on the rocky side of the road is reacting to the Menckenesque onslaught of alarming hobgoblins that are served up constantly by practical politicians.

I acknowledge that the setup leaves room for debate — easy to acknowledge since debate has occurred since I posted this — but I wholly endorse the meme’s payoff: “The best way to take care of the world is to shut off the TV and become the happiest, healthiest version of yourself.”

Notice that the meme does not talk about the best way to ignore the world, as some of its critics have said. It cites the best way to take care of the world. By concentrating on becoming “the happiest, healthiest version of yourself” rather than bemoaning the endless litany of external troubles, we take care of the world through positive transformation of the one little bit of the world we can control: our selves. 

Makes sense to me. That is why I happily shared the meme on social media and now here.

The 700th day

698, 699, and … 700.

Someday I’m going to release two books in one day. One will be Jeep Thompson and The Lost Prince of Venus, the novel I have been nibbling at since before the lockdowns of 2020, and the other will be the non-fiction How to Beat Inertia in 30 Years, the story of my lifetime battle with procrastination.

In 1987, I wrote down a plan to become a full-time writer by Jan. 1, 1990. I’m 32 years past that target. The book with the ironic name will be my journal of the closing years of the battle, as I went from “This is the novel I’m going to write” to “Look, I made this, finally.” Or maybe I’ll wait until the Jeep trilogy is completed, just to be sure the battle is won.

Oh, you could say I’ve been a full-time writer since 1975, because I have almost always held a job that involved writing. That’s a rationalization. You know what I mean: A “full-time writer” who chooses his topics and projects without an employer telling him what needs to be written.

In any case, the daily block will be part of the Inertia book. A couple of years ago, I finally tired of seeing my train of thought broken up by WordPress ads and put warrenbluhm.com on its own site. In late July 2020 I thought to myself, “Self, how do I differentiate this site from my older blogs?”

It occurred to me that I had never sustained a daily blogging habit, so I resolved to do a three-month trial and blog every day from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31. This is Day 700 of that 92-day challenge.

One thing I did differently was not to announce my resolve. My years as a writer/author are littered with announcements and promises that fizzled out. (One of those was “Jeep Thompson: Coming in 2021.”) So I deferred an announcement and just started writing every day, not mentioning it for about a month. And the rest is history.

Almost two years into this habit, I am still not making enough time to finish the novel(s). But I’ve published 10 books and counting since August 2020, in my name or under the “Roger Mifflin Collection” banner, as a side effect of ingraining the habit of writing every day.

At this midpoint of 2022, I remain confident the world will be reading a novel about Jeep Thompson and her colleagues by the end of the year. I haven’t beaten inertia yet, but the darn rock is ever so slowly starting to budge.

I have 700 reasons to believe I can make it happen.

W.B. at the Movies: Dr. Strange 2

We watched Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on Saturday night, and I appreciated it for what it was. How do you go wrong, really, with a cast along the lines of Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Rachel MacAdams and newcomer Xochitl Gomez?

I have resigned myself to the fact that the Stephen Strange of my youth has left the building. “My” Dr. Strange would be more likely to shout “By the hoary hosts of Hogarth!” when alarmed, as opposed to “S#!+!” and he had no sense of humor, so some of this character’s wisecracks feel like something out of Tony Stark’s mouth in an Iron Man movie.

Be that as it may, this latest Marvel movie is entertaining — although I’m not sure I would take children to see it, as some of the scarier imagery made Red blanch — and a couple of new characters made my comic-book geek soul soar, played by John Krasinski and Charlize Theron (to keep spoilers at bay). 

You need to be at least familiar with the Disney+ series WandaVision to fully understand the plot, which extends the TV show’s exploration of how grief affects a superhero’s psyche. I do hope the denouement of this film brings that episode to a close so that, if Elizabeth Olsen reprises the role, we can go back to seeing her as the powerful force for good that she has been in the past. (Her seething delivery of the line, “You took everything from me,” remains one of my bone-chilling favorite moments of Avengers: Endgame.)

Oh, and that one-eyed monster in the movie’s opening scenes was so spot-on Ditkoesque that I’m pretty sure that delighted childish squeal I heard came from me.

Morning routine

Red is out in the sun, coaxing plants to bloom their flowers and yield their veggies. I am here inside on my blue chair, coaxing words to form into pleasing patterns. We have settled into this routine, although I do feel guilt about not doing more to tame our land and spruce up the house.

The arrival of the puppy has disrupted our routine. There was a time when I would wake up around 5 a.m., assume the blue chair and write, with my golden old friend curled by my side, until the rest of the household woke an hour or so later.

Now the puppy rises between 4:30 and 5, waking us all with an insistent whine to be let outside for her morning constitutional. I am still seeking a routine that will get me into the blue chair for solitary writing and reflection on a regular basis, now that 5-6 a.m. belongs to us all.

Summer is my new golden friend, and she is who she is, not a replacement for my old friend. We greet the dawn together; before she learned how to descend the 10 steps from our deck into the enclosed back yard, I would take her out front on a leash, and that remains our morning habit, even though I could easily send her out back now.

She does her No. 1, we walk up to the mailbox for the paper, and she does her No. 2. Sometimes she will sit and watch the vehicles pass on the highway up the hill, or contemplate a robin or some other early bird. I have a leash in my hand, so I can’t write whatever thoughts come to we as we welcome the new day together, but in many ways that’s better than contemplating a blank page. There’s so much life to see out there.

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