is perfect for anthologies. Even though you may have a month-long build
up to the event, trick-or-treating really only lasts an hour or two.
The short burst of a short story is enough of a treat to get in the
spirit of the orange-and-black holiday without upsetting your stomach
Over the years, I have searched out and found some Halloween-themed anthologies. Halloween Horrors, edited by Alan Ryan, focuses, as you can expect, on the supernatural and terrifying aspects of All Hallow’s Eve. Murder for Halloween
is a nice collection of suspense stories edited by Michele Slung and
Roland Hartman that runs the gamut from Edgar Allan Poe to Ed McBain.
The last Halloween anthology I own, and the one I’m focusing this review
on, is 13 Horrors of Halloween. Why, you may ask, does this collection get the prize? Simple. Isaac Asimov is one of the editors. Can’t go wrong there.
Asimov’s collection begins with, what else, an introduction detailing
the history of Halloween as we now celebrate it. For a man as equally
celebrated for his non-fiction output as well as his fiction, this was a
nice addition to the usual diatribes about Halloween in other
anthologies, including the aforementioned titles. I love history and how
things and events have evolved over the centuries. Asimov runs the
gamut, from biblical traditions to Persian mythology. It’s all quite
fascinating. Asimov ends with this paragraph:
reflects itself in our literature in three ways: in mystery stories in
which the atmosphere of Halloween heightens the natural suspense already
present; or fantasy stories that are rooted in the witches, goblins,
and devils that are inseparable from the celebration; or horror stories
that take advantage of the effluvium of evil that clings to the day.
love words and their meanings and I particularly enjoyed the word
“effluvium” and how it associates with Halloween. A definition is “A
usually invisible emanation or exhalation, as of vapor or gas.” I don’t
know about y’all but Halloween, the day as well as the night itself
always feels different somehow. Rarely here in Houston do we experience
the cool winds but there is a certain spirit
that permeates October 31. Even the date itself looks and feels
different. The stories in this collection exude that same, certain,
unique spirit no matter the genre of the story.
Leave it to
Asimov to lead off the anthology with a detective story. Asimov, the SF
master, dipped his considerable genius into detective fiction with a
couple of his novels including The Caves of Steel.
In this story, simple titled “Halloween,” Detective Haley has to find
some missing plutonium. The thief is dead, collapsed in a stairwell of a
large hotel, and his last word is the story’s title, “Halloween.” It’s
the early hours of 1 November and the thief could have hidden the small
box of plutonium in any of the hotel’s 800+ rooms. The detective has a
theory on where to find the plutonium and you’ll just have to read the
story to find out if he’s right.
Ray Bradbury makes an
appearance. Bradbury writes fiction that can be as nostalgic as old,
sepia-tinted photographs even if you never lives in the world’s Bradbury
describes. One of his favorite holidays is Halloween. But unlike The Halloween Tree, “The October Game” is a fun little ditty
with this first line: “He put the gun back in to the bureau drawer and
shut the drawer.” It’s always fun when you start a story with a gun.
It’s just waiting to be fired.
A few other mystery writers show
up; Anthony Boucher, Ellery Queen, and a great story by the late Edward
D. Hoch. I haven’t read many of his stories but this one, “Day of the
Vampire,” is a good one. Sheriff Frank Creasley
is running for reelection but a body is found and all the blood has
been drained from it. After Creasley carelessly get the ME to hide the
evidence, the sheriff’s opponent makes political hay from the cover-up.
Unless you are a jaded reader, you won’t see the ending coming.
few other folks you’ve probably heard of take a turn at a Halloween
tale: Edith Wharton, Robert Grant, Talmage Powell. Al Sarrantonio’s
“Pumpkinhead” is a devilishly good example of how an author can take
something that can evoke fond memories in all of us—kids Halloween
party, at a school and a home—and turn it upside down. The story takes
place in two parts, one at school and one later that Halloween night.
Here’s the opening paragraphs of the story:
loped up and down aisles between desks, shouting “Boo!” at one another.
Crepe paper, crinkly and the colors of Halloween, crisscrossed over
blackboards covered with mad and frightful doodlings in red and green
chalk; snakes, rats, witches on broomsticks. Windowpanes were filled
with cutout black cats and ghosts with no eyes and giant O’s for mouths.
Here’s how Sarrantonio describes the night:
A black and orange night. Here
came a black cat walking on two legs; there two percale sheet ghosts
trailing paper bags with handles; here again a miniature man from outer
space. The wind was up: leaves whipped along the serpentine sidewalk
like racing cards. There was an apple-crisp smell in the air, an
icicle-down-your-spine, here-comes-winter chill. Pumpkins everywhere,
and a half harvest moon playing coyly with wisps of high shadowy cloud. A
thousand dull yellow night-lights winked through the breezy trees on a
thousand festooned porches. A constant ringing of doorbells, the wash of
goblin traffic; they traveled in twos, threes, or fours, these
monsters, held together by Halloween gravity. Groups passed other
groups, just coming up, or coming down, stairs, made faces, and said,
“Boo!” There were a million “Boo!” greetings this night.
don’t know about you, but after reading lines like these, I want to
travel back in time, don my Han Solo costume, and go trick-or-treating.
But, since that isn’t an option, I’ll have to improvise. I think I might
put in my vampire teeth and paint on the fake blood. I might sit by the
front window, light a candle, and read Isaac Asimov’s 13 Horrors of
Halloween by its light.
October is a big month for me. In news that will surprise no one - we do Halloween bigger than Christmas in the Pickup household. My love for horror’s only boundary is my complete inability to write it, but I love to read it, watch it, discuss it, absorb it. I talked briefly about learning from other genres when I wanted to gush over how much I loved Paul Tremblay’s Cabin at the End of the World, but I couldn’t get into the details I loved or why they mattered without giving spoilers for a book you definitely want to read (no, need to read).
October being what it is, this the unholiest of months, I get my yearly viewings of favorite horror movies in. I’ve written here about my love for TheExorcist (the film) and most people have heard me talk about my love for the novel. I only allow myself a single viewing a year because I never want to lose the excitement it brings me. As a fan, it’s fantastic. As a lover of practical effects in film, it’s a Bible (oh, irony), and as a writer, it has so much to give.
Friedkin and Blatty imagined it pro-Catholic, and apparently, so did the Church, as they allowed the use of Georgetown and their own priests for the film. I don’t know many Catholics that watch this film or read the book it was based on as sacrament - everyone I know loves it or hates it for what it is - a horror film.
But it’s more than that, too. Spoilers follow (but if you haven’t seen it in the last 45 years, are you really going to rush out to see it now?).
In both the book and the film, the relationship between the two priests, Fr. Merrin and Fr. Karras, serves as an emotional lynchpin in the story. Yes, Reagan’s mother Chris deals with intense and heartbreaking emotions through the story, but they are projected onto a character that, for the majority of the story, isn’t actually there. The reader/viewer has to accept at least the possibility that Reagan is possessed by a powerful demon for the story to make any sense at all. Chris plays the role of a mother trying to find help for her daughter, but we experience a mother who has lost her daughter and wants to get her back. Because the reader/viewer and the character are experiencing different things, we merely observe her emotional distress. But Merrin and Karras are friends. In the book more than the film, we see them enjoy each other’s company. We understand that their bond is deep and they have love for one another.
When they go in together to fight this demon - despite their fears and doubts, the reader/viewer understands the gravity. In the scene above, we are witnessing a finality. The grief Karras feels is nothing like the grief Chris felt. Chris was terrified, holding pain for her daughter - but there was a way out. When Karras demands that the demon take him, it is his moment of giving up. His best friend is dead, and he realizes this battle can’t be won with faith or power, so he surrenders. Granted, his surrender makes the win possible.
Reagan is free of the demon, that means the good guys won.
Or does it? And that’s what I love about the relationship between the two priests. They feed each other’s doubts, they feed each other’s power. When one dies, the other chooses to follow immediately. They manage to complete their job - the girl is exorcised. But to win, both the men, and all their knowledge must die.
As a writer I can’t help but admire the emotional wreackage left by that “happy ending.” Karras has just flown into a rage and started beating what he knows is (at least) the body of a young girl. He has demanded possession by a demon, and committed suicide. All within seconds. The reader/viewer cannot breathe a sigh of relief and be happy for Reagan and Chris. We can only take that relief with a spoonful of all the horror and grief Karras and Merrin have left us with.
When the editor of one of your favorite crime fiction publishers reaches out to you saying he has some thoughts about writing violence and asks if you'd like to post it, the answer is always yes. – David Nemeth
Yet I’m not of the opinion that violence is necessary for an excellent crime fiction book. Many of the best in the genre, take Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train or Fuminori Nakamura’s The Thief, have almost no violence.
I’d say I encounter too many manuscripts that assume violence = interesting. This often surfaces on the first few pages involving torture, explosions, or other elements that are supposed to engage the reader. This doesn’t do much for me.
I don’t think there’s one approach that works better than another. Each writer has to find their own way.
Here’s what Leins says about how he approaches violence: “For me the violence has to be bleary-eyed and unpleasant, but never gratuitous. A few years ago, I was taking my son to the library, when I walked past a pub in town, and saw bloodied people crawling out of the door. I later found out that someone had run amok with a hatchet. The surreal image of a ravaged-looking man draped over one of the many mobility scooters parked outside, leaking blood, stayed with me. This wasn't slick Hollywood violence. Whatever happened inside was clumsy and reckless, and I think it is important to convey that feeling.”
Leins has set himself apart from the crowd by having a specific, different vision. The violence is “clumsy and reckless,” merely someone who’s “run amok with a hatchet.” It’s immediately evident in his work, too--the piled-up corpses and fist fights just feel like part of the world he’s created.
The film Drive, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, also puts its own spin on violence. Each murderous act of our protagonist is sudden, brutal, and lightning fast. No drawn-out, twenty-minute fisticuffs. His approach makes each scene memorable.
In Chris Orlet’s A Taste of Shotgun, the protagonist goes about killing people with the same world-weary, piss-poor attitude he has about everything else. His violent scenes work perfectly because of his strong voice and motivation for his characters.
Another approach to writing violence is to skip it–include all the lead up without the act itself. The best example I can think of is Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” The stoning that is the central event of the story is only referred to directly in the last two paragraphs. And, of course, the chilling last line: “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.
Similarly, in Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, the murder that is the focal point of the book takes up less than a page. The bulk of the novel is about the aftermath of the murder and Ripley inhabiting his victim’s identity.
What all of these approaches have in common is that each is derived from character. When violence is included for its own sake, rather than naturally evolving from the story, it loses its power.
Chris Rhatigan is a freelance editor, publisher of All Due Respect, and author of several books.
Before there were video games, there were interactive text games. Before Pong, there was Colossal Cave, a text game played on mainframe computers and vaguely based on The Hobbit in that there were elves and trolls and glowing swords, treasure, and a lot of nerdy references. This was later adapted into a game called Zork, the Underground Adventure, and ported to the first home computers: IBM and clones, Apple, Atari, and Commodore 64, by a company called Infocom, which became synonymous with text adventure games. Back in the 8-bit days when 16K RAM was a big deal, text games used your imagination for the computing power, and made for immersive and complex gameplay that could take weeks or months to solve with your friends all playing at home, often calling each other for hints. They were the perfect combination of video game and book for me, and I still go back and play them now and then. There are some available for smart phones.
Choose Your Own Adventure books were also popular at the time. They weren't as complex as the games of course; you'd get a page of exposition and have to choose which path to take, usually from three choices. In the better books, they led you down long threads of story, and occasionally you would dead end by doing something that got the protagonist killed, or sent the story places you didn't want it to go. Going back was considered "cheating" and some writers put fake pages in the books that no choices led to--usually full of bizarre and exciting prose--only to "gotcha" at the end with "how did you get here? Cheaters never prosper. They are eaten by sharks!"
One of these days I'll write one of these books with a different title of course, as Choose Your Own Adventure is trademarked. I wonder if it would work as a novel inside a novel? I'm starting development on an '80s period piece, coming of age horror novel, and the kids will surely be into Atari games, arcades, text adventures, and Choose Your Own Adventure books like I was. I wonder if readers would like it or be annoyed if they found a character "trapped" in such a book, with short chapters sending them through the book themselves? Too meta? Too clever?
The text adventure games are easier to emulate, and I would love to evoke the sleepless nights of tapping away at the keyboard with my face lit by the monitor's sickly green text glow, terrified that a grue--the faceless monsters that lurked in the dark, if you lost your light source--hunkered slavering in my hallway, just outside the bedroom door. There's a fine line between nostalgia and pandering. Books like Ready Player One leave that line in the dust. It was recommended to me, and I finished it, but couldn't say I liked it. I found The Martian flimsy but enjoyable because it passed along the fun of exploring "how do you survive on Mars?" which inspired it on Reddit, but RPO was just someone who made a career out of milking nostalgia trying to cram as much of it in there as possible. And the movie was somehow worse. On the other hand, Stranger Things has the right level. It freely reuses storylines from the late '70s/early '80s zeitgeist such as government experimentation on children (Akira, Firestarter, The Fury) and Dungeons & Dragons, without sugarcoating it too much. The '80s were not a happy place unless you visit San Junipero from Black Mirror (a simulation for old people who upload their consciousness to the Cloud) or think everyone lived in a John Hughes movie.
When I visit this, I won't forget hat Satanic Panic made life hell for anyone with a heavy metal t-shirt, that jocks used to ride around shouting "faggot!" at anyone who looked different, and if you were lucky they didn't try to hit you with their car, throw rocks at you, or stop to beat the crap out of you. People used to pay $5 to smash Japanese cars with a sledgehammer because we hated them. My classmates whose families came from Vietnam and Iran were treated terribly in school. We escaped into text adventure games and Dungeons & Dragons and comic books, and now those nerds rule the world and make it just as hellish for those they don't like in their fandoms.
That's the difficulty of writing a period piece, making it seem like a golden age. You want it to be an enjoyable escape for the reader, but you have to keep it real. The past wasn't a great time for everyone. Even Back to the Future, in the grip of the '50s nostalgia of the '80s, gave us Biff the bully and made fun of Goldie who would go on to be mayor in the present. I just finished reading one of the best time-travel novels ever written, Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, which begins in 1976 the day before Juneteenth (Emancipation Day), when a black woman named Dana is suddenly transported to 1815, to the plantation where her oldest known ancestors are both slaves and masters. She has to find a way to survive, and not kill her progenitors--as much as she'd like to. Butler is one of the best writers, and her characters are some of the richest out there. She exposes their weaknesses in perfect, nuanced scenes. And she makes life very difficult for Dana, who keeps boomeranging between past and present, sometimes taking her white husband with her. Which lets her subtly compare the white and male supremacy of 1815 with that of 1976.
Dana and her husband are writers, and he wants her to do his typing, but she refuses. This infuriates him, and he acts like a petulant child. Rather like the equally petulant young master of the plantation, who makes Dana his secretary when she can't refuse, because she'll get beaten and whipped. It's a perfect touch, because women in the Civil Rights movement were often relegated to typing and getting coffee by their male "comrades" who thought nothing of it. And some are still forgotten, like Viola Luzzo, who was murdered by the Klan for registering blacks to vote. Kindred excels because Butler's empathy was so great, we felt for the people in that evil past. Even the slave owners who let their power twist them into violent, petulant children. It's still cathartic when they perish, perhaps more so because we understand them just a little, without ever justifying their behavior.
Kindred is one of Butler's best, but I prefer to recommend her duology The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents because they are so painfully prescient, dealing with a faltering American state in the hands of an incompetent evangelical populist, that you'll think it was written yesterday. And she is equally good at wielding her empathy to show how "good people" commit atrocities, and the unique cruelty of the rugged American individual, who accepts help because they deserve it, and then turns around and denies it to others because "no one ever helped me."
There are so many crime fiction anthologies getting published, it can be hard to choose among them for your reading material. I figured this week I'd mention a couple of new ones people might want to look at. I have a story in both, and that's one reason I mention them obviously, but besides that, they both are anthologies where the proceeds go to worthy organizations. Rick Ollerman edited Blood Work, a collection put together to honor Gary Schulze, long-time owner of the Once Upon a Crime bookstore in Minneapolis. Gary won a Mystery Writers of America Raven Award for his many contributions to the crime fiction world, a world he was very active in until he died in 2016 due to complications from leukemia. All proceeds will go to Memorial Blood Centers in Minnesota.
When Rick asked me to contribute to this collection, he said the story had to be either about books or tubas. The books part I got in connection to Gary (who I didn't know), but tubas? If I remember correctly, Rick said that Gary played the tuba. I hope I'm recalling that right. In any event, I sent a story to Rick, and he proved to be a tough editor. What I thought would be a quick revision of an old story I had lying around turned into multiple drafts under Rick's demanding eye. It was worth it, though, and the story, called "The Stolen Arm", was much better in the end after all Rick put it through than it was when I first sent it to him. Overall, the lineup for Blood Work is strong, and since I don't want to neglect anyone, I've listed all the contributors below:
Edited by Rick Ollerman. Alphabetical list of contributors: Scott Adlerberg, Eric Beetner, Kristi Belcamino, Michael A. Black, Michael Bracken, Don Bruns, Gary R. Bush, Austin Camacho, Dave Case, Jessie Chandler, Reed Farrel Coleman, Jen Conley, John Gaspard, Lois Greiman, Libby Fischer Hellmann, David Housewright, William Kent Krueger, Jess Lourey, Michael Allan Mallory, Terrence McCauley, Jenny Milchman, Stuart Neville, Rick Ollerman, Nick Petrie, Gary Phillips, Lissa Marie Redmond, Michael Stanley, Duane Swierczynski, Randy Wayne White, and Case Younggren. There's a couple of launch events for the book coming up. One is this Saturday, October 14th, at 12 noon at Once Upon a Crime. If you live in the Minneapolis area and can make it over....why not? The second event will be Wednesday, October 24th at the Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan. I'll be attending that one, as will some of the other contributors who live in or around New York.
The other anthology I mentioned is Deadlines, a tribute collection to writer and crime fiction lover William E. Wallace. It's edited by Chris Rhatigan and Ron Earl Phillips and comes from Shotgun Honey.
I have to say I was surprised to get an invite to contribute to this one because I didn' t know William Wallace all that well. I never met him and just had some online (mainly Facebook) contact with him. I do have a little anecdote about him, though: William Wallace reviewed crime fiction, particularly from small and indie presses, on his Pulp Hack Confessions blog. A few years ago, I sent him my book, Jungle Horses, and he dropped me a note saying he'd review it on his site in the next few weeks. As it turned out, he never reviewed it. So it goes, no big deal, though I did think, "That son of a bitch." (I'm kidding about thinking son of a bitch). Anyway, time goes by, a couple years pass, he and I have nothing more than the occasional casual back and forth on Facebook, and at some point, it became known that William Wallace had cancer. He kept plugging away, however, doing his fiction and writing book reviews for his blog. Then one day I happen to see that he reviewed my next book, Graveyard Love, for his site. I hadn't even sent him the book. But the capper was what he wrote at the end: "This review will be the last that I produce for this blog...." His illness, as he put it, had left him with only a fraction of his previous energy and he simply no longer had the energy to post frequently in social media. Out of the blue (and months after the book came out, mind you), he spent some of his valuable time being kind to another writer's book before he signed off from his site for the last time. I must admit: I was touched. The mandate for this anthology was crime stories about corruption, vice, and consequence. Mine's called "The Dedicated Bureaucrat" about...well...the title tells it - a city government functionary who goes above and beyond the call of his civil service title to help a member of the public who's the victim of a deed fraud. The lineup for this: Preston Lang, Jen Conley, Joe Clifford, Will Viharo, Paul D. Brazill, Patricia Abbott, Rob Pierce, Sean Craven, Eric Beetner, Sarah M. Chen, Nick Kolakowski, S.W. Lauden, Scott Adlerberg, Gary Phillips, Renee Asher Pickup, Eryk Pruitt, Todd Morr, Travis Richardson, Anonymous-9, Sean Lynch, Alec Cizak, Greg Barth, C. Mack Lewis. Proceeds from sales go to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
You can't change a person's mind by force. I remember years ago, listening to a sermon. The speaker talked about a little boy who got in trouble and was told to sit down. He finally did and said, "I'm sitting down on the outside but I'm standing up on the inside."
The point was clear. You may be able to enforce an action or a policy, but if you don't change a person's beliefs they'll only comply when they have to. For a while, my stepkids' mother lived with a guy who didn't believe in wearing seatbelts. This extended to the kids, from what they told me. Plus he'd put a 5-year-old in the front passenger seat with an airbag without a care for the safety risks. Of course, everything I knew was based solely on what the kids said...
Until he was killed in a car crash. Thrown because he wasn't wearing his seatbelt.
You can have a law. You may be able to punish people if they don't follow it. But you will not keep them from breaking that law if you don't convince them of the need for the law.
This is why totalitarian regimes fail. It's also why freedom of thought and expression scares some people so much.
In many respects, Americans have never been more divided and it's been an exhausting time. What follows isn't easy for me to say, but by making a confession here, I think there might be some hope for a way forward.
Several years ago, I didn't have much sympathy for Anita Hill.
Nothing I'm about to say justifies it. I can only, in part, explain. With that, perhaps there's insight into how some people think.
With that comes the ability to change a person's thinking.
When I was young I wanted to take karate. I was told that was for boys.
I was raised in a small town. i was raised conservative. My dad was an early enthusiast for The Reform Party.
I was studying journalism in college when Anita Hill's story unfolded. I didn't have a TV. This was before social media.. So largely, what I knew about it was based on hearsay. However, I was assigned assistant editor on the college paper at some point after the Hill story had been going on for a while. And I wrote an editorial about losing sympathy for women like her.
How could I? You know, you have to think about how all the things we're told over the course of our lives affect how we think.
I grew up in the pre-bullying awareness days. You know what I commonly heard from parents and teachers.
Does anyone ever stop to explain to their young child the difference between tattling and reporting something serious? Instead of addressing the wrong thing another person said or did, you get told not to tell. The very act of reporting becomes the problem.
If you don't like how someone talks or behaves, don't play with them. Translation: the solution is removing yourself.
Like so many women, I've been sexually assaulted. One occasion was at a dance when I was a teenager.
It was around the same time that I was getting bullied. It was over a boy. I liked the same guy this other girl liked, but she was a street-savvy gal with some hard friends who'd already been expelled from school. I knew them by reputation only. They cornered me outside the building where one of those dances was held and beat me up. I mean, knocked my jaw offline so I have problems with it to this day.
I never hit one of them back.
I stopped going to those dances.
The police wouldn't do anything about it. The incident didn't happen on school grounds - we had dances at a different location. However, the school finally got involved and transferred me to a different school in a different town.
Translation: send the problem away.
All of this affected how I thought. It colored my perspective. If I hadn't put myself in a bad situation (going to that dance, liking a boy another girl liked) I wouldn't have been beaten up by this pack of girls and I wouldn't have been sexually assaulted by this other boy.
In other words, it was kinda my fault.
Nobody ever told me that it wasn't. You can't blame my parents - you don't know how far they've come in their own lives. However, I look back and I think about the teachers and the school counselors and such and I think, "What the fuck?"
Small town conservative thinking. Now, you might be wondering why the school got involved. It got bad. I started missing school because I was constantly being threatened. And then, in the wake of the physical attack I had to have my appendix removed. I was in class right before that happened. An exam. And some girls were fooling around and the teacher didn't do anything about it. I finally lost it (call it a build-up of everything going on) and yelled at them to stop.
The teacher ripped up my exam.
I ended up in the emergency room at the hospital and my parents ended up in the principal's office. And they were done putting up with what was going on.
The teacher got fired. I ran into him a few years later. He blamed me.
And you know what? I felt guilty.
So, back then, I heard about the Anita Hill thing and I heard that she followed him from one job to another. I didn't understand why anyone would do that if they thought what someone was doing was wrong.
It wasn't about whether I believed her or not. I don't remember if I did (and although I have a copy of that editorial I wrote here, I don't want the humiliation of reading it) or not, but I didn't have sympathy for a woman who claimed she was harassed and then put herself in a position for it to continue.
Some people I know these days really don't get that I was totally right wing in my thinking. And I voted to the right.
I was surrounded by people who didn't want gay marriage. That was against God's plan. So touting a party as supporting gay rights was an automatic deterrent. No way were people obeying God going to cross that line.
But then something happened.
Well, a few somethings.
And when you travel, you start to see the world through different eyes. You have experiences that shape you. You're exposed to things that are different - ways of life, philosophies, societal structures. You start to look at things from a different vantage point, with a different perspective.
Then I worked at a Bible College. On an Island. I was an insulated as you could get, in many respects. Surrounding by people who were being taught to think a certain way about specific things, with a strong set of rules in place for how we all conducted ourselves.
But some things happened there. One was that a female student was raped by a male student.
You know what the higher ups told that girl? God commanded her to forgive. Since her attacker had "repented" she shouldn't go to the police and she should forgive him and remain at that residential school with him.
This while two members of the upper level of leadership at the school were having an affair.
For the first time my eyes really opened to a different kind of abuse. Spiritual abuse. People who use religion to control, manipulate and harm people.
It was a long, slow journey for me to change my thinking. And I fully understand that white women are a big part of the reason that the GOP retains power.
Some of them really don't know any better. You aren't up against one right or wrong situation. You're up against years of conditioning and spiritual abuse. Obey your husbands. Honor God with your actions. So your church tells you that God doesn't approve of gay people and your husband tells you to vote Republican and there it is.
And don't tattle. Wives, be subject to your husbands. Children, obey your parents.
And when someone hurts you, forgive them. Turn the other cheek.
Why on earth do you think it took so long for the victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church to come forward?
You call it grooming. I call it spiritual abuse. It doesn't matter what we call it.
We can't just look at a person and think they should see the world the way we do, and call them names when they don't.
I can look back on my thinking, and how I helped facilitate abuse by even working at that Bible college, and feel shame and guilt.
I can also look at some (not all, but some) of these women who are blindly following along and I do have the ability to feel sympathy. For a lot of them, compliance with political ideology is intertwined with family. Their entire life structure is threatened by questioning that position. It's why a lot of little girls still don't tell on their daddy or anyone else that touches them. Shhh. Don't tattle. Forgive. Obey.
My friends on the left, you have to ask yourself if what you want to do is judge people or if what you want to do is really change hearts and minds. "Winning" isn't just about getting the highest number of people out in enough places on election day. That won't change anything for the long run, and when people who think differently start to feel threatened, they'll be back out in force.
The only way you really change things is if you get the majority of people thinking the way you do.
This means getting churches to speak out against sexual assault. It means not telling kids not to tattle but rather teaching them when and what to report and to whom.
It means helping people understand that it isn't their fault if someone touches them inappropriately. Nobody has that right.
It means helping people understand that forgiveness doesn't exempt a person from the consequences of their own action. You want to forgive your rapist? Fine, but the Bible still supports following the laws of the land, and that means reporting the crime and letting the justice system punish abusers and rapists.
It also means reassuring people that they will be supported. For some people, shifting politically may come with the threat of loss. We all know there are parents who reject their child for being gay or trans or having a mixed marriage.
There are parents who disown their children over politics, too.
I believe in equal rights. For women. For people who are gay. For people who are black, Hispanic, Native American. I believe that if you want fewer babies aborted then you need to educate people about birth control and make it available to them.
And if you want more people to have children then give them incentives. When I was growing up, Canada had the baby bonus plan, sending parents a check every month for every child that they had. It wasn't ridiculous money, but it was something. The government wanted to encourage natural population growth, so it put its money where its mouth was.
I also believe that a woman should govern her own body. I don't like abortion. I just don't think anyone should make that kind of decision for anyone else. If you've ever known anyone carrying a child that they know will not make it (as I have) or have known anyone who has died in childbirth (as I have) then you start to realize that not only shouldn't anyone else have the right to make that choice, but nobody in their right mind wants to be responsible for that choice.
Forgiveness. And ultimately, if it's a sin, then let judgment be up to God.
This is how I've made my peace with a lot of things. I have moved all the way to the left because nothing is more important to me than people. I believe that a responsible government should take care of its people. I believe in helping people when they're down. Heck, the Bible admonishes people to be charitable and love others and be good to them. So why is it so hard to get people to move from the right to the left?
It's those tripping wires of gay rights and abortion. You have to ease people around them so that they see that the beauty of the left is that the main concern is taking care of people. Making sure that people who paid into their social security have it to rely on when they are old. Making sure that people have health care so that families don't have to go bankrupt because they choose between treating a sick child.
Some of these women have been so controlled their whole lives that the thought of losing their safety net - a system of behavior that has politics and religion and family acceptance often so entwined together that they may as well be one entity - is traumatic.
Many years ago, I was at a panel at Harrogate with a bunch of agents and editors and one of them said something that stuck with me. They said they aren't looking for a book that's completely original. What they wanted was something just a little bit different so that they could bridge the distance between what people are familiar with and a new story. In other words, they wanted to ask readers to move a few feet to try something fresh, rather than being in a position to ask them to move miles.
I'm proof that a person's thinking can change. Yeah, I thought Clinton should have been impeached. Still do, mind you. Because he lied. And as likable as Joe Biden is, go read up on Anita Hill before you tout Dems over Republicans in all things.
Democrats need to be for things, rather than against things. And they need to show themselves to be for things that people who think right of center have a hard time refuting. The truth is, although Dems may not come at their values from a religious perspective in most cases, their values are often far more Christian than what the Republicans herald.
It's going to be a long road, but I'm going to tell you something else. We need to be far more proactive about a lot of things, because if there's one thing I hope people have understood from this post it's that language matters. The language we use (don't tattle) can affect a person's thinking and behavior deeply, and for a lifetime.
It means we have to stop sending mixed messages. We have to hold everyone to the same standard.
Which means we can't start being sexist towards men. Let's uphold equality. And let's really think about what we're saying with our words and our actions, or our lack of actions. You want to understand why some men are threatened by the idea of women having true equality? Here you go. Really listen to what this commercial is saying - men are incapable. They have to rely on the woman to schedule everything and have constant reminders in order for things to get done.
And we wonder why some men might resist the idea of a woman being in charge? Nobody wants to be treated this way.
We have to start building a world where we show nobody has anything to fear from what's important to us. 2016 was won on fear, as was Kavanaugh's confirmation.
Take away the fear. Show the positives that even right-thinking Christians can't dismiss, and you have helped people start to take some steps in the right direction. Winning an election isn't enough. It's a stop-gap, but it won't solve the problems in the long term if you don't change how people think.