This past week, my publisher sent me the final pdf of my upcoming novel, Leisha’s Song. I was instructed to read it carefully, notate any needed corrections, and have someone else read it as well. We writers are notoriously bad at finding our own spelling and punctuation mistakes. It’s so much easier to find them in the work of others!
I recruited my husband, the poor man who’s read versions and drafts of this novel over. And over. He did this latest job in two days, and each night, we reviewed needed corrections.
What especially touched me was that he not only pointed out the mistakes he’d noticed, but he starred a bunch of places that he found funny, sad, or otherwise moving as a reader. Of course, I ate up the praise, especially since I’m not the world’s most confident writer. But what really uplifted me was that he made the unsolicited effort to point out the things he liked. In these dark days for our nation, my forever encourager-in-chief made me feel so much better.
Ever since the January 6th attempted coup, like many of you, my negative emotions have been all over the place. Shock, anger, disbelief, along with the fear of what may happen next, have made it tough to focus on my work. What really worries me is the emergence of a media eco-system in which misinformation, conspiracy theories, hatred, and bigotry are peddled 24/7. When I watch die-hard Trump supporters being interviewed, it’s clear that they genuinely believe the election was stolen—never mind the evidence that this is a baseless claim. In their world view, they are the real patriots fighting for the salvation of our country. Often, they’re the same folks who refuse to wear masks because Co-Vid is a hoax. Climate change and systemic racism? Those are made up too, according to the “experts” they listen to.
If we can’t agree that science and evidence matter, then where are we? Is there a line between First Amendment free speech rights and sheer lunacy? As my older sister pointed out, even when giant media platforms like Facebook and Twitter try to take action, it’s like playing whack-a-mole. Kick these purveyors of lies and hatred off of one platform, and they’ll simply move to another.
In the long term, I think it’s going to be very important for educators not only to focus more on civics, but to emphasize critical thinking skills, beginning in elementary school and continuing through high school and beyond. We absolutely must give every citizen the ability to evaluate sources and evidence in making decisions about what they believe to be true.
Democracy is messy, but it’s the only system in which we all have a voice. And its survival relies upon us to do our best to separate fact from fiction.
Joe Biden wasn’t kidding when he said we’re in “a battle for the soul of our nation.” My prayer is that we can find our way back to the path of love and understanding as we recommit to working for justice, equality, and the welfare of all, regardless of our skin color, ethnicity, or whom we love.
Meantime, in our personal lives, I recommend taking my husband’s approach to loved ones. Make the effort to be encouragers-in-chief.
It matters. Big time.