books, stories of street protests

Heroes, Anger, and Stories

Street protests in America

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking in the last few weeks. Thinking, and observing as well. I’ve been asking a lot of questions, and trying to find answers in myself. I’m not liking all of the answers I’m finding, but that brings me some hope as well.

I should take a step back and clarify.

We’ve been struggling, here in America, in the last few weeks with a lot of anger. Racial tensions that have been building and stewing for hundreds of years are boiling over, again. People who are searching for their own identities, especially as that identity relates to their biological sex, their gender identity and their sexual preferences or orientations have had much to be frustrated about in recent weeks. Political differences have been overlapping these two issues, along with many others, further dividing us into angry camps.

Each of these camps has heroes. These are people that they feel represent the ideals that the camp is supporting. For example, those who support the Black Lives Matter camp have found a tragic hero in George Floyd, whose violent death sparked outrage and protest. Others in that camp have been tearing down and defacing statues of historical figures of the Confederacy. 

Meanwhile, those in opposing camps have been quick to vilify Floyd and defend the statues as historical monuments worthy of respect and remembrance. 

JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series and hero to many has come under fire for the interpretation of some tweets she made regarding those transitioning from one gender to another. Leaders of churches (full disclosure, the church that I claim) have been criticized for their stances on both race issues and questions of the treatment of those in the LGBTQIA+ community.

I have my own opinions about the claims being made. This article isn’t really about the claims, though, nor is this blog intended to be my political platform. This post is about our current national mood, and it’s not good. Like the song from the protests of the 60s said, there are “battle lines being drawn.” Unfortunately, when people start drawing battle lines, they tend to be very abstract and not very realistic. In the shouting of rhetoric, it’s easy to use harsh lines of contrasting colors, but in real life, the colors get blurry, mixed, and the lines aren’t as sharp.

Street Protests and Stories

As a writer, I tell stories. I imagine characters with hopes, dreams, motivations, opinions, desires, and, yes, flaws. Then these characters act on these things, and they don’t always do it nicely. A hero will do something noble and heroic and everyone around them praises them for that action. But when they find something else that the hero did or said that wasn’t quite so inspired, or was fully reprehensible, they are just as quick to throw the hero to the wolves on the other side of the battle line.

Characters in novels and people in real life are not so easy to sort out. We’re blurry. We make mistakes. We grow and evolve. Maybe in the past someone may have even been criminal, but does that mean they are criminal now? What if someone says something that we disagree with, can’t we just disagree and voice that disagreement without rejecting all of the other good and agreeable things that hero has done?

My Take on the Street Protests

Here’s the deal, though. I can’t understand a person if I don’t hear their story. I need to be open to hear and feel their life to be able to make any sense of their actions.

Here’s where my own lines must be drawn, and I must take responsibility for them: 

  • I must decide what my own beliefs are. 
  • I must allow them to grow and evolve.
  • I must recognize others that agree with me, and disagree with me.
  • I must recognize the good intentions and actions of those that agree with me and disagree with me. 
  • I must recognize the bad choices of those that agree with me and disagree with me.
  • I must recognize that their actions don’t validate or invalidate my opinions or my choices.

I sincerely hope that when I am judged, both by the mortals around me, and my God above me, that there will be sufficient forgiveness to account for all the messups I’ve made. In order to have that forgiveness open to me, I have to be willing to forgive a lot of other people as well.

The more we listen to each other’s stories, with a real desire to understand, the better we’ll be able to form real solutions.

2 thoughts on “Heroes, Anger, and Stories

  1. Well said. I particularly like the part where you say that when people draw battle lines, they like to look at issues in the “harsh lines of contrasting colors,” but in real life these issues are more complex. Very true! Unfortunately, the media isn’t doing us any favors in dealing with the complexity of the issues.

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