Category Archives: issues

Paramour Rights, the past you seldom hear about

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n 1952, African American Ruby McCollum of Live Oak, Florida was tried and convicted of murdering a local white doctor whom she claimed had been forcing her to have sex with him for years. The Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction due to a technicality, but McCollum was judged insane before a new trial could be convened and was placed in a state mental institution. Those who covered the trial think it was prejudicial in multiple ways, including the fact that McCollum was allowed to say little or nothing in her own defense.

DVD About The McCollum Trial

I mention this because during this case, we heard the term “paramour rights,” the notion–stemming from the days of slavery–that white men could have non-consensual sex with any Black woman they wanted with little if any consequences. In the publisher’s description of one book about the trial, McCollum is said to have murdered her “white lover” rather than killing a man she claimed had been raping her for years. The word “lover” hardly applies.

Danielle L. McGuire writes in her  2004 “The Journal of American History” article, “It Was like All of Us Had Been Raped: Sexual Violence, Community Mobilization, and the African American Freedom Struggle,” Despite a growing body of literature that focuses on the roles of black and white women and the operation of gender in the movement, sexualized violence-both as a tool of oppression and as a political spur for the movement-has yet to find its place in the story of the African American freedom struggle. Rape, like lynching and murder, served as a tool of psychological and physical intimidation that expressed white male domination and buttressed white supremacy.”

My novel Conjure Woman’s Cat mentions the rape of a black woman by white males. In my fictional account, the police don’t even bother to investigate because this was, sad to say, par for the course. Black women in those days were portrayed, even in official court transcripts, as sexual Jezebels, “Nigger wenches,” and as women who liked being assaulted by white men. When they claimed they were raped in the rare instances such cases came to trial, prosecutors asked if they enjoyed it.

A “classmate” of mine (I put the word in quotes because we didn’t know each other) was one of four men who raped an African American woman at gun and knife point. His sister was in my high school class. We knew each other, but moved in different circles, so we never discussed the crime or the impact it had upon her or the family. In the high school yearbook, X was a senior and–as such–appears wearing a black bow tie, a white jacket, and a white shirt. He was active in school activities. He didn’t look like a man who would spend the rest of his life on the sexual offender lists.

He and his sister are still alive, so I won’t mention their names or the name of the victim who has passed away. I never saw an interview with the victim or any account of long-term psychological damage after the verdict was announced. She showed great courage during the trial as she described the event and never flinched under defense attempts to paint the seven sexual encounters of the evening as what she wanted.

The first surprising fact in 1959 was that X and the three other thugs who committed the crime were arrested. The second surprising fact was that they were held in jail while awaiting trial. They had confessed, but claimed the sex was consensual, and made light of the whole thing like it was boys having fun. The biggest surprise of all is that they were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. How unusual this way for that day and time.

Those commenting on the disparate approach in the criminal justice system to the rapes of black women by white males and the rapes of white women by black males consistently view sex with a black woman as a rite of passage for young white men. This was probably the case in Tallahassee in 1959. Many think that the late Senator Strom Thurmond’s “affair” with am underage black maid in his family’s house falls into the “rite of passage” or “paramour rights” category.

Few people knew about the segregationist’s black daughter until after he died. His black daughter Essie Mae Washington-Williams, who died in 2013, was silent about her birth father for 78 years wrote and elegant and even-handed memoir (Dear Senator) in 2006 that shows the confusion and disconnect between the black sons and daughters and their white fathers who were fascinated with black women. Commentators were quick to point out that apologists for Thurmond’s relationship with the teenage black maid employed by his family called that relationship and affair rather than statutory rape or sex under duress.

After years of executing black men for raping white women, the 1959 Tallahassee trial was a victory, a wedge driven into the status quo, a precedent showing times might be changing, even though the rapists were out on parole within six or seven years. In Conjure Woman’s Cat, the men aren’t convicted because–in the “real life” of 1954 when the novel is set–they seldom were found guilty of anything. In those days, that was life as usual.

–Malcolm

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Should I be writing about political issues?

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Arts, publishing and books websites are showing us a large number of links about writers and politics these days. Some writers are speaking out (from one side of the aisle or the other) at rallies, via letters to Senators and Representatives, and posts on Facebook profiles. Others are writing poems, entire poetry chapbooks, essays, book reviews, short stories and novels that reflect their concerns about a wide variety of political, economic and social issues that became part of the very polarized national debate during the Presidential campaign.

Somebody–I forget who–once said that all fiction and poetry is at one level or another political. Perhaps so. My contemporary fantasies can’t help but show sadness over a world that relies more on technology than spirituality. My two Florida conjure novels shine a light on the racism of the 1950s. Nonetheless, my primary intent with these novels was telling stories I was passionate about rather than creating “message novels.”

When I think about the folk songs of the 1960s–and a lot of the poetry and fiction as well–I remember them as being intensely political, about “the military industrial establishment,” segregation, poverty, and the Vietnam War. We seem to have come full circle back to writings of protest and resistance against conservative policies as well as writings suggesting that that previous liberal policies created a mess that needs to be cleaned up.

Of course I have opinions about the issues. One opinion of longstanding favors a better approach to the environment, conservation, protection of wild areas and natural resources, and more care about not polluting the environment. Since these views go all the way back to the days when I was in the Boy Scouts and first began to participate in conservation organizations such as the Wilderness Society and the National Parks and Conservation Association, I will keep writing about this–and referring to it in my stories.

While I respect writers and others who feel a need to speak out for or against the issues that now threaten to further divide this country into camps that refuse to work toward consensus, I’m not going to do it. For one thing, I have no credentials that give me any special insight into whether we should be doing ABC or XYZ.  For another thing, much of the debate in both the news media and the social media is being driven by biased or skewed news, sensationalism and other misleading information, and voters on both sides of the issue who approach discussion with a “my candidate right or wrong.” All of this divides us further and makes the truth harder to find.

So my “voice” is going to stay focused on environmental issues and in writing fiction even if the two things get stirred up together a little bit. None of the rants–even those I basically agree with–on Facebook and elsewhere are changing people’s minds. Why not? Because they’re skewed toward the far right or the far left rather than a more centrist approach where people can really discuss the issues sanely rather than throwing gasoline on the fire with dueling wisecracks and graphics.

I welcome those journalists and other writers who do their best to look past the hysteria and tell us the facts and/or to carefully analyze the practicality, ethics, and legality of the issues in their news stories, features, essays, poems, and fiction. Anything else is pretty much spitting into the wind.

–Malcolm

 

Human Trafficking Awareness Month

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nativehopeAlthough human trafficking “is a global issue, it is also prevalent very close to home. Native American women and children make up 40% of sex trafficking victims in the state of South Dakota alone. According to federal data, Native women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as women of other races. They are also subject to high rates of intimate-partner violence and other forms of assault. These factors, along with poverty, substance abuse, and foster care, can make them vulnerable to exploitation. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, reiterates the ‘threat of human trafficking to Native communities and sex trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives,” describing the ‘first citizens of the United States as some of the most vulnerable.’” – Native Hope

Read more at Native Hope

According to their website, 88% of the crimes committed against native women are committed by non-Indians. This is a long-standing and intolerable problem and, frankly, the kind of statistic we believe we’re more likely to hear from a third-world nation. Of course, many Indian reservations rank below many third world nations when it comes to health care, employment, sanitation and other services most of us take for granted, and quality of life. Nonetheless, the facts surprise me.

Most of us cannot do anything about this problem by ourselves. Yet, through working with others, we can create meaningful change and improve the lives of countless women.

You can help by clicking on the highlighted link above, learning more, and considering a donation.

And, as the site says, “If you believe someone you know may be a victim or is in a vulnerable position, read our article on signs to watch for. If you are a victim and need help, please call the hotline at the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.”

See also: National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center  and Wiconi Wawokiya – a Lifeway to a Better Future Without Violence in Our Community.

–Malcolm

The state with the lunatic fringe on top?

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AZ CLAIMS PREGNANCY OCCURS BEFORE CONCEPTION

by Jock Stewart

Phoenix, Arizona, August 28, 2012–An anti-abortion law created close enough to this year’s April Fools Day to qualify as absurd, took effect this month in a state where the powers that be have taken another baby step toward the goal of nationalizing women’s bodies.

The oddly titled Women’s Health and Safety Act states that pregnancy now begins two weeks prior to conception depending on the current phase of the moon and what, if anything, the woman was smoking. Women who listen to music by “such people” as Madonna and Lady Gaga are deemed to be pregnant at all times.

According to sources close to the governor’s office, the law is aimed at those who are still promoting “new age clap trap” about sex, drugs, rock and roll, and the Our Bodies Ourselves philosophy.

The sponsors of the bill stated in a white paper called Honey, here’s the way it’s goin’ to be that many of the law’s precedents can be found in the Book of Deuteronomy, the transcripts of the Salem Witchcraft Trials and in records from Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis.

Jonathan Corwin, director of the Arizona Devil’s Magic and Pregnancy Task Force, told reporters that, “our great state believes that what God enriches, no man make take away. The female body is a natural resource that will, in the near future, be placed under state control for the benefit of our children and our children’s children as yet unborn. Those with views slanted the wrong way belong in places like California and Oregon.”

According to Planned Parenthood, the law reduces the time period within which women in Arizona may obtain a legal abortion.

Admitting that policing “the matter” may be somewhat difficult, law enforcement jurisdictions—with the help of federal funding—will soon be certifying neighborhood watch groups, vagrants, burglars and others “who are in a position to know” as Devil’s Magic and Pregnancy Officers who, in technical terms, will keep lists of who’s been “doing it and when.”

“We don’t mind if you do it,” said Corwin. “But just remember, in the State of Arizona, real or imagined pregnancy has no UNDO key.”

Jock Stewart is the alter ego of Malcolm R. Campbell, author of the satirical novel “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”

A writer’s world view: effective rather than futile

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Merlin advising Arthur

How do you see the world? Looking at the major issues we face—global warming, AIDS, terrorism, overpopulation, unemployment, renewable energy, the environment—do you view the world as “too broke to fix” or still within our capabilities to drastically improve and correct?

The books writers write are often impacted by their world views. Some agree with Jean-Paul Sartre’s statement that “Man is a futile passion.” In fact, looking at most of the fiction published during the last hundred years or so, I suggest that most authors either agree with Sartre or think the public agrees with Sartre and wants to read stories that corroborate this world view.

In my latest post on Sarabande’s Journey, World of Wonder finding ‘Life in Truth,’ I wrote that “a lot of mainstream fiction has fled from wonder, pulled by science, technologies and difficult-to-solve world issues into realism, powerlessness, despair and alienation.” Some of this fiction gives us happy endings, but they’re usually small endings in a sea of troubles. That is to say, the lovers who will live happily ever after will do so as long as the screwed-up world allows it.

The alternative proposition to readers and writers who agree with Sartre is neither naiveté nor the false believe that life will save warring factions from themselves if only the parties involved will sit down and sing “Kumbayah” together. While naiveté and “Kumbayah” bring their adherents many positive moments and, perhaps the illusion of positive action, they are—I believe—taking a bury-your-head-in-the-sand approach to the problems of the world and, worse yet, to their own personal development.

In my novel Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey, my protagonist—who is trying to create a magical cloud inside his apartment—is advised to close his eyes. Why? Because as long as he sees that the cloud isn’t there yet, he’ll become more and more convinced he can’t create it. When he stops looking, he’s successful.

Now, I would never suggest that we stop being aware of the world’s problems and thereby give up on all the logical, science-and-techology-based approaches to solving them. Instead, I prefer the approach advocated by mythologist Joseph Campbell: “We’re not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves.  But in doing that you save the world.  The influence of a vital person vitalizes.”  As long as we, as individuals, focus on the huge problems of the world for which we see no viable solutions, we not only feel more alone, but more powerless as well.

Whether or not you were around or not during the 1960s, you’re probably aware that Washington, D. C. and/or the Kennedy administration was often referred to as “Camelot.” Rightly or wrongly—and regardless of political viewpoint—the Camelot we hoped for was on a par with the heroic dreams of the legendary King Arthur and his noble knights. Perhaps our hope was based on all the wrong reasons and perhaps it had too much “Kumbayah” and “Make Love Not War” in it, but it was hope. Hope has, it seems to me, become a rare commodity in both our lives and our fiction.

Looking at the rhetoric, few people believe that America as either a dream or a hope or a goal will ever become the Camelot of our imagination. Variously, it’s too late, too broke to fix, or too besieged by problems no man or woman or group can solve. In the minds of many, America is rather like the tragic world of King Arthur in Tennyson’s epic poem Idylls of the King. Epic fantasy author Stephen R. Donaldson summed up Camelot, as viewed by Tennyson like this:

Tennyson’s technique is to take a genuine, honest-to-God “epic” character (Arthur) and surround him with normal, believable, real human beings who lie and cheat and love and hate and can’t make decisions. So what happens? The normal, believable, real people destroy Arthur’s epic dream.

Donaldson suggests that many of us think we’re not capable of doing anything else because we believe that since “man is a futile passion” that we are powerless and incapable of creating a living, breathing real Camelot. He writes fantasy, in part, to demonstrate that man is capable of being an effective passion.

An Alternative to Sartre

I quoted storyteller Jane Yolen in my latest Sarabande’s Journey post, so those of you who read that will, I hope, forgive the repetition. In her book Touch Magic, she says that Life in Truth (as opposed to the world we see with our eyes) “tells us of the world as it should be. It holds certain values to be important. It makes issues clear. It is, if you will, a fiction based on great opposites, the clashing of opposing forces, question and answer, yin and yang, the great dance of opposites. And so the fantasy tale, the ‘I that is not you,’ becomes a rehearsal for the reader for life as it should be lived.”

My philosophy of life does not include the viewpoint that men and women are powerless or that they don’t matter or that “evil” and “blame” are independent forces out there in the real world. As an individual, I believe in Life in Truth; that is, among other things, both a Joseph Campbell approach and a Jane Yolen approach. In my contemporary fantasies, The Sun Singer and Sarabande as well as in my magical realism adventure Garden of Heaven: Odyssey, I focus on stories with intense—and sometimes horrible—personal trials. And yet, my characters also find answers, answers that focus on themselves rather than on those who would destroy them or the world they believe in.

While I write contemporary fantasy rather than epic fantasy, I agree with Donaldson’s point of view about the value of fantasy fiction. His characters look within for answers, and this allows them to see the “real world” just the way it is while simultaneously seeing their dreams; that is to say, the world as it should be.

Paradox or not, I can reconcile Life Actual (the so-called real world) and Life in Truth, and understand clearly that while I don’t have what it takes to solve the large issues of the day, I am learning all that I need to know to solve the problems of myself. One day, as long as I don’t stare too intently at the problems themselves, the worlds of reality and of imagination will become one.

Malcolm

sharp-edged fiction without the futility

Jock Stewart Looks at Bailouts

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Mayor: Bailout of ‘Unfortunate Companies’ Not Government Ponzi Scheme

Junction City, April 22, 2009–Tax rally protesters speaking out against the city’s “Help for Unfortunate Companies” program earned a sharp rebuke from Mayor Clark Trail this morning when he said that calling the bailout a Ponzi scheme “dodges the true issues” while creating widespread distrust in the Paternalism in Government (PIG) model.

Implemented by the city council early this year, the PIG bailout program has allocated $7,000,000 in city funds to shore up the unfortunate Badass Hardware Brothers, Tenth National Banking Co of Junction City, and Low RPM Motors at an estimated $1,400 cost per capita.

“I guess I didn’t get the memo,” said Trail “but until my wife explained it to me, I thought Ponzi was that famous producer who made all those movies that needed subtitles.”

The “Ponzi Scheme” battle cry originated at a series of Oink Oink tax protest rallies that swept through the city over the weekend like wildfire running through a sock of stolen money.

Oink Oink organizer Jefferson Rand told protesters that residents were paying more to support the bailout program than they were getting back in the form of tax rebates, stimulus checks and other real benefits.

“That sure sounds like a Ponzi scheme to me,” said Rand.

According to a PIG white paper disseminated by city finance director Cash Poor, “the real issue addressed by the bailout program is based on the philosophy that the placebo effect of taking any prescription at all may save you before the bad medicine in the bottle kills you.”

Jerry Badass expressed concern that his hardware store continues to be unfortunate and that another infusion of bailout money may be required to ensure the company’s survival.

“Ironically, we’re finding that sales are down because those who were planning to shop at our store already spent all of their available cash to bail us out,” Badass said. “How could anyone have predicted that?”

Tenth Banking Company CEO Millie Morgan was jeered by protesters when she explained that her company “strongly disliked” the negative public opinion it was weathering by using the PIG program.

“Since our fiscal analysis was based on the view that our dire straights were caused by ill fortune rather than a failure of management,” said Morgan, “we knew that a business-as-usual approach would soon bankrupt the company. What else could we do but take the money and hope Providence would smile upon us like the old days?”

While flying around the city at a tax payer cost of $2,500 per hour to drum up support for his bailout program, Mayor Trail expressed confidence that sooner or later “something good would happen.”

Copyright (c) 2009 by Morning Satirical News