Monthly Archives: November 2015

As John Lennon said, “Imagine…”

Peace Ain't Weakness

Peace Ain’t Weakness

Let’s get serious for a minute. No…seriously…

Sometimes when you see all of the media coverage of the evil that takes place in the world, the videos, the tweets, the links and the words written by the ignorant, it becomes nearly impossible to believe that one good person can make a difference in this world. It feels too big, too overwhelming. There seem to be more people on the other side of the fight and evil seems so much bigger – and stronger – than good. You start seeing all of the bile and anger and rage that is spewed out over the Internet and hate seems more powerful than love.

Attacks on innocent people are not about gun control. They’re not to be used for a political agenda. They’re not about religion or God’s judgement for our sins, or anything that pumps up our own ideals or desires.  They’re about people suffering and dying in a world that faces the action of evil men.

Senator Ted Cruz said this on his website in response to the attacks in Paris – “We must immediately recognize that our enemy is not ‘violent extremism.’ It is the radical Islamism that has declared jihad against the west. It will not be appeased by outreach or declarations of tolerance. It will not be deterred by targeted airstrikes with zero tolerance for civilian casualties, when the terrorists have such utter disregard for innocent life.”

Not to play into the red vs. blue politics here because I believe that people on either side can be wrong, but this statement explains everything wrong with the world’s way of thinking these days.  You attack me and I’ll attack you and your family. You kill one of ours, we’ll kill two of yours.  If someone like us is killed, we’ll kill as many who are different from us as possible, regardless of guilt or innocence.  Those aren’t the values our country was founded upon, they aren’t the values of any civilized group of people anywhere in the world. We, along with our allies need to make very conscious decisions on how we will use the power of our nations  – the power of our people – to make this world a better place – a safer place – than it was yesterday. But we can’t respond in hate. In that scenario, everyone loses.  And our leaders aren’t put in place to make the easy decisions.  They’re to do what’s right, regardless of the challenges in place.  Sometimes, that involves acts of war and violence because there is no other option to protect others.  But it is never something to take lightly or to be flip about.

There is so much violence in the world today that we’ve become desensitized to all of it that doesn’t occur in a beautiful Western city and anything that’s not played over and over again in front of us on the news. There are so many people living in fear, so many innocent men, women and children experiencing violence and hunger on a daily basis that it’s time we looked at ourselves and the world around us and stopped using our hate as a weapon. Did someone change their profile pic on Facebook to the French flag? No problem. It means that they’re feeling pain for others.  There’s no reason at all for you to be mad.  Is someone offering to pray for the people in Lebanon? Good. That’s not an offensive act.  Accept that act of kindness in the spirit it was given.   Is prayer not your “thing”?  Then take up your own action to make the world better. I’ve seen more people getting angry and offended by people who want to do a little something than I’ve seen directed toward murderers around the world. Politicians want to ban refugees who are suffering to make a statement and people are encouraging this through hate speech on-line.  And it’s disgusting. I’ve seen so much anti-Muslim, anti-Middle East, Anti-Israel, anti-America, anti-everything it makes me ashamed.  We’ve been created to love our neighbor. Even if you don’t have a religious belief structure, and even if that’s not a commandment you believe in, that still feels like the right thing to do, doesn’t it?  But how many of us have forgotten how it feels to make another person smile?  The amazing rush of joy that comes over us when we pick someone else up, simply because they need it, without caring about ourselves for a moment.

My God is so much more powerful than man’s explosives and bombs. Your God is so much stronger than man’s inherent hate. Our God has the strength to calm the violent seas stop the winds. And the love I have been given is enough to love Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Wicken, hate-filled “Christians”, and every other person of every group on this planet.  It takes nothing away from me to love each of you, to want everyone to have enough to eat today, to pray for the safety of families and individuals living in the midst of way and terror. No one is made weaker by doing their part to clothe others, to feed others, to provide shelters to all of those in need.  And it doesn’t matter if they believe what I believe.  Love first, debate later.

Some people will always hate.  Some peoples’ world view has become so distorted that they can only see the differences in people and view the world around them as scary and evil and dangerous and see violence as the only acceptable and justified response. But you know what?  We outnumber them.  If we’d shut down the people who respond to the bad of the world with hate and anger… If we’d show them the strength of love and compassion… If we would just show them that we’re all just so much better than those thoughts and actions, we could make a difference rather than being part of the mindless complaining crowd.

The world hasn’t become a worse place to live over the past 20, 50 or 100 years. The same problems exist that always have. We’ve just gotten lazy.  But just imagine what could change if we all woke up.

The Murderer’s Daughter

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 I don’t necessarily enjoy being negative about the works of writers. Maybe I shouldn’t review books when I’m grumpy. But…since I now have 54 books stacked up on my bookshelf waiting to be read and reviewed, I need to get through ’em, right? Obviously it’s been a little while since I’ve posted – due to a number of things – and I need to really get to it, right?  Even if it’s to start out by telling you that this book kind of ticked me off.

Let’s start with a quick description…

A brilliant, deeply dedicated psychologist, Grace Blades has a gift for treating troubled souls and tormented psyches—perhaps because she bears her own invisible scars: Only five years old when she witnessed her parents’ deaths in a bloody murder-suicide, Grace took refuge in her fierce intellect and found comfort in the loving couple who adopted her. But even as an adult with an accomplished professional life, Grace still has a dark, secret side. When her two worlds shockingly converge, Grace’s harrowing past returns with a vengeance.

First of all, I’ve never been a fan of an author writing a main character who’s absolutely brilliant, one of the greatest minds out there.  It just strikes me as a way to take a bit of reality from the story and make you notice the author rather than the character. It reminds me of when I read the books of Chaim Potok when I was young. The main character was always a brilliant Jewish boy, and the books were written by a Jewish man who considered himself to be brilliant. Why not write a memoir entitled “I Believe I’m Smarter and More Misunderstood Than You”? instead?  Save us all some time…

And here, in this novel, having a brilliant main character seems to be used as an opportunity to pull out all of the grandiose verbiage which comes across as pompous and a pleading for academic acceptance. But that’s not even consistent. If that’s the tone of the whole book, fine. I think we’ve all read those authors.

When a character has to hit the brakes to avoid “pulverizing a pedestrian who leaped off the sidewalk into nocturnal traffic.”, it just seems to be taking things too far… Especially when it isn’t consistent. There will be “normal” descriptions and wording for paragraphs until it seems time to remind the readers that yes, the author is brilliantly able to use big, or rarely-used words. Heck, there’s a sentence when the main character “drank water, peed, drank some more, drained her bladder again, then did some stretching and push-ups and took a nap.” But later, does a house sit on a cul-de-sack? No…that’s amateuristic. Instead, it’s “nearly at the street’s terminus”.

And, when a male author writes about the sexual awakening and blossoming of a teenaged girl, it really creeps me out a bit… Then, when the female main character is described – again by a male author – as having extremely selfish sexual escapades for her own occasional needs, it seems to say far more about the author than you would ever want to know.  But fortunately, that isn’t a huge aspect of the story line. More of an excuse for the main character to randomly meet one person in an area of millions that will kind of impact the story line, even if she’s going to meet him again the next day.  Kind of odd, kind of random and kind of lacking in realistic odds.

There’s the potential for a decent story line here, hidden within the jumble. Growing up within the foster system, trying to find yourself, and coming to terms with who you turned out to be… That makes for an intriguing background to the story. But there’s definitely too much of the main character simply thinking – thinking in a hotel room, thinking in a cafe, thinking while driving, thinking over solitary dinner, thinking in next hotel, thinking about her past, thinking about her present, etc. There’s just not enough character development through action or the interactions with or viewpoints of others. And, the few other characters that do exist are boring and two-dimensional. It’s like they’re there because they have to be, not to really add anything more than the basics.

Then, surprisingly, especially considering this was written by a best-selling author of many other books, this novel ends as if the author had simply grown completely bored of dealing with it and wanted to move on to something else (you and me both dude). There’s no grand revelation, no shocks or surprise, and not even a minor reward for reaching the end.  Just a quick resolution (I’ll be good and avoid giving out any details to spoil(?) it for anyone) with no consequences, no meaning and no real impact to the main character that we can see.  Like someone walking out in the middle of the conversation because they’re done.  No resolution, no wrap up, and no consideration for the other party.  Just a turn of the back and walk away…

So I just can’t recommend this one.  I impressed myself by even finishing it, but that’s just because I can be a bit stubborn and refuse to quit, even when I should.  Sometimes authors lose their way and can sell books simply with their name attached.  And that’s what this feels like.  But I think anyone who wants a good psychological thriller could do far better…