TRICK OR TREAT?

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The other day after writing a book review, I scanned everyone else’s thoughts and came across one that said (sic), “I wish there’d been a heads up about the explicit sex scene. I wasn’t expecting that and wish there had been a warning.”

When I think of scary things, apropos to today, Halloween, ghosts and goblins and the undead do not make my list. Rotting corpses and witches intent on my destruction are nice, in my opinion, compared to the horror movie we’re in today.

What movie is that, you ask?

I don’t know, maybe Cancel Culture Dystopian Nightmare?

Wear Your Seat belt and No Smoking Outside Nanny State Regime?

Freedom of Speech Accepts Blind Date with “1984”?

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What’s the difference between former US Senator Al Franken’s tacky locker-room-humor depicting him with his hands hovering lecherously over a sleeping female soldier’s breasts, Christine Blasey Ford alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, and Congressman Jim Jordan witnessing sexual harassment on his Ohio wrestling team?

One difference is that Al Franken’s tacky, some would say classless humor, was immortalized in a photo while the others, so far, involve he said/she said only.

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And while Al’s actions may have been considered offensive and extremely sexist, one must remember that he was still a comedian then, and although I’m not “excusing” the joke, per se, when, exactly, were comedians elevated to Buddhahood-like existence?

Where the hell would Pryor and Carlin and Sykes and Silverman and Bruce be, today, in this recycled McCarthy-era world where everyone lives under a microscope, under suspicion, their every syllable dissected and judged by the Moral Thought Police, the social media version of the Eye of Sauron?

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Meanwhile, in our upside down world, the potentially much more dangerous behaviors of Kavanaugh and Jordan have been shelved and, for now, just forgotten while upstanding Al Franken simply bowed out.

This is what I’m confused about: when did we all turn into such soft, wiggly Jell-O that we need to be “warned” about sex in a book, as if coming across verbal descriptions of physical love was going to make our eyeballs implode or spur a psychotic break?

I wonder—do you think it’s possible—that the person was irked or annoyed or “put off” by the sex because possibly—just a guess here—they got turned on? And if so, since when is that a no-no?

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I’ve noticed more and more of these warnings in front of books, as I’m sure you all have. Some even go so far as to warn that there’s “strong language.” I’m sorry—are we all adults, or are we not all adults?

Strong language? Sex? Violence? Do we need to armor ourselves with emotional hazmat suits now before we even crack open a book because our psyches have become that fragile?

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What if Turing and Mandela and Newton and Margarita Neri and Socrates and Qui Jin and Galileo and Fela Kuti and Esraa Abdel Fattah and Socrates and Mother Teresa hadn’t continued in a straight line down the paths they had chosen but instead succumbed to public opinion and “soup du jour” societal beliefs and conclusions?

What if Turing was too afraid of being “outed” to crack the code? What if Esraa decided “You can’t fight City Hall”? You can’t be Jell-O when you’re trying to instigate big changes. Maybe because mega changes will reverberate a lot longer than meta warnings about profanity.

Mother Teresa didn’t “feel God” for 50 years. What would have happened to her today if that had leaked on social media? Would she have been criticized, shamed? Received death threats from Christians?

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Socrates was killed for what—“corrupting the youth”? When in reality he was simply encouraging critical thought and boosting intelligence levels from the equivalent of “The Kardashians”, say, to maybe closer to Ted Talks?

Murdering “witches” then. Cancel culture now. Blasphemy then. Burning books now. Freedom of speech? Or Conditional Freedom of Speech? There’s a not-so-fine-line between trying to consider everyone’s feelings, while simultaneously expressing yourself—but only to a point, and very, very carefully so that no one could possibly be offended–and the road to hell, isn’t there?

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Why isn’t it okay to feel torn anymore? I feel torn when I see Al Franken in that photo, because I wouldn’t want to see my niece or my daughter or my mom in that position. But it’s also just dumb, too, and part of me kind of snickers and says, “Oh, Al Franken. Come on.”

Life isn’t just black and white, right? It’s a many-colored beautiful complicated crazy thing. But it seems like we’re slowly erasing away any gray, trying to completely eradicate not just pain but even discomfort, to sanitize and Disney-fy until no unique, identifying features are left.  There’s no being torn anymore. There’s right or wrong. Yes or no. Good or bad. In trying to accommodate all, we seem to end up alienating many and accommodating very few.

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Maybe everything’s exaggerated and excessive, as with all new movements, and will eventually even out with time. But for now, though, that’s a scary haunted house that I want no part of.

(RIP, Sean Connery)

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31 thoughts on “TRICK OR TREAT?

  1. The person who wrote about wanting a warning on the book would need a fully stocked shipping container of smelling salts to revive them after going anywhere even near a read I’m currently in the midst of. TAMPA was published back in 2013 and was the debut novel of Alissa Nutting, who today is a creative writing professor at the 120-acre campus of Grinnell College in Iowa.

    Like you say Stacey, we’re all adults. The subject matter of TAMPA as far as I’m concerned is neither here nor there. What attracts me to this work of fiction is the author’s crazy magician-like abilities with words, phrases and descriptions. Alissa Nutting could devote three pages to detailing the stages of paint drying on a back fence and it would still be the most engrossing thing – word-sparkle-wise – a reader could ever have the pleasure of laying eyes on.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Hey, that’s my thing. I’ve told others before that I could read a book about someone’s trip to the grocery store and back and if it’s written in a certain way–weird, engrossing, word gymnastics, etc.–I’m all in. That’s what I go for. I’ve downloaded a sample already and have high hopes, Glen! But I can see from the description, yeah, smelling salts, indeed!
    Thanks for dropping by and thanks for the literary tip. Can’t wait.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A great post!! You have raised some vitally important points and expressed the dangers really well! We do indeed seem to be in danger of becoming a sanctimonious bunch exhibiting the kind of behaviour that even thirty years ago we laughed at existing in the ’30s or earlier. And yet, mass media pounds the line that we are oh so progressive and broad-minded than ever before and yet there a nasty little streak of meanness that rears its head in some of the witch hunts of this brave new world.

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    • Ah, thank you, BRG! You summarized it so well! Yeah, the weird see-saw paradox of making real progress versus focusing on petty concerns and definitely losing the admirable ability to just laugh things off anymore. Remember that saying from years ago: “Sticks and stones will break our bones…”? We could use a little of that in this brave new world, as you say.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ha, you are too kind! I’ve just re-read my comment and it’s a bit garbled but glad you understood my meaning. Yes, for all our boasting of living in enlighted times, we have certainly lost a lot of common sense and perspective.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I don’t mind people with conservative values. That’s fine. But I do mind when they forget that everyone else is NOT conservative. It goes the other way too, with all our new acceptance and open-mindedness: where does it end? I heard a story the other day about a girl who was allowed to join the Boy Scouts. My mouth dropped open! Boys no longer have any sort of coming-of-age rites to make their transition into men. Do girls really need to invade one of the few male spaces left to them? If you want crossover, have a Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts get-together camping expedition twice a year, right? I don’t know! I don’t get it!

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  4. Great bog Stace. I’ll lay my cards right out on the table: any spoiler that sexual descriptions await me is greeted with a huge smile. If it stimulates me, hats off! What’s not to like? Is the world really becoming so dipshit crazy that we cannot enjoy reading about life’s greatest pleasure?
    I also don’t give a flying one about the politics of an author. Left, right, centre..who cares if they tell a compelling story? Can they string together words to make me care about the characters/plot/landscape etc.
    I feel you guys in Cali have it worse in terms of sensitivity triggers and cancel culture. Britain is less ‘woke’, for now.
    And Sean Connery. RIP indeed. My boyhood hero when he was the clinical killer and ace seducer James Bond. Huge fun to watch him strut his stuff. 😉😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hahaha. Well, if that’s the case, you’d better download a sample of Glen’s suggestion above–“Tampa.” I started reading the sample and if YOU start reading the sample, that smile on your face will grow even huger as you go along, lol !!!
      Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m hoping it’s just craziness as things are shaken around and things will eventually even out. But like I said to Neil above: why does a girl get to join the Boy Scouts, exactly? How does that help things?
      Connery will be missed. He was a HUGE star and never acted like it. I can imagine you loved him. He’s iconic. Ah, well…………

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, that’s probably true. The cover art could have been better. BUT…. it was a “travel into an alternate dimension” story that happens to a man and a woman (who are not married). So you gotta imagine, before you start reading, what are the odds that yin and yang end up trying to survive together in this strange universe and they ain’t gonna hook up? Probably zero. Plus, author was a man, haha. And between us, the sex scene was NOT that amazing, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have come to depend on my one edge in today’s cancel or whatever its called. I neither care or pay attention to it or who is supposedly cancelled. I don’t let anyone but their own words and deeds define them for me. Be it a great writer,social activist,my neighbors or my friends,I think for myself and don’t want or need anyone’s “warning”. In other words my one edge I have is I simply don’t a fuck what strangers think or say. I do cherish and value what my friends and family think and feel…and I’ll always welcome their input but strangers and mobs???? Never….

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    • Yeah, the good old days of common sense, Michael. ‘Cause that’s what you have. Deciding for ourselves works for us fine. Problems arise, though, when 12-year-old non-PC but mainly benign tweets are dug up and that person is vilified today for it, and if they’re a director or something, they won’t get as many jobs as they would have, so WE’RE then robbed of their mastery and creativity. Others may apologize very profusely for what is now seen, looking backward, as “inappropriate” behavior or commentary, but a lot of the times apologies aren’t even accepted, and the boycotting of that person continues. Witch hunt, indeed! What happened to the Big Picture? I want equality for every single person and I want every single person to be as happy as they can possibly be–but this? It’s scary!

      Liked by 1 person

      • What is ironic is people do this to others and then bemoan the so-called “freedom of speech” when the tables are turned. Just the act of going back 12 years and simply dismissing all factors and personal growth that person may have gone through since then is extremely dangerous and narrowminded. Because sooner then later those people will go from hunters to the hunted. Anyone can go digging….the reactionary crowd bothers me far more then the so-called “crime”. Due process is a thing of the past….

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  6. Exactly! The definition of “freedom of speech” has been so tortured, the boundaries so blurred, that no one seems to know what they’re even talking about anymore. How DOES freedom of speech only apply to YOU, 12 years later, complaining about a tacky tweet, and not to the person who wrote it? Where is their freedom of speech? So it has become conditional. And yeah, no due process. Just instant judge and jury. It’s like the world of Judge Dredd, or worse, Minority Report.

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  7. Brilliant commentary, Stacey. Yes, we are far too touchy these days in every since of the word. My mother reared me to stand up for myself. She taught me if a guy put his hands on me disrespectfully, I needed to take care of it. Obviously, there are terrible circumstances where that power is stripped from a woman because of physical force, but that’s not what I’m referring to. If a creepy guy sitting next to me on a plane ran his hand up my leg, I’m going to knock the shit out of him and then I’m going to hit the call button. That’s what I’ve taught my daughters. The police, may or may not need to be involved, that’s up to me to decide, but I must be involved. I can’t be passive.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. As for sexual assault, or assault in any form, including emotional, one can’t remain passive. No way in hell.
    I DO think it’s ironic, regarding Franken’s photo, that in the armed forces, killing and murder has been legalized, so the female soldier is prepared to give her life–or, the ultimate *sin*, take a life. But a tacky, sexist photo by a comedian is fodder for making Franken drop out of the Senate. Someone we needed to remain in there, btw, since he tended to have balls where others didn’t. It’s an upside down world for sure. No wonder no one knows how to prioritize their battles anymore.

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  9. Great post! These certainly are strange times & navigating through ‘cancel culture’ is exhausting at best. It makes me wonder if in the future there will be a swath of bland literature with authors afraid of upsetting the masses, or if there will be a tidal wave of writers bucking the constraints.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! I’m just sort of venting. Even though I do think it’s a dangerous trend. But if authors become fearful and the literature begins to reflect that….then we’re definitely all doomed, lol. Let’s home it doesn’t go THAT way. Ugggghhh.

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  10. I guess there’s more than a few words to define it, few examples to be brief: Prudery, squeamish, hypocritical, puritanical, priggish, moron, narrowminded, unsophisticated, and provincial come to mind. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  11. I think you got them all, Burning Heart. That pretty much covers it!
    The funny thing is is it’s FINE to be that way. But don’t force it on everyone else! It feels simple, but I guess that’s not human nature. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Great post. Stacey 🙂 Speaking of the times we are living in (with or without Joe Biden’s win), do you think this Genesis song perfectly sums it up? Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂 and here is a link to that song of theres below 🙂

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    • Hey there! I missed your response here somehow–sorry about that. Omg, that song IS perfect. Hits nail. On head.
      But it’s SO creepy, that music video. Props for creativity! Man!

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    • I remember LAND OF CONFUSION from back in the day. Always like it.
      Since we’re all so confused (aren’t we a little less confused than this time last week now that the U.S election result has been declared?) there’s also this, again from back in the day –

      Liked by 2 people

      • God, I’m going blind. Missed this too. I think I remember that band, New Order, but that song doesn’t ring a bell.
        It is perfect, however, for these times, too.
        And I think we’re even MORE confused now, after the election over here, because the guy who loves to call everyone else a loser can’t stand the tables turning on him.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. What a great and timely post! Your questions demand answers. And yet, this Puritan Vanilla Silly Pudding of a culture is too busy to stop and think critically or acknowledge when they/we have gone too far (or not gone far enough in many cases).

    One thing about the Al Franken photo, by the way, is that the joke there is actually on him as much as it is on Leeann Tweeden. Us guys turn into morons around beautiful women. He was being a classic stereotypical nerdy asshole male. But he was a comedian. That is essentially another word for moron.

    More to your point though, how bizarre we are with our cancel culture and this new phase of attacking people for what they may have said or done when they were young and foolish. I have to say, it is up to writers of all kinds to try to shake that ludicrousness out of the culture. And, honestly, that’s a dangerous game.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha, yeah, exactly. Doesn’t Al look silly in the photo, playing the fool over a beautiful woman? Yes, he does. Of course, there was also some woman who claimed that during a skit he “forced” her to kiss him or something like that. Did he stick his tongue where maybe it wasn’t wanted for a few seconds? Probably. But if I were to dig up all the guys who did “questionable” things to me when I was younger, 15, 20 years ago or more, do you know how many guys would either be in legal trouble or having to quit their jobs? And vice versa. I’m not one to mince words sometimes and I don’t go for crowd appeal. I can only imagine what would happen if some of the things I said in the past came back to “haunt” me. I’m no angel, and nobody else is. I think genuine apologies for certain past behaviors or comments suffices. Quitting jobs, getting fired, or having to drop out of the Senate is not necessarily the best and correct path. Writers DO need to try to shake the ludicrousness out, and it IS dangerous. But silence = death…. right? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes indeed. Silence equals Death. At times it also equals Silence. I have never believed in silence…

        Maybe if I had one wish for humankind it would be to take back all the asshole male things ever said or perpetrated on women and girls (and other men). To a certain extent I try to do that in my fiction.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. That’s a really nice thought, Doglit. I guess I would say the same thing for my gender, too: take back all the asshole female things ever said or perpetrated on men and boys (and other women). It would be a start, for sure! 🙂

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