Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Taking Off The Rose-Colored Glasses

I don’t know about anyone else, but I haven’t felt too “romancy” of late. Within the passed couple of weeks, I have seen a world that for many was only somone else’s problem, a life and lifestyle that was better left not discussed.

As we all stood witness to the devastation and the aftermath of one of America’s greatest natural disasters, the ugliness of the economic and racial divide gave Americans a good slap in the face. “Wake up!” those tortured faces cried, “this is the America that you have refused to see,” they shouted. “It’s so awful,” many moaned and sent money and clothes to assauge their consciences then proceeded back to our castles in the sky and hoped that things would get better, hoped that maybe one morning we’d wake up and it wouldn’t be in the news and in our faces, reminding us of things we’d rather not think about–think about the indisputable FACT that there is and continues to be two Americas–the America of the haves and have nots, the light and the dark. But as long as the have nots can be given a pittance, a little space, a few benefits and kept out of the spotlight then what is the problem?As in the telling words of the beloved Barbara Bush, “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underpriviledged anyway, so this–this is working very well for them.”

By this time, there are sure to be some rolling of eyes and sucking of teeth and the inevitable question: what does this have to do with romance?

Romance, for the most part is the world as we wish to see it, the world we hope for, the fantasy that we create to help us and our followers escape the harsh realities of life. Of course, we gingerly sprinkle our stories with difficulties to give it substance and then our characters skip happily off into the sunset.

Yet, even in the world of romance the harsh reality of two Americas rears its ugly head and continues to exist. Let’s think of the publishing industry as America made up of nationalies or “genres.” Think of publishing houses as the government with the ability to set policy or “trends” (and of course dole out money when necessary) and think of bookstores as cities or municipalites who have the power to interpret the policy(trends) and put the nationalities (genres) wherever the see fit. Last, but not least, think of authors and readers as activists with the voice and the power to create a change within the fabric of America, Government, Cities and Municipalities.

There was a cry, a cry of outrage from the black activists and their followers who asked, petitioned, cajoled and demanded their fair share of America. They only wanted what everyone else had, to be treated and viewed and accepted as equals. To share the same space, the same goals and the same slice of the American pie.

“Oh my” thought the publishing industry, what could be their problem? Why are they in such an uproar about wanting something of their own? For heavensake, they don’t read anyway! Well, let the government handle it. And they did. They carved out little sections of the American pie and doled out a few slices but only in designated areas because of course America as a whole does not want to be reminded or have put up in their faces the inequity of the Industry.
Some governments even went so far as to create “mini nationalities” and gave them to local municipalities who decided where they would go. The activists should be happy now. We’ve thrown money at them, gave them a little slice of the pie and every now and again we even pick up one or two to prove to ouselves and our friends how liberal and generous we are.

Yet the activists and their followers remain disgruntled, marginalized and relegated to a section of the landscape where they can be overlooked until some natural disaster occurs and their plight slaps us in the face.

As authors and readers we have the power to shape policy, change minds and enlighten one book at a time–be true activists. Throwing money, and creating “mini-nationalities” will not change the fabric of the literary landscape. Change begins from within. Within our hearts–the core of romance. As authors we have the power to make the impossible possible. We have the power to make the dis-believers believe that there is good and justice, love and equality in the world. We have the power to change minds.

It’s easy to come to the aid of another when their circumstances are so dire, we think, just for an instant– “that could be me, no one should have to go through that.” But when the plight begins to fade and only appears on page six, or as an addendum to the late night news report, it’s easy to return to our castles in the sky believing that all is now right with the world. The last page of the book has been closed and the characters skip off into the sunset.

But nothing will change until we do, from within–one reader, one author at a time. Simply because the “crisis” has its denoument does not mean that the story is truly over. Everyone always wants to know “what happens next?”


Dera said...

Hey Donna,

More than likely there will be a slew of romance stories about the Gulf Coast and Katrina. As I am typing this, I would bet my next paycheck, writers are writing stories based on this tragedy. Life does go on. At this point, we do what we can and keep praying.

Demetairs said...

Hello Donna. As always you're blog is right on point. Witnessing the horror of hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath has definitely left me emotionally drained. No matter how bad the situation, I always try to seek a positive and I think the positive in this tragedy was America was put on Front street to the world about their nonchalant attitude towards Black Americans. I'm sure people may be a little sick of hearing this, but I just don't believe the response to the aftermath would have been the same if that had taken place in let's say, Boise Idaho. It was beautiful how the people responded, but the Bush administration ought to be ashamed of themselves. I also bellieve Condaleeza Rice should be ashamed of herself for defending such a poor response from our nation's "leader". But hey, I guess some people will never learn. Out of respect to those who lost their lives, I hope writers don't try to expliot this terrible tragedy for the sake of earning a buck. Sure the media reported that some couples got married after surviving, but I think they only reported it to help the government save face. People please wake up, it's getting late in the day. The handwritting is definitely on the wall. Get right with God. I'd also like to share this before I depart. Many people are not aware of this, but all hurricanes start in Africa and work their way west. It is believed by many that they travel the same path of the slave ships. It is also believed that those are old slave spirits. Now I know it might seem far-fetched to some, but if you think about it, there were alot of slaves thrown overboard due to sickness, and some jumped to prevent coming to America. Also, pay attention to the area that hurricanes affect, the south and the carribean islands which had a very large shipment of slaves. My deepest sympathy goes out to the victims of hurricane Katrina.

Cheri said...

I agree with all you've said. Unfortunately as Dera said some will romanticize this whole situation, but I believe that it is women's tendency to 'romance' relationships that causes so many of 'us' to make bad choices and decision that leave us on our own with children. Like so many of those 'left behind' after the Hurricane... The glasses need to to come off, so that we can keep it real and take better care of ourselves...

Anonymous said...

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