Thursday, March 27, 2014

Freefalling into Politics

Part One, of Freefalls and Human Rights
In February I posted three pieces from my Thursday night class, Three About Me, so… why not post three from my weekly “Friday Morning Freefall” writers group? Call it, Three About Politics. Both of my pieces from this Friday’s meeting are political, and I would only have to find one more political freefall piece.

Freefall writing is where, without editing as you go, blood comes out of your aorta and rushes onto the page. Call it a right brain thing. Invented, they say, by W.O. Mitchell, freefall is where you begin writing as soon as you hear the prompt, and then write like mad until the time is nearly up. It’s nice to write without pressure to be good. By definition, a freefall first draft won’t be as good as deliberate “real writing”… yet sometimes it is. And sometimes a piece can be the start of a book, or used “as is.”

Our weekly meeting even has, get this, a blog where we sometimes post our pieces. I look forward to my Fridays. Last week I walked down the sidewalk with a newer member, Marie, who said she liked how the group is so loving. As indeed we are. Also, since we aren’t sharing any “manuscripts,” we see no point in giving negative criticism. We explicitly try to be kind.

At FreeFall there is a charming, funny senior citizen who always has to stop writing early because her hand gets tired. This week she wrote of “killing the men” in order to cut down on the population in order to save on resources. She doesn’t know where or how her subconscious popped that one up.

The prompt she was using was “depraved,” a prompt suggested by a middle aged lady who speaks an Islamic language—I won’t reveal which country. Unfortunately, the lady speaks with a western accent, which makes her a target of predators. She told us predators are widespread over there (where she lived for several years) because there are no consequences from other citizens, let alone from the legal system.

Meanwhile, in my traditional lonesome prairie culture, molesting a woman is right up there with horse stealing: Other citizens would rush to look for a rope and a tall tree, forgetting to involve the legal system.

Yet… certain aspects of human nature… are probably the same in every space and time. Over here, I’m sure, neither gay women nor straight women would hope to have sex—or be “gang banged”—with many partners at once, no, not even those terribly rich ladies in Hollywood. And yet, if perchance a girl is assaulted by a gang on the football field, or by a gang at a party with photos taken, then other girls will comfort themselves by “blaming the victim,” by saying she must have been a slut. Not a sensible response at all, but a response well documented in the book Slut! Such comfort, of course, comes at the expense of the victim. Back east, after first being gang raped and then being accused by other girls, a teenage girl has committed suicide; the boys have been charged.

My Freefall friend, praise Allah, managed to escape an assault where other males were going to just stand by doing nothing. Muslim friends always asked her, as their first question, “What were you wearing?” I think they were hoping to comfort themselves by hearing she was wearing a western Khaki sleeveless shirt or Bermuda shorts. Of course she wasn’t—she lived there. And the very question makes me angry. Her too. Every law worth legislating should be upheld by individuals and bystanders, regardless of apparel… That’s my political belief.

Part Two, Some Freefalls
Here is my swift response to the prompt

Is there anything more depraved than valuing envy over serving your community? In a little French town if you try to serve by organizing people to put sandbags along the river, well, you won’t get any credit for your volunteer efforts—People will have too much envy, saying you are trying to be too important. Depravity to me is mouthing that God is greater than the people but never stooping to help the unfortunate people. Well, it’s hard to be noble if everyone around you is saying, “What’s the use?” Hard to live in a world where you can’t do anything without bribing everyone at all levels, and even then your livelihood is not secure if somebody’s nephew wants to move into the business.

In a sense, the poor frontier of 300 years ago was more progressive than many modern nations. “What does Ben Franklin think?” the community asked as they organized libraries and firefighting and schools and recreation leagues and service clubs and asylums and hospitals… It was safe to organize in the absence of depravity.

-- end --

The other prompt this Friday was “jeans.” Oh, the memories and opinions that prompt caused! After I read my piece aloud, a woman who lived under communism asked, “How did you know that we had to have a positive attitude?” She told us that you needed a doctor’s note in order to miss the May Day (international worker’s day) holiday parade. Here’s what I dashed off for the prompt

I was watching all my fellow workers stride along the crimson corridors of factoplex 95: home of the world’s best tractors. They all had blue jeans, blue coveralls or, for some of the younger women, blue denim shorts, if they worked in an office doing stenography or punch cards. Everybody—Ok, most bodies, knew their shorts were a little extra worked on to be faded or snug, but what proletariat in their right mind would complain? The higher our morale the better we could fight the “capitalist roaders” and “secret fascists.”

I watched them striding along healthily, as it was Monday, we weren’t tired yet, and this was the day the Party Members would show up with working cameras to document our positive attitudes. I always know when a female and equal comrade comes into the room—or, in this case, comes into my radar range. It was Fiona, coming right up beside me. She had a light denim shirt, perfectly regulation, but one that that clung too much and I happened to know she ironed too much, because I was a lucky body who had been over to her place—on a very long date.

In one swift step she claimed her right to come past scanner range into sensor range—nice perfume— and into thermal range. I could, as we say in the reserves, feel her heat signature. “Carl,” she breathed “I don’t see any important people going by.” In an instant I stifled any remarks about the salt of the earth, the slick cogs in the machinery, the valves of the Party. Fiona is far more astute than I.
“What is it?” I asked out the corner of my mouth.
“All the Party members are gone; the shop stewards are gone and their office door is closed with the office empty; the commissar’s parking spot is empty; and none of the camera crew is here.”
I didn’t want to think about it—but Fiona’s more astute than I.

-- end --

Sometimes the prompt is a 2-D picture or an object. One morning a transparent thing reminded me of a coral paperweight found by Winston Smith back in nineteen eighty-four. I said so to my freefall group.

It’s nice to be Islamic, of course. Not like in those old benighted times when the Great Satan ruled us, when women would fornicate in cars and Islam was under attack. No, now, Allah willing, we have order in the world. But who can stop wondering about those old times when people with too much pride built towers that were just too tall, scraping the sky, setting man’s ambition against God’s?
Sometimes I wander the old streets, past the old style buildings, and I wonder. Of course I am glad we tossed out Satan, but still I wonder. In my mind’s eye the sinners are always at night, with light spilling out of doorways to the sound of loud laughter and tall folks looking like Abraham Lincoln.
Besides their idolatrous paintings, what else did they have? Did they know the beauty of Allah’s natural world? Some did. Recently I found something, in an old store in the old part of town. It was light glass, round like a cup, but with a tapering shape and inside was a very old beauty: strange grass and plants and corral and, at the top, a pretty yellow butterfly. For how many decades, generations, had the butterfly perched there? Who owned it? Did he… or she… dream that one day Allah’s will and sharia law would prevail? Surely someone who loved nature craved a righteous world! I took it home in secret, and I secretly put it in my drawer.
It’s nice to be Islamic, but some things have to be kept secret.

-- end --

To find that third political piece, I had to cut and paste from our Freefall Fridays blog. Next to my piece I found my Thigh High Boots. I include it, just for fun.
My sister was always a handful: first to get a tattoo, first to get a silver stud on her cheek, and first in—in a lot of things. No, she didn’t eat goldfish or streak—that was our Dad’s generation. One late October afternoon, out by the tree swing, I was doing something normal—one of us had to be normal—I was merely doing some underage drinking. Our widowed father was off in town somewhere working in the office again. My sister came up to me and said, “Good grief, is that all you are doing? No Panama red?”
I replied, “Someone has to be normal around here, with Dad wearing a suit, and you—Say, is that what you are wearing tonight?” She was wearing a long cotton pioneer lady dress. “Don’t tell me you are going as a Mormon.”
“No,” she said, “I am going as a liberated Mormon. Guess what’s under my dress.”

“Uh, geez,” I squinted “Not your typical lady stuff?”

“Nope. I plan to disrobe… Don’t say ‘strip,’ say disrobe…. Ready? Here it comes!” and off went her long dress. From the shoulders down.  She must have practiced. She always practiced dance moves too. What caught my attention was the thigh high boots.  In basic black.  And hot pants. Black.  And a tube top. Black and red, horizontal stripes.
 I gave her the brother look number four, code for groovy, far out, and anything else our father’s generation would have said.

“I want to know something.”

“What?” she said, trying to see if she could dance with her dress over her shoulder.

“Where did you get those boots?”
Sean Crawford, March, 2014
Footnote: Our blog is at: 
Note: My blogspot-Google claims the site does not exist, so I deleted the link. You will have to type it in manually, or use the link up at the top paragraph.

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