The mail arrived with two cases of Give a Crap. It’s environmentally-friendly recycled toilet paper from Australia (with a US division in California). The boxes boldly ask, “Who Gives a Crap” and considering global dissension, I’m proud to answer, “Me! I give a crap!” Trouble is, at the root of dissension, others don’t necessarily give a crap about what I do, and it’s questionable if I give a crap about their complaints in return. Often our concerns are what polarizes us.
Many of my Minnesota friends give a crap about the environment. My two daughters graduated from the School of Environmental Studies in Minnesota, and I served on the school’s foundation board for several years. Educating youth about the environment is important because it is their future. Will Steger, Minnesota native and arctic explorer, gave a crap about Global Warming long before we decided Climate Change was the appropriate phrase to use. He’s one of my living heroes for traversing Baffin Island in 2008 to bring awareness to the plight of the Inuit who live in places others rarely see. My eldest was a student on the expedition and you can see her at frame 2:20 (girl in the gray sweatshirt on the couch with Will Steger).
If you notice the photos and natural references in my writing, you know I give a crap about nature. But many others do not. Many of my Idaho friends give a crap about living in Idaho, and in order to live in such a beautiful and remote area often they have to work jobs at odds with environmental concerns. Many work in the Bakken Oil Fields; many more were laid off when oil prices dropped; and many voted for the only presidential candidate to speak of jobs in America. Often those who give a crap for the environment forget to give a crap about the hardworking Americans who dig ditches, tip trees and mine resources. Here’s where things get messier than toilet paper can handle.
For every concern, I can cite a counter concern. Environment versus labor. Solar energy versus existing infrastructures. Police brutality versus racial disparity in inner cities. Firearm rights versus gun control for safer communities. Food safety versus access to healthier food. Farm industry versus community food deserts. Privatized healthcare versus social medicine. It goes on and on, around and around the tables of coffee klatches and yoga classes. Who is right? Who is wrong? Fight, fight, fight.
Standing up in the toilet bowl of what dissension in the US has become, is the most underqualified, unprepared, unfit person for the position of US leadership. Now the fight is really on — his right to grab women’s genitalia versus a women’s right to not be grabbed; white privilege versus black lives matters; populism versus humanity. Add to this all the other swipes of wanting jobs, wanting healthcare that’s not socialism but affordable, wanting personal rights; and it’s no wonder I feel like I just want to flush it all away. I give a crap, but I have whiplash trying to contemplate all sides.
We are forgetting something important. Fighting is about winning; about sides. That means we want a loser. Not only do we want a loser, but we feel like we want someone to be punished. That’s the rage behind, “Jail Hillary!” Sometimes, I can see the person shouting this battle cry, see the contorted face, and I imagine the job loss this person might have endured, or the pile of unpaid medical bills on the kitchen counter. I care about another’s loss, but why the fight, why the sides? When did we start thinking that only our crap matters and stop giving a crap about others? In the fight, we forgot about middle ground, about the idea that conflict management is win-win.
Holy crap, folks, I’m just a writer living in an RV down by the river, and I don’t know how many weeks I can take like this one. It started with an emotional farewell to President Obama. I did not agree with all his policies and I was disappointed enough by his first term that I did not vote for his second. Yet, I have greatly admired his family dynamics, his poise as an orator, his many outreaches to bridge gaps in America to bring equality of rights to every citizen, his wife’s initiatives as First Lady (including outreach to homeless veterans), and his classiness as a principled man. It was hard to say goodbye, knowing his replacement couldn’t be more different.
This week the PEOTUS (president-elect of the US) held a “press conference” that gives many of us in the writing industry chills, calling out a CNN journalist as Fake News. Seriously? This from the very person who says the most outrageous lies. His attacks on the press and his continuing lies which confuse and conflict many threatens freedom of speech and destabilizes truth. His gaslighting triggers my PTSD and I’ve had to employ many coping skills. I’m unable to overlook the man’s behavior. His billionaire cabinet in the making gives me less confidence. His resistance to divest himself of his businesses, his continuing obsession with telling us “He won!” and his lack of concern for Russian interference unnerves me.
Yet, I’m not wanting to fight my fellow citizens. I give a crap about conflict resolution.
Conflict resolution is finding a peaceful solution to a disagreement. It’s drawing back my hand from the urge to smack. It’s letting go of a need to punish. It’s hearing both sides of the concerns and working toward a way to save our environment and jobs. It means acknowledging the rights or privileges of all. It means agreeing to disagree with compassion for the other. It means uplifting the lowest in our midst instead of only seeking to better our own. It also means checking our words and behavior. It doesn’t mean giving a pass to the PEOTUS because of his office; rather it means we all hold him accountable to the respectability and credibility of his office.
As a literary artist I have a civic duty to explore the experiences of others, unlike me.
I honor the diversity at Carrot Ranch. That’s why it is a literary community and not a historical writers club, or a fiction writers group, or a writing outlet for Libertarians-Only, women-only, Gen-Xers-only, college degree holders only, published writers only or any other only of exclusivity. Look at how diverse the perspectives are each week in constrained responses to a single prompt! Raw Literature, as we are exploring in a new series at Carrot Ranch, is a truth-seeking exercise. The closer to a universal truth, the more fiction resonates with readers. I give a crap about literature and its role in society. You might think you are “just a writer” but you are a truth-seeker. Do not be afraid to seek your own truth. It’s a lifetime pursuit.
What do you give a crap about? Write about it, write into it, write about its enemies as friends, write about its friends as enemies. As a literary artist, how can you be a truth-seeker? How can you be an agitator for good? How can you be brave? How can you be part of conflict resolution?
January 12, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that expresses a strong concern, something to give a crap about. Something that brings out the feeling to stand up. How can you use it to show tension or reveal attitudes?
Respond by January 17, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published January 18). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Serving All (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
“Officer Roubineaux, explain why you were in Naples that day,” said the judge.
“Yes. I made a promise to a friend who is serving in Iraq to look out for his wife.”
“Which branch of service,” the judge asked.
“He’s a contractor for private security,” answered Michael.
“That’s not service. That’s a cover for meaningless acts of mercenary.” The judge made the comment as casually as if stating a fish has scales.
Danni resisted the urge to throw her shoe at the judge. He had no idea how much Ike gave a crap about serving his country, even jerks.