After watching a few of our elections, I noticed that politicians were trying to warm up to the twenty-something crowd. It’s a wise decision: we’re a strong group of intelligent, new voters. And, as a rule, we’re disatisfied with the United States’ current political system. It’s a chance for either party to take a hold of a growing and promising voter group and insure additional votes in future elections.
It would help to know what this group is looking for, though, if there’s a disatisfaction with our current parties, and to understand this, it may help to learn a little more about this group. Although I claim to be no spokesperson for all people aged 20-29, I can give you some insight into how I think, as a member of this “age group.”
I’m a twenty-something. But classifying us “twenty-somethings” or “generation x-ers” by our age is something I as an individual finds insulting. I know that we’re Americans, but I also know that we as a group have differing opinions, and we have a right to those opinions. We can have different views on our careers, or families, our music. And that’s something I value - and I feel like is constantly being taken away from us.
Other pressure groups may want you to pass laws telling them when a rapist moves into their neighborhood, but I know that that just causes more red tape and costs us through tax revenue more dollars, when that information is public; besides, it’s not the government’s responsibility to inform, it the individual’s. Other pressure groups may want you to pass laws telling them that they need to wear their seat belts, but I know that in a Capitalistic society it’s not the government’s role to protect people from themselves, but from the force of others, and that is all. Other pressure groups may want you to pass all sorts of laws, but they are by and large laws that go beyond the jurisdiction of the American government. Other groups may want the government telling them what to do all the time, but I don’t.
Part of the twenty-something’s disatisfaction (if I may speak for the group) with our current parties may be because neither party embodies a consostent set of values. Granted, our government-sponsored school systems teach students in general that philosophy is too difficult a subject for a single person to understand. And religion may not offer a practical solution for anyone that believes in individual rights, the rights this country was founded on (I mean, Christianity telling people that the meek shall inherit the earth and the self-sacrifice for the benefit of others os good directly clashes with the idea than the individual has a brain and the right to use it, the right to claim what they have earned and even become successful). But young people, especially ones who still have a glimmer of hope that there is something out there that makes sense, when all their lives their schools and leaders have kept from them that their mind is the answer, young people want their political parties to make sense. Currently, neither platform, whether Democratic or Republican - is consistent or cohesive.
If a person believes that government intervention beyond the necessities - police protection from the force of others, for example - is worng, neither political party supports them. Republicans believe in less government when it comes to leaving businesses alone - economically the government should let businesses prosper - but when it comes to personal parts of people’s lives - choosing to have an abortion, whether consenting adults want to engage in sexual activities that are not what they consider “the norm,” the kinds of art work people make and see - then Republicans know what’s best for us, and want to tell us what to do.
Democrats believe in less government intervention when it comes to these personal issues, but when it comes to businesses and the economy, Democrats want to be able to regulate industries because they’ll hurt people, they want to be able to tax businesses because big business is bad (Why? No answer.), and they want to be able to take money away from people, via business regulations and taxation, in order to give it away to people who haven’t earned it (there’s no more realistic explanation of the welfare system - other than robbery from the people who produce in this country).
Republicans and Democrats both believe the government should stay out of their business, whatever their business may happen to be. Other people’s business? Feel free to meddle.
Even on more specific subjects both parties split their decisions moralistically. The religious right, a Christian group of Republicans, as well as Republicans in general, will tell you that it’s horrible to kill an unborn child, but it’s okay to kill someone that’s already alive and that has committed a crime (what happened to “turn the other cheek”?). If life is so sacred, why is capital punishment being pushed by Republicans? With our current appeals system, it isestimated that it takes six times as much money to kill someone as it does to keep them in jail for life. And who pays for it? We do, the individuals. The tax payers. The producers.
But the one thing both parties have in common is that they want to take away at least some of our rights. That’s why we’re do disenchanted with the political parties we have today.
Republicans want to take away our personal rights, Democrats want to take away our economic rights. Taxation, the Democrats’ answer (so that people can still have goods and services while not working for them) taxation for anything other than the essentials is forcibly taking away what individuals have earned. It’s forcibly taking away people’s money. That’s the definition of robbery. And laws instilled by Republicans to protect our private lives, so that we are just like them, are not only forcibly telling us how to live, but enacting laws that also cause paperwork costs and costs in enforcing them. Who does the government pay for these thing?
Taxation, again, which means: we, the individuals, pay for the government telling us what to do.
Every election, I’m sure a good number of people, people with intelligence, people using reason and logic to the best of their ability in making a decision, go to the polls wondering, “Which rights am I willing to lose?”
Well, we shouldn’t be losing any of those rights. We should have less government intervention in all respects of our lives.
I’m a twenty-something. I’m a woman, but I don’t tell the government I need quotas to get a job, because I know that “life, libery and the pursuit of happiness” means just that - it means I can pursue whatever I want. But it doesn’t mean the government should be handing it to me on a platter.
I’m a twenty-something. I’m intelligent, and I don’t need the government protecting me from myslef. That’s not what I’m paying for it to do.
I’m a twenty-something. I’m looking for a political party that embodies not my beliefs, but the belief that people can have their own beliefs (whether or not people choose to live by logic and reason or not is not for the government to control). I’m looking for a political party that knows that individuals can have their lives (that’s the “life” part of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”), they can have the right to keep their lives (that no one has the right to take something that belongs to you, like taxation for the welfare state, or that no one has the right to try to take away your life, unlike what the government does to death-row prisoners, for instance). I’m looking for a political party that knows that individuals have the right to pursue their own goals, without intervention from the government and without help from the government (that you can’t expect handouts, but you also can start a business to sustain your life without being burdened by overtaxation and regulation).
I’m a twenty-something. I’m looking for a political party that embodies not my beliefs, but the belief that people can have their own beliefs. I’m looking for a political party that knows that individuals can have their lives, they can have the right to keep their lives. I’m looking for a political party that knows that individuals have the right to pursue their own goals, without intervention from the government and without help from the government.
I’m a twenty-something, and I’m looking for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Can anyone give it to me?
If we are going to try to balance the budget, the key isn’ t in doing it by taxing everyone until the debt is gone. The key is accepting more responsibilities as citizens, and not expecting the government to make things easier on us.
The reason why the government costs so much money is because we continually expect it to do more and more for us. The capitalist base that this country was founded on suggests that the government is there to protect our basic rights - “ life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This means that as individuals we reign supreme - the no one has the right to take our life, our property or our ability to achieve what we are willing and capable of achieving.
However, as the years have progressed, our political leaders have told us that we need to be taken care of, and to appease us they have offered, as a government, to do more and more for us. And we have agreed, these things would be better if the government took care of them for us. But that was where we went wrong.
The government is bogged down with a quagmire of laws protecting ourselves from ourselves. Seat belt laws. Motorcycle helmet laws. Speed limits. Laws to tell you when a rapist moves into your neighborhood, or laws to tell you when you’ re mature enough to drive a car, or drink. Although it seems to make sense that we shouldn’ t do these things, that we should make responsible choices, the government is going beyond it’ s basic role of protecting us from the force of others by telling us as individuals what is legally safe, which is infringing on our rights.
We haven’ t offended the rights of others, for instance, if we speed on a highway. By telling us we cannot speed, the government is infringing on our rights to do what we want with our property, as long as it doesn’ t infringe on the rights of others. If, because of our speeding, we hit another car and injure another person and/or their property, then we have infringed on another person’ s rights and we should be punished. But not until then. The government’ s job is to protect us from others, not from the possibility of accidents caused by others.
We haven’ t offended the rights of others, for instance, if we choose to not wear our seat belts while driving or riding in a car. The government’ s job is not to protect us from ourselves, but from others. Even if we get injured in our cars because we weren’ t wearing our seat belts, we cannot and should not blame the government for not intervening - their job is to protect our right to decide whether or not we want to use these safety measures.
I won’ t argue that wearing your seat belt is not a good idea, or that all 10-year-olds should be learning to fly airplanes, but I’ m not going to tell anyone that they should relinquish the responsibility of making these decisions to their government. When you let the government make some choices for you, what’ s to stop them from making all your choices for you? Capitalism is a clearly-defined set of rules, all surrounded around the notion that the individual human being’ s rights are most important. When you start to slip into socialism, however, and let the government take control of some aspects of your life for you, they can take more and more - you’ ve let them - until you’ re faced with a dictatorship, with communism, and no rights as an individual at all.
The government is also bogged down with providing for those who originally can’ t - and now won’ t - provide for themselves. The productivity generated by a free economy has produced a great many things, for all of the people in this country and others. It has raised the standard of living for all. Considering the standards people lived at two hundred years ago, considering the number of religious wars that killed so many over the thousands of years of human history, considering the hundreds and hundreds of years the world lived in moral and economic darkness with other political systems, it is evident what people owning their own work can do for productivity, creativity and progress.
The creation of the welfare state has given people a reason to be unproductive. The creation of the welfare state has made people believe they deserve something for nothing. The government never said that every individual in the country was granted “ life, liberty and a block of government-subsidized cheese.” But this attitude, the attitude that people deserve something for nothing from their government, can be seen in our homeless on the streets, with their cups in their hands, marking a post to beg from in front of people daily commuting to work. They ask for money, bless you when you pass (invoking the notion of a god and the altruistic notion to give to others, even if - especially if - they don’ t deserve it), and occasionally, when they don’ t get the money they want from you, they scream in protest, as if the money in your pocket isn’ t yours, but theirs, and the have every right to expect a handout from you. America created this mentality when they created the welfare state, and we’ re paying for it in many ways. The lack of a balanced budget is only one way we’ re paying.
When the government - and the people - thought it was a good idea to help others, they didn’ t realize that helping themselves by being productive raised the standard of living, created new products and services for everyone, and did end up helping others. They also didn’ t realize that the productive earnings given to those who didn’ t earn it had to come from somewhere - and where it came from was from the productive people’ s pockets. And our productivity, as well as our budget - suffered for it.
The government is even bogged down with controlling and subsidizing many aspects of our lives.
National defense is a job for the national government, because part of it’ s job is to protect us from outside threats (that’ s the “ life” part of “ life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”). But supporting the arts, education, medicine - the government is not responsible for any of these things. And most of the mediums the government has some level of control over have suffered in one way or another.
The arts have come under great scrutiny because people don’ t want their tax dollars funding certain kinds of art works. America’ s health care is more expensive and rated worse than eleven other countries in the world. And the education system? We need metal detectors at the gates of our city schools and kids graduate from high school without being able to read.
A business couldn’ t run without producing a good service or product - in fact, it would have to produce a better product, since it would be in competition with other companies. And a business couldn’ t run at a deficit - it has to be able to run efficiently in order to run well. In what has been the most capitalistic society to date, we have proven that companies can run efficiently, run well, and always produce a better product. This could also happen in the areas the government still has control over.
Privatizing education, for example, may bring the standards of schooling better, because suddenly there would be open competition. It would also allow for ideas that have merit but have been suppressed to be taught, because when goods and services are in demand, the demand will be met in a free economy (versus state schools, where boards of education have to impress the higher-ups in order to get more funding, and may alter their curriculum accordingly). It may cost more at first, but if Americans weren’ t paying taxes for schools, they’ d have more money in their pockets to be able to meet these expenses. Parochial schools do this already. And in this example, we wouldn’ t have concerns about whether or not prayer is allowed in a school, because it is not state sponsored. And there would be no debate over whether uniforms are allowable - you may pick the school of your choice to send your children to, and base your decisions on prayer, uniforms, and even ability to teach.
Who Pays the Price for Taxing the Rich?
Although ability, and the ability to keep what you’re earned, individual rights to their own property, is what made America great, people still continue to attack the rich for earning money.
What was originally a reasonable article in the newspaper about how the estate tax affect many more than the “rich” and how it should be eliminated, became yet another slam on success, ability, and everything America worked to become.
USA Toady printed an article by Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise institute called “Boomers Beware: Estate Tax Now Not Just for the Rich.”
It started by stating that the estate tax is only applicable to amounts over $600,000, which has made it in the past apply only to a small group of the very rich. However, Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age - and when they pull their tax-deferred saving out to live on, they multitude of taxes, including the estate tax, could take up to 90 percent of their money away.
Seems reasonable to want to fight that.
What I wonder, though, is why it’s okay to take it away from the “very rich,” as our government has done in the past, versus the Baby Boomers. Because you’re earned more you should be punished more? Because you’re earned more means you don’t have a right anymore to what you’ve earned?
The concept of a redistribution of wealth should be like fingernails to a chalkboard to every American. America was based on the right to work for a living, and the right to be able to keep what you’re earned. That’s why, as Americans, most here have a profound hatred for communism - because most here believe that you should be rewarded for your achievements, not punished. But placing a higher burden on the “very rich” via taxation is a form of wealth redistribution, yet many people don’t think twice about it.
The article then goes on to drop the bomb:
“Beyond the changing politics of wealth accumulation, estate taxes need rethinking for other reasons. The fact is they have not done what they were intended to do: prevent the handful of super-wealthy from concentrating their gains even more in a small elite.”
Why would the intention of a tax be to make sure the rich don’t stay rich? Why would a government want to tell the people that have the most wealth (in other words, the people that produced the most, or the best, products and services, the people that have been the most productive) that after working for their earnings all this time, they no longer have a right to all of it? What harm does someone see in someone being rich?
Other than people who hate accomplishment, hate the good for being good, other than people who are envious of talent, I can imagine no one that would think its fair to take the money away from someone who earned it, because they earned it. We don’t want the government, or robbers, for that matter, doing that to us. Why would we want to do it to someone else?
The article goes on: “Many western countries are doing away with estate taxes altogether, a course advocated by Speaker Newt Gingrich. America won’t do that; an estate tax at least makes a statement about our values and our desire to prevent too much concentration of wealth and power.”
If an estate tax at least makes a statement about “our values,” what statement does it make? And who did he talk to to know that an estate tax makes any statement about our values. Who’s values - every American’s values? That’s strange; the estate tax is anything but capitalistic - it’s very un-American.
Keeping an estate tax shows what we don’t value more than it shows what we do value. If we value an estate tax, we must not value the right to our own property, because we take money away from people simply because they have more. If we value an estate tax, we must not value the mind, reason or ability, because we are telling our producers that the welfare of poor people, of people who haven’t produced and haven’t shown ability, is more important than the producer.
And why would America want to prevent too much concentration of wealth and power? Money is power, only in the marketplace - it is not political power, or intellectual power. And the person who earned their money has the right to power in the marketplace, to be able to purchase what they want, or save what they want. That is their right.
Ornstein goes on to say, “But we surely can change a set of levies that ends up punishing savings and investment and will soon punish middle class success.” Yes, we shouldn’t be punishing savings and investment; that helps our economy as a whole and helps everyone in the nation as a whole. And no, we shouldn’t punish middle class success. But why does that mean we should punish upper class success?
I don’t know how America could have ever achieved as a nation with the philosophy that wealth should be redistributed. If so, we’d have a nation of equals, just like the Soviet Union promised its comrades. A nation all standing in bread lines together.
Yes, the estate tax should be eliminated, but for reasons that are the opposite of what Mr. Ornstein suggests. The tax is morally wrong. It’s wrong, if an individual’s rights are to be upheld, to take away their money because they happen to have more. Let’s not slip into the same mistakes other countries in history have made, by overtaxing the rich, who earned their money, and giving it to the poor, who didn’t. If there’s no incentive to work for achievements, and earnings, there will eventually be no one producing, and everyone will suffer. Who pays the price for taxing the rich? Every last one of us.
Capital Gains - or Losses?
I read a debate in the newspaper about whether or not the capital gains tax should be eliminated. The first argument, coming from the newspaper, was that the tax is only affecting the rich - and Republicans are trying to make their lives easier by eliminating it. It is not a tax burden on the people who have to pay the capital gains tax, because overwhelmingly these people are making over $100,000 annually. Furthermore, the burden from the eliminated tex revenue would shift from the rich to the poor if the capital gains tax was eliminated. The newspaper also wrote that they were disappointed that the Republicans, who talk so strongly about balancing the budget, are willing to cut taxes to the rich, which would impede the process of a balanced budget.
I read this all, and it made sense. I thought, “Yeah, we should keep the tax. Who is it hurting?”
Well, the response to this article came from Newt Gingrich, a man with whom I seldom agree. When I started to read, I had to reassess my position.
The tax, he said, is wrong. You’re taxed on investments, and are taxed again when you pull your money out of the investment. These taxes are difficult to manage with at tax time, there are many forms and schedules and exceptions that make filing a tax report come April 15th with capital gains taxes more difficult. (This extra processing and paperwork also costs the government money, keep in mind, which we pay for - with more taxes.) Eliminating the capital gains tax would save the people - as well as the IRS - headaches.
It also is a relatively small tax, directed to a relatively small group - people who invest. What this tax then does is makes people who want to invest less likely to because of overtaxation. What effect does this have on the economy? The government, if they are going to be involved with regulating the economy in the first place, should definitely not be hindering people from investing their money.
people who invest for their own businesses suffer too, as well as people who invest their money. I knew of a man who made a business out of buying old houses, renovating them and reselling them. He hired carpenters, electricians, plumbers, landscapers and painters to renovate his homes - helping people get jobs. He purchased appliances, carpeting, supplies for renovation - putting money back into the economy. But when higher capital gains taxes were implemented, doing these renovations was no longer economical for him - which cost jobs, which meant fewer products were purchased, which meant people were less productive.
Some could also argue, he suggests, that pointing a tax at investors is pointing a tax at the rich simply because they are rich, which is discriminatory. There is less incentive to be more productive and earn more when it means that more money will be taken away from the producers by the government. The government shouldn’t be hindering people from making more money, or from going into business - that’s what keeps the economy strong.
Expecting people with more money to pay more than their “fair share” to help out the “less fortunate” is essentially forcing them to give away more of their money to other people - people who haven’t earned it. Most people would call this kind of scenario a robbery.
If we are going to try to balance the budget, the key isn’t in doing it by taxing everyone until the debt is gone, like the newspaper suggested. The key is accepting more responsibilities as citizens, and not expecting the government to make things easier on us. If we did that, if we took that responsibility, there would be no need for excess taxes - especially like capital gains.
As technology moves forward, there always seems to be people who wish to contradict science and push it backward.
Such is the case with the new trend in discounting the use of DNA testing in criminal trials.
In the past ten years scientists have used DNA tests to determine if someone who is accused of a crime actually committed it. Testing usually does not positively identify an accuser as guilty of the crime, but it can exclude an accuser from committing a crime. DNA evidence is hard, scientific evidence that can show that someone did not commit a crime.
And in trials, evidence - hard, scientific evidence - is what is needed to decide a verdict.
DNA testing has been very useful in shedding light on a trial. Especially in rape or rape/murder cases, DNA testing can clear someone’s name.
It’s comforting to know that as hard evidence comes in to a case, that more and more people look at it as irrefutable. That people accept science and trust evidence when coming to a conclusion about a crime.
However, the trend toward accepting this science is now being fought.
“DNA may be important, but it’s not the ace that trumps all other cards,” said Bob Benjamin, a spokesman for the Illinois Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Why not? Why is it not important that conclusive evidence that the human traces left on a victim from their attacker could not be the defendant’s? Why is the fact that hair, skin, semen or saliva left on the victim’s body could not be the defendant’s not important? No answer.
And cases are increasingly being tried even when DNA tests show that the person in custody did not commit the crime.
Virginia Governor George Allen turned down a plea for a request for DNA tests from a convicted murderer on death row. Allen stated that even if the DNA testing cleared the incarcerated Joseph O’Dell, there was enough evidence to still prove that O’Dell raped and murdered a Virginia Beach woman.
Virginia Governor George Allen turned down the plea, and O’Dell was executed via lethal injection on schedule.
Although prosecutors do not claim to discount the evidence from DNA testing, they do not discount other evidence that may lead to the opposite conclusion.
But two different pieces of evidence cannot contradict each other - one must be wrong. Which is more likely to be wrong - an eye witness account, for instance, or scientific evidence with fingerprint-style accuracy?
DNA testing is is nearly infallible if done properly. Only human error, such as mishandling materials, would cause DNA testing to come into question.
But that’s one of the strongest points DNA testing is argued on. Recall the O.J. Simpson trial, when hard evidence was refuted with claims that evidence was mishandled.
However, in the O.J. Simpson trial, hard evidence was also refuted with unfounded claims that there was a police conspiracy or the theory that this was a drug hit. And the sad thing is, it was these emotional pleas, and not DNA evidence, that won over the jury and decided the case.
And that’s the only way you can argue against logic and science - by making a plea to emotions.
If a defense lawyer’s job is to free his client, then fighting science would have to be done by any means possible - discounting the science: DNA testing is too young. Discounting the way the data was collected: the blood was tampered with. Emphasizing other contradictory evidence: O.J. Simpson was in his home during the murder. Listening to testimonials and opinions from friends and experts: O.J. Simpson loved his wife, he couldn’t do it. introducing additional theories with or without merit as to what may have happened, pleading to the jury based on the character of the defendant. Pleading to their emotions.
But remember that all of these pleas are just that - pleas - and evidence cannot contradict science.
People try to balance science and mysticism, or faith, every day. Scientists shed more and more light each day on the creation of man and this planet, but religion denies it, for instance. Once I had a conversation with a religious woman, and she stated that dinosaurs never existed and that “science was the tool of the devil.” Another religious woman told me that she sinned once and got pregnant while out of wedlock, but God saved her by giving her a miscarriage.
Obviously logic and reason won’t win over a person who blatantly rejects logic and reason, but most people - especially in the United States, where science and technology have proven that people can live good lives - most people do believe in logic and reason, even if they have been taught otherwise. So their “philosophical lives” are spent trying to come up with a balance to these two opposing beliefs - of which there can be no compromise, but people still try. Okay, maybe the world wasn’t created in six days, maybe that was just a metaphor for the order and time lime things were created on the planet, one may decide. Okay, maybe there wasn’t a man made out of sand and a woman made from his rib, but maybe God started the ball rolling in the creation of man, one may think.
It is this belief in logic, science and reason, coupled with this clinging to faith and tradition that tries to allow both sides to be right. And it is this philosophical mind set that allows people to be sways by emotional pleas away from hard, scientific evidence.
That doesn’t change the fact that the evidence is there. It just changes how you look at it.
Diversity, Political Correctness, and Creativity
Are we looking for Diversity or Political Correctness?
Okay, let’s get the basics down first. I’m white. Big strike against me, from a world-culture perspective, because I must be an oppressor. But I’m a writer, which probably isn’t hurdling me into the upper class, and I’m a woman, which has it’s own set of relatively heavy baggage to carry around.
But I’ve always looked at myself as a writer, not a female writer. I’ve always judged myself, and hoped others would judge me, on the basis of my creative ability as a writer, not on the color of my skin or whether I had big breasts or which sex I was more attracted to.
But in working extensively in the north side poetry scene in the past six months, I’ve noticed the issue of diversity brought up in a few different forms. They can be pigeon-holed into three catch-phrase categories: Working Too Hard to be Politically Correct, Crossing Over into Another Culture, and Using your Diversity to Your Creative Advantage.
Working Too Hard to be Politically Correct
I was working with a group of writers touring the nation this winter. In choosing who should be part of this tour, we had decided upon myself and four men - all white. And then some of the other members of the group started asking - is this group not diverse enough? We’re all straight - maybe we need gay and lesbian representation. There’s only one woman so far - do we need more? Should we be looking for African Americans to fill out this group?
And you see, these were questions I had never thought of before. I mean, I never thought of watching someone because they were gay or straight, or white or black, or male or female. Okay, maybe female, a bit. But it never stopped me from looking for talent across different ethnic, cultural or sexual lines. And I never thought that a group of people going on tour needed to fill quotas in order to be politically correct. I mean, can you imagine a heavy metal band going on tour saying, “Maybe we should bring a rap group and a Christian folk band with us?”
The thing that might make this group work well together is the fact that we may have have somewhat similar cultural backgrounds. Our work can tie in better together. It may actually seem like a cohesive show; in setting up a show the first priority should be to make the show as a whole the best it can be, not to make sure every skin color is covered in the readers. Not that we shouldn’t have other backgrounds in the tour. But maybe looking for the best talent is the better way to go, and if the first people that become part of the group have similar stories to tell, well then, maybe that would work to our advantage.
Crossing Over into Another Culture
Primarily, I attend opens mikes on the north side, such as Joy Blue, Lilly’s, Estelle’s, Red Lion, even sometimes Weeds. Once I was invited to attend the afro-centric Lit X’s Saturday night open mike. I noticed a few things:
1. It was in a darkened basement in the back half of a book store. I felt like I needed a secret password and handshake to get in.
2. There was a $3 cover. I wasn’t aware of this until I got to the door; I usually never patronize places that make you pay to entertain the crowd, or expect cheap poets to actually pay money just to sit in a room for a while. They can do that at home for free.
3. As I walked in, I almost tripped over light cords running all over the floor; the stage consisted of a well-lit corner of a small unfinished basement room. Oh, and the fold-out chairs were filled to capacity (which goes to show that atmosphere isn’t everything). I had to stand in the back.
4. Everyone was holding either an incense stick or a clove cigarette. Versus a beer and a Marlboro Red, which is what I’m more used to seeing.
Beyond that, there were very good readings, it was a fascinating experience, and I’m glad I went. There’s obviously a demand for poetry readings and open mikes that appeal to different cultures; it was nice to have a showcase of it in one night, at one open mike. I just wish that for their benefit, they had a nicer place to read.
It’s not something I would go to regularly. I must admit, I felt a bit out of my element. Not because they made me feel that way; the people I talked to were glad everyone was there and everyone was very nice, as well as very talented. No, I felt out of my element solely because this experience was something I’m not used to. To submerge one person with one culture into another culture might be overkill. But to get just a taste of it is always a treat. That is great, to experience something different, even if only once in a while.
Using your Diversity to Your Creative Advantage
As I said, I’m a writer, and I’m female, but I never thought of myself as a “female writer.” But I’m sure that men listen to my work and think of me as a “female writer,” even if that decision is based solely on my own writing. I write about rape and domestic violence. I write about flirting with men. I write about being a woman.
In other words, I write about the things I know. That’s natural; your best work is going to be on the things you’ve done the most research on. And a writer’s entire life is research for poetry.
And yes, I’ve written both about the joys of being female and the oppression I feel in a patriarchal society. But is that what exploring diversity is all about?
A friend of mine, a talented writer that I had talked to a few times before I heard him read, read a poem in front of me on stage about growing up in a biracial family, about all the taunts and jeers and stares he gets, about how he didn’t know how to behave when he walked down the street. About how people thought of him, about how they judged him before knowing him.
And I thought, I’ve written about that when it comes to women many times.
And then I thought, but I never thought about the color of his skin before he brought it up on stage.
I noticed after that first reading that over half of the work he read on stage in my presence was about this experience, about living half-black in a white world.
I recently told him, I said, “You know, just so you know, I never thought about the color of your skin until you brought it up in your writing.”
And he looked at me, a bit surprised, and then he finally said something to the effect of, “But that’s my hook.”
I think he was pleased that someone looked at him as a human being, but at the same time, we all assume we’re all so different. And what if we’re not?
Yes, you write about what you know. But you can learn more about what you think you know as well as what you don’t know, just by listening to the stories other people in the Chicago poetry scene have to say. The voices are out there, voices on how they think they’re perceived, and about how they perceive the world.
The important thing is not to worry too much about getting the right amount of cultural diversity, but just to open up your mind and listen.