Wicked Guns or Wicked Hearts?

JeffersonIt’s funny. Whenever there is a mass killing and the killer used a gun, all the mainstream media wants to talk about is the gun. Where did the gun come from? Was the gun an ‘assault weapon?’ Why wasn’t the gun kept locked up in some gun shop that shouldn’t be allowed to actually sell their guns?

No matter how many gun control laws there are, demands are made for more gun control. More classes of people are to be defined as unfit to own guns. Obama even wants to take gun rights away from some Social Security recipients. No more deer hunting for you, grandpa!

But wait a minute. Have you ever heard of a gun going on a shooting spree all by itself? No, there is always a person involved. It’s not the gun that is wicked, it’s the heart of the killer. And if that killer’s heart is wrong and he cannot buy, steal or make a gun, he will kill with other tools. Knives. Bombs. Poison. Chainsaws. Rope. Cars. Once I read of a killer who strangled a woman with her own bikini. Use a bikini, go to prison?

One thing has changed radically in the world during the course of my lifetime. Not the availability of guns, which is restricted in more places and for more people. But in my childhood in the early 1960s, the attitude on matters of right and wrong was far different.

People believed that right and wrong were distinct and ought to be know to everyone. People still believed that the Nuremberg Trials were right because the Nazi officials on trial knew in their hearts that killing Jews, Gypsies and disabled people was a moral wrong, no matter what the Nazi government said about it. And that people had a positive duty to do the morally right thing, even if the government had given the order.

It seemed that when I was a little girl, almost everyone who had children made a point to send their children to Sunday school or other religious education regularly. At the Presbyterian church I remember best, there was a religious education hour between the two church services. There were Sunday school classes for adults as well as children. Sunday school went on 52 weeks a year. Attendance was recorded, and if we went for 52 Sundays, we got a year pin. There were additional pins for additional years of perfect attendance. My family didn’t go every week, so it took me about two years to get my one-year pin.

Sunday school was serious. We memorized a Bible verse every Sunday. We were taught how to find a specific verse in the Bible. Sometimes the first child to find the requested verse got to read it out loud.

We were also asked to invite other children to our Sunday school. Most parents who would never take their kids to a Sunday school still permitted their children to attend a Sunday school with their friends.

Though there was an ill wind blowing and most of those kids, as teens, would learn to reject notions of right and wrong, there was still at the time of my childhood a consensus: some things are right, some things are wrong, and it is possible to tell the difference between the two. And even the irreligious people mostly approved of people following the teachings of the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule.

Flash forward to today: in the Presbyterian church body that I went to as a child, it is no longer required to believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God or the Savior of mankind. Abortion rights and marriage equality are the important beliefs at denomination headquarters these days.

Kids today are highly likely to come from broken homes of various types rather than the home of their married biological parents. And loud atheists are demanding that kids learn that religions are all bad and that the charities performed by religious bodies don’t exist, somehow.

You cannot say something is right or wrong these days without being loudly contradicted by someone who proposes a whole different scheme of right and wrong. Everyone to their own taste, even when it comes to moral views.

And so people who might be inclined to kill have a much easier time of it, when they decide to justify their murderous choices. After all, if respectable representatives of the more well-to-do political party can say it is OK to kill the unborn, the terminally ill, the people with brain damage such as Terri Schiavo and that stroke victim who begged for food and water, only to have a court rule she was not competent to make that request; well, how is some sociopath or person with mental illness to know it’s a big deal when the decide to kill the people they don’t consider really human?

The gun control advocates are just distracting us. The real problem is that our society is no longer together on following a set of rules about right and wrong and passing it on. And that just ensures that there are going to be more wicked hearts out there, set on doing wrong to others. The solution is not to punish guns, it is to educate people. And punish the ones who break the laws with imprisonment, even if prison cells cost money.

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Seven Bad Ways to Help a Fellow Writer

writeitI think most writers agree that it is a good idea to help other writers out. Christian writers, following the teachings of Jesus Christ, would even want to help out those curmudgeonly writers who never help out other writers, following the Golden Rule: ‘Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.’ (Matthew 7:12 — NAB-RE translation)

But not all ways of helping other writers are, well, helpful. Some are not doing the person you help much good. Here are some ways that don’t help at all, and should be avoided.

Bad Help Type 1 — When asked for an honest opinion of a work, you give only flowery compliments— even though the work is filled with things that are clearly errors such as misspellings, misuse of apostrophes, grammar errors, incomprehensible sentences, and minor characters that are called by different names in different scenes. These sort of errors are not a matter of opinion and taste— they are things that the writer is asking you to tell him, by asking your opinion of the work. The right thing to do is to let the author know that there are problems in his work.

Bad Help Type 2 — When asked for an honest opinion of a work, you blast them with every blessed thing you think might be wrong with it, usually with more than a little sarcasm. No matter how many clear errors a writer has made, no matter how hopeless you think it is that this person ever write something publishable, you are not appointed by God to crush his dreams. Point out the problems in the work gently. Don’t let your own tastes in writing get in the way— if a writer writes an Amish romance and you personally can’t abide Amish romances, don’t take the genre and its conventions as a writing error! Tell the writer at least one positive thing about his novel, and suggest something he might do to improve his work.

Bad Help Type 3 — Imagine that a 13-year-old writer has finished a novel and is wondering about self-publishing, and asks your opinion. Even if the novel is pretty good, and not just pretty good for a 13-year-old, if that 13-year-old persists in writing, he will get good enough that by age 21 he will be embarrassed by that first publication. Young writers such as this should probably be submitting to ‘real’ publishers for a few years before venturing into the self-publishing world. Because the problem with self-publishing is that the first few things you publish are how the reading public is going to judge your work. You don’t want to be dragged down by a first publication that may seem pretty immature a few years down the line. The same holds, of course, for writers of any age who are taking their first ‘baby steps’ as a writer.

Bad Help Type 4 — ‘Doing for’ the other writer instead of doing it for himself. For example, your writer friend has a completed and edited version of his novel and after being turned down by the one publisher that would even consider conservative Catholic science fiction, wants to self-publish. But he doesn’t know how to format the manuscript for e-book. But instead of walking him through it, you snatch the manuscript, saying ‘here, I’ll do it.’ This is a different situation than if your granny wrote a memoir and needs help getting it into self-publication. This writer friend intends to be a professional. He needs to have a way to format his work for e-book by himself. (I’d recommend buying the writing software Scrivener. It formats your manuscript for e-book for you.)

Bad Help Type 5 — Writing a review of a fellow writer’s book without reading the book first. The writer in question needs reviews from people who are willing to actually read the book. Phony reviews— perhaps especially if they are 5 star reviews— tend to stand out. They don’t help your writer friend. And they don’t help your reputation as a reviewer either.

Bad Help Type 6 — Reviewing erotica or ‘erotic romance’.  People who insist on writing pornography are doing a wrong thing. They are throwing away their chance to be considered a real writer. I mean, even in our sex-mad corrupted culture, when have you heard of a book like ‘Trailer Park Trollops’ or ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ getting a National Book Award? Even if the person who wrote the book is a friend, you should not feel an obligation to read something offensive in order to review it.

Bad Help Type 7 — Passing on bad book promotion advice. I read once of a self-published book on how to write, self-publish, and promote a novel. It evidently suggested participating in the book forums on Amazon.com, writing 5 posts a day plugging your book. A reviewer of that book pointed out that self-promotion of books is not permitted on the Amazon.com forums. There is a lot of bad book-promoting advice out there generated by desperate self-published authors who know little about book promotion. Don’t spread the bad advice around.

I believe it is an important thing for writers to network with other writers. Even writers with Asperger’s Syndrome, like myself, who often don’t have the social skills that make networking easier for neurotypical writers. And we need to help other writers out. But only when the help given is actually helpful.

 

 

IWSG: How Does My Fiction Serve Others?

IM001105This is a post for the Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop.

Writing can seem like a selfish game. I spend hours at work on my fiction, and more hours scheming on how to promote myself-as-writer in the world of social media. I have Tweeted repeatedly to gain new readers for my serialized short story Death Untimely and my nonfiction Blogging Handbook for Fiction Writers. See? I’m even doing it right now in the middle of the blog post.

The way to overcome the selfish-writer thing is for me to take a good look at my work and ask myself ‘How does my fiction serve others?’ And I think every writer from time to time might ask that question.

One way my writing can serve others is as a source of non-vile entertainment. An important thing in these days when the evening television line-up seems to consist purely of risque programming, and a filthy sadomasochistic book is winning high praise from people who don’t know any better.

Another way it can serve others is by being free from the fashionable, socially acceptable forms of hate— hatred of Christians signaled by calling them ‘haters’ because they won’t change their faith as directed by leaders of leftist causes such as the the marriage redefinition movement. Hatred of Jews that’s OK because the haters call themselves anti-Zionist and ignore the fact that their beloved Hamas leaders are repeating the infamous and false ‘blood libel’ against the Jews. In the United States, hatred of all Republicans as ‘racist’ in spite of the fact that the party was founded for the purpose of freeing the slaves and the fact that black conservatives are highly popular as potential presidential candidates in Republican circles.

Another way my writing can serve is by being a source of information. I’ve learned a great many things over the years. Some of them can certainly be of use in my fiction. That’s better than creating some of the dumbed-down works of fiction we see today, especially in the YA category, to flatter readers into thinking they are knowledgeable by hiding the whole world of facts they are unlikely to know.

Finally, my work can serve by being accurate about things like the Christian faith, the Bible and the Catholic Church in a world in which many are spreading falsehoods. It seems unbelievable to me, but there are people out there who don’t even know what the Golden Rule is. No, it’s not ‘the guy with the gold makes the rules.’ It’s ‘do unto others as you would have others do unto you’.

And the Golden Rule illustrates what I’m trying to do with this blog post. I like it when people try to make me feel encouraged and uplifted about my writing. I hope I can make you feel encouraged and uplifted about yours. Your writing is not just a selfish thing— it can be part of a selfless mission to serve others. It’s up to you to find the ways that you can do that.

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One way I like to help others is by giving them a ‘like’ on their Facebook author page. If you have such a page, give me the link in a comment and I will ‘like’ it if possible. (I can’t like pages that are pro-porn or pro-anti-Semitism because of my Catholic faith. But I don’t believe in judging you about it either.) My own FB author page is: https://www.facebook.com/NissaAnnakindt