Call this a rant, flubber, whatever. To me, it's the best way I have of expressing myself. And for some reason, I feel the need to express myself today.
Of all places, while reading blog entries on MSNBC's political sound-off page, I was reminded of the absolute importance of storytelling. Some contributors were angry, sexist, racist or, unfortunately, all three. Usually, after reading one or two negative comments, I'd click onto the next report, but history had been made. A black man had been nominated to run for President of the United States. A woman was the runner-up. People would surely react to that. I wanted to know how.
My heart pounded. My sweaty hands slipped on and off the mouse as I scrolled down the screen. "Good one," I said when I read some liberal notion I agreed with. "That's what I'm talkin' about," I screamed when I read a comment about how Obama's election would improve our nation's global image. But not all comments were favorable. My eyes teared up and I felt a pang jabbing in my chest when I read one man's remark about the White House becoming the Black House filled with chicken, watermelon-eating niggers. Of course every letter but "n" was elminated. I thought, how can this be? Why do I feel so violated? As a Black American, accustomed to seeing our pain and gains exploited via stereotypes in the media, I should not have been surprised that that image is what this blogger chose to envision. But I've been plagued with pride at the way Obama has conducted himself through the primary process, at Hillary's tenacity, and was hoping that on this day of victory, at least, the haters would allow the rest of us to have our moment.
"This is why I write stories. " I said to my computer. "If it weren't for storytelling, ....."
"Who are you talking to, Grammy?" Alyssa, my eleven year old granddaughter said. She was reading Harry Potter on the sofa next to my desk.
God bless Alyssa. She listens to me even when she doesn't understand a word I'm saying. "I write stories," I told her. "People don't read studies. They could care less about statistics. People need to see Black people as people like them. With the same problems, the same fears, the same drives."
Alyssa, who has heard my soapbox rantings on reading and writing before, just whispered, "um, um." Which is why she was in my office, sitting across from me reading, what she called, that bi--------g Harry Potter book. A book she'd rejected because of its size. But couldn't put down once she started reading. Once she got involved in Harry Potter's world.
"If Obama weren't a storyteller," I said. "Who'd know he even existed?" I was referring to his two creative nonfiction books.
Alexander McCall Smith said it best when he wrote: It is in observing the minor ways of people that one can see very clearly the moral dilemmas of our time. One task of storytelling is to remind us of our virtues--of love and forgiveness, for example."
To me, virtues, cultures, etc. portrayed in a story can evoke the passion of understanding and relateability in a way that a study or a statistic cannot."
I hope that if Obama wins the presidency, that he keeps his word and not only change, but energize the way we teach our kids. That we encourage reading stories to help dispense truth. That we share our history, all of it, the good and the bad through tales of personal experience. That we don't test away their thinking and creative abilities. That we don't categorize them into closed mindedness. That we impress upon them that freedom is predicated on the ability to make choices and that until they are willing to read and learn about people, places and things outside their world, they are really not free. Not free to be the best they can be.
I was reminded of this when I read that racist comment by that blogger, a man imprisoned by a closed mind filled with false information. I thought about the joys of life he's missed. Wondered, what self fulfillment and growth will he forego? That is what compelled me to write this. To share this thought.
Kudos to storytellers, be it mystery, romance, science fiction, thrillers, literature or poetry. Characters and drama that reflect all human types and cultures can only enhance the development of mankind.