Saturday, September 26, 2020

How to Write Opinions When You're At Your Wit's End

 Political writers are America’s witnesses to history. It’s up to us to tell this story

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

I don’t have to tell you we’re at a level of chaos most of us have never seen in our lifetimes. Every day it’s something new and dire and dangerous, and every day we have to set aside yesterday’s news to try and process this new thing that sickens us and scares us and makes us want to take to our beds.

Every day we watch people give up. They can’t take it anymore. They concede we’re doomed and that’s just the way it is. And who can blame them? It feels doom-like out there. Everything is going against us.

Here in the United States we’ve passed the 200,000 mark in deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, with no end in sight.

The earth is roiling, showing her irritation at our recklessness, and she’s threatening to destroy humanity before we can do any more damage.

And, for the first time in America’s history, we’re dealing with a rogue government run by a demagogic flim-flam man who sees the presidency as the authoritarian power trip of his dreams, and is already threatening not to give it up.

And there’s more. Much, much more.

This is where the writers come in. We are the witnesses, the trained observers. We watch, we listen, we analyze, we record. It’s what we do. Those of us who write opinions knew going in we would never convince everyone. Our opinions aren’t necessarily everyone’s opinions, so — you might have noticed — we have a tendency to piss some people off.

But we slog on.

It’s our hearts that spur us on, and, because our hearts are flopping around on the outside for everyone to see, we make ourselves vulnerable. Deliberately. Why? Because we care so deeply about what we believe in we can’t keep it to ourselves. We see it as a duty to try and make readers understand. And we wonder why everyone doesn’t do it.

That’s where you come in, you writers out there who feel that same anxiety and don’t know how to express it. Do I need to say, ‘there’s nothing to fear but fear itself’? What are you afraid of, really? That your feelings will be hurt? They will be. That someone will make fun of you? Someone will. That you won’t get it right and might have to reassess? That could happen. But we need courage now, and before you can advocate for it, you have to feel it.

Our country needs us — every one of us — and our voices together will make a formidable blockade to the lies and propaganda threatening to destroy our message. We have the tools and the talent to make a difference in these next weeks before the election, but we have to get serious NOW.

Whatever you have to say doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be honest. Write from your heart and let your heart guide you. The country needs to know how we feel about the events unfolding before us. We’re not writing for the critics, we’re writing for the people.

As the owner/editor of Indelible Ink, I’ve taken steps to convert my creative non-fiction publication to all politics, all the time — at least until this all-important election is over. I’m looking for writers and I want you to consider getting your equally all-important voice out there. I’ll help you.

As I say in our Submission Guidelines:

We’ll be a political publication practicing the politics of hope, but with our eyes wide open. Be honest about your fears, your hopes, your ideas for a better future. Challenge us with your thoughts about better governing. Name names.
Talk about your own life, your childhood, your parents and your grandparents, if you’d like. Whatever is on your mind, whatever is keeping you awake at night, whatever is needing an outlet so you’re not screaming into pillows all day and all night.
Let’s build a fortress here made up of the ghosts of America’s past. Who are we? Where did we come from? How did we get to this place?

But you don't have to write for me. Writers everywhere are gathering in war rooms, ready to do battle. We can do it, we can spread the word, we can build a community and we can help each other.

We’re almost out of time. November is looming. We’re sending the call out to writers with the skills to help us witness, to chronicle not just the events but the feelings. We’ve never been here before. With Hera’s help we’ll never be here again.

This is a time like no other, and the noisemakers are winning. Our voices won’t get lost if there are enough of us sounding alarms, reminding Americans of our heritage, defending our need to build a country that reflects all of us, and not just some of us.

Opinion writing isn’t for everyone, but if you feel the calling, go with it. The need is great right now. If you have something to say, say it. As Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers, used to say: Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.

1 comment:

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