Cruelty and Kindness

I’ve heard repeatedly the last few days that this was a sorry week for the United States. I’ve also heard a good many pundits say, in regards to the current administration, its demented leader, the Republican party, and all those God-filled evangelicals who support it, that the cruelty is the point. After what I witnessed this week, I could not agree more. Our government has always exhibited a certain amount of cruelty toward the least of us, but I believe the current level of petty meanness is at a shamefully high point.

I am one of those people who might as well of hit the hospital delivery table with the word OUTSIDER etched on my forehead. I’ve never really fit in, and as a result I’ve been able to study conformity with a sharper and clearer eye than those who are comfortably within the boundaries of “acceptable.” Stuck with underdog status and the stigma of “otherness,” I’ve always supported my fellow underdogs and “others.” I remember when I really accepted my sexual orientation. My first thought was, “I’m already an outcast. Now I’ve got to cope with this, too?”

I think that compassion and empathy for folks who are shunned for their “otherness” comes through in a lot of my writing, and I certainly hope it does in the way I lead my life. I don’t know if the general theme of my upcoming book, THE HANDYMAN’S SUMMER, is coincidental to current events from the summer of 2019. I suspect the ugliness of a good many people that has been revealed in the past three years definitely had an influence on my thought process. You see, cruelty and kindness is the theme of this new book.

Those who are familiar with the HANDYMAN series will recall in the third book Mrs. Penfield’s gentle request to Ed and Rick that they take the good fortune they’ve had and use it to help men like them who are struggling. In this new book, set in the summer of 1987, the guys are finally put to the test on that request in several ways. By the end of the book, Ed finds himself reflecting on his work as a handyman being more than fixing plumbing fixtures and electrical cords. He realizes he cannot change closed minds and hearts, but he can do his best to repair the damage they create. Not a bad calling, he muses.

The events in THE HANDYMAN’S SUMMER will forever change the lives of Ed and Rick, mostly for the better. Whether intentional or not, a direct line can be drawn from those changes and discoveries in 1987 to the reality of our existence in 2019. I am looking forward to sharing this book with you later this year. No, it won’t repair any of the damage being done, but it will remind readers — and especially me — that as long as we continue to care, and we continue to cry over the horror, and continue to feel outrage at the atrocities of own government, we’ve got a fighting chance to make things better.

ONE TIN SOLDIER – COVEN – 1971 Do you remember the opening credits for the movie Billy Jack? I defy anyone to watch it today, see those horses being cruelly herded into captivity, and NOT think about the horrors and indignities our government is inflicting on good people who are simply trying to make a better life for their children.


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