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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Speak Up for More than Just a TV Show...

The Shifting Sand and Sorrow

This weekend I saw Sand and Sorrow on HBO…every human being should be required to watch this documentary of what's gone on in the Sudan.
We're an educated people, yet we're making ignoring an artform. How can a country so intent on being the world's police disregard what's going on in Darfur? We barge in where we're often not wanted, yet we allow the brutal genocide of a people who desperately need and want our help. It’s staggering to know that, in my lifetime, there has been genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and is currently happening in the Sudan. We are repulsed by Adolf Hitler, but he is at least four times removed and has been emulated by other fascist extremists, and it will certainly happen again.
The Sudanese are making their place in history, their careful destruction of non-Arabic citizens. What is wrong with us? The human race, I mean… Are we so barbaric that we condone the kind of thinking that says, "Hey, you all don't like people with green eyes? I guess we can't argue with that mentality. Go ahead and kill them, but can you do it while cameras aren't watching?"
I'm proud to be an American…I enjoy the freedoms my country offers. I admire and support our troops, regardless of the missions they enforce. Those who oppose the war in Iraq have to be able to separate the message from the messenger. We must support our troops, no matter what. And if the American mentality is to restore peace throughout the world, I don't know how we can ignore what is happening to the Darfur population. Left to starve to death, they rely on aid simply to survive. A group of people who once thrived on commerce and their own resources. The Sudanese government decided those of non-Arabic descent needed to be 'abolished,' so now, after hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered, several million are left to starve to death.
Have you had enough to eat this year? What have you bought that you've thrown in a closet, a drawer, a cabinet, never to be used again? This is more than just about money… this is about a voice, action, holding people accountable. You can read this and think, I can't help…they won't do anything anyway.
How will you know unless you try?
Write your senator, your representative, even your president…this is a nation of people who demanded a TV show being cancelled be resurrected by sending corporate America packages of peanuts. Yes, peanuts. Hundreds of thousands of them. The rallying cry of Jericho fans -- Nuts! -- was heard, and the show is being brought back. If we can get people to listen to what we want on TV, imagine if we collectively cried out for help for those less fortunate…our own homeless, our battered wives, our abused children. Wealthy Americans have embraced causes by donating their time and massive amounts of money, but only a government can enforce the kind of change needed in a small country being systematically destroyed across the Atlantic.
If we reserve our energy only for TV shows, what does that say about us?

· Armenians in Turkey: 1915-1918 - 1,500,000 Deaths
· Stalin's Forced Famine: 1932-1933 - 7,000,000 Deaths
· Rape of Nanking: 1937-1938 - 300,000 Deaths
· Nazi Holocaust: 1938-1945 - 6,000,000 Deaths
· Pol Pot in Cambodia: 1975-1979 - 2,000,000 Deaths
· Rwanda: 1994 - 800,000 Deaths
· Bosnia-Herzegovina: 1992-1995 - 200,000 Deaths
· Darfur: 2004-present - 400,000 dead; 2,500,000 refugees
"Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." ~ George Santayana

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Future Writers of America!

Many of the events I do are so rewarding because I get to interact with great kids who are either avid readers, aspiring writers, or just interested in what being an author is like. This past weekend, I got to be touched by two different groups of teenagers and elementary-aged kids.

Friday, I did a video-conference through the Cooperating School District in St. Louis, connecting with Saeger Middle School in the Francis Howell School District. I talked to a group of 8th graders, and it really took me back to my Oakland classroom teaching days. These kids were fun, inquisitive, and reminded me what I loved about teaching! it was my first experience doing a video conference, and to have interaction with kids via TV was amazing! Plus, the teenagers had some incredibly insightful questions.

Click here and scroll down for photos of the event.

On Saturday, I got a second dose when I did a keynote stint for the Saturday Writers workshop: “Writing for Readers of Any Age.” I talked to a group of adult writers, as well as young writers (elementary through secondary aged). After my keynote, I did a breakout session with the kids that couldn’t help but make me smile! Along with their kids, many of the parents took part as well, and just to see the involvement was inspiring. By the end of the day, I’d made friends with people I’d never met, and had young writers planning to e-mail their work to me so I could critique it.

As a writer, there’s no greater compliment than for other writers to want your advice. To truly take that responsibility to heart can not only inspire future writers, it can also inspire the same generosity in others. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?