“…there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.
The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an “awesome God” in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”
— Barack Obama, 2004 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address, “The Audacity of Hope”
Today’s Word Count for the Novel: 261,419. 56 words added.
Page Count for the Novel: 931. Okay, here’s what happened: I wrote a new scene and I’m fusing old scenes (one of which I cut along with 300 pages back in the spring). So while I’m getting my bearings, things are getting longer. Temporarily. I mean it.
Dear President-elect Obama,
Congratulations on your election to the highest office in the land. You ride the wave of what I will call The Hybrid Zeitgeist. It’s a belief that we as people and as a body politic are so much more than our labels. White, black, gay, straight, Christian, atheist – these are just some of those odorless, tasteless, cardboard terms only good for making boxes to stuff us in. The truth is, we are all “mutts” – the term you used this past week when describing potential puppies for the family – and yourself.
Here’s what I know about mutts, since any cats I’ve known fit that profile: Mutts are survivors. They are not only savvy but lean and tough. I didn’t think I could call a person a hybrid, but the dictionary says I can: Mr. President-elect, you are “a person or group of persons produced by the interaction or crossbreeding of two unlike cultures, traditions, etc.” The environmental movement tells us biodiversity is a good thing. Hybrids are bound to happen naturally, and hopefully the manmade sectors like the automobile industry will start imitating Mama Nature.
President-elect Barack Hussein Obama, your election has inspired me to think not only about history, change, and progress, but also about personal responsibility. My personal responsibility to my beliefs, which play out in how I handle my finances, in what I give to the community, and in what issues from my mouth. I’ve been thinking about integrity and what it means to speak one’s truth.
Here’s a truth about my writing:
It’s a Sex in the City novel meets Christian inspiration; it’s Bridget Jones Diary merged with Girl Meets God. Crossbred fiction, you could say, and conceived of long before I was a fan of any of these other pop culture fictions. When I first described the book’s subject more openly a few years ago, I joked it would make both the Christians and the Atheists mad. (I believe that if we’re going to speak in clichés, Atheists deserve a capital letter, too.) My brother-in-law joked, “Sounds like you got a bestseller there!” Even to describe my book, I chose to speak in stereotypes, consigning the human race to two polarized camps, and in so doing, led the listening crowd to wonder if such a book as mine would ever be more than niche.
But since your election, I feel much surer of something I’ve sensed for a long time and stated by you to the nation back in 2004 – that the time of partisanship and division in all areas political and spiritual is ending. That it’s okay to irritate those who would say, “You can’t be a progressive and a Christian” (yes, a direct quote said once to me) or “You can’t address sex or allow cussing in a Christian book.” Or, better yet, it’s okay to write to an audience of mutts, because that’s a guaranteed market of folks who would understand.
I believe God to be as complicated as people are, only a much nicer guy. I believe He doesn’t frown on the profane as much as we think, having made us out of dust and all. The sacred tends to always have a little dirt and dust mites on it. Just the nature of life on this planet.
President-elect Obama, you have a tough road ahead, but you have already convinced me of some of your admirable character traits. You are a listener, which is key when trying to cross party lines and create hybrid legislation. You tend to think before you speak, which always helps in a dialogue where opposing powers are vying for say. Those two characteristics alone are going to bust up some paradigms and ways of doing business. I also believe you have the integrity to rise above politicized doublespeak to tell us the truth of what you believe, despite whatever criticism might ensue. You know you speak for a country of hybrids counting on you to do so.
You can’t go it alone. The rest of us mutts have got to help. We can start by telling our truth and listening to the truth of others.
Today’s Writing Goal: Link together disparate, episodic scenes, and cut 1,000 words.
Writing Prompts: Please note that writing prompts should always be pursued in emotionally-safe environments with the supervision of someone who interested in encouraging good writing, self-awareness, and reflection. A wonderful resource is Pat Schneider’s Writing Alone and With Others.
© Lyn Hawks. Writing prompts for one-time classroom use only and not for publication in any form elsewhere without permission of this author.
Option #1: Difference is Good!
America is a country of many different types of people. What are special qualities do you possess that make you different from other people? Think about your looks; think about what language you speak at home; think about places you have lived. Think about talents you have; think about things you know how to do that other people might not know. Think about your personality.
Now think about someone who is very different than you. This might be a friend or a classmate or a family member. How is this person different than you?
Write a poem about you and this person you know. Describe and celebrate your differences. What is great about being different?
Option #2: Where We Come From
America is full of people who come from many different countries or parts of the United States. Where were your parents born? Where were your grandparents born? Does any of your family live outside the United States?
Talk to your family and write the stories of how long you have lived where you are and whether the rest of your family has ever lived somewhere else. If there are any sad or funny events to describe, tell those stories, too.
Secondary and Adult:
Option #1: An Ode to Difference
How is difference a strength? Think about all the ways you are different from your family members or from your friends. Make a list of personality traits, looks, physical abilities, talents, interests, hobbies, beliefs, and experiences that distinguish you from other people you know well.
Now select one element of your difference and celebrate it. Describe this part of you in detail and write an ode, which is a poem that celebrates something. In this poem describe all the wonderful parts of having this difference.
Option #2: How Hybrid Am I?
The dictionary defines a hybrid as “a person or group of persons produced by the interaction or crossbreeding of two unlike cultures, traditions, etc.”
How are you a hybrid? Think about your race, ethnicity, religion, customs, beliefs, or any other part of you that makes you a hybrid.
Now write a description of yourself in the third person by writing a letter to President-elect Obama. He has just joked that he is a “mutt” or a hybrid. Explain to him how you are a hybrid, too.