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The Bonfires of Halloween keep Burning

Watching the news of the demonstrations and disturbances across American cities, I can’t help but wonder how things would look like if instead of the defeated candidate and the outgoing president telling their supporters to give Trump a chance we had a defeated Trump, who had said the election was rigged, that he might or might not have accepted the result, and who has been inciting violence for the last year.

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Photo courtesy of http://wolf-bain.deviantart.com/art/Bonfire-185136996

I’d planned to write a post about Halloween, and this is mostly about that, but this last week is like a bad horror show that won’t end.

I went to Ireland for Halloween this year, the first time in at least a decade. In case you don’t know, Halloween is an Irish festival, called Samhain, which has been carried out since Celtic times. One of the most important parts of the celebration is the huge bonfires we have – which is my favourite part – despite ending up in the hospital ER after doing something stupid when lighting our neighbourhood fire at the age of thirteen.

The local councils always tried to take away our stash of firewood. I heard they are cracking down more nowadays – using drones to investigate the top of roofs and other inaccessible places, which is just plain cheating! It hasn’t happened yet – on my way through the working-class neighbourhood of Tallagh on Halloween afternoon, it seemed there was a bonfire for every twenty houses, and I wondered where the kids had got so much fuel from. There are not enough kids in my own neighbourhood to have a bonfire these days, but I hope the kids are able to outfox the councils and hide their firewood – if they’ve to stash it in their own garden sheds and garages, then I’m sure some will.

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Kids building a bonfire in the next housing estate to my home in Ireland.

Without the bonfires, there is a danger that it will dissipate into a simple consumer-oriented excuse to eat sweets, with kids saying trick or treat instead of asking for apples and nuts – not that they get nuts nowadays in the age of sugar over-consumption and peanut allergies.

In my memory, it was always a one-day event. The night of the 31st is when the dead can come back to the world of the living and wreak their havoc. Now, it’s at least a week-long affair, much like it is in America, where houses are decorated in the middle of October.

It was strange to go into the city centre on the Saturday night and see so many people dressed up two days before the traditional day for donning costumes to disguise oneself from roaming spirits. It seemed more serious in the old days – a night to be careful and avoid not only those original enemies of the dark, but the drunken assholes: one of which caused me to visit the ER a second Halloween night – though that guy was an asshole even when sober and got his comeuppance eventually in the form of a knife in the heart.

Which brings me to another new trend – the assholes dressed up as scary clowns jumping out at people with knives and chainsaws and whatnot to frighten the shite out of them. It reminds me of those pricks who film themselves insulting black people and other minorities to see their reaction. Well, a few of those clowns got a reaction they weren’t expecting and ended up in the ER themselves, just like those dickheads got their comeuppance and were given a few punches in exchange for their insults.

Many good people are fed up being harassed, and aren’t going to take it so good-humouredly. People say that the protesters across America are a disappointment to their democracy, but it’s an indication that they’re not going to take this rise of xenophobia lying down.

If Trump had lost, his supporters would be doing a lot worse, I’m sure, and he’d be egging them on.

I’ve a lot of friends in America who are minorities of various sorts. Some of them are military veterans. They’re scared and upset as they ponder the fact that a racist, sexist etc. wanker has been elevated to the position of president, and how much licence that gives the narrow-minded people who voted for him (and I know not everyone who voted for him is an overt racist, but please, they legitimised those who are).

But many of them are also galvanizing themselves for the fight they coming. They say they’re not going to face this hate with civil disobedience and peaceful protest. They’re going to arm themselves and fight back fire with fire.

That could make this bad dream cross the line into a nightmare.

And I apologise for that sentence to those I know are already living a nightmare.

Scary times indeed.

 

 

What Some Kids Just Cannot Do

http://www.upworthy.com/the-things-a-black-kid-is-often-taught-not-to-do-that-his-white-friends-can-do-are-heartbreaking?c=ufb1

This TED talk made me think…

As some of you might know, I have an insulin-dependant diabetic daughter (IDDD?). She recently had a biopsy to see if she is celiac. It came out negative, luckily for us. I say luckily, because it would have been another pain in the ass to have to deal with, making her diet even more restricted than it is now.

She will probably develop it in the future; but for now, we just have to worry about her diet in terms of sugar intake.

These are what I call first world problems.

They are actual problems, (unlike some of the nonsense you hear people wasting their brain power on) but they can be dealt with.

She had the biopsy for free. I even got free meals while I stayed overnight with her (as a 4-year-old diabetic going under while fasting, they needed to control her sugar with a glucose drip, so she couldn’t do it as a day patient: she loved nearly all of the experience, though.). Her testing strips etc. are free, her insulin his highly subsidised, and I can afford gluten free food.

It’s more of a nuisance than a problem. She’ll never get really sick from either condition.

But that is sometimes hard to handle, considering there are so many sweet foods around.

I’m diabetic too (also type one) and so I don’t have a puritanical view of what she can and cannot eat. Yet sometimes, she just can’t have what the other kids are having for lunch. Even when it’s the last day of school and there’s chocolate custard for dessert. And it’s not easy, emotionally, to have to say no. And watch her cry (kids crocodile tears, mostly, but a little bit of self-pity she’s allowed).

But she gets over it. Next time, maybe she can have a slice of cake. Or if not, she can have a sugar-free sweet to make up, or a square of diabetic chocolate after her natural yogurt.

But imagine having to say to your kid what this guy is talking about on the link above.
Imagine having no reason to say such a thing, except that your child is a different colour. He’s not sick. No doctor said it’s bad for his health.

Except it could be.

It’s hard to get my mind around it, though I have taught kids who went through this kind of thing.

As writers, we’re being encouraged, and encouraging one another, to create characters of colour in our stories and novels. It’s a commendable exercise. I myself have a character in a new novella taking form in my brain, who is a divorced woman of colour with two kids.

We should make sure to, and I intend to, run such work by someone who really does understand the life our characters would lead. Otherwise we risk making the characters, trivial and inaccurate; mere caricatures of the people we intend them to portray. I’ve a feeling we will be told a few things that will make us think as much as this video made me think. And then go change a few things about our work.

They say write what you know, and, despite our best intentions to broaden our work to include characters that are other than white, we should remember that maxim. I don’t mean we should forget about writing minorities into our novels. On the contrary, I mean we should get to know them, so we can write well about them. We should learn their lives, so we can accurately portray them. In the process, we can hopefully eliminate such gaps between what our children have to learn about life regarding their particular conditions.