- Complaining Comes EasyPosted on October 13, 2013 by billyraychitwood1
- Complaining Comes Easy
Seems it’s always a good time to complain about the government, one side or another, whether it be the war in Afghanistan, the year-ago Benghazi raid, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and weapons of mass destruction…leaving aside the more mundane complaints on the economy and everyday domestic living. Politics, a rather historically ugly business, just might be at an all time high in the area of complaints. Choose your side and go for it.
If you’re a democrat, you are complaining about the republicans throwing obstructive stones into the government machinery…delaying yet again a debt ceiling hike that will keep all systems afloat and the credit-rating bogeyman away…being divisive and ornery about Obama Care by asking for a delay in funding…using uncivil and deceptive tactics for political gains in the 2014 elections…uncaring about the needy and the poor folks among us who need help…only interested in the corporations and wealthy Americans…so on and so on.
If you’re a republican, you are complaining about the democrats building constituency points…catering to certain groups to build their base under false promises…bankrupting the nation with irresponsible redistribution of wealth…taking away incentive of business investments and entrepreneurs to forge ahead and create new jobs in a private enterprise system…creating a mammoth healthcare bill that is uniformly unmanageable and easily the most unintelligible mass of obscure legislation ever created…defying or otherwise skirting constitutional safeguards with executive orders…closing down national parks and stopping payments to widowed families of our fallen military…about a president who is always campaigning and has no time for negotiations and governing… so on and so on.
I should mention, too, the millions of people who go to work each day and have not the time to keep up with these affairs of government, yet are affected by the decisions that are made by our leaders. They are busy with their jobs and only hear the sound bites of the media and others who claim knowledge on the issues. In their way, they complain as well, to the extent of their understanding.
As for me, politics and religion are subjects better avoided because they are subjects that draw too much ire and bellicosity. But, what the heck! I’ll show some bias here in my more or less conservative leaning – ‘more or less’ because it was my hope that President Obama was perhaps going to make a difference when he was first elected five years ago with his voice of ‘change’. It is my feeling now, based on this divisiveness in our government, that Mr. Obama seems to be an extraordinary campaigner and orator but does very little in governing. In my opinion, he has reneged on his ‘change’ promises. After all, in almost five years, one would expect so much more from a leader than his landmark legacy ‘Obama Care’ with all of its massive bureaucratic details and expense. In fact, it amazes me that this president still enchants so many people, citizens and media alike… Surely, an NBA or NFL coach would be looking for work at this point in time.
Perhaps it’s the ‘entitlement’ personality of this man which in many ways is noble. We all want to help from government revenues those among us who really need assistance, the disabled, the aged, and the homeless. If that were not the case, uncaring ogres would be members of both parties. What seems to be missing is an oversight metric for all the entitlement spending by our government, some way to determine fraud and easy manipulation. Maybe it’s too expensive to administer and/or maybe we’ve just made it too simple a process to steal from our treasury.
Perhaps it’s the perceived charm and wit of the man. The President is most glib, effortless in his oratory and rhetoric, easily liked, and convinced he is right in his mindset for our country and the world. He has no apparent desire to negotiate with his adversaries on the right and seems always to be in a ‘campaign mode’, seemingly out of earshot of what the majority of Americans are saying about some of his near socialist views.
What I do know is that in all my years through our wars, victories, and inherent problems I have never seen the country so volatile, so angry, and so seemingly divided. What I do know is that our United States is still the most charitable and the most noble country on earth and it concerns me greatly that our world standing appears severely diminished. We are fighting a war against terror, a war that brings a monstrous and ugly new face to our enemy.
Of what I’m not aware are the top secret avenues our President and politicians must go down, the many security factors that must be considered, without the general public knowing the specifics. Of what I’m not aware would fill volumes of books, so all I have to share are my general thoughts on the politics of our day, my perceptions of how our government is tending to business. At this moment in time I’m not terribly impressed. I admit that I lean toward less government in my face, a strong military, a state of the art security system for the protection of our people, new and stronger educational goals that fit better the needs of the twenty-first century, and an economic engine driven by our private sector where experience, incentive, and vitality live.
Hey, I’m an old man! I just learned recently that millions of asteroids are out there in space, huge ones and little ones, and one could come screaming into our atmosphere tomorrow or next millennium and make all of my amateurish observations above much less than meaningful.
On that doomful note I take my leave… It’s time for lunch…
Please follow me on Twitter: @brchitwood and on http://facebook.com/billyray.chitwood
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Short Bio on: http://www.about.me/brchitwood
This old guy - that would be, me - is feeling some familiar aching but also some semblance of hope and well-being. That big old Sea out my window has a lot to do with that last part. All in all, life has treated me fairly and squarely and I'm a pretty lucky fella.
We can all be devastated at times, when those ugly events hit us, like a simple marathon turning into a terrorist plot, panic and pain, like a tradition turning into another date to remember a tragedy caused by people who find it easy to hate and to kill. A tragedy can chip away at our hearts and our hopes, and it's terribly difficult to write about. All life is precious to most of us, and we can't quite process the minds that come up with the acts of terror. Like so many of you, I'll grieve for the eight-year old boy who died. I'll grieve for the boy's sister who lost her legs. I'll grieve for the mother of the two who suffered brain trauma. I'll grieve for all those maimed and seriously damaged by this act of terror. I'll think of it as another surreal event to add to our sad days of remembrance. I'll spend some time wondering why it had to happen. I'll do what most of us will do, care and grieve. I'll be reminded as I so often am of an 'Anon' saying: "Life is really simple... People insist on making it complicated." Now, I guess I could throw out some Mark Twain gems as well - he surely knew how to simply define some of our worst moments and some of our critters (politicians and otherwise!).
Guess I'm going to the Sea outside my window and that wide pale blue sky. It gives me some peace and deliverance. It makes me think about a lot of things, like, maybe, all this good and evil is going to be with us through life. It makes me think that just maybe there's something good coming down the road on a day we least expect it, maybe something really good that some of us can't really wrap our minds around too well, maybe something that will make all the hurt and the pain go away. Guess that's what this big old Sea is trying to tell me. At least, it seems the only place I can go to lessen by a few degrees this latest human evil.
Wish there was some way to share some of this beauty and perhaps diminish some of those bad feelings you're having now. But, then, maybe you, too, have a Sea, an Ocean, a mountain, a meadow, or a desert that can give you some peace.
For me, it's this big blue-green Sea, this wide pale blue sky, the constant Sun, and this abiding faith that all we do, all we witness, good and bad, will make some sense at some incredible moment in the total arc of our time on this planet.
Follow me on twitter: @brchitwood
Preview my books: http://www.goo.gl/fuxUA
“The Sunshine Room”
On consistently cloudy days outside, on dreary wintry days, on ‘bad news’ days, it would be nice to have a ‘sunshine room.’ In our rapidly expanding digital and technological world, there is likely already a relatively simple mechanism of sorts that will illuminate a room, maybe an entire house, as though the sun was present … maybe a ceiling fixture, a wall addition, a window covering, et al. If not clear by now, I’m a sun worshiper. That’s one of the reasons I live at this latitude on the Sea of Cortez. There is sunshine every single day. Some clouds may drift by on their way to a final destination but sooner of later the sunshine is there in a beautiful blue sky.
Sunshine is important to me because of my make-up. The older I get, the more I see in our growing world, there is this tendency to become gilded in my thinking. Those folks who lean toward the liberal side might not like me too much for my views. That’s okay because there are times when I don’t like them too much. However, I do respect my liberal friends and sometimes think I’m missing something in their political and social comments. In fact, in my younger years I was more inclined to hold liberal views. Somehow, I had a change of mind along the way. Perhaps my perceptions are too simple, just too bound in historical clashes and events to think in any other way. I think about the fall of the Roman Empire, its laxity on the social issues. I think about how one man could master a large segment of the human race and murder over six million people. I think about Stalin, Russia, the purges, and the slaughters of millions. I think, in some ways, I’m seeing history repeat itself, maybe not so much for me, an old dog not able or willing to learn new tricks, but for my kids, my grandkids, and my great-grandkids.
Look, I’m no scholar who can spout off the words of the US Constitution, its Amendments, or the Declaration of Independence, but those important papers brought us to a grand place in the history of humankind. Those documents said that people can have liberty, are free to go out into the world and be all that they can be, based on their honest efforts and their brain power. I don’t have to be a scholar to know that most of the people in the world would like that scenario. Yes, we’re all created equal at birth but it doesn’t stay that way. Some of us don’t learn as fast as others. Some of us are ambitious. Some are lazy and try to figure easy ways to live off others’ toil. Some are handicapped, need and should get help from a caring nation … ‘Equality’ means different things to different people. How can a diverse nation (or, world) live up to the word, ’equality,’ when the word was meant to convey our right at birth. Where is the fairness for someone who has an idea, grows that idea into a major business where he hires people, gives them work for their daily bread, only to be regulated by a government with a long list of do and don’t. Should it not be simple enough for a vigorous person with a business idea to pursue that idea without fear of what his government is going to take from him? Should not a tax code be simple enough for everyone to understand without having thousands of pages of regulations? Should not a person expect to die and leave his legacy to family without having the government take a large chunk of his estate? Should not ‘entitlements’ be the exception and not the rule? Was the government meant to be so intrusive in our lives? Did not those beautiful documents from our forefathers postulate what the essential roles of our government branches should be? It seems to this wary and weary old dog that, through the years, we have cleverly rearranged with our fancy legalized posturing the true meaning of those documents.
So, many can justifiably counter my simple remarks here, but they are honest thoughts. There are at work in this nation and this world forces that are focused on undermining our religious and social freedoms. These forces are evil, treacherous, and they are here in large numbers. These ramblings of an old man will have no effect on this evil. These words are but a Sunday morning sermon on our times.
In any event, I’ve clearly exposed myself. That’s okay! Most of you who have read some of my posts clearly know that I’m an anachronism, a conservative, a traditionalist, whatever the convenient word. Well, that’s all I can be! My DNA lines up that way. I’m a helpless, hopeless, wanderer in this land of ‘machines’ and madness. I’m not much of a debater, so those who lean the other way can punch all the holes you wish into my little dissertation here.
Hopefully, I can sell people on the idea that I do try to adapt, to learn new tricks and new ways to please the newer order. There is clearly a newer order! Having lived this long, I see our new ‘machines of progress’ and I see new problems to go along with the old problems. In my vision it is natural for me to see old mistakes from my generation being repeated — you know, that ‘history repeating itself’ thing. It is natural for old fools like me to see new free-thinking people wanting a world community at any expense, at the expense perhaps of the freedom and liberty some forty old timers like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, William Blount, and others all in harmony felt would connect a country’s people. That ‘Constitution’ these great people of history signed was to be the blueprint for not just our country but for any country who held dear the ideals that went into that document. Amendments were added, and the road was perilous then as it is now … But, wow! what a great blueprint for a country to have!
The world changes. Knowledge explodes into rich new innovations and inventions. So, why can’t we all be on the same page in history? We know the answer, of course. The old fools collide with the new fools! It becomes more and more difficult to find consensus on this or on that. Different times? Different political persuasions? Different World views? Do any of us know who is who and what is what anymore? So much to absorb and so many machines!
I no doubt spend too much time in the ruminating room — those ‘good old days’ cannot be retrieved or altered. At least, some of us think they were good old days. So, this old fool just might as well watch the world do its thing and make an idle comment here and there…
While I’m at it, here are a few more of those idle comments:
1) The music of today ‘sucks’ (to use the vernacular)! It's too damned loud and the lyrics are lost in the mighty cacophonous
screeching of brass, drums, strings, et al.
2) We’re repeating some of the same mistakes today that brought much trouble in our history; we don't seem to learn!
3) Technology has created too many horrific 'gang and war games' to fill our kids' minds; there is too much laxity of control on the part of parents; today's games are not necessarily 'Cowboys and Indians,' tag, and hide and seek.
4) We are an ‘over-reaction’ nation: we have some beautiful children killed and we suddenly want to amend and/or make new laws; maybe the gun laws do need some modifying --- we must care and act!
5) Each side of the political spectrum uses tragedy for their agendas when all must know , should know, we can never stop all the evil that lurks in our world.
6) We should be sane and sensible, change things that can make a difference, and understand that there are some things that cannot be changed; 'We' and 'sane' and 'sensible' are the operative words.
7) Guns do not kill people — people kill people and those who are evil will find ways to carry out their evil intents …
There are many other idle comments I could make, and they are negative. People want positive, reassuring, words of promise. They want answers and problem solving. Our scientific and technological knowledge is exploding, doubling, tripling, in relatively short intervals. There is so much to absorb, of which to be aware, that we ordinary citizens stumble over it all. We are bewildered, confused, but, then, Google will help us find an answer. We go on with our lives because that is what we are to do.
Sound political? Not intended. (Well, maybe a little!) Just looking at serious minutia roaming around in my head … back in my day, we had a sniper killing off students at the University of Texas in Austin; we had the Kent State riots; we had Charlie Manson and his ‘helter-skelter’ crew; we had a socially prominent and politically active Ted Bundy killing pretty young women all around the country; there was the Los Angeles ‘Hillside Strangler’ and there was the Oregon ‘Green River’ serial killer … History from the dawn of time is dotted with evil acts — there in William Shakespeare’s time you will find evil. On and on I could go with the evil incidents that enter our lives … We react to these horrible events, particularly those that kill our children, because we can’t understand how such evil can exist. It staggers us, takes nips at our hearts and souls, and leaves us in a stupefied state of mind until — until we can go to our ‘sunshine room’ and start feeling better. The best invention in the world would be a machine that can determine without question the evil among us … then we could dump all the evil people on an isolated island far from civilized land and let them find ways to annihilate each other.
But, then, what the hell do I know? I’ll let the grandkids and great-grandkids handle the problems. I’m way too old and too tired to be trying to figure it all out … Hey, how about a real humdinger of a pep pill, a smart pill? Oh, well, a highball in an oversized glass might do it!
I’m going to the ‘Sunshine Room.’ Guess I’ve given enough ‘pleasure’ and ‘displeasure’ for one day.
“What Happens Next? A Life’s True Tale” (An excerpt)
Posted on December 10, 2012 by billyraychitwood1
Like a picture that is worth a thousand words, it’s my thinking that an excerpt from an author’s book can reveal enough pro and/or con for a reader to determine whether or not he/she wants to read further. So, here’s an excerpt from my newest book, “What Happens Next? A Life’s True Tale,” a non-fiction sketch of my life. It is a relatively short book which covers my Southern Baptist roots, the state of my faith, and some not so savory confessions of how I have lived my life. The book might very well be deserving of any label one wishes to put on it, but it is disgustingly honest and true.
Here is an excerpt from the Early Adult section of the book…
The couple resides in a second floor apartment on a lovely tree-lined
street in Williamsport. It is Sunday afternoon, and Steven Ray is sleeping in
his crib just off the living room. The wife is ironing. The husband is listening
to classical music and day dreaming, idly chatting time to time with his wife.
It is a soft afternoon somewhere between bliss and boredom.
Somehow, the conversation turns to the first month of their marriage when
the wife left Washington, D. C. for Williamsport to await her husband’s Navy
discharge. The wife is telling him about an affair she had with an old high
school boyfriend during that month she was away. It is an attempt to purge
herself of the guilt of that not so long ago tryst. The wife is wrought with the
pain of the revelation but she must be done with her guilt.
The man’s world suddenly caves in on him and he is lost in the frenzied
twittering quake of his neuronal wiring. The man is immobilized by the wife’s
confession, hardly able to move and speak. He is mindful that the time frame of
his wife’s unfaithfulness happens to coincide with the birth date of Steven Ray
and this fact adds to the anxious frenzy within his mind.
Hardly able to breathe, the distressed man leaves the apartment and his
sobbing wife. He wanders to houses of in-laws and leaves abruptly, leaving them
to ponder his dazed, pained expressions. He moves mechanically as though willed
to robotic, mindless action. He drives aimlessly and finally sits on a bench in a park,
trying to get his brain to work, trying to figure out what he must do.
The thoughts tumble down to him: ‘Is he my son? Should there be a blood
test? Do I leave? Do I stay? Where do I go? What do I do?’ He finds himself
opening his memory pages to the feelings he has when his father beats his
mother. It is that same kind of feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.
The man feels lost like that little boy of yesterday.
He returns to the second floor apartment. His wife’s eyes are red and
swollen from her crying and she is so very sorry. For whatever reason, baby in
the crib, the honesty of her confession, her sobbing wish for forgiveness, or
the simple expediency of the moment, the man forgives his wife and stays. He
simply finds it easier to capitulate, to be done with it, than to continue with
the aberrations of his mind. It seems he is an emotional cripple, unable to
handle the traumatic matters that enter his space. It is his wont to place the
blame for his inability to handle stress on his mobile and uncertain past. Is it
time for the shrink’s sofa? No, he will not give in to that.
Strangely, life is fairly good for the couple until a Sunday afternoon
gathering at Lycoming Creek’s edge in Montoursville. It is a peaceful spot where
families gather, pull their cars to the water’s edge for washing, allow their
children to wade in the shallow waters, have their picnic lunches. It is a wide
creek, and the mother-in-law’s cabin sets among the trees some hundred yards
across from where the families, cars, and kids are gathered.
A beautiful day is about to get very ugly…
That dreadful ill fated Sunday afternoon begins with all the family
oriented activities the man would want. He drinks beer with his men in-laws. The
men are gathering, lounging outside on soft comfortable chairs, looking across
the creek at the families on the other side of the river. He listens to the men
tell of their different job experiences and participates with his occasional
anecdote laced with humor.
The sun shines in a near cloudless sky, and the women bring their plates
of goodies out and spread them on the picnic table for the men to prepare and
eat at their leisure. It is the sort of day the man has always factored into his
vision of family purpose and unity. He sits with baby Steven on his lap,
alternating his adult talk with baby talk.
The man’s wife sees across the creek a family she knows, takes baby
Steven from his lap, and walks through the shallow water to the other side. The
man watches as the wife sweetly engages a young couple in conversation there at
water’s edge. A peculiar sensation hits him and at once he somehow knows that
his wife is talking to the man who could be the father of his son.
The man sits, his mind filling with accusatory, hateful thoughts. He is
lost to all conversations around him. He is riveted to the moment and the
building storm within him.
The wife and Steven shortly return, and there is a confrontation. He
cannot deny his own disturbing thoughts and must know if he is correct in his
presumptions. His wife tells him the truth. It is the old boyfriend with whom
she had the previous January affair. She does not feel that her husband has a
right to question her innocent move to say hello and show off her son. She does
not give any priority to the husband’s own perception of yet another betrayal.
She feels she has done nothing wrong in saying hello to an old boyfriend and his
The words are cross, sharp, designed to hurt. There is no stifling
anxiety now for the man, just red-hot anger. The husband abruptly and with
little fanfare leaves the hillside retreat. He motors away from the family
gathering. He is not sure where he is going but he knows he must be away. The
harsh words between the couple and the quick revving engine of his car driving
away are not lost on the in-law family gathering. Except for baby Steven crying,
all is quiet on the hillside.
Clad in a white t-shirt, dungarees, and sock-less brown penny loafers, he
goes to a military club recently joined. It is a private drinking and eating
club for veterans situated in South Williamsport. There the sourly disposed man
drinks away the afternoon, gets rowdy, surly, becomes obnoxious with some
patrons, and is asked to leave. It is dusk. He is drunk. He is unsteady and
sorely without the faculties he needs to drive his car.
After he crosses the bridge into Williamsport and turns onto the street
where he lives, he drives into some parked cars along the curb, damaging three.
He is less than a block from home. He is still inebriated but stunned back to
some semblance of awareness.
He sits at the curb as police come and a crowd gathers. He fights with a
policeman when the latter tries to put him in a cruiser and take him to jail. He
is clubbed by the cop just above the right eye. Now, his t-shirt and pants are
covered with the dirt and blood of the scuffle.
He finds himself for the first time in his life in a jail cell, and as
his sobriety slowly returns to him it might just as well be hell. His mind
begins with the scenarios. Some are woefully unclear in the focusing. He sits on
the hard cot in the small enclosure, his head throbbing with pain and
uncertainty. With his head bowed, he relives the hours of the Sunday afternoon,
the act by his wife he perceives as betrayal, the military club drinking as
plain stupid, and the ramming of the parked cars, the cop fight, as priceless in
‘Keystone Comic’ hilarity. He is not laughing, however. He is in a particular
black abyss of his own making.
The man mentally shovels on his guilt, plays the pity games, and
self-decrees that his life is over. He stands at the bars of his cell and weakly
yells at the jailer on night duty, pleads to be let out of his claustrophobic
nightmare. The jailer is kind to the man, tells him that morning will come soon,
that everything will eventually work out…
This ends the excerpt from “What Happens Next? A Life’s True Tale.” Should
you care to read the entire book, please visit amazon.com (US and UK) and/or my
website/blog and scroll down the ‘Home’ page to my books. There you will find
the links for purchasing the book — paperback, kindle and/or other e-book
formats. Here is the link to my Website/Blog: http://billyraychitwood.weebly.com
A Closet Dark With
Posted on November 15, 2012
Thought I might try to titillate you with the first two pages of a ‘Prologue.’ Call me shameless because the ‘Prologue’ is from my novel, Mama’s Madness.
This book was taken from some true life events and it was tough to write. It startled me to think that mothers of such quantifiable evil existed and doled it out at regular intervals. There are no ‘spoilers’ here and perhaps you will want to read more. The good news is that these mothers from hell are hopefully outside the reach of those reading this small portion.
From Mama’s Madness by Billy Ray Chitwood:
“Help me! Please help me!”
It is a piteous whimper, lost in the black void of the narrow closet. The weak and eerie sound of her own voice chills her more fiercely than the cold. The thought brings an aberrant amusement. Her own small voice frightens her!
A sound! A creaking sound. Far off. A footfall! Is it? No. It is not a footfall. It’s just one of the strange noises that comes in the night.
Is it night?
Time is lost. Time is gone from her world like a chunk of youth. The black hole draws her toward an uncertain vortex. She must close her eyes. But, not so tightly. She sees less with her eyes lightly closed. There is better control of her quivering body. With eyes open, the blackness comes alive with trickery.
Some crawling thing moves along her upper arm. That is her perception. She shifts and finds a wooden wall protrusion. A vertical beam. She moves her arm and body in back and forth rushes to accommodate the itch.
Her wrists are painfully numb and raw. The handcuffs seem now natural esxtensions of her hands.
Her shoulders ache in their sockets. They are taut from the pull of arms bound behind her back.
How long? God! It seems an eternity! A small lifetime she has lived in this palpable darkness. Maybe, it has been two days. The air has no texture or stir. It hangs there, stale and dank.
Her face is flushed with fever. It feels stiff and crusty from the tears running over her abrasive wounds. She squints and contorts. She opens and closes her mouth. There are sharp responses of pain. Her entire body feels leaden and bloated. When she moves there is a burning chaff between her thighs. A complacent soreness pervades. It no longer matters. Nor does the stench from her body’s waste matter.
It is her mind which throttles her. Whisks her off in searing flashes, abates, lingers amid the blackness. A fragile sentry. Both enemy and friend.
It is all happening again! She is next to die. Just like Celia. Was it a year ago? Two? Time, again, is elusive, lost. What does it matter? A year ago or an hour ago! Sarilee knows she is next. Just like Celia…
Mama had beaten Celia, too. Had gotten so mad she shot her. But the bullet didn’t kill Celia. The fire killed Celia. The bullet lodged in Celia’s back and stayed there for two years. Celia healed with the bullet there in her back. Then, Celia had wanted to leave home.
Was that one year ago?
For some unknown fathoming, Sarilee wants to be precise in her remembering. Somehow, it is important to remember this point.
Yes, it was a year ago. They were living in an apartment near the old trailer court where Mama used to live…
Okay, that’s just the first two pages of Mama’s Madness. It’s my hope that you’re interested enough to read more. It is a dark tale but there are some moments of recompense and justice.
It’s on amazon.com (Kindle and paperback). It’s on Nook at Barnes and Noble. It’s on amazonUK. It is also on other E-formats.
“Portrait In Time”
Posted on October 25, 2012 by billyraychitwood1
“Portrait In Time”
Young man, do you not see me as once I might have been?
Is it the wrinkle, the sagging skin Time laid upon me that you see?
Once I stood, perhaps like you, with noble thoughts and dreams
A new bright morning might bring.
Time wore me down with its ceaseless ubiquitous ways and subtle promises.
Time taunted and tempted me with its guile and deceptions,
With its beauty beads of love.
Time gave me its reins to run wild with the wind toward sunrise and sunset.
Time now leaves me here along the sea, better to have had its moments of joy;
Sad to have you see the frail and broken parts of me.
Young man, can you not see me as once I might have been?
(An ending poem in a book by Billy Ray Chitwood, “The Cracked Mirror – Reflections Of An Appalachian Son”)
Posted on October 15, 2012 by billyraychitwood1
Exploring the dimensions within myself! Inviting you along for the ride, should you care to come. Who knows? Maybe something useful can be gleaned.
Some younger readers of this post will likely find no lucid relevance to their own lives but might gain some insight into the working of a mind still ticking away the twilight seconds. Hidden within this time-pressed body is one of the darkest, most menacing demons it’s been my misfortune to confront. Meet my number one demon, Guilt. This bleak gnawing beast has been with me since the beginning of my thought processes, no doubt an atavistic part of my quaint DNA. Guilt has been with me since my Bible Belt days in Appalachia, in truth nourished by those very disquieting days of Southern Baptist fire and brimstone, of family disconnect, and of mobile nomadic yearnings. Guilt has ruled much of my life, and it has not been pity and some nebulous acclaim I seek in the books I pen, in the simple characters and plot lines one might find therein. It is the endless desire to better understand the soul that is hidden within that Guilt.
If you do not already know him, meet a friend of mine, James Kavanaugh, the rebel priest who would finally hold his ‘masses’ at local taverns with some rowdy blue-collar workers, or, in one of his most beautifully written books. There were some doctrinal issues with the Catholic Church, and Dr. Kavanaugh would take a leave of absence from the Priesthood, travel to California in his VW Bug, and write books. He became a most popular public speaker, and a widely acclaimed poet-author. He is no longer with us. He died in 2009 at age 81, but he has left a beautiful legacy in his books and in his papers. The two books of James Kavanaugh I shall most remember are: There Are Men Too Gentle To Live Among Wolves and Will You Be My Friend? It is his first book of poetry (“…Men Too Gentle…”) that awakens some part of me, that helps me to exist alongside my number one demon, Guilt...not to be rid of it but at least to dull somewhat its visits. It is my hope that some followers and friends who do not know James Kavanaugh will discover him as I did, particularly if Guilt plays a role in their lives.
There are other demons that are hidden within that torment me at times, the old standards, like, Prejudice, Pride, Greed, Selfishness, and Self-Loathing. There are good people in our world that seemingly have few demons, and I’m always shocked when one of my heroes or heroines fall from grace. Are demons hidden within all of us? It has taken a lifetime but I am beginning to believe that they do.
It helps me at demon-calling time to read James Kavanaugh’s Will You Be My Friend?
Will You Be My Friend?
Will you be my friend? There are so many reasons why you never should:
I’m sometimes sullen, often shy, acutely sensitive, My fear erupts as anger, I find it hard to give, I talk about myself when I’m afraid And often spend a day without anything to say. But I will make you laugh And love you quite a bit And hold you when you’re sad.
I cry a little almost every day Because I’m more caring than the strangers ever know, And, if at times, I show my tender side (The soft and warmer part I hide) I wonder, Will you be my friend?
A friend Who far beyond the feebleness of any vow or tie Will touch the secret place where I am really I, To know the pain of lips that plead and eyes that weep, Who will not run away when you find me in the street Alone and lying mangled by my quota of defeats But will stop and stay – to tell me of another day When I was beautiful.
Will you be my friend? There are so many reasons why you never should:
Often I’m too serious, seldom predictably the same, Sometimes cold and distant, probably I’ll always change. I bluster and brag, seek attention like a child. I brood and pout, my anger can be wild, But I will make you laugh And love you quite a bit And be near when you’re afraid.
I shake a little almost every day Because I’m more frightened than the strangers ever know And if at times I show my trembling side (The anxious, fearful part I hide) I wonder, Will you be my friend?
A friend Who, when I fear your closeness, feels me push away And stubbornly will stay to share what’s left on such a day, Who, when no one knows my name or calls me on the phone, When there’s no concern for me – what I have or haven’t done – And those I’ve helped and counted on have, oh so deftly, run, Who, when there’s nothing left but me, stripped of charm and subtlety, Will nonetheless remain.
Will you be my friend? For no reason that I know Except I want you so.
"Somebody Likes Us!"
We all have our reasons for writing and it's a good bet that most of those reasons are fairly standard...to fulfill a desire...to become established, famous, successful...to simply tell a story...to scratch an ego itch...for all these and many other reasons. Does it really matter what our reasons are for writing? Any reason is valid and need not be magnified, right? Well, not quite. Some might write to hurt someone, to slander, to libel, to ruin someone or some entity. Let's just assume for this post that our reason for writing has a noble intent and has no malicious purpose.So we write a few books and there come the critics, the reviews that can range from 5-Star to 3-Star, even lower. The world of reading seems to thrive on reviews, what someone thinks about her/his reading experience. There are professional review services. There are housewives, husbands, people in book clubs, avid readers who are moved to comment about a writer's effort. It is a fact of life in the relationship between reader and writer.
So, you have written what you consider a relatively good book...sure, even you can in the final pre-publish reading find things you could change --- extend a section, remove a section, embellish here, there, increase the length, decrease the length, etc. In the end you feel that you have written an entertaining book, maybe not the perfect quintessential novel that you know is
still inside you somewhere but a good book. The reviews line up, the 5-Star, the 3-Star, the 1-Star, the fractional Star, and you begin to analyze the reviews, maybe even agree with a point or two the people are making. The emotions begin to swirl. Of course, you gravitate toward the 5-Star, 4-Star reviews and are elated. The bad reviews bring conflicting thought patterns. There is an initial sinking feeling which will likely become anger, and, at some point, you will equivocate, deny, only to finally acknowledge that perhaps the negative points made in the bad reviews have validity.
Your thought processes on reviews run the gamut. 'What gives this person the right to publicly condemn my efforts, this Hannah Housewife, this Harold Husband? Hell, I likely gave them the book free on amazon during a free giveaway day! Cost them nothing and they're critiquing me!' You go back and re-read the 5-Star and 4-Star reviews, get some renewed sustenance. But, most of all, you're in a dither and doubting yourself and your writing talent because you could not please everyone. Chances are very good you are not being controlled by a publicist, someone who shelters you from this wasteful
dithering. As an independent author you are a one-person publishing house, writing, editing, marketing, promoting, getting lost in all the digital world's 'ways and means.'
Does an established, famous, author get a mixture of critiques? Perhaps not so many because the pros have the reading Pavlov public 5-Star oriented. But the truth is, yes, even these most popular penners of best sellers get their negative reviews as well. They have a much better shield in place to deflect the nasty words that cause the dithering.
All of this is not to say that you, I, and the countless other writers do not have our book flaws. Most probably, we have many flaws in our books, and with each new book we write, we are getting less and less errata. We are, as they say, growing our craft. Will we get to that stage where we live among the giants of our writing world? Some certainly will because talent cannot be denied too long.
It is very difficult to separate ourselves from the critics in the writing field, but we can remember what our reasons are for writing. We will still experience the dithering, but it seems to me we have to stay true to whom we are. If we are getting 5-Stars along with some minimal Stars, somebody likes us. And, that is the message: remember your reasons for writing and just know that somebody likes us. My belief is you get better with each writing effort. Just stay committed to your course. Believe in yourself.
Somebody Likes Us!
Can There Be Neutrality?
Posted on September 13, 2012
On the anniversary of one of our country’s worst civlian nightmares, September 11, 2012, an American Ambassador and three other Americans were killed in Libya. On the same day in Egypt the American Embassy was stormed by a radical Muslim faction that set fires, ripped up our flags, and caused not only much damage to the buildings but much fear to our small community of citizens there. Two countries, one still trying to form a semblance of government in a post-Moammar Khadafi environment and one whose passive government chose not to intervene in the American Embassy destruction.
Was it a coincidence that these two events occurred on the anniversary of 9/11? Were the events somehow a sign post signifying a beginning or a beginning of an end? And, what do these two events have to do with writing?
The last question will be answered first. I am writing! I am writing because these two events got me thinking about the posture of the world, of all our great nations. The events got me thinking about my kids, their kids, and their kids’ kids. The thinking is not the good and wholesome kind of thinking, and I need to write about it. It is thinking that will undoubtedly be unsettling for some and will likely fit right into some others wheelhouses. I’m writing about neutrality, but more precisely, my inability to stay neutral on certain issues that are facing America.
Our two political parties had their conventions during the last two weeks, and they were polar opposites as far as platform and vision. They most certainly got me thinking, and, with the two 9/11/2012 events in Libya and Egypt, all these events combined to give me a first class migraine.
Were the Libya and Egypt events coincidental? I’ll answer with this question: is there a tooth fairy? Were the Libya and Egypt events a sign post to a beginning or to a beginning of an end? My answer to this question has to embrace the political conventions, but here is my attempt at an answer with abundant questions thrown in.
At one political convention, speaker after speaker had a portrayal of our country in great economic decline, in great need of jobs, new leadership, new commitment to a strong ‘carry a big stick’ foreign policy, less govenment control of our God-given freedoms, the power of the individual to succeed as far as her/his potential permits without de-incentivizing federal regulations and runaway tax codes. The speakers at this convention spoke to the convservatives among us. Were these speakers speaking truth or fiction? Would it be better to ask the unemployed and all those who were promised ‘Hope’ four years ago,
promised by a man who said he would be a one-term president if he did not succeed in bringing the unemployment rate down below eight percent?
At the other political convention, speaker after speaker regaled the beginning of Hope’ that started almost four years ago. The speakers talked of needing more time to implement that ‘Hope,’ that new society where everyone got a fair shake. The speakers railed about inheriting the worst economy in a generation. They cheerfully blamed their political foes for being uncooperative and not offering any solutions to the issues facing the nation. The speakers said nothing about having the entire government in their hands for two years of the new presidency. The splendid speakers mentioned achievements in getting our
troops out of Iraq, bringing more troops home from Afghanistan and they talked of killing Usama Bin Laden. They talked again of ‘Hope.’ The speakers spoke to the more liberal among us. Were these speakers speaking truth or fiction? Would
it be better to ask the unemployed and all those who were promised ‘Hope’ four years ago?
So, yes, the events in Libya and Egypt do signal a beginning and a beginning of an end. Here’s where I leave ‘neutrality’ and give my simple soliloquy, powered only by my heart and by my limited intelligence quotient, prefaced only by saying that I’m no politico, no shill, just someone who cares about the direction his country is going, who wants to share what he feels. It is
impossible to maintain a neutral position when the stakes are so high at this moment in our history. These are my thoughts. Try not to hate me for them — loving me for these thoughts is so much better!
My wife, Julie Anne, made it so crystal clear to me. She quoted an old saying: “Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” She also reminded me that we have Greece, Rome, Russia as history markers, great countries who failed in their socialistic networks. She reminded me that we need to help our poor, our elderly, our sick but be able to discern those who would take advantage of our largesse. We discussed the issues to the best of our abilities. But, then, it is easy to discuss when your belief systems are the same. It has always amazed me how good people can differ on issues with fairly
For what it’s worth, here are my conclusions. We have today a near government-dependent majority in our society, if not already a majority, that is, people on the public dole to one extent or another, people who are indeed needy mixed in with many (who can say how many?) who are simply there for the free hand-out. It bothers me when I hear people say I don’t care about the poor and sick among us or my statement that we need to weed out the freeloaders of society. I remember my dear mother during post-depression days in Appalachia working two jobs to keep her son and daughter with her. I remember her dying in a senior care facility bed when I was not there, and the thought still brings me pain. Caring is of the heart, and my heart cares, but my mind cannot accept the individual’s rights being sucked away by a government whose wish is to take what you and I make and redistribute it to a mass of people who may or may not need my help, who may or may not be lazing around just waiting for the next government check. We are becoming too much of an entitlement country. We need to know where our tax dollars are going, and it’s fine if the dollars are going to those who truly need. We need to stop with the class warfare rhetoric, the trash politics and lies, and we need to stop playing race cards…
Whoa, I’m getting too revved up! I’m also becoming conscious of my narrative's length, so I’ll end it here.
It was simply important for me to express what I’ve been thinking since those conventions and since the terrible events of Libya and Egypt.
Can there be neutrality? Not from where I sit. But, maybe we can calmly talk and hear each other out, maybe do some old fashioned compromising. It is actually time to change the face of politics, time to put some faith and trust back in the hearts and minds of the people, time to stop the special perks our politicians enjoy, time to build, create, and enjoy what our labors can produce, time…time for me to stop writing.
Is not freedom and liberty great that I can give you my thoughts and yours to me?