Sunday, March 28, 2010

You never talk politics in polite company. Thank God we aren’t polite.

by Joelle Charbonneau

I’m not really going to talk politics. Well, not exactly. But I have to admit that the current political upheaval over the Healthcare Bill has me thinking. Yep…smoke is coming out of my ears from the effort. I have lots of friends whom I talk to on a regular basis be it on the phone, in person or through e-mail, Twitter or Facebook. Most of these people are stable, rational human beings. (There are lots of creative types amongst my friends, so I use the word stable loosely. The jury is still out as to whether that word applies to me.) On a typically day, I can count on these people to be kind, funny, snarky or disgruntled. They make me laugh and sometimes they make me cry. They’re normal (yeah, qualify this one, too) people.

Until politics come into play.

Last Sunday night the Healthcare Bill was passed and all hell broke loose on Facebook. People who I believed to be rational suddenly started foaming at the mouth. Words that I never dreamed my friends had rolling around in their heads were suddenly spewed forth. I learned some ugly truths about some people I like. Some are racists. Some are bad losers. A few are incredibly bad winners. All of them would make really great characters in a book.

Some of the best crime fiction involves every day normal, even boring human beings. A catalyst, like the political issue we are currently experiencing, suddenly pushes them from their rational state into a frenzy of action. People who sit next to you in church or whose kids play with yours are suddenly throwing bricks through windows and contemplating much worse. It is the reason so many of us are drawn to reading and writing crime fiction. The unexpected happens to a mundane person and a fascinating tale of morality unfolds.

The movie Nothing to Lose (with Tim Robbins and Martin Lawrence) is a great example of a perfectly normal guy who spirals out of control. Tim Robbins' character thinks he sees his wife having an affair with his boss. He holds it together and leaves in his car where he then gets carjacked. Now he’s a man on the edge. Instead of doing what the carjacker wants in order to preserve his life, he decides he doesn’t care and turns the tables. Suddenly, he is the kidnapper and he is out for revenge.

The movie isn’t a stellar example of cinematic brilliance, but it isn’t hard to believe that a normal guy would go over the edge so easily. We see it every day and, if you’re like me, you’ve seen it a lot this week when people talk about the Healthcare Bill. No matter how you feel about the bill itself, you might find some inspiration for your next book or story. Heck, that Dan O’Shea guy might even turn it into a flash fiction challenge. And after this week I definitely understand why people say not to talk about politics over dinner. There are too many dangerous implements at the table. Someone might end up dead.

15 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

This situation is really scary. How can passage of healthcare raise such a fuss? Every other rational country in the world has universal healthcare.
So it has to me about something else. And I fear that "something else" is the unwillingness of a lot of people to accept a black man as president. And they cloak their racism in spewing venom about other issues.

John McFetridge said...

But Patti every other rational country went through great upheaval to get where they are as well. Healthcare created huge conflict and disagreements when first introduced here in Canada - and it wasn't even on a national scale, it was one of the least populated provinces, Saskatchewan. But the doctors went on strike, insurance companies spent millions lobbying against the idea - it was a huge fight.

Most of the European countries that have things like universal healthcare and other strong public institutions only got them after huge, devastating wars where they faced down real Fascism and real Communism (think of the 20th Century as the era of European Civil Wars).

Maybe I'm just naive, but from where I sit America looks a lot better of than some shouting people make it seem.

Julie said...

I stayed off Facebook for more than 24 hours because I was afraid I'd end up hating every single friend (and they're real ones, not networking) that I have.

That was insane.

I actually can think of three off the top of my head who were spewing fantastic dialogue for wacked out fiction characters.

Sad to say it was real.

Chris said...

My employers and co-workers were convinced that anything this administration would do would be something they would shout about and fight tooth and nail regardless from the moment he won the election. The vileness and hatred they spew -- from people who are otherwise decent folks -- is very disheartening. There is and has been a strong undercurrent of racism and xenophobia in this country that no one really ever wants to admit to or talk about.

That said, there has indeed been some startling change. As pissed as I get, and disappointed, I do agree with what John says, for the most part, about it looking better than some would have you think. There just remains a long, long way to go.

I try and avoid talking politics. I just try and live my own.

Steve Weddle said...

There was something about health care this week? Hunh. Did it have anything to do with Sandra Bollocks?

But, yeah, I've been toying with the idea of writing a story about a guy whose job it is to incite riots on behalf of big corporations. You know, turn the public tide and whatnot?

You're right, Joelle, these 'real life' situations give us writers plenty to work with. Uh, with which to work. However a writer would put it.

b_writer said...

I know the feeling. I went to church today after a three-week medical hiatus, and found people almost foaming at the mouth. I made the mistake of saying there might be a middle ground, and then thanked God I was on the other side of the room from the top anger monger who stopped just short of advocating rebellion.

I know things aren't perfect, but really...

Nancy Kay Bowden said...

Good post, Joelle!

We used Britain's National Health system while living in England. We paid out of pocket for what we decided we needed when the system didn't agree--or the waiting line was too long. (Waiting six weeks to get an ultrasound when you're bent over double and running a fever IS kinda scary, ya know?)

I really can't say National Health will be wonderful or bad. It will be different, for sure. I believe having your own money available to pay for what you want always helps.

It's like choosing the tasty whitening toothpaste that freshens your breath and makes your teeth sparkle over the cheap stuff.

P.S. I never enjoy arguing politics and did not post pro or anti on FB! But I do like choosing my doctors and treatments!

Debra St. John said...

Great post, Joelle. All of this really has caused quite the stir.

danielboshea said...

Hmmmnm . . . maybe combine the the Hilary Davidson scar idea with the healthcare bill idea . . . scar, operation, organ donation, black market . . .

Mary Ricksen said...

Talking politics can make or break a friendship, depending on whether you are on the same side of the fence, or not.
So I refuse to talk or listen to it. I have heard everything from the CIA paid for Obama's schooling, (from a professional mind you), to be able to run the country???
He has the right idea, but people who have to not want to lose what they have, they worked, (Or inherited). Money is truly the root of all evil...

Anonymous said...

Interesting post...

The airports are always a good place to see 'normal' people being pushed over the edge into insane rage. You guys picked a great locale for your short fiction project.

Deb G.

Mary Marvella said...

Interesting post, Joelle. I find when the subject is politics or religion arguing is a waste of my time and effort. People believe the way they do for reasons. Any situation can be seen from at least 3 sides and few of us are interested in side 3. We prefer your side and the right side.

Joanne said...

Thought-provoking post, Joelle. My 30 year old son has been watching all of the Michael Moore movies lately, and especially talked about "Sicko."

Matt said...

I was really surprised and even shocked by the response to the bill-passing, as well.

I found the blatant dis-respect expressed by many people to by down-right offensive.

The thing I like about this post is that you're taking something "bad" - in this case the disrespect shown - and finding a positive in it. Essentially you're saying, "but what beneficial things can we do with our observations?"

I love it.

Chuck said...

An excellent "lemonade from lemons" post. Me likey.