Thursday, March 14, 2013
Curmudgeon's Corner: The Best Blog Post Since We Beat Hitler (SK)
Welcome back our guest poster, Shawn Keenan! He is the author of two great books, The Intern's Tale and The Buried Covenant.
I’m noticing a new trend in our culture, and most prominently, with the talking heads that squeeze themselves into the rectangular shaped boxes in our living rooms, bedrooms, and above our keyboards (fine, on our ipods, ipads, ibooks, and idontcares as well). I’m not sure how to describe it with nuance or subtlety, so I’ll just pull a page from one of their playbooks to tell you about it.
It’s the worst trend I’ve seen since Hitler started making an entire race of people wear armbands to identify themselves as genetically inferior across the face of Europe!
Ok, so did I overreach a little there? I don’t care, because these commentators and faux-experts on misplaced rage and incorrectly identified injustice use scare tactics and propaganda to force their worldview on people the same way ….
Wow, it’s really easy to slip into that (slowly pulls off shiny black, goose stepping boots).
I want to connect this to writing in some meaningful way, even though the issue is indicative of a problem that’s become pandemic throughout our entire society.
Let’s call it “The Hitler Conversation Ender”.
Now, imagine that in your book or story you were ready to introduce your villain, maybe in chapter three or so. Let’s even make him a very straightforward villain, not a lot of shades of grey (one or two at most, but, please, not fifty). Now let’s write an opening scene for him.
Trevor Gluth was sitting in the dermatologist’s waiting room, flipping lazily through a fourteen-month-old copy of Field and Stream. His eyes skimmed across the surface of the pages, never causing a ripple, never picking up a word. With every turn of an unread page, Trevor stole a glance across the room and absorbed a piece of Whitney Moon. The color of the stitching running along the hem of her skirt, the way stray hairs fell over her ears even though the rest of her hair was pulled taut behind her head, the way the carotid artery on the left side of her neck rose and fell with the twist of her head. Trevor looked back down and savored that last detail like a burst of crepe filling in his mouth as he skimmed the next glossy page. Just like Hitler would have.
So, were you starting to get creeped out? At least a little? Hopefully you wanted to know the connection, if any, between Trevor and Whitney. Maybe you wanted to know why he was obsessing over her circulatory system. If you’re a guy reading this, maybe you were curious about those Field and Stream articles going unread. Whatever your interest in the passage and the character, I’d bet my last Deutschmark I lost you as soon as I jumped to Hitler. There’s a simple reason for that. Wait, there’s actually an even more simple reason for that. Nobody’s like Hitler.
I’m willing to concede there may be people in the world today with minds as dark, as twisted as Hitler’s was, but the world is a different place, filled with people determined never to let someone like that commit global-scale atrocities again. Now, I’m sure this basic argument could be countered by people with more social awareness than I have, sighting genocide in dark corners of the globe that the mainstream media is uninterested in shining much light on, but I think for the purposes of this analysis, there is no one like Hitler.
Again, pretty glad about that.
So what does it do to your argument, or your writing, when you jump straight from a double dare to a triple dog dare in the form of a Fuhrer comparison? In my opinion, it completely invalidates the most important character reference for the validity of a person’s perspective: their judgment. I just don’t believe what anybody has to say after they throw Hitler into the mix. Here’s my logic: Comparing someone with whom you have a difference of opinion with to Hitler is crazy. I don’t listen to cray-cray, ergo, I don’t listen to you.
Lumping someone in with Hitler seems to be the go-to argument ender these days. “If you agree with this other person, you agree with Hitler, so now you have the blood of innocent millions on your hands. So who’s right now?”
Well, no one can argue with that logic, and if you try to, I’m sure there’s a nice camp somewhere you can be sent until you see things the right way.
What do you guys think?