Nothing is more frustrating than being a moderate in today’s polarized landscape, to be scorned by liberals because I own (long) guns and shoot animals, and to be scorned by conservatives because I judge and vote for presidents on their merits, believe in separation of church and state, and I see gay marriage as a civil rights issue instead of blasphemy. Unfortunately, people in my shoes have learned to keep their mouths shut, which is a shame.
If fixing the world were my goal, I’d start at home. I might consider shutting down or limiting the technological advances that have led to our not speaking to one another, the advances that have turned our local communities into global ones, that have killed newspapers and many magazines, that have, in effect, dumbed down the populace and helped shorten their attention spans. I might say to those who do not vote that they get two passes (or more for excused absences), and then they forfeit the right. I would ban lobbyists from statehouses, cut out campaign contributions, pay Congress a more equitable wage, limit their terms, and force them to buy their own insurance and feather their own retirement nests.
It wasn’t so much advice as praise at just the right juncture. I owe my life and career to Martha Hamby, my high school English teacher, who recognized a tiny grain of talent in my writing. If not for her encouragement, if not for that A+ on my very first essay, entitled “That Sonofabitching Armadillo” (about a deer hunt gone wrong), I’d probably be working in a foundry, punching a clock and hating it.
My guilty pleasure is writing creative nonfiction. Before I bought Alexandra Fuller’s autobiographical debut novel, “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight,” I had little use for nonfiction (outside of writing newspaper and magazine features). I bought that book because I’d fallen in love with southern Africa. And hers was a tale of growing up in the former Rhodesia. I devoured it, and I’ve been carrying a journal with me ever since, scribbling not only notes about my life, but also about the people and places I encounter.
I began answering your questions with political and social observations, which I hope doesn’t give a false impression of me. I’m really not a grumpy old man. I’m far more the laid-back, somewhat-oldish-but-not-really fiftysomething – a writer, first, and also an artist. I didn’t start painting until 2001, upon returning from a safari in South Africa. My first painting was of a group of AIDS orphans who sang and danced for me around a campfire.
You have to check out his art website at www.mikehandleyart.com.
Go to his blog at http://handlets.blogspot.com
And he also created a website last year for flash fiction writers: http://houseofwriters.ning.com
A few random thoughts …
- Labels are for ketchup (or bourbon) bottles.
- Art is not something you buy at WalMart, K-mart or CostCo.
- For the life of me, I cannot understand why Twitter is so popular.
- Buy books, even if they cost more than downloads.
- Believe exactly 25 percent of what the talking heads say on television news shows.
- Um … What is scrogging?
Author’s note: I cleared up what scrogging was for him, but I also told him I was stealing his label quote!