FaceBroke

22 03 2017

I’ve done my best. Even with blocking the most egregious sources and thinning out my “friends” list (I picked up a lot of political connections during the Sanders campaign) my news feed is still full of outrage. The steady parade of hysteria over the actions of the current administration is understandable, but hardly helpful, at least to me. And I am beginning to notice that many of the posts and shares are melodramatic exaggerations of the truth.

Like the whole Meals On Wheels thing. Yes, a particular program that provides some of the funding for Meals On Wheels is targeted for elimination. But the Meals On Wheels service itself is not being discontinued, despite multiple posts implying that it is. I don’t need the flood of histrionic memes and shrieking posts spreading inaccuracies. The actions of the administration are deplorable enough without resorting to hyperbole.

And I don’t need a steady diet of horrors. It sickens and depresses me. I have enough to deal with already without being poisoned daily by shit I can’t do anything about. It’s too bad, because I rely on FB to keep me in touch with friends, and to share interesting and fun items. There is a game I play with a friend which I very much enjoy (we’ve been at it for literally years now). I follow several groups, including a community message board that I find very useful. One group in particular I’ve very much enjoyed being a part of. But the news feed is a toxic minefield. I have to scroll through dozens of political posts and click bait to search for something good.

I know I’m not the only one. I see posts from time to time from people “taking a break” from Facebook. We all have our own reasons for deciding to do so, but I expect a good percentage share mine.

So I’m pretty much done with it. I’ll hop on occasionally to do the things I need to do, but I won’t be following the feed. If it seems like I’ve disappeared, I’m not ignoring you or upset at you. And I’ll still be posting my blog. (That’s another controversy which I’ll address later.)

I’m not hiding from what’s going on. I’ll check BBC news regularly to get a more measured perspective on the world political situation. And, as always, I’ll vote when I time comes. I’ll continue to write articles preaching sanity. I’ll act locally, where I know I can do some good. I just don’t care to participate in the hysterical play-by-play of our nation’s race to hell.

This, too, shall pass, albeit like a kidney stone.





Perchance

10 03 2017

It’s bedtime. At last. I have gotten through another day, and I can settle in, my responsibilities dispensed with for better or worse, and I can shut down. Whatever I accomplished, the things that went well, the good news and problems solved, I can take a moment to relish. Whatever went wrong, whatever I did wrong, whatever was done wrong to me, I can banish with a book. I have a cup of good, hot tea. I arrange my pillows and snuggle down under the covers. This is the best part of the day.

I take my pills and take up my book, currently an Agatha Christie mystery that I have already read, but long enough ago that I don’t recall the details—it’s familiar and comforting, and not too engrossing, the better to welcome sleep.  I wait for drowsiness to set in.

And then, the wonderful sanctuary of sleep.

The medications I am taking for insomnia continue to work well. Combined with a regular schedule and routine, I am blessed with a good night’s sleep most of the time. (To those who would leap in to offer all their non-pharmaceutical remedies for insomnia, thank you, but please don’t. Trust me, whatever it is, I have already tried it in the twenty-five years I have been battling this miserable affliction.) An added benefit which I have come to look forward to are the dreams.

Since I have been on this regimen, my dreams have become more vivid and the memory of them more lasting. It is a fascinating insight in the the workings of my busy subconscious. I don’t put a lot of stock in dream interpretation. Some of them are pretty obvious given my present waking situation. Others are just the random ramblings of neural pathways. Science doesn’t know a whole lot about what dreams are and what purpose they serve (if any); there are abundant theories. I only know that I look forward each night to them.

Last night, for example, I recall dreaming that it rained, and pools of water accumulated in the yard. The ducks were loose and having a wonderful time swimming and splashing, something they haven’t been able to do all winter. I stand on the rise looking down into the yard, smiling at their joy. There was, of course, much more to the dream, but it fades in daylight. I remember pieces. I try to remember as much as I can. Often, if I can call up a previous dream and focus on it as I go to sleep, I can revisit its theme.

They aren’t all good. I have a recurring dream in which my ex-husband has moved back into the house. He is all smiles and confidence, sure that I’ll be fine with him there, oblivious to my irritation. No matter what I say, he refuses to hear it; he just keeps smiling and doing what he wants. I can’t get him to leave. At least, when I wake up, I can feel the enormous relief of realizing it was just a dream. But more significant, in the dream, I am not afraid of him, and although I feel helpless to make him go away, it only frustrates me. It doesn’t cripple me with anxiety. In the dream, I am strong and self-assured, without the insecurities that make me so dysfunctional in the waking world.

My dreams are filled with people. I am perfectly comfortable with them. I enjoy their company. Often, I find a special companion, someone I like very much who also wants to be with me. I experience the closeness, trust, and love that has eluded me in the waking world.

Rarely, there are nightmares. Falling into cold, filthy water and being unable to get out. Needing urgently to get somewhere and being unable to find where I parked my car. Having to make an emergency phone call, but I can’t seem to see the numbers or dial the phone. Once, I came into my bedroom and saw myself. At first we embraced, but then we began to claw at each other. My other self turned angry, ugly, and vicious. It rapidly got terrifying, as I could feel what was happening to both selves. It was enough to drive me awake, trembling and breathless.

Thankfully, such horrors are isolated. For the most part I travel through strange and wonderful landscapes, or visit places supposedly familiar but very different from their actual reality. There are dream settings that I revisit from time to time; I recognize them when I find myself there. Mountains and green hills, houses and roads. Deerfield is a very different place in my dreamworld, an odd composite of vague childhood memories and other locations, merged to include bits and pieces from where I grew up in North Hampton, the summer place my parents had, and pure imagination. It is a rich, vivid, alternative reality, ever-changing and yet always with familiar, congenial elements, operating with the classic illogic and randomness of dreams which seem to the dreamer perfectly normal. My own delightful Wonderland.

When the waking world is harsh and baffling, when it is all I can do to push myself through the things I must do, presenting a good front for the benefit of those around me, I can look forward to the end of the day, to bedtime.

My sanctuary awaits.





Don’t Be an Asshole

3 03 2017

dontbeanasshole

It’s a somewhat crude term, I grant you, but we all know what it means. And it’s the right word for what I want to talk about, so I am going to use it.

I am not a Social Justice Warrior. I’m too much of a pacifist to be terribly warlike. My philosophy is simple: Don’t be an asshole. That is, do not be a thing which dispenses shit. Don’t be rude, cruel, offensive, dickheaded—all the things that one associates with being an asshole. That person who gets in people’s faces and gives them grief? Who pours out contempt on those he deems inferior? Who thinks only of what he wants and believes, and to hell with anyone else? Don’t be that guy.

Alas, some in the SJW camp carry it to extremes and, well, are kind of assholes about it. Please don’t be. If you see someone being bullied or abused, by all means step in to defend them. And it’s true, some of us might, from time to time, slip up and need our awareness raised. But it would be better if you did it without shaming and offending us in the process. Self-righteousness is an ugly thing. It tends not to create allies.

This philosophy covers a lot of situations. If you’re telling racist jokes at a party, you’re being an asshole. If you’re forcing your attentions on somebody who doesn’t want them, you’re being an asshole. If you are sticking your nose into people’s private business, passing judgement on them for who they are, what they do with which consenting adult behind closed doors, what bathroom they use, or what decisions they make with their doctor, you are being, guess what? That’s right. Don’t.

If what someone does, believes, or says harms no one and they are minding there own business about it, mind yours and leave them alone. If, however, they are being an asshole, it would be good to call them on it. Let them know that they are not getting away with it. People are noticing and they don’t appreciate it.

Of course, an asshole often doesn’t give a damn what you think. Goes with the territory. Not much you can do about somebody like that. No point in arguing with them. Just avoid them. They’ll find other assholes to hang out with and hopefully leave the rest of us alone. If not, well, we just have to do what we can to minimize the impact of their assholery. Just try not to be an asshole yourself in the process.

dont-assume-an-asshole-would-understand-this-statement

Then there are the really tough cases. Like religion. For example, folks like the Amish have got it right. They just want to be Amish and not bother anyone else in the process. Cool. This is what religious freedom is about—going about your Jewish, Catholic, Druid or Pastafarian business and waving friendly hellos to each other as you take your kid to soccer practice and do your grocery shopping. No problem.

Then you have your Evangelicals, and I’m specifically referring to the ones who get in everybody’s face and act like assholes. It’s built into their belief system; their religion is the correct one, and God wants them to spread it out into the world, including passing laws that conform to their beliefs and force everyone to salute their God. Never mind that other folks have perfectly satisfying religions of their own, or have elected to do without religion altogether. In order for these holy militants to freely practice their religion, they’ve got to impose it on others. So if we tell them not to be assholes about it, they scream oppression.

Christians don’t have a monopoly on this behavior. There are Muslims who just want to do their thing and get along with the neighbors. Good for them. They’re welcome to buy the house next to me and move in any time. But then there are the jihadists who will blow you up or do grievous bodily harm to you if you don’t lockstep with their version of Allah. Beheadings and the like is about the worst sort of asshole behavior there is. (Which is a cautionary tale about theocracies *cough* Christian Nation *cough*.)

The whole god thing doesn’t make sense to a lot of us, and so we’d just as soon not be swearing on Bibles or praying in school or having to obey laws based on the Old Testament. No offense, but it all seems nuts. Still, it’s not my business to tell you what to believe. So as long as you are not being an asshole about it, we’re good. Unfortunately, some Atheists are so convinced they are right and that religion is nothing but trouble that they try to argue it out of existence. In short, they get into people’s faces and preach as loud and obnoxiously as the worst televangelist. Don’t do that. Please.

So that’s what it all boils down to in my opinion. Common courtesy, actually. If you come into the library it doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal or a conservative, deeply religious or not, I’ll greet you with the same smile and help you find the book you want, whether it is Fifty Shades of Gray or A Man Called Ove, whether it is by Bill O’Reilly or the Dalai Lama. It doesn’t matter who you voted for. If your car breaks down I’ll give you a ride. If you want to buy eggs I’ll sell you a dozen for the same price as everyone else. You can be a gun nut or a tree hugger. You can be a Free Stater or a Socialist. You can love sports or be utterly indifferent, a hiker or a hacker, a lesbian or a Lutheran.

Just don’t be an asshole.





Boskone 54

20 02 2017
Inanna Arthen (By Light Unseen Media) minding the Broad Universe table

Inanna Arthen (By Light Unseen Media) minding the Broad Universe table

Arisia and Boskone always get compared. There’s a huge amount of sibling rivalry. Ever since the fiasco that that led to the mitosis of one con into two (that’s a story in and of itself) they have each been working to define themselves.

Arisia has blossomed into a huge circus of fandom, embracing multi-media, expanding programming to include more and more each year, and growing increasingly militant in the field of Social Justice, especially gender and transgender. Boskone has remained small, conservative, and serious. Arisia is a party con. Boskone is not. Arisia is flamboyantly diverse. Boskone, let’s face it, is not.

Until this year. Boskone 54 was different.

Lisi Gagnon: Excuse me, but it wasn't ALL Science Fiction geekery!

Lisi Gagnon: Excuse me, it wasn’t ALL Science Fiction geekery!

Broad Universe always throws great parties. No booze, but fantastic food. This year the Friday night Broad Universe party at Boskone drew an especially good crowd. We had a corner room so there was more space, and knots of conversation raveled and unraveled richly. I got drawn into one which included a SMOF (“Secret Masters of Fandom”, the hardcore folks who organize and run these things) and a long-time panelist and insider.

I love con-gossip. Like most gossip, it can drift a bit from the truth, but depending on the source, can also provide fascinating insights. What they were saying agreed with my own impressions, and with what I’d heard from others. You may take it all with however much salt is to your taste.

Arisia has reached a point where they are beginning to lose many of the more serious fans and professionals. Ironically, in their drive to be all-inclusive, they are making many people feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. Also ironically, their passionate campaign to avoid offending anyone is starting to offend people. As a result, many in core fandom are turning away from Arisia and looking for alternatives. The obvious one is Boskone.

Boskone is seeing the opportunity and seizing it. There are few if any “Lifestyle” panels. Panels discuss science, writing, books, movies, comics, all the places science fiction has traditionally thrived and continues to thrive. More than one panel I was on talked about the role of SF in shaping society and the future.  Oh, and lest you get the wrong idea, all of Speculative Fiction was represented.  There were panels on fantasy, horror, and all the crossovers and realms in between.  SF is my thing, and it’s NESFA‘s thing, but trying to isolate the genres is pretty pointless these days.

Diverse publishers, from Fantastic Books to Pink Narcissus Press

Diverse publishers, from Fantastic Books to Pink Narcissus Press

In spite of the huge traffic the Arisia dealer’s room gets, book authors and vendors find that their sales are lackluster. I know Broad Universe did almost as well at Boskone as we did at Arisia, even though Boskone is a third the size and one day shorter. Sales were brisk at Boskone right from the first day. The bookseller next to our table summed it up. He observed that the kind of person who attends Boskone is more serious about books. Arisia fans are into media, into lifestyle, into costumes, into gaming; they are not as likely to be readers. Thus, in spite of the difference in attendance, some authors and dealers are deciding that Boskone is more cost-effective to attend.

I wasn't the only one doing the happy dance

I wasn’t the only one doing the happy dance

Boskone had a much “geekier” feel to it than Arisia. There were more booksellers than costumers and “gear” vendors. Fans did come in costume and were admired, but the great majority did not. Because it was smaller, there were far more opportunities to talk to friends and to professionals. (It was also easier to get around; the elevators weren’t constantly slow and jam-packed, and the crowds were thinner.) I had a chance to say hello to all the pros who had blurbed my books. I had a chance to talk to a publisher about a project. (A new book deal may come out of this, but I refuse to say more lest I jinx it.) There were few parties, but they were good ones, very social and conducive to conversation. Even the closed ones were about getting together and sharing interests, not getting hammered.

Linda D. Addison and Remy Flagg

Linda D. Addison and Remy Flagg

There was something else about this Boskone. In the past, it has had a reputation as a con dominated by white males. Not so anymore. Boskone 54 was visibly more diverse. Panelists, vendors, and attendees included many non-white non-males. There was a different feel, a different energy. Without fanfare, Boskone is welcoming new blood. For many, it was their first Boskone, and they were enjoying themselves. For those of us who had been coming for years, it felt fresh, re-energized. For me personally, this Boskone was one of my best conventions. It had the personal, friendly feel of Pi-Con (RIP). It had the emphasis on books without Readercon‘s snobbishness. It had the feel of a traditional SF convention, but brought up to date.

Kudos to the organizers of Boskone 54. You all did a superb job. You are onto something here, and we are delighted to see it happening. I look forward eagerly to Boskone 55, and I think a lot of others do, too. If there is only one convention I attend next year, Boskone will be it.

[photos courtesy Remy Flagg and Robert Finegold]





The Great Divide

3 02 2017

political-brainsWhat is the source of the great conflicts that divide us? Is there a way to find common ground? The answer might be no, and the reasons could be biological.

Whether nature or nurture, genetics or environment, there is a distinct difference in the way people think, in their values, in what they judge important. It may be the way our brains are wired. (Scientific American: “Unconscious reactions separate Liberals and Conservatives”)

Our gut (our subconscious, our deeper, non-rational instincts) tells us what is important. What makes sense. We build our moral values from there. I expect, as with many binary characteristics we observe in human beings (feminine vs. masculine, extrovert vs. introvert, etc.) there is more of a grey scale than black and white. But that might just be the way my mind works.

Because there are those who insist on black and white. They value absolutes. Certainties. There is a right way to do things. Immutable laws that God has handed down. This group tends to identify who are the good people and who are the bad people. The good people are those who agree about what is right. One takes care of and supports the good people. Unquestioning devotion to duty; party loyalty and national pride; my tribe, right or wrong. The world is a dangerous place filled with bad people. One must always be suspicious, cautious, defensive. Bad people are always trying to get away with something and they must be hunted down.

Sticking to principals is an admirable virtue. Compromise is a weakness, because why would one compromise is one is right? There is no point in trying to see the other’s point of view, because they are at best misguided, and at worst an evil which must be stopped. Good people must constantly be vigilant and battle evil whenever it arrises, and nothing short of complete victory and domination is acceptable. Superior power is the only way to ensure that good will triumph over evil. Weapons are power; wealth is power; the more the better. Only through power is there safety.

It is very important to make sure the bad are punished. If a few innocents are caught and suffer, that is unfortunate, but that is the price one pays to make sure the law is upheld and evil is crushed. Truly good people, smart people, do not allow themselves to get into bad situations. If they do, they suffer the consequences.

Nature is red in tooth and claw. Competition is a fact of life. It brings out the best in us and assures the steady progress of the species/race/nation/tribe. This is true in economics as well. A free, unregulated market is the best way to weed out the lazy and inefficient and reward hard work and cleverness. If one falls behind, it is one’s own fault. Or possibly bad luck, but there’s really nothing anyone can do about bad luck. In order for there to be winners there have to be losers. Poverty is inevitable. Jesus said the poor will be with us always.

The worldview I have just described is what makes sense to some people. They believe it, and there is much in the way the world works that supports their view. There is much in history and philosophy that they can point to. This is why no amount of argument can change their minds. Arguments that contradict their worldview make no sense to them. The same is true for those at the other end of the scale.

These people see the world as filled with uncertainty, in constant flux, and one must constantly adapt and grow. We are meant to be happy and life can be filled with joy. People are basically good, or a mix of bad and good, and one can’t make blanket judgements. Laws and rules which allow no room for exceptions are unjust, because every case is unique. Each must be judged reasonably and compassionately. Laws which are unfair or which prove to be useless should be abandoned. It is better to risk a guilty person going free that to punish someone who is innocent.

Nothing is immutable; everything is complicated. All opinions have a right to be heard. One must constantly be ready to change one’s mind. Wisdom is found in unexpected places.

We must all work to alleviate the hardship in the world. Jesus told us to help the sick and the poor. Suffering is the enemy. No one is beyond help (with certain untreatable, unreachable exceptions). Knowledge and understanding are the real sources of power. Weapons and money should not to be pursued or amassed any more than necessary.

One’s principles, leaders, all authority, must be called into question if more harm is being done than good. Compromise is not weakness; it is the way people work together to achieve common goals. Empathy is of critical importance. Compassion should know no borders, no nationality, no religion. One must risk trusting others. The potential for good outweighs the dangers.

Capitalism and a free market are good up to a point, but regulations are needed to prevent abuses. Socialism is a useful way for people to cooperatively pool their resources and make sure things get done that benefit everyone. No one should be left behind. The government should have a strong role in protecting and helping those who are in need and addressing social injustices.

Cooperation and compromise vs. competition and ambition.

Responsibility for all beings vs. take care of me and mine first.

Tolerance and flexibility vs. absolute right and wrong.

Trust vs. suspicion

Each side is quite certain that their way is the best way. Each side is baffled that the other side does not agree. Hardwired inside of us, this fundamental difference governs how we perceive reality. Like how cilantro tastes to us, or whether a particular color makes us happy or sad.

If this is so, I am at a loss. In this climate of high passions and violent rhetoric, how do we keep these differences from destroying us?





Welcome to the Madhouse

20 01 2017

scream-insanity

Barking, face-eating insanity.

If the United States of America were an organism it would be terminally ill, diseased and demented, biting itself in rabid fury.

How can anyone living in this toxic society maintain their individual sanity? Or maybe they don’t. It would explain the epidemic of violence, anxiety, depression, and suicide.

We are surrounded with visions of dystopia. We are hammered with reasons to be angry and afraid. Urged to fight back against the enemies who want to destroy us and all we hold dear. Every difference of opinion is turned into a desperate battle of ideologies. Instead of rationally discussing our differences and finding ways to peacefully coexist, we go to war for what we each believe in, creating a hostile cacophony.

Our competitive, success and money driven economic system, powered by greed, justified by free-market mythologies, brings excessive affluence to some and leaves the rest struggling. The successful shame and taunt those left behind, calling them losers, lazy, unworthy. When the savage inequities of our economy push people into the street, those with comfortable homes turn up their noses and demand that the homeless be swept out of sight.

Why is there so little compassion towards the poor and so much contempt? Why are appeals to offer aid met with parsimonious outrage? Why are there cries to slash programs designed to ease suffering and assist the vulnerable? Where is the sense in praising tax cuts for those most able to afford them, while the budgets of schools and the salaries of teachers are paid grudgingly, each penny counted and questioned?

Insanity.

It percolates down to the local level. Individuals claim to be posting news and information when all they are spewing is bile and bias, gossip, half-truths, innuendo and opinion. They are as much a “news source” as Fox. Perhaps they look to the national travesty for validation. Their opinion is the truth. Other’s opinions, if different, are lies. Facts are cherry-picked to push their agenda. Contrary data is ignored. If the Town chooses not to go along with their demands, or grant their petitions, they protest that they are being ignored and threaten a lawsuit. If other citizens criticize their actions and say so publicly, they call it slander and libel.

Funding for social programs is being slashed at the state and national level (all in the name of cutting taxes, although such gutting of programs actually reduces the average tax burden very little). More and more we are called upon to do what needs to be done at the local level. Complex regulations confuse the effort and confound the needy, whose numbers continue to grow as the population ages, and as crushing social and economic pressures take their toll. And yet there are people who seem deliberately oblivious of this, refusing to acknowledge the need for a skilled and savvy welfare officer, refusing recognize the increasing burden on schools, ignoring the pleas of both the fire and the police departments. It is as if they, and those like them at the state and national level, are determined to frog-march everyone back to some blissful era reflecting 1950s television, when what they are actually doing is sending us into a Dickensian social nightmare.

Instead of working together, the Boards and Budget Committees have adopted an adversarial stance. Individuals appoint themselves crusaders in a great battle, demanding justification for every dollar in the budget and slashing ruthlessly if they deem the justification insufficient. Lines are cut with no regard for the consequences. They use “socialism” as a pejorative, ignoring the fact that it is nothing more than people pooling their resources (as taxes) to take care of things they cannot do individually, like maintaining roads and schools. Their sociopathic insistence that government has no roll to play in advocating for the least powerful of its citizens denies all the history of horrors that made social programs and labor unions necessary. They dig in their heels and refuse to back down even in the face of new information, as if this makes them heroes.

A bit like Congress. Never compromise. Never allow the other party to have the smallest victory. Stick to the party line with absolute inflexibility, as if this were an admirable virtue and not psychotic self-destruction.

I am a writer. Words well up in my mind: stories, ideas, thoughts, haunting me until I write them down. I have been told I ought not to express myself freely in this blog. Such is the state of fear and antagonism in this small town of mine, reflecting the national pathology. Goodness knows the Town has reason to be nervous; in spite of tirelessly beating the drum of saving the taxpayers money, one litigious individual has cost the Town many thousands of dollars in frivolous lawsuits. (One judge referred to the person as a “vexatious nuisance” in a public ruling). Indeed, the free expression of my opinion in a previous post evoked an almost immediate threat of a libel suit. Nonsense, of course, but this person knows such threats frighten people. It is a way to control them and silence them, a way of getting revenge on those who disagree or refuse to behave as this person thinks they ought.

It brings to mind the psychopathic absurdity of the Red Queen shrieking, “Off with their heads!” every time something displeases her. This nation has become a dark and menacing Wonderland. The last election and the present inauguration set the tone for the rest of the country. Appalling beyond comprehension.

I sincerely regret any collateral problems my writing self may create for others. True, speaking out can complicate things. Many feel it is better to be quiet and not stir up the bees (or the Red Queen). But as our civil rights and liberties slowly erode, I will cling to the one that may save us: our right to free speech. Our freedom to speak allows us to share truths that might otherwise be suppressed. To call out the insanity. But freedom is always a double-edged sword. Free speech has also allowed far too many people to shout “Fire!” in the crowded theater of our national discourse. The ensuing panic has led to the present madness.

Barking, face-eating insanity.





Of Bluejays and Titmice

9 01 2017

jaysfighting

It’s cold outside. The temperature plunged into the negative overnight and this morning is not much improved despite a bright sun rising. I was out first thing to haul water to the ducks and hens. I filled the wild birds’ feeders last night, so they’d have breakfast waiting for them. I ought to be getting ready for Arisia, the SciFi/Fantasy convention in Boston next weekend. I’ve got a new book to plug. I’m presenting a workshop on “Reading Your Work Aloud.” I’ve got several panels to prepare for. I have half a dozen emails in my inbox waiting to be answered.

Instead I am sitting here lingering over my coffee, watching the jays quarrel over bread. They make me think of the Municipal Budget Committee meeting I have to attend tomorrow night.

I suppose most small towns are like this. Combative factions with different agendas plot and accuse and gossip and grandstand righteously. Saner heads try to calm everybody down and talk sense. It doesn’t work. Trouble-makers and self-appointed white knights strut and lecture, stoking the fires of controversy. They love a spotlight.

And I’ve gotten sucked into it.

I really did try to keep my head down. But I work for the town and with the public. I’ve been involved with the Historical Society, and when a difference of philosophies and a clash of personalities forced me to quit in disgust, I wound up working for the Heritage Commission (the latter being a town organization and the former being a private organization; they don’t play together well).

My boss, the Library Director, is retiring. When she announced her intentions a while back, the Library Board of Trustees unofficially approached me, hoping I’d take over. At first I said no. It’s a bit more responsibility than I really want, and my boss leaves very big shoes to fill. She’s a town institution, been in the position for as long as most folks can remember, and a damn hard act to follow. But then I was suddenly left on my own, with a mortgage and a house to take care of, and an income of $10K per year. Now the director’s position looked a tad more appealing.

Well, this has sucked me even further into the machinations of town politics. Naturally the job of director has to be posted, and there is no guarantee I’ll get it. But the Library Board of Directors is favorably disposed towards me. If a better candidate comes along, they must consider them, but given what the town is willing to pay, a competing highly qualified candidate is unlikely.

Oh yes, what the town is willing to pay. That brings us back to the Municipal Budget Committee and the annual sturm und drang of the budget process. Remember the political adage about making sausage?

What makes this whole thing even more “interesting” is that I have stirred the animosity of the one person in Deerfield that no one want to upset. It’s a long story, but this individual has been notorious for years, both in our and surrounding towns. This local icon is a self-styled authority on The Correct Way of Doing Things. Woe betide anyone who has a different opinion on the matter. Icon has a good working knowledge of the RSAs regulating town government, and quotes chapter and verse. The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.

Anyway, I’ve been following the antics in various public meetings over the budget, and both witnessed and heard reports of what, in my humble opinion, is sheer arrogant ignorance. I was mentioned on a couple of occasions, but mostly I was furious at the way good people trying to do their job were being maligned and attacked by Icon and the members of Icon’s gang. I wrote a scathing indictment of them for the local online newspaper. The next thing I know, Icon is emailing me threats.

The subject line was “Do you know what LIBEL is?” Icon listed all my offenses, real and imagined, accused me of having no honor or scruples, and said I’d better be ready to “legally prove your writings.”

I am not surprised. Folks go in terror of saying a word against Icon that might be overheard. Icon has sued the Town on multiple occasions. The most recent one was thrown out, but still, every lawsuit costs the Town money which it can ill afford. Icon knows how to make trouble for anyone who dares to speak against Icon or that which Icon judges to be The Correct Way of Doing Things. In short, Icon is a bully, and all the kids have been handing over their lunch money out of fear of getting beaten up.

Bless them, there is a group in town which is fed up with this bullyshit. A growing number of folks are ready to go public in united opposition to Icon and the gang. The result will no doubt be loud, nasty, and litigious. I do not wish to be a part of it, but here I am.

The blue jays have gone off, taking their shrieking and squabbling elsewhere. The feeders are now being visited by chickadees and titmice. They politely take turns, flying up, grabbing a seed, and going to a nearby branch to enjoy it. It is a pleasure to watch. It brings joy to my heart. I’d rather be a titmouse than a jay.