A Taste of Wrath - pt 2
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woohooligan Mar 9, 2016
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Why do we identify with the heroes in our stories? When we go to a movie or read a good book, why do we root for the hero? Why do we sit on the edge of our seat, when we already know the outcome?

I think we all see ourselves as the heroes of our own story. I don't mean that we see ourselves as having super-powers or always being of superior character than the people around us, just that we see our own lives as a story in which we strive to be the protagonist. We always want to be at peace with ourselves and our own decisions, you know, to be able to "live with ourselves" and "sleep at night." And beyond just not becoming a seething cauldron of self-loathing, I think there's a part of any of us that would like to do something more - to aspire as Lincoln described it, to the better angels of our nature. We would all like to make the world a better place not just for ourselves, but for those around us. To help bring an end to suffering where we see it, to help bring joy to just about anyone.

Certainly that's true for myself. I started working with computers officially in 1998 and with nearly two decades under my belt, I bill for software engineering at $80/hr and it's rewarding for me. Yet despite the fact that I have plenty of that work available, and despite the fact that our house needs massive repairs (every window is broken in some way), I scaled back my engineering work for something I feel is more important. During the last week of February, I avoided my usual $80/hr contracting work, to put sixty-plus hours into researching, writing and illustrating a four-page story about the origins and importance of the Black Lives Matter movement. In January, I earned about $1/hr from my comics. In February, I think I earned about fifty cents for the same hour and I did it knowing that was the likely result. Because even though not having that money is hard for us, it's more important to me that I give back to the community those things that are most valuable in life; my time, my honesty, my compassion and my support for our shared ideal of equality.

So when I sit down to write a story, I think I have the same goals that any other writer has. It's not just that I hope people will enjoy my stories, it's also that I hope that you will see a little bit of yourself in my characters, the same way there's a little bit of me in them. I hope that you and I can share some genuine human connection and I strive for my characters to express our shared values, even though at a given moment they may only be telling a dick joke. #DickJokesMatter

I think all writers strive for the heroes in their stories to express our shared values. I think all us writers ultimately want that same human connection, whether the hero is Holden Caulfield railing against pretense and phoniness in the world, Frodo doubting his ability to save Middle Earth from Sauron, or Ford Prefect just trying to have fun.

There is however, another side to this human connection; a less comfortable, more double-edged side. While we want to identify with the heroes in our stories, we're usually loathe identify with the villains. We'd like to think that our enemies are always like Sauron, or sociopaths like Batman's Joker who just wants to see the world burn. If we can imagine that we're opposing irredeemable evil, that comes from some wholly inhuman place that shares none of our values, then we never have to consider that those villains might be like us in any way. Every time we encounter another person and we see that they're different than us, that gives us an easy means of discounting that they might share our values. Maybe this guy doesn't care about our neighborhood and our kids, because he certainly doesn't dress, talk or act like us, right? At what point can you no longer maintain that illusion that you're so different from these other people? At what point do we accept that quite often our enemies are responding to the same fears that we are, even though we may respond in different ways?

Ireland is a much safer place today than it was when I was born. This is due in part to the fact that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) is much smaller than it used to be, owing to a peace treaty between England and the IRA that resulted in Ireland being split and only a small portion of the island (Northern Ireland) remaining in the UK. (A splinter of the former IRA remains dedicated to violently ejecting the English from Northern Ireland.) While I disagree (vehemently) with the IRA's methods, I can't say that I entirely disagree with people's anger about Ireland being part of England by way of invasion, the same way almost anything was ever part of England. I myself am only mostly a descendant of English people, but would we be eager to accept allegiance to the German empire had the London Blitz and WWII gone the other way, ending in a victorious Nazi party controlling the entire world? Remember, we called those guys the "Axis of Evil." Why are we allowed to place that label on others if we're unwilling to accept it when we're the invading horde?

One of the reasons why the Irish peace treaty was finally signed, and much of the IRA did turn over their guns, is because of a surprisingly simple group exercise. People on both sides of the table left the table to different rooms (a practice common in mediation), where each group were asked to think about and agree on a list of goals. Not demands, goals. So imagine sitting in a room with the friends you've been fighting with for years and together you start writing your goals on a blackboard. Maybe there's a little back and forth, but you agree on a pretty good list: peace in Ireland, safety and security for our families, a better world for our children. You're feeling pretty good about your goals when you're asked to stand and come into the other room. As you enter, you see their list of goals and you realize, you've been KILLING people who's goals are; peace in Ireland, safety and security for our families, a better world for our children. The illusion fades.

This is part of the reason why cult groups and terrorist organizations work so hard to keep their members isolated, because if they talk with the enemy, they might realize they're not so different, and it might shatter that illusion.

I know I struggle with this. Right now a large swath of the people in my country are saying they think we should still have slavery. It pains me to know that my neighbors are supporting Trump when he says we should kick all the Muslims out. It would be easy for me to say "oh, well that's not to do with me, they're just racist pricks, I'm better than that." It's far less comfortable for me to admit that the news scares me too and that I don't always make the best choices either. I feel like this is a discomfort I need to endure, like we all need to endure, because as long as we hold that illusion that we're so different, that our battles are black and white, good vs. evil, instead of neighbor vs. neighbor, we'll keep fighting.

My hope is in believing that if we strive for that human connection, we can make it through to a better world together.

See you on the other side. :)

In other news, we've postponed my mother's move from Dallas up here to stay with us in Ohio. I've rescheduled my bus ticket for the 26th of this month. I can only do this once, so if we need to reschedule again, I'll be out the hundred dollars. This also means I've only got a little over two weeks this month that I can make more of these comics. I was struggling a bit emotionally after publishing the Black History Month story last month, because I had so much anxiety about it, so I took a couple days off... and right then Tiff and I got sick for about a week. So maybe I should have just kept working through my anxiety... anyway, I'm back to work now. :) If you enjoy these comics, if you'd like to see more of them, I can't do this alone! Your help and support is greatly appreciated! :D

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