About 8-9 years ago, I came up with an idea for a novel. It was a fictionalized version of an idea I had about how the terrorists could really terrorize this country if they wanted to. The way I look at it, as long as they targeted the big things, like the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, the rest of America might not really react to it. No, there was a different way they could go about this if they really, really wanted to terrorist America.
I was excited about the idea and within a matter of a few weeks — okay maybe a couple of months — I churned out about 25,000 words of the thing. I told the story in present tense and thought it really worked because that tense gave the story a stronger sense of immediacy and urgency. I really liked what I was doing with it.
And then I got bogged down in the story and its details as seems to happen with many of my ideas these days. I put it aside with the expectation that I would come back to it. It’s lingered ever since. The original version of the story had the terrorists as Muslims. At some point I decided the terrorists really should be homegrown, right-wing, anti-government whackos. That made getting back to the story all the more difficult because it would require a significant rewrite of what I had already completed. And I’m not a huge fan of re-writes.
So, the story has lingered all these years. In the recesses of my mind, tempting me and luring me.
And I’ll never write another word on the story.
Events have outpaced my idea and, more accurately, made my idea all too real. The tragedies that continue whether they are the work of disenchanted Muslim-Americans, fringe right-wingers opposed to abortion, whackos who shoot up churches or theaters, crazed loners killing children in an elementary school, or … well, there seem to be more and more every few weeks … have grown too numerous and too real to keep my story appealing to me. One of the biggest problems is that there is no one group that poses a threat to us now. The threats are many and varied and it feels like they are everywhere. Colorado (multiple times), Charleston, Orlando, Boston, San Bernardino, Dallas.
The reality is that I don’t want to put my idea out there in a fictional work for fear it would give somebody an idea. So I won’t. That story is dead now.
Which leads me to another thing about all of this. We live in a most fractured country. We grow more and more divided with every day and every unfortunate event. On the left, it seems that far too many view every cop as corrupt and racist. They seem unwilling to acknowledge that the vast majority of law enforcement officers are not, in fact, corrupt or racist. They seem unwilling to acknowledge that police officers in America have just about the most difficult job that exists in our country. They deal with the worst of the worst — the crazy, the violent. The worst of the worst. Daily. Hourly. Officers need more support, more training, more resources and we, as a society, have to be willing to address a whole host of issues to alleviate some of the pressure that cops take on to protect the rest of us.
And on the right, it seems that far too many are unwilling to acknowledge that there still remains a racist strain in this country. That there are bad cops. That there are untrained cops. And that use of deadly force should not be the first or the second tactic when confronting a disrespectful or threatening suspect. Far too many of these videos show police officers who pull their gun before they have to. Far too many officers who aggravate the situation rather than ratchet it down. And yes, on the right, it seems far too many are unwilling to acknowledge that this can look to others like a massive example of the racism that still exists in some corners of the country.
And that’s why there is no solution to this problem. Unless and until people on all sides of this issue (and many others) begin to recognize that those on the other side have legitimate gripes. I read liberal blogs and conservative blogs and wallow in the comments on posts on both sides. It is amazing to me how utterly incapable both sides are in recognizing the views and perspectives of the other. We have become a country made up of islands without bridges between them.
It’s time to start building bridges. Otherwise this is only going to get worse. Much, much worse.