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A Glimmer of Hope

Updated on March 19, 2018
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Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Jack has worked at IBM for over 28 years.

Introduction

A recent event at my Writer's group may offer some hope. We are a divided nation politically and socially. We are discouraged from discussing some topics because some people may be offended or feel uncomfortable. My question is if we avoid talking about our differences, how will problems ever get resolved?

- Sept. 2017

Background

I have been a member of this writer's group for about two years. I joined the group mainly to improve my autobiography which I was in the process of writing. It is a diverse and talented group of about 15 people from all walks of life and the moderator is the local librarian.

Our group meets about twice a month and we offer each other critique on our writing samples and suggestions on how we might improve. Some in the group are working on novels to be published and others are writing fiction and poetry and still others like me are working on their memoir.

Even though our guidelines are to comment on the technique of writing and avoid the subject matter which at times may be controversial, sometimes the politics comes through. It is clear to me that the members of the group are mostly liberal in their political leaning and votes Democratic. If I were to guess, I would say it is about 70% liberal and 20-30% conservative. That is not surprising since we are located in a suburb of NYC and NYC and New York State is one of the blue states.

We typically rotate and several of us would present our piece by reading it out-loud and then we would go around the room and each will give their critique. The reader is to listen and remain silent. At the end, he or she may offer an explanation about the piece to elaborate on the intent of the writing.

My Experiences...

My early pieces were read from part of my autobiography. I found the comments useful which allowed me to go back and rewrite some of the chapters. My autobiography ended up being 26 chapters and six months to complete. I was glad to finish it so I can work on some other items that interest me.

My next foray into the den is my eBook on Conservatism.- American exceptionalism. This was a touchy subject for some and a few in the group avoided making comments. They felt uncomfortable with the topic.

My essay on the climate change debate was another controversial topic. Most in the group are sold on this idea that humans are mostly responsible to recent climate warming. My essay basically make the case of why I am a skeptic as of now due to the complexity of this issue and due to lack of evidence as projected.

My latest opinion on the Virginia protest and the statue removal controversy spark a round of contention. In my mind, it was one of the least controversial topic since I already had debated this on HubPages with some liberals and many agreed with me and my position.

How Miscommunication Can Occur

It became a learning lesson for me as a writer when, some comments and critique about my piece on the Virginia statue incident was totally misconstrued by the readers. What I tried to say came across by the reader to mean something more. How does that happen?

I really tried to understand this from a reader's point of view. When I wrote about the "stupidity" of one executive at ESPN, it was thought by the readers that I was commenting about the whole group of people that wanted the statue removed.

A second example was when I use a side story on Ronald Reagan and how the media treated him compared to other Presidents like Carter and Clinton on the issue of the homeless. A reader took exception to my saying the media was "silent on..." saying the media had criticized Carter on many other issues. She missed the point of my whole case in bring up this one issue. She also commented that it was a diversion from my main story and should be left out. I disagree.

In these two examples, it seems the reader had totally missed what I was communicating in my words and phrases. They read more into my intent than what the words say.

I think all readers have that "built-in bias" when we are confronted with an opinion piece especially if it is of an opinion we disagree with. It can even happen on a piece we agree with. Some reader will assume more than what the writer was writing about or intended.

My Aha! Moment

If misunderstanding can occur among smart people like those in my writer's group, after careful consideration and putting it to pen and paper, imagine what does occur on a daily basis when people are just making comments and speaking informally...

Let me offer a plausible explanation. Suppose with regard to President Trump, he makes some statements in a tweet or in a speech when unrehearsed or not reading from a prepared statement, he meant to say one thing but it comes across as something else or negatively perceived. The media then focuses on this and makes a mountain out of a molehill. That is what can stir controversy and mistrust and hurt.

What we need in my opinion is to give people, all people including President Trump, the benefit of doubt. Let people to have a chance to explain or respond to questions instead of being crucified for every word misspoke or said poorly.

Making Assumptions on My Part

Another critique on my piece was the fact that I did not provide the background information on some of the topics at hand. That I assumed too much about the information the readers are expected to know.

This is a valid criticism. In writing about a contemporary opinion piece, I assumed since this subject matter was a big news item in past weeks, that almost everyone would know of it or should know. When I bring up the Charlottesville VA protest, I expected most people had heard of it in the news and therefore needs no introduction or setup. I just dove right into it and discuss the implications and my opinion about the removal of the Robert E. statue. What I should have done was to write a paragraph describing a summary of the incident. Once this article is published, and as time marches on, a new reader may not be familiar with this news story or had forgotten it. A setup reminder is a good idea which I will take into advisement.

The same goes with the ESPN follow up story relating to the main topic. Some in my group have indicated they did not know of it or heard of it and therefore could not assess what I was saying. I should have provided an introduction context to what I was presenting in support of my main theme.

The bigger issue for a writer, or any writer, is what part do I include in my essay and what part can I leave out, assuming they are common knowledge. Must a writer lay out everything in detail assuming the reader knows very little or nothing at all. The danger or downside in my opinion is that it adds to the length of the article and in some case may bore the reader who could say to himself...I knew that already...get to the point.

Summary

As a conservative, I am actually optimistic about our future. I say in my title a glimmer of hope because I can see how small breakthoughs can make a difference. In my case, I can see how on a one to one bases, we can make some inroads where as groups, we are very divided. It starts with communicating ideas, not just ones we agree, but ones we may not agree or understand. We can only move forward if they are discussed out in the open and any pre conceptions are checked at the door. Once the emotion of an issue, whatever they may be, is removed, we can discuss rationally a solution that may satisfy both sides. Reaching a consensus or compromise even if we don't get 100% of what we want. That is democracy at work.

© 2017 Jack Lee

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