"Us against them", Saturday's violence, & self awareness

I try to keep track of my own biases. I also try to root them out when I find them, but consider certain judgment to be a basic biological element of human function, never fully overcome (nor maybe should it be). And I’ll admit that the first thing I thought when I heard about the eighteen people wounded and killed today in Arizona was “how many people have to die before the far right stops calling for violence in their constituency?”. And maybe with Sarah Palin’s retraction of her infamous crosshair map from her website today we have part of that answer.

But the harder truth is, Palin’s popularity and the response of a growing minority to these calls for violence are part of a larger trend. Crime and violence generally rise in a recession; the country’s economic woes are complex; our population is higher than it has ever been. Subsequently the challenges the country faces are larger, people are feeling them directly, and, as Einstein said, you can’t solve the problems of the present with the same level of thinking that created them. We are in need of a lot of new solutions, fast.

The rejection of the government, or the overall pushback toward a system that is at the wheel of a lot of trouble, should not be a shocking development. It is certainly reprehensible and foolish to call for violent acts against other human beings as a first line solution in my book. But the larger development is the rising voice of a number of people who have a very realistic and more rational objection to the concept of large government, and this reaction is indicative of larger forces at work in a world changing with ever-increasing acceleration.

The “us and them” is the part that genuinely frustrates me, even if it, too, is possibly an inevitable conclusion in any high stress situation. I seem to see it everywhere lately, in my professional life, in national politics, on the world stage. And I have trouble seeing how, although it might drive short term “victory” of a sort in cases of immediate survivalistic objectives, in larger scale it winds up being anything other than deeply counterproductive and damaging. And the use of labels to immediately dismiss the humanity of one group of people or another is genuinely disturbing.

To close with a counterexample, I offer this amazing story coming out of Egypt by way of Ernest Adams: Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as “human shields”.

I think back to Obama’s “One America” speech at the convention in 2004 and how much it moved me, and wish that we could ratify again our shared global intent for peace and the eradication of suffering. And I wish for Rep. Giffords’s fast recovery, and for peace for the families of those injured and killed.

Beautiful Things

I’ve been sitting on this awhile, though some of you know this already, or have kindly pointed it out to me. 😉

First point of order, though, is introducing Kiba, also known as Kiba The Wonder Pup, seen here and in my icon. She is a “goldendoodle” (Golden Retriever + Poodle) and comes to us from Dee Gerrish in North Carolina. Mac has always loved other dogs, and we’d been making do with him getting his buddy fix at EveryDog Day Care, but now he has a puppy of his very own. She is unbearably cute and has therefore been appointed my new Chief Marketing Officer.

Following that, Kiba instructs me to say: In case you didn’t know from copious posting on other forums (fb, twitter, the usual), my first fantasy novel (!), SWORD OF FIRE AND SEA, was picked up by Pyr Books in May and will be published in June 2011. As you can see from the tweet, Editorial Director Lou Anders (of much fame this year and others) describes it as “Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion meets Avatar: The Last Airbender”, and more recently has been throwing in a dash of Final Fantasy, which suits me swell.

And now its gorgeous cover is viewable by all, courtesy the heroic efforts of Lou and Prometheus design staff (would love to use specific names but don’t yet know if they like being publicly credited!). It’s been amazing watching this come together and I’m beyond thrilled to be able to share it. The artist is Dehong He, a digital artist from Singapore who works by day on MMORPGs. He was perfect for a bunch of reasons, first of course being his phenomenal talent (you can see more of his artwork here). Beyond that, I’ve always loved the vibrant style of Asian MMO art, as well as the unique way they show humans — faces, costumes, everything. Being multiethnic myself, to me their art is distinctly international in a way much western art is not. I’ve also always been an anime fan, and know that there are many anime fans who also read fantasy, so have wondered if a cover that “speaks” to anime fans with its art style would recognize that crossover more.

Needless to say I am entirely biased, but assume my current “omg” level to be in the gazillions, so if you scale that down for bias this is still really awesome. Here is the link to the Amazon page (where you can zoom in and see a larger version), and without further ado:

If I have anything to do with it I’m sure you’ll be seeing it everywhere soon… 😉