Book Club for the New Administration – June 2017
The Book Club selection for May was Sarah Schulman’s Conflict is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair. When I first heard about this book, the title alone was a show-stopper. We live in a world of Conflict and Abuse. It’s evident in the headlines, in social media. Heck, even in traffic in our cities and towns every day. There is also a lot of shouting going on. Have you noticed? Even in the world of texting, where CAPS ARE CONSIDERED loud and rude, there is still a lot of drowning out and shutting down going on.
Voice an opinion. Get shouted down. As a question, get shouted down. Post a picture. Get shouted down.
There is a lot of unresolved anger in the world. That’s the only way I can account for so much shouting. What Schulman proposes here is a recognition of that shouting, and a way of sifting through the emotions that accompany it in order to divine what is Conflict versus what is actual Harm.
Humans seem to love conflict. We like sports– conflict. We like action movies and dramas– conflict. Soap operas and reality TV shows– conflict. I’m a writer and I’ll be the first to say a story needs conflict. (That’s a Western conceit, apparently. But even in Eastern writing it seems to me that conflict presents, just in a different form.) Yet, when it comes to conflict in our personal lives… well, unless you the type who likes to argue for the sake of arguing, most people don’t want it.
We want Peace. And we want it NOW! Without having to work through it or towards it. But that’s realistic, so how do we get there?
First? I propose we stop shouting. And tweeting. And texting. And reacting without consideration. Then maybe there could be some room for actual consideration and communication.
What did you think of Schulman’s book? I can’t say I agreed 100% with everything. But I don’t have to. But what a thoughtful read. I chewed on this line for hours:
The title of this book, Conflict Is Not Abuse, recommends a mutual accountability in a culture of underreaction to abuse and overreaction to conflict.
Underreaction and overreaction. I read this and thought, “Yes! That’s what’s going on here!” The desire to shout down and shun means never having to have the necessary conversation. I see this in my personal life, my profession, and on a national and global scale. At the same time, when real harm is being inflicted, we often look away, or are told to “let it go” or “deal with it.”
It’s time to recalibrate.
So, Mr. President, if I may suggest it: Everyone should read this book. Heck, even just reading the introduction is a great start. And read it not to necessarily agree with every word, but to discuss, it as I hope this book club will. And hopefully, to take away some tools for reaching a better understanding that is so sorely needed in this world.
And so, we come to June. (Already? Only?!) It’s been a hard five months leading up to this point. What say we take it easy on ourselves this month, and lighten up the reading a bit? (If not the actual message.) In fact, I’m going to double the titles and reduce the page count, because both of these seem relevant right now.
The Book Club for the New Administration Selections for June are:
The Lorax Synopsis: Long before “going green” was mainstream, Dr. Seuss’s Lorax spoke for the trees and warned of the dangers of disrespecting the environment. In this cautionary rhyming tale (printed on recycled paper) we learn of the Once-ler, who came across a valley of Truffula Trees and Brown Bar-ba-loots, and how his harvesting of the tufted trees changed the landscape forever. With the release of the blockbuster film version, the Lorax and his classic tale have educated a new generation of young readers not only about the importance of seeing the beauty in the world around us, but also about our responsibility to protect it
The Butter Battle Book Synopsis: The Butter Battle Book, Dr. Seuss’s classic cautionary tale, introduces readers to the important lesson of respecting differences. The Yooks and Zooks share a love of buttered bread, but animosity brews between the two groups because they prefer to enjoy the tasty treat differently. The timeless and topical rhyming text is an ideal way to teach young children about the issues of tolerance and respect. Whether in the home or in the classroom, The Butter Battle Book is a must-have for readers of all ages.
Yes, folks, June will be a Seussical good time, because tough messages should, whenever possible, be delivered in fantastic rhyming picture books. And, if you’re looking for an independent bookstore to support, why not choose Warwicks in La Jolla, California. La Jolla was Dr. Seuss’s adopted home town. He lived there after WWII until his death in 1991. What’s more, Warwicks claims to be the country’s oldest family-owned and operated bookstore! That’s pretty amazing.
That’s all for now. Don’t forget to post your comments on Twitter, #BookClub4NewAdmin. I’ll be checking in throughout the week!