Sunday, December 29, 2013

Idea Garage Sale: Pick a Tragedy

This is the 123rd anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee.

We do not deal well, or healthily, with tragedies in the United States (I refuse to attempt to speak for the rest of the Americas). We always want that happy ending. You cannot convince us that tragedy is the highest form of art, and we would far, far rather repeat our mistakes than examine and learn from them.

As writers, it is our job to address that.

If we can bear to. If we can do it without being merely depressing.

And yet, we have so many to choose from!

Maybe you can't deal with the big tragedies, the ones with their roots in racial and class issues which we are so anxious to pretend do not exist. That's okay - Shakespeare couldn't either. Tragedies are always personal.

Examine history. Find the small tragedy that you can fit inside one of our big tragedies - the industrial disasters, the destruction of lives for economic motives, the clearing of whole cultures out of the way of an ideal of progress - to make it comprehensible and enlightening and cathartic, and you'll have something great.

The room is spinning and the floor undulating too much for me to even catch the end of anything today. But you know the drill.

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