The Little Things

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

I’m late with today’s piece (even as the time stamp says it’s going up at the normal time). There’s a reason, and I believe it’s a good one.

I attempt, on more or less a weekly basis, to present a cross-section of my interests and concerns. That includes concerns about world events (crackdowns in Myanmar and Belarus, the Eritrean military abuses in Ethiopia, EU vaccine rollout, Chinese sanctions against UK MPs… all of these are important, on a principled level because they concern world human rights and on a practical level because trade and politics traverse international borders); breaking and less-publicized national news, and my philosophical views regarding honesty, social interaction and our individual responsibilities (without which I might have gone MAGA or joined the Democrats.)

I wanted to write a piece in the third vein today, a firm defense on rejecting the allure of teams and the importance of maintaining one’s core. Man is a social animal, a truth which was recognized thousands of years ago; we are inclined to find some measure of our worth in relation to the response of others. But sometimes the groups available to us can become lost in the noise of constant chatter, outrage and mockery. One doesn’t need to feel alone if they’re rejecting both elitist views of those outside the group as inherently inferior and needing of assistance and the nativist views of them as inherently inferior and deserving of attack. This country has a long history of accepting all people as fundamentally equal, and it is such an ingrained part of our heritage that on the many occasions when we’ve deviated from that it’s recognized to be hypocrisy in direct contrast to our founding principles. Our failings are not because there has been a tacit acceptance of unequal opportunity, they have happened because we have always believed in that principle but we haven’t properly lived up to it. It’s a proud history whose missteps should drive us to do better, not a shameful one. For that reason, I will always choose patriotism over teams.

… and that’s a capsule summary of what was to be today’s writing. Instead, I had an experience that I’d like to share.

I was delayed today because of other things that got in the way of writing. I had to help prepare my daughter for school. I had to bring a load of boxes to the post office, most notably a 20-pound item which wouldn’t fit in the overnight slot (more about that in a moment). I had to receive, wipe down, and store a delivery of 42 cubic feet of biodegradable packing fill (better for the environment, and doesn’t make that godawful squeaking noise) and 200 boxes. Basically, life got in the way.

Here’s where I might reasonably be expected to focus on the small things in life, and the importance of staying grounded… that’s the promise of the title, after all. If I might be permitted yet another digression, it’s a great point, if for no other reason than this: With the small things in life, you can control them, and you can receive a bounty of victories. Politics, particularly national politics, is a steady stream of disappointments for honest people. You’re often facing successes by people who you feel are unworthy of holding office and who are likely to attempt to enact harmful policy. Even when your candidates win, they are typically going to support many things with which you disagree. Ensuring you have some regular successes in your life is a boon to your mental health.

But, that’s not what I wanted to write about. Instead, I draw your attention back to the aforementioned 20-pound package. It was filled (as one might suspect) with books, and it was going to a correctional facility in West Virginia. They hadn’t paid me for them, and they don’t know it’s coming. I was simply fortunate enough to see a Facebook crosspost from Pat (P.N.) Elrod about the terrible condition of science fiction and fantasy books at a prison library in that state, with about twenty books available despite those being their most requested genres.

I responded by seeking out twenty pounds of books, including representatives of most subgenres (avoiding things which were excessively sexualized) and at different reading levels.

The easy response to those in prison is to say that they’ve earned their place, and overwhelmingly I believe that is true. I’m fully aware that I’m likely making life easier for people who have committed atrocities. I don’t view prison as a mechanism for rehabilitation, I view it as a way to keep dangerous offenders away from society. But that perception doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t recognize that people do have the opportunity to change their lives while they’re in prison, and if there’s any time to attempt to rehabilitate criminals it should be while they’re locked away, rather than leaving it to their devices once they’ve been released.

It cost me about $20 to send the box, and about a half hour of my time to select which books to send off. I’ll be sending another one on Monday. The books I’m mailing are all, at their core, positive stories of heroism in defense of society. With any luck, their escapist solace and supportive messages may help getting at least one person to turn their life around.

It’s a little thing, and it may not work… but that’s how I believe life should function in a successful society. Members do the little things they can to try to influence people. They provide a good role model for children, friends and neighbors. They speak out in favor of their beliefs, not simply against the views of others. They take the opportunities provided to help others, whether by donating to food banks or working with a charity. Not all of these efforts will be successful. In the nation’s past, even our greatest advocates for liberty and human rights regularly failed. Sometimes the burden will seem oppressive, but the little successes will provide wonderful feelings of success and relief. And maybe, just maybe, the society gets healthier and interpersonal bonds more stable.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.