Dear Friends and Colleagues from Around the World,
I’ll start the year off with news of my latest interview on Global Connections TV, the growing movement to make the U.S. a Theocracy in Culture Watch, a book review of a Dystopian world which reflects the direction we’re taking, My Writing and Reviews, What Others Are Saying, an insightful Voices in Action plus an updated Calendar.
Fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and Host of Global Connections TV, Bill Miller, interviewed me for a second time. He focused on making my new book, My Saddest Pleasures, global trends in writing and publishing, and an overview of what’s behind the growing attempts to ban books, especially if they relate to youth, race, LGBTQ related.
Global Connections TV is the only talk show of its type in the world and has featured a myriad of guests ranging from leaders at the UN to the private sector to academics to non-governmental organizations. The program is aired on UN TV and in universities around the world.
Here’s a link directly to the interview and a second, which you can find on page 14 of Revue Magazine’s Special Valentine edition (which includes a fantastic article on chocolate in Guatemala). I’m a contributing writer to the Revue.
Page 14: https://www.revuemag.com/revue-magazine-february-2023/
Last week, the Public Religion Research Institute released new findings showing how successful Christian Nationalists have spread their message, veering from the Gospel towards focusing on political power.
The rising influence of Christian nationalism in some segments of American politics poses a significant threat to the health of our democracy. Increasingly, the culture war’s central battle lines are drawn between a right animated by a Christian nationalist worldview and Americans who embrace the country’s growing racial and religious diversity.
In a racial breakdown, the study indicates that 64% of white evangelical Protestants—the most significant percentage of any group—identify as either adherents or sympathizers of Christian nationalism.
Rolling Stone had a revealing article by Tim Dickinson, “The Christian Nationalist Machine.” The byline says, “Turning hate into law,” the National Association of Christian Lawmakers enacting a “biblical worldview, one state legislature at a time.” https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/christian-nationalists-national-association-christian-lawmakers-1234684542/
In the Living the Word segment of the recent issue of Sojourners, author Natalie Wigg-Stevenson observes, “These Days, ‘Born Again’ seems to describe a political conversion rather than a religious one.” https://sojo.net/magazine/februarymarch-2023/risky-business-incarnation
And before ignoring the implications of this trend, think about the plight of women in the theocracies of Iran and the totalitarian state of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Women can’t go anywhere if not accompanied by a male and are prohibited from going to school, which is the case in Afghanistan…
My Writing and Reviews
I decided to read this book after I saw the author promoting a fundraiser for PEN America to combat book banning. Margaret Atwood partnered with Penguin Random House to create an unburnable version of her often-banned novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. She is depicted with a flame thrower. The author is among the top twenty authors banned, with three titles and fifteen bans in eleven districts. One of the positive results of book banning is that many readers will read them to find out why they’re being suppressed.
She’s also an accomplished author with over fifty books translated into 35 languages. This book hasn’t been out of print since it was first published in 1985 and has sold millions worldwide. Over the years, it has been reproduced in many formats, and 2016, Hulu announced a straight-to-TV series of the book. Atwood was a consulting producer and played a small cameo role in the first episode.
But what makes this book special is that although it was written 28 years ago, the dystopian society it depicts seems to reflect the direction we’re moving towards today, making this a timely story worth reflecting on. With the wife of a Supreme Court Justice directly involved with the sedition of January 6th and a Supreme Court, which has overturned Roe vs. Wade and a woman’s right to determine a choice on abortions, this fictional story seems possible.
Atwood acknowledges the extent to which her dystopian vision of many years ago is proving relevant today, “It’s this aspect that seems the most possible to me at those uneasy moments when I find I’m convincing even myself of the plausibility of my own dire creation.”
In the author’s dystopian future, environmental disasters and declining birthrates have led to a Second American Civil War. This led to the rise of the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian regime that enforces rigid social roles and enclaves the few remaining fertile women. The main protagonist, Offred, is a handmaid obligated to produce children for one of Gilead’s commanders. She is deprived of her husband, her child, her freedom, and even her name.
The inspiration for the Republic of Gilead came from a study of early American Puritans at Harvard. She contends that Puritan leaders wanted to establish a monolithic theocracy where religious dissent would not be tolerated.
She revealed in an updated introduction in 2017 that her book is not “anti-religious.” It is against the use of religion as a front for tyranny, which is a different thing altogether.”
“Atwood takes many trends which exist today and stretches them to their logical and chilling conclusions…An excellent novel about the directions our lives are taking…Read it while it’s still allowed.”—Houston Chronicle.
Here’s a link to the entire review:
At the beginning of a new year, assessing what you’ve accomplished is a good idea so you can refocus for the coming year. So, by the numbers, I’ve written 75 book reviews, 25 essays/articles, 62 Million Mile Walker Dispatches, and 162 pieces published or posted since 2018! Essays were submitted to 115 journals–most were rejected or withdrawn as many journals’ acceptance rate is under 1%. The moral to this story: If you can’t take rejection–don’t become a writer! Just a friendly reminder!
What Others Are Saying
Most of the recent comments are in response to the focus of my November Dispatch on race as well as a series of posts highlighting book reviews for Black History Month and an essay I’ve submitted to several literary journals, “The Souls of White Folk: Why Some Of Us Have So Much Trouble Discussing Race.”
It’s ironic that it is easier to have a cross-cultural experience overseas
than in our own country. There is much food for thought in this work as
well as a call to action through your own example…
Finally, the conundrum as I see it is, how do we even
get a majority of white people to acknowledge or actually believe, there
is a major problem with regard to racial inequality?
Thanks again for sharing this thoughtful essay with me and providing some
Bob Forbes, a friend, and fellow writer
I admire your effort to hit the topic for Black Awareness Month. Whether the Blacks see it or understand it, we “white folks” must take the lead to quash racism. Elizabeth Graham, author of Democrazy
Mark, You are so well-read. Thanks for getting me to dedicate more time to reading these inspirational books that I’ve heard so much about for several years but have not taken time to read. I will now.
Your fellow RPCV fan & author, Evelyn LaTorre. Her first published book, Between Inca Walls, was awarded the 2021 Peace Corps Experience prize. Her second memoir is Love in Any Language.
Hi Mark, Thanks for “My Saddest Pleasures” and your beautiful words. They inspire me and remind me of how much I value our friendship. Bob Graham a friend and founder of Namaste Direct, which promotes women’s microenterprise programs in Guatemala as well as other parts of the world. https://namastedirect.org/
Voices in Action
The Eye Sees Only What the Mind is Prepared to Comprehend. Henri Bergson
50-mile-an-hour gusts didn’t stop my presentation, “My Daily Rituals: How I Write and Why, at the Desert Foothills Library Authors Series in Cave Creek. This special, independent library hosted 90 events for their Arizona Authors Series.
- A little birdie told me that I’d be in the Alumni Spotlight in the Westerner Alum magazine for Western State Colorado University. I’ll let you know if the rumor is true next month! My work was highlighted in the Winter 2013 issue, “Alumni Making An Impact.”
You can find my 75 book reviews and 28 articles, plus several videos, on my website, including a reduced price for my new book if you read it and pass it along to your local library. http://millionmilewalker.com “Follow” me on Twitter.
https://twitter.com/millionmile, @millionmile_wal, and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/millionmilewalker/ for the latest international affairs and literature. And, as always, if you’ve read “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond,” rate it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and GoodReads, or if you don’t have it, please consider purchasing it or, better still, purchase my latest book, My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road https://www.cyberwit.net/publications/1919.