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Life’s Already Difficult Without Intolerance

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Because I’m a writer, I often feel better able to express my thoughts by typing each word, meticulously refining and polishing every sentence, rather than articulating these ideas in a rush of conversation. Somehow, vocalizing my experiences never comes across with the same forcefulness as writing them out with careful attention to explore an overall concept.

It can be isolating to deal with such a social obstacle, where I’m frequently tongue-tied, even with people I know. But I also understand that in certain social situations, I’m not adept at communicating with confident ease. Small talk has always been a real challenge for me, an endless barrier to making meaningful in-person connections.

Unless the topic concerns a political subject, an issue that deeply matters to me and one I can debate with passion, I’m usually inadequate in expressing myself. But at the other end of the spectrum, when representing who I am in general, not offering my opinion on a discussion point, words tend to abandon me in favor of awkward silences.

For these reasons, which I’ve considered extensively over the years, life can be a difficult enterprise for me.

That doesn’t mean I disregard the many enriching, quite enjoyable aspects of being alive. But constant self-consciousness, pervasive worries about most everything, and an over-sensitivity to the rise in hateful attitudes, from what I can tell, exacerbate the perpetual stress that I never seem able to overcome.

This debilitating outlook, a view constructed from the presence of multiple troubling layers, is an essential feature within my upcoming murder mystery Detached. All three of the main characters, whose unique perspectives and closely held secrets help unravel the story’s brutal homicide, suffer from different levels of emotional isolation and cultural desertion. The trio of women – Wanda Lindstrom, Charlotte Murray, and Marcy Seele – privately struggle with social deficiencies, some more apparent than others. And even though they share the same horror, profoundly experiencing the terrible effects of this savage crime, they each react in quite different ways within the context of an unsympathetic society.

The intolerance that plagues these protagonists, deriving from complex factors stirred by the apathetic world in which they live, is undeniably a direct reflection of my own recent cynicism. During these last few years, I’ve contemplated the escalating divisions and hatefulness that have gradually fractured, in my own view, a compassionate sense of responsibility to others. Bigotry toward marginalized ethnicities and groups that do not adhere to mainstream notions of Americanism continues to become more prevalent. In absorbing current events, voraciously reading articles that provide insights into this callousness that appears to fester every day, I see that minorities of all kinds, from the cultural to the economic, are targeted with greater and greater frequency.

It’s probably an understatement to say that I am frightened by the world I now witness around me.

Due to open attacks on diverse identities, gun violence that largely slips through the federal cracks because of warped political priorities, and the abuse of workers to satisfy billionaires’ endless greed, among other startling inequities, we live in a powder keg of rage. It’s a fury that is ready to erupt at any moment and routinely causes societal anger to turn inward, generating a complicated friction that affects all of us in some negative manner.

To address my fears, I depicted this toxic universe as my novel’s foundation, therapeutically applying it to cope with the compounded anxiety that I cannot escape. As a result of illustrating this terror, though, something surprising has happened. I feel a palpable hope.

Maybe by defining these concerns into sentences, removing them from the abstract frenzy that constantly circulates in my mind, much like the general act of expressing any thought that I feel, the apprehension begins to dissipate. Facing this fright makes it more manageable, even an issue that could somehow be solved as any criminal case must for the good of society.

I want to be optimistic, maintaining a positive attitude that this powerful intolerance, in numerous forms, will ultimately be rectified someday. It’s a complex topic, which I’ll keep returning to as I write about Detached. That’s because the idea of achieving a society based on fairness, revolving around a fundamental humanity, and providing equal opportunities to every ethnicity, is an integral undercurrent of this story.

But while I will champion hope despite the various doubts I’ll inevitably feel, one aspect will never change. I’ll always feel more at ease laying out my thoughts in painstaking sentences rather than speaking them out loud. And it’s likely for the best.

Alisa Burris

Alisa Burris is a literary fiction author whose work depicts alienated lives with glimpses of mystery blended into the narrative layers. Her novel Detached explores how three vastly different women cope with the trauma of a violent murder in their townhome community as they face private secrets of their own. In addition to writing stories that reflect today’s complex world, Alisa holds a PhD in English. Her dissertation specifically examines the fiction of Jewish-American women authors in the context of the cultural estrangement that they personally experienced during the twentieth century.

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