Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing blogs to describe different aspects of my upcoming novel Detached in the context of today’s complicated and quite troubling world. With each passing day, I see more disturbing connections to explore, to dig into with greater depth. Although these various political associations build upon my past reflections in a convenient fashion, I feel terrified at the same time. That’s because this process of identifying parallels has enabled me to gain further awareness of our diseased cultural landscape.
Throughout the experience of weaving these threads together, one aspect especially stands out as a continual undercurrent. It’s a dreadful force currently directing our country’s swerve to right-wing extremism. That element is violence. This ongoing threat remains entwined within the layers of every circumstance, from the Supreme Court’s reversal of federal abortion rights to the refusal to make assault weapons inaccessible and so many more offenses in between. Its effects are embedded along this broad spectrum of horrors, beginning with brutality that might be viewed as more indirect such as the seizure of women’s rights and the potential for more oppression of minorities’ ability to live with dignity. In turn, the repercussions also produce blatant savagery, which includes endless mass shootings as well as the vicious insurrection at the Capitol on January sixth. Indeed, within the recent years of this extremist takeover, violence at some level reverberates at the core of every notable occurrence in America.
Since the risk of bodily harm just keeps increasing within our contemporary culture, magnified by the fractures already established by COVID-19, isolation is heightened as an atrocious result. Though the right-wing segment that legislates our government represents a minority, it has successfully twisted democratic frameworks to suit its cruel purposes, informing the public on a constant basis that our lives are of no consequence. Whether it’s compelling impregnanted individuals to give birth without exception to reshaping state and federal laws to erase voters’ voices to refusing to remove access to guns designed for the battlefield, the right wing’s approach actively decimates a sense of community.
Because I’m so afraid of the inhumanity that’s becoming such a prevalent force, I read various online journals with a voracious compulsion for insight, some sort of comfort to soothe my worries. By absorbing this broad array of news articles and opinion pieces, I see a pattern in stories that specifically report on the never-ending trauma of mass shootings. Witnesses who are interviewed often react similarly, I’ve observed, noting that the needless slaughter they’ve seen up close will change the way they conduct their lives in the future. They plan to avoid large celebrations such as Fourth of July parades and steer clear of malls as a matter of survival. This is how isolation begins, stemming from the rational judgment about how widespread violence has become in our society. And it will incrementally worsen if nothing changes.
The logical decision to stay away from sizable gatherings and evade public spaces translates to choosing deliberate separation from others over participation in society. This act partitions us from the wonderful possibilities of forming meaningful relationships and prevents the nurturing presence of warm, supportive communities. It’s the harsh yet natural ramification of life-threatening brutality, where people’s fear for their safety outweighs the human need for authentic interaction.
My novel Detached considers this choice to remain apart from society for the sake of protection against potential violence. Wanda Lindstrom, the central heroine of the three women protagonists who learn of their neighbor’s homicide, is obsessed by the dangers that she perceives outside the walls of her townhouse. Home alone all day, she has plenty of time to indulge in fearful assumptions about her surroundings.
Many of her fears are quite warranted as she watches a neo-Nazi threat increase within her townhome community. In addition, once the murder of her neighbor resonates into more of a reality, further threatening Wanda’s security, she withdraws to an even greater extent. This horrific event reinforces her terror of the larger world, confirming the potentially lethal dangers that loom just outside her home. But the self-imposed solitude also causes Wanda to become susceptible to distortions, allowing her imagination to heighten the fears fostered by virtual seclusion. This remoteness deprives Wanda of different, potentially useful perspectives and the useful commiseration of others to help manage her growing alarm.
In many ways, Wanda Lindstrom could be viewed as the personification of estrangement. She is the result of apprehensiveness stirred by a society that devalues individual lives, showing no concern for human suffering. When feelings of safety and the comforts of inclusion are not options, then a retreat into oneself, embracing almost complete separateness, becomes the only reasonable answer.
I doubt that the political leaders who are currently operating on a level of such callous indifference perceive or care about the dysfunctional outcome of their policies. But the subsequent afflictions that their practices inspire, where any acknowledgment and serious consideration of trauma does not exist, certainly frightens me.
My hope is that our present journey in a far-right orientation will be redirected. We, all of us, each individual living in this nation, deserve a compassionate society that strives for equal rights in every sense. Violence needs to be condemned at once through meticulously constructed laws that shield us from unnecessary dangers, protecting our justifiable rights above every political, religious, and capitalistic obstruction and distraction. Only then can communities openly flourish, inviting people to feel secure enough to congregate without fear of brutality and with a healthy, respectful appreciation of the country’s diverse cultures.
In short, we must find a way to overcome the extremism that causes this divide, sadly separating us from each other due to hate and fear. It’s time to determine strategies that encourage unity and help communities of all kinds flourish. By addressing personal safety and recognizing the dignity of life so as to defeat societal violence of all kinds, we won’t feel the need to isolate ourselves from each other any longer.