Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Write Beyond Sensitivity Police Jurisdiction

North Americans often assert they want to learn from other cultures, but travel writing is still expected to fit into the politically correct box of ideas that don’t shock sensibilities. This is contradiction. Authentic travel writing must journey outside that box, both to accurately report culture and to protect the free speech rights authors and readers depend on.

A recent study suggests that North American children are developing more allergies to certain foods because of protection from exposure during the years when immunities develop. Likewise, political correctness has shielded North Americans from encountering a rich diversity of global perspectives that conventional media deem offensive to their sensitivities. 

The result has been a weakening of intellectual rigor, both in the willingness of writers to express (or be exposed to) unconventional ideas and their ability to explain conventional ideas to those who disagree with them. This is one reason why so much internet "disagreement" is just a hurling of insults.

It's also why the world must witness the logic-free hate-fest of East Coast Kong versus West Coast Godzilla. I mean business bully Trump and artsy bitch Streep. Neither the guy who perfected bankruptcy as a business model nor the gal who led a standing ovation for rapist Polanski should be the moral voice of America, but our new motto seems to be "Let those with the least shame for their sins and the biggest stones cast them." (Streep gave a memorable performance in the film Doubt condemning religious people for overlooking the corruption of teens just as Hollywood absolved fellow artist Polanski.)

If liberal Meryl Streep could get in a bathtub naked with conservative Clint Eastwood and nearly blind all of America just to construct Bridges of Madison County, surely she could attempt some private conversation with the new caveman prez to build bridges between left and right and bind all of America to civil rational discourse. Instead, the two divide America between the Sodom of Hollywood and the Gomorrah of Wall Street, while decent people who aren't using the platform of the presidency or an awards ceremony aren't even allowed to gently and rationally contemplate forbidden ideas.

Political correctness has many writers working in fear and deprives readers of controversial ideas that may turn out to be kooky or brilliant. In some ways, travel writing is a last bastion of free speech. If you can’t say something outside the box of American culture when you’re literally outside the box of American culture, when can we ever discuss such ideas.

I believe many moderns have merely replaced colonialism over the sea waves with intellectual imperialism over the airwaves, internet, and print media. I believe travel writers should take a stand for revealing the world as it is, not as someone thinks it should be or as someone thinks we can handle it. For example, some societies hold taking global injustices seriously means always being serious about them. Other societies jest freely about tragedy, believing laughter is the best medicine.

Authors of integrity must push the boundaries of conventional safe speech to achieve captivating provocative communication. Still, they should do the hard work of research and word craft that ensures maximum impact with minimum offense or even misunderstanding. Travel writing can have a significant impact in promoting human understanding and preserving human rights. 

If you want to read or write travel lit that’s more than been there, done that, stayed there, ate that, this website is for you. Browse the hundreds of fine articles written by global authors and posted here over the last few years. Consider sending a fresh fearless story to Sacred Ground Travel Mag. Don't worry, the sensitivity police are all bark and no bite. They don't even carry tasers or handcuffs. Ignore them and they lose all of their power, leaving you to read and write in a bigger and freer world than many folks even know exists. Write on. Right on!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Snowden Job of Oliver Stoned

When you call someone an America-loathing communist, it's usually hyperbolic insult, but with director Oliver Stone, it's his official job title. Still, his latest film Snowden has great merit. So, let's admit the virtues before we cast stones at Stone. Let's weigh the evidence before we commence any executions.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Mother Superior Inspires Author Superior

When I wrote about my mother's death, I never expected the story to be chosen as one of the best nonfiction works of the last twenty years. It's truly a moving honor. Of course, she was one of the best mothers ever, so that's the real accomplishment in all this. I want to thank Eclectica Magazine. Their anthology of the best nonfiction is now available at your favorite bookstore or here. I'm excited to get my copy. Since it has been mailed during the holiday season and is later to be entrusted to the Mexican postal service, only a Christmas miracle arranged by mom's heavenly intercession can possibly result in its arrival at the doorstep of this prodigal son.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Last Call For Resident Author Applications

Thanks to all who have submitted resumes for the writer-in-residence jobs we announced two posts back. Quite an impressive group. From Random House authors to Playboy magazine columnists to Fulbright research fellows to Sundance film screenwriters, the competition has been fierce. (Well, as fierce as a bunch of writing geeks can be.) We've already offered one professorship and will soon rudely though metaphorically slam the door on further applications. This is the last call. If you're still considering whether to apply, here are more details:

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Is Donald Trump America's Pancho Villa?

This week celebrates the revolution here in Mexico, so I would be remiss not to note some uncanny parallels between Donald Trump and Pancho Villa. Yes, I'm serious. I've discussed this theory with over 200 real Mexicans in Oaxaca who generally validate that comparison. So, you faux LA (Latino activists) in faux LA (Los Angeles) can stop practicing your deeply-offended looks and go get a Thai fusion taco then whine to CNN about the cultural appropriation on behalf of all Mexicans and people of Thai descent. If you crack the taco shell, CNN will even dub it breaking news.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Travel Writer In Residence Dream Job

Not many folks get paid to write. Much less to apprentice with a critically-acclaimed author. Yet, that opportunity is now available to you for a limited time. The daily routine of this job includes writing travel stories for three hours in a private office overlooking the Oaxacan rainforest, coaching university students for three hours on their communication skills, and being mentored for one hour by writer Lyn Fuchs.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Author Lionel Shriver On Political Correctness

I hate to disappoint you folks, but unless we stretch the topic to a breaking point this address will not be about the assigned theme of “community and belonging.” In fact, you have to hand it to this festival’s organisers: inviting a renowned iconoclast to speak about “community and belonging” is like expecting a great white shark to balance a beach ball on its nose.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Black Lives Really Don't Matter

I was the white-skinned member in a black church through most of university. Not because I was making a human rights statement. I just liked the blues-based music better than the country stuff across town. Most of the women I've loved have been Latina. Not because of a fetish. Just because I've often lived in places where the hotties within reach were brownies. I care about skin color about as much as I care about eye color. The lack of racism in my heart isn't because I'm righteous. I think I've committed every other sin except orgies, and that's just because no one ever invited me.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Brief Undocumented Migrant Phase

Forboding creeps into my heart as the bus nears CopacabaƱa border crossing. I'm taking a gamble. All the other passengers are European, because Americans are supposed to get visas before entering Bolivia with a two-way plane ticket, but I'm relying on the schmoozing powers that have so magically transported me across many frontiers.