Open Letter to Senators McCain, Flake

I have not written a blog entry since Donald Trump won the election last week. That’s not exactly true. I’ve written a couple times, but haven’t pressed send. I simply don’t seem to know exactly what to say.

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But then Trump chose Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, and my silence had to come to an end. It was one thing when Trump chose Bannon to run his campaign, which was based on a lot of fear and hateful rhetoric. I was willing to accept the possibility that Trump was saying what he felt would get him elected.

But to have the head of Breitbart, which has become the mouthpiece of the “alt right” movement, as the president’s main policy advisor is just a step too far for me. I wrote my Arizona senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, today. You may feel free to use parts of this letter if you choose to write your senators, though I would ask you to please put some thought into personalizing these letters. These are people are we writing, and they deserve our respect and, if we really expect them to respond to our concerns, we should take the time to write them personally.

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Dear Senator McCain,

Congratulations on your recent re-election to the United States Senate. While I am not a Republican, I have always considered you to be a reasonable man and someone who, as a public servant, has done what you felt was right for the people of Arizona.

I am writing today to ask you to consider using your voice in the name of what is good and just and fair. I recognize before I even sent this that you have just won re-election and it may not be politically expedient for you to speak up here, but I believe this is extremely important and I hope you will consider doing so.

I am extremely concerned about President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to appoint Steve Bannon as his chief strategist. While I am well aware that he may do as he wishes, the choice of a man who has helped give voice to the “alt right” movement worries me more than anything that has ever happened in U.S. politics.

According to Andrew Anglin, editor of The Daily Stormer and a major player in the “alt right”, the concept behind the movement is “that Whites are undergoing an extermination, via mass immigration into White countries which was enabled by a corrosive liberal ideology of White self-hatred, and that the Jews are at the center of this agenda.”

I think we deserve the right to know whether the president’s new right-hand man agrees with this. I think we need to know, in fact, whether the president’s choice of Bannon is a tacit sign of agreement with this belief.

If I see a bright spot in the election of Donald Trump, it is the opportunity for reasonable Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to band together against the hateful messages that Trump used to get elected. I felt strongly that it was important to take a “wait-and-see” approach to his presidency, and it saddens me so much that he has so quickly chosen to give so much power to a person with such close ties to a hate group. We may not agree on much in this country, but it would be my hope that we can mostly agree that potential agents of White Nationalism should not have an official place in The White House.

I would really appreciate hearing back from you about where you stand on the announcement about Bannon, and whether you plan to speak out against the normalizing of an angry, Far Right movement such as the Alternative Right.

Sincerely,
Bill Konigsberg

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“Put the bottle between your legs…”

Our visit to a Scottsdale restaurant that has delicious food and attracts a pretty old, conservative crowd started awfully, but ended beautifully on Saturday night.

Walking in to the restaurant (I won’t name it because I don’t now if the owners would want me to) for an early birthday dinner (I turn 46 in less than a week), I saw a man wearing this t-shirt.

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I almost stopped in my tracks, because, well. That shirt just seemed to encapsulate so much of the past few months.

It was mean-spirited.

It was flat-out wrong.

And it was out of the closet, as if it’s perfectly okay to be mean-spirited and flat-out wrong these days, for WHATEVER reason.

Just so I say what is right here, so it is understood. Because this isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact. It’s a fact, and I know it’s a fact, because I actually know a lot of transgender people. Trans people are not perverts who want to see your children’s private parts. Trans people are human beings, and sometimes human beings have to use the bathroom.

The laws like the one that got so much attention in North Carolina actually require people to use only the bathroom that corresponds with his or her birth gender. So a transgender man who has transitioned (meaning that this person might have a beard or a penis and in all ways identifies himself as a man) would be required to use the ladies’ bathroom.

 

So that t-shirt is not just mean-spirited, it’s also lazy and incorrect. And it put me in a bad mood. I was feeling pretty on edge when we were seated.

And within about five minutes, a table of four men came and sat to our side. There was something about this group of men, who were drinking heavily, who were loud, that gave me a bad feeling. Their energy was … icky.

That bad feeling was confirmed about 10 minutes later, when they were escorted out of the restaurant.

One of the owners, an older white male, did it. And after, he came by our table to apologize for the hubbub.

“What happened?” I asked.

He explained that they complained to their young waitress that the wine was too cold. One of them told her: “You know how you could warm it up? By putting the bottle between your legs.”

I thanked him for throwing them out. He didn’t need my thanks. He seemed pretty miffed that one of his waitresses had been spoken to that way.

As we ate, a thought came to me. It was about the totality of the dining experience so far, and it didn’t feel profound, exactly, as I’d had thoughts along this line previously during the last few months. But it felt more clear than it ever had before.

What’s going on in our country is that segment of our country wants to go back to 1960.

It was a simpler time. Well, it was a simpler time if you were a straight, white male.

The U.S. was the most powerful country in the world. No one could touch us.

If you were a straight, white male, and you wanted a good manufacturing job, you could get one, pretty much no questions asked.

If you were a straight, white male, you could pretty well assume that your salary would be higher than that of a woman, or a Latino person, or an Asian person, or an African-American person.

If you were a straight, white male, you could pretty much say whatever the hell you wanted to say. Pretty much no questions asked.

And to a straight, white male, it was a gentler time. Privilege wasn’t a concept yet. No woman was threatening to become president; no black person was president; no gay person was saying, “please stop using the word faggot”; and trans people seemed to only exist as the butt of jokes.

It’s 56 years later, and so much of that is gone. Almost all of it, really. And suddenly the slogan “Make America Great Again” resonates with so many people. I actually get it. From a certain perspective, it must indeed feel like so much has been lost. And manufacturing jobs? Jobs for people without a college education? Oh my God. What are blue collar workers, what are folks without a college degree to do to make money in this country? I get that, too.

The fact is, none of this is simple. The message “Make America Great Again” is simple, but the problems facing our country are not. It’s not the same country, it’s not the same world as it was 56 years ago. Our enemies are not located within the borders of certain countries anymore. They are here already. They are everywhere, and it’s not always so easy to know who they are.

That’s fucking petrifying. I get that, too.

But we can’t go back. And frankly, we shouldn’t go backward. So many things are, on an objective level, better than they were 56 years ago. That is especially true for those who are not straight, white males.

Gays can get married!

A young, black person can see that the presidency is no longer an impossible dream.

So can a young, white woman.

These are good things. But they also make our country much less simple. Not less great. Just less simple.

After our meal, the owner again apologized and thanked us for being there. We stopped and spoke with him for a second, and he said, “Imagine saying that to a young woman.”

We shook our heads. No, we couldn’t imagine.

“You can’t say that here,” he said. “I’m not Donald Trump.”

Amen, brother. Amen.

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A Moderate Plea to Undecideds

It’s political season, and I was hoping to get through without a single political blog post, but that isn’t going to happen. I’ve decided to write this because I think this is perhaps the single most important election of my lifetime, and I want to take the time to speak to my undecided friends, fans, and readers about why I think you should cast a vote for Hillary Clinton.

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First off: I fully understand how a majority of you feel: dismayed by the choices, confused by the media coverage, unsure of what to believe. Also, I completely sympathize and agree that it’s time for a change. If Hillary wins, by the time her term ends in 2020, we will have had a president from one of two families for 24 out of the last 32 years. And given the fact that a lot of people have legitimate gripes about how our country has been run–from the economy to foreign policy–I totally get not wanting to vote for Clinton.

I also understand concerns about her honesty. The constant stream of “Crooked Hillary” comments, the endless coverage of her email debacle, and the questionable judgment she’s shown regarding conflicts of interest relating to the Clinton Foundation make me question how much I really trust her, or her husband, for that matter.

I get all that. Truly.

But.

It is the other side that has me motivated to vote for her.

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The Radical Moderate

There was a time when I considered myself a radical. It was late high school, early college. An incurable disease was destroying a generation of gay men, and ACT UP had just formed in New York. I was young, but I felt the anger, too, right in the pit of my stomach.

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They don’t care about you! They don’t give a crap if you live, or die! These were my typical thoughts as I walked to the subway each morning to go to school, back in 1988.

I wanted to scream from the rooftops, and sometimes I did. There were times when I would go into the theater in high school, stand up on the stage, and scream my lungs out, I was so angry at what I saw going on around me.

The injustice simmered in me. And I felt it was up to me to change the world.

So I attended ACT UP meetings, and a few times I went out with groups of older men and women and glued signs to walls decrying the government’s indifference to the epidemic, and I was openly gay when it wasn’t cool to be out, and I wore a Silence Equals Death pin to school some days, and I wrote a play with a couple friends called It Seems So Innocent, in which we decried racism and sexism and homophobia.

And today, I find myself living in Chandler, Arizona, which is mostly Republican. Last week I went to Red State Kansas, no gay mecca, and spoke about my journey and my books, which feature LGBTQ teen characters. This week I head to Wisconsin and do the same thing.

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Let Me Help You Write a Novel!

Do you have a Young Adult novel that you’re dying to write?

I can help you with that!

So can instructors Tom Leveen, Barry Lyga, Amy Nichols, and Beth Staples.

So can mentors Elana K. Arnold, Jim Blasingame, Martha Brockenbrough, Sharon Flake, Karen Harrington, Varian Johnson, Tom Leveen, Kimberley Griffiths Little, Barry Lyga, Lish McBride, Amy Nichols, and Jean Rabe.

I’m talking about Your Novel Year, the online certificate program for those wishing to write a young adult novel at The Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University. In case you were wondering how you can work one-on-one with me (or any of these other authors), this is your answer. I coordinate the program, created much of the curriculum, and teach several of the classes.

Check out this great article in the Phoenix New Times about us. It talks about us as one of the best-kept-secret resources out there for aspiring writers, and while I know I’m biased, I must agree! How else can you work with award-winning, best-selling authors? Your options, if you wish to learn more about craft and get hands-on help, seem to be a handful of MFA programs that focus on YA lit, and us. Nothing against those programs, which sound awesome. This is just an alternative if you want to study for a year instead of two or three.

If you’re interested, get moving! Applications are due in less than a month (Oct. 31). We are a competitive program, taking the students we feel:

  1. Show the most promise based on a writing sample of 20-25 pages.
  2. Seem the most teachable based on a personal essay.

Feel free to email me at bkonigsberg@gmail.com if you want to talk more about the program or if you have any questions. If you’re serious about learning, I promise you this will be a life-changing experience!

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Me and the FacePlace – A divorce?

 

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It was two years ago at my 25th high school reunion. A woman who was never exactly a friend came up to me and said, “Oh my God, Billy, I see you on Facebook and you’re doing so well in life! That’s amazing, because, back then, well… ” She then paused and rolled her eyes in a way that connoted, ‘you were a big-time mess.’

I got a big laugh out of that, because it seemed like the kind of thing you don’t say to someone at a 25th high school reunion, true or not. And truthfully I don’t live outside my own experience, so I don’t know if it was warranted. I was, let’s say, “dramatic” in high school. Lots of crises, rampant highs and lows, and always this annoying need to share my feelings with the world. Call it a tragic flaw, or maybe call it the reason I am a successful writer. I don’t know.

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Serenity NOW!

I started to watch “Happyish” on Netflix. The script was very good. But what became evident to me by episode 3 was the worldview… so ugly. The world sucks. People are awful.

HAPPYISHI had to stop watching, because I don’t want to feel hopeless, and right now things in our society feel a little, well, wretched.

It’s not hard for me to go there. I have negativity in me, too, even though I try to accentuate the positive. But this new world order of 24 hour news coverage and social media seems to push us toward snark and cynicism, not to mention simple, garden-variety hatred. Shit. Go to Twitter. People are often quite dreadful. Social media has given awful people a gassed-up vehicle for their terribleness.

And it feels like Hollywood has jumped on board. We all can name 5 popular shows about awful people. It’s really hard right now to find stuff to watch that isn’t gleeful about its sour worldview. Difficult People is very funny, and you can kind of see its tongue firmly in cheek, but man. Try watching an episode or two of that and then see how optimistic you feel about our society.

I’m writing this after a week of more terrorist attacks worldwide than I can count. A couple weeks after a devastating show of police brutality against two black males, followed by a heartbreaking massacre of police officers in Dallas. And now Baton Rouge.

Believe me, I’m lost in it. I can tell that many of us feel lost in it, unable to breathe.

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