To say that Hitler's Nazis killed eleven million people doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of how evil they were. Murder is bad and all, but in my view, there are many, many things worse than death, and the Nazis did most of them to people. I assume most people have learned at some point in detail about the atrocities of the Holocaust, yet it seems to me that in American popular culture we typically represent Nazis as one-dimensional stock villains who just want to take over the world for vague unspecified evil reasons. This glaring discrepancy is why Steven Spielberg could no longer use Nazis as Indiana Jones villains after making "Schindler's List", and in recent days has also caused me some discomfort as I'm revisiting an Indiana Jones fan fiction based on a rejected screenplay that I started over a decade ago. The truth is awkward. I don't believe all my suffering in the past decade, considerable though it is, would measure up to even a week in a Nazi concentration camp.
And of course, the Nazis' atrocities against the Jews should never ever ever be downplayed, but they do tend to get all the attention, with other persecuted groups who together constituted their other five million victims all but forgotten from our collective memory. This week an excellent op-ed appeared called "Why Nazi Atrocities Against Gay Men Must Never Be Forgotten". (Specifically men, yes, as the author briefly notes that "they viewed lesbianism as a temporary condition so they suffered less", and I in turn note an interesting parallel to what I've read about medieval views of homosexuality, in which female same-sex crimes were given much more leniency because women were stupid and emotional and less responsible for their actions. Yay for misogyny?) Ironically, given how little attention this subject has received, the first time I heard the word "homosexuals" (though I'd already been called "faggot" several times a day for a few years by that point) was in sixth grade when a teacher listed off groups of people that the Nazis persecuted.
Alan Keele likewise noted in his review "Mormons and Nazis", "While visiting in 2007 the Villa Wannsee, outside Berlin, site of the infamous planning meetings for the 'Final Solution to the Jewish Problem' presided over by Adolf Eichmann, I was intrigued – and, frankly, shocked – to learn from a display there that from within Germany proper – not counting places outside its borders like Poland with much larger Jewish populations – the Nazis actually murdered more homosexuals even than Jews.
"I am convinced that the sobering fact of the existence and extent of such homicidal Nazi homophobia, if more widely known and better understood among Mormons today, could have an important tempering effect on current thinking about how disciples of the Prince of Peace should speak about and behave toward members of the LGBT community, especially recalling how homophobia was falsely viewed in the Third Reich as a lofty moral position, the taking of a righteous religious stand against sinful monsters portrayed by Fascist hate-mongers as an imminent danger to society....
"This is by no means an abstract concern. I have witnessed several things, some quite recently, that both shocked and horrified me. In my High Priests’ meeting in early 1994, a retired Seminary and Institute teacher, a man I very much admire, a war hero seriously wounded during the Battle of the Bulge, worked himself into a rage over the fact that President Clinton had invited gays to march in his inaugural parade. Growing more angry by the moment, he opined that gays should not be allowed to take employment or find housing. When someone asked him how he expected them to live, he finally sputtered that all queers should probably be taken out and shot."
In fairness, taking them out and shooting them would be much nicer than what the Nazis actually did to them.
An older but very educational article that also came to my attention outlined "In Germany’s extermination program for black Africans, a template for the Holocaust". Besides showing how the "Final Solution" for Jews and others directly evolved from Germany's genocide against black Africans in what is now Namibia, it explores the intertwining with eugenics and the civil rights movement in the United States. The concept of exterminating "undesirable" types of people really was born in the United States from brilliant minds like Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, but it was mostly about not letting them reproduce, and Germany watched these developments with interest and decided to improve on them by adding unspeakable torture and mass murder. When the United States saw that, they were all like "Woah, guys, we're as racist as the next country, probably more so in fact, but too much is too much." It forced more than a little bit of soul-searching.
Tangent: The United States' history of forced sterilizations is not ancient history. The article notes that in North Carolina they "continued into the 1970s, long after Hitler fell", but I also remember less than seven years ago when doctors in California were exposed for sterilizing at least 148 women in prison between 2006 and 2010. I was immersed in right-wing Facebook pages and news sources at this time and I remember well that this was pretty much the only thing California ever did that they agreed with. Typical comments from self-proclaimed conservatives ran along the lines of "I don't see the problem here!" and "They should sterilize the men too!" A self-proclaimed conservative myself, it nonetheless made me sick. There are few times when it's okay to compare people to Hitler, but this was one of them.
Hitler said a few nasty things about black people in his book. But the Nazis themselves, unlike their predecessors in Namibia, never got around to an orchestrated campaign against black people because there weren't very many in Germany or nearby. They had a relatively low number of young mixed-race people in the Rhineland (descended from black French troops) whom they sterilized in 1937, and as horrible as that is, it remains one of the least of their atrocities. And when black American athlete Jesse Owens totally humiliated them in the 1936 Olympics, they were nonetheless PR-savvy enough to treat him better than the United States did. Though by no means oblivious to the Nazis' animosity toward him, he famously opined, "Hitler didn’t snub me; it was our president who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send a telegram." If the Nazis had won World War II, though - which was never much of a risk given Hitler's incompetence at military strategy, but if they had somehow, it wouldn't have been long before they swept over Africa and added a few tens of millions more mutilated corpses to their resume.
This actually has some relevance to my aforementioned fan fiction which, as per the screenplay it's based on, has Nazis as the villains and takes place in black Africa in 1937. Back in tenth grade or so I made a point of playing up the racism aspect that the screenplay completely ignores (and adding a bit of American racism as well, because they don't deserve to get off the hook either, though the protagonist himself is canonically established as way ahead of his time on racial equality). But revisiting it now, I still feel uncomfortable because that still doesn't come close to adequately conveying how evil Hitler and his ilk truly were. It's even putting a bit of a damper on my longtime love for the Indiana Jones franchise.
It bears repeating that if there is no God and no afterlife, Hitler and his Nazis won, and their victims lost in a very big, very permanent way.
Warning: this post has been composed on two hours of sleep
Rammstein's song "Deutschland", released earlier this year, poetically describes the cognitive dissonance of wanting to love one's country in spite of the horrible things it's done. They lyrics themselves don't go into any detail about what those horrible things are in Germany's case, even though Rammstein has never shied away from dark and taboo topics that most normal people don't want to think about. The video, however, depicts (among several other things) the band members reenacting a concentration camp execution, and despite their obvious good intentions some, including actual Holocaust survivors, considered it quite shocking and tasteless. I think that's a good thing. I worry about a future day when everyone who experienced World War II firsthand is gone and its horrors have become ancient history to the desensitized idiots running the world.
When I heard that "Jojo Rabbit" is a comedy about Nazis, but didn't hear about any commensurate outrage, I knew I had to see it. Without knowing anything else I could guess the sort of thing they were going for and how its approach offers what is, unfortunately, a very timely and relevant message in this era when Nazis are making a resurgence. (In the United States, that is. Germany doesn't actually let self-proclaimed Nazis march in its streets. Go figure.) I frequently have a dark sense of humor that I probably need to repent of, but more to the point, I think there are legitimate times and places to apply humor to most subjects that conventional wisdom suggests should never be joked about - either because context makes the humor profound rather than shocking and tasteless, or because it is shocking and tasteless but in the right way. It's a balancing act, to be sure.
And the worst specimens that humanity has to offer are not exempt from this principle. As David Morgan-Mar of Irregular Webcomic! wrote, "Yes, I make jokes about Nazis. I make fun of the Nazis because they were pathetic, evil excuses for people who deserve to be made fun of." When he wrote this way back in 2013, it probably seemed reasonable to describe Nazis in the past tense.
To my disappointment, the titular protagonist is not an actual rabbit. He's a ten-year-old boy who looks like my cousin Jaden, who's more than ten years old but close enough. The rabbit part is a nickname he acquires that has little significance to the movie unless I missed some deeper threads of symbolism, which I probably did because I don't know how to art. Anyway, Jojo is living in a fictional German town toward the end of World War II and he's completely enamored with the Nazi cause. He worships Hitler and detests Jews even though he knows nothing about them. And this is the guy we're supposed to root for. There's a powerful and, ugh, timely message here about indoctrination and people, to say nothing of children, getting swept up by dangerously wrong ideologies. How did Hitler brainwash millions of normal people, and what's to stop someone else from doing the same? This movie won't let you not think about that.
Much of the humor in "Jojo Rabbit" focuses on making the Nazis look ridiculous, which isn't hard. Their fanaticism and xenophobia are ripe for satire, with the latter being an interesting example of shocking and tasteless in (what I regard as) the right way. Several characters say vile, appalling things about Jews without disclaimers or irony of any kind. (The exception is when the Jewish character Elsa says them to Jojo sarcastically to mock him.) But these lines are so absurdly hyperbolic and impossible to take seriously that they make the Nazis, and really by extension all racists everywhere, sound stupid, which is funny because it's true. It's a subtle but significant step beyond "racist jokes" that exist solely for shock value. The shock value is there, but it has an actual message. As with Rammstein's video I can understand the perspective of those who would find such a portayal irredeemably offensive, but these are things that happened and we still have to grapple with them all these decades later using every tool at our disposal.
Hitler himself has been ripe for comic treatment in everything from "Looney Tunes" to "Robot Chicken", I think in part because he's transcended mortality like perhaps no other figure of the twentieth century. What he did was orders of magnitude larger than the human mind can truly comprehend, so for those of us whose lives he didn't directly ruin, he's more of a symbol than an actual human being. I can't personally hate him any more than Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun. He was a comically deranged little man, and an appropriate target of humor for the same reasons as Nazis in general, but constantly making him the butt or promulgator of jokes risks becoming tasteless and dismissive the kind of person he really was. (This is less of a risk with random Nazi characters, because in real life not every person who threw their lot in with that ideology back then was pure evil. Nowadays it's harder to rationalize.)
"Jojo Rabbit" solves this problem in two ways. First, the Hitler in the movie is not the real Hitler, but Jojo's imaginary friend who embodies his youthful zealotry for the Nazi cause. He can be goofy and funny and even - shudder - likable at times because he is, in fact, the product of a ten-year-old child's brain. Second, even with that being said, the movie starts to show us his true colors and eventually (spoiler alert) makes known in no uncertain terms what it thinks of him and what he stands for. One of the people I watched it with expressed her bewilderment that they had a ten-year-old child say the f-word. I think it should be more shocking that they dressed a ten-year-old child in a Hitler Youth uniform and had him say terrible things about Jews, but more to the point, if there's ever a completely appropriate and unobjectionable context for the f-word, this is it. I don't doubt that Jesus himself would say the f-word in this context.
Other than that, the tone of the movie tends to avoid dark humor as such, differentiating between comedy and tragedy. The plight of the Jews and German resistance fighters, and even one Nazi officer who turns out to be human after all, is played completely straight. Still, scattered throughout are some instances of death and injury played for laughs, and one humorous mention of Gestapo torture. Somehow it works and doesn't seem inconsistent. Another David Morgan-Mar quote seems apropos: "It is my general philosophy that humour can help ease despair and loss. That's why I can make jokes based on some of the most terrible events in human history. I've done it before, and I'll do it again. But never feel that I am insensitive to the real world suffering and loss experienced during these dreadful episodes."
In summary, Nazism is a cancer and the only platform we should give its proponents is one that comes with a rope and a long drop. Racism is a cancer. Xenophobia is a cancer. White supremacy is a cancer. If we as a species could grow up and learn that, maybe movies like "Jojo Rabbit" wouldn't need to exist.
Once upon a time there was a generation of Americans known as "baby boomers" because they were born during a time known as the "baby boom" which was preceded by an event known as the "Big Bang". They were born at very young ages, but like many humans, after a few decades had gone by they started to get old. And like many humans, some of them hated everything the rising generations stood for. In particular, the (white) baby boomers seemed to have a personal vendetta against "millennials", by which they meant anyone aged zero to thirty, long after virtually all actual millennials had graduated college (where applicable) and the next generation (Generation Z) had been coming along for well over two decades.
In their prime, the baby boomers had pretty handily ruined the economy and the environment, leaving millennials to clean up their mess and become the first generation in American history with a lower quality of life than their parents. When millennials and Gen Z-ers couldn't afford various luxury industries that previous generations took for granted, (white) baby boomers blamed them for "killing" or "murdering" said industries. When millennials and Gen Z-ers complained about the circumstances forced on them and proposed political or economic solutions, (white) baby boomers mocked them for being "lazy", "entitled", and the personal favorite of many, "snowflakes". This last was literally one of the stupidest insults in the English-speaking world. Anyone who said it unironically sounded like a five year old calling his sister random words because he didn't understand how insults work.
This is not to say, of course, that millennials as individuals or as a group were without flaw, but the negative stereotypes leveled at them were for the most part unfair and unwarranted. One day, millennials decided they'd taken enough abuse and started responding to baby boomers' bullcrap with a sarcastic and condescending "OK boomer." There was nothing particularly clever about this phrase, but it became wildly popular because of its surprising effectiveness at offending the very same (white) people who had been mocking them for being easily offended. One boomer, a (white) conservative radio host, was so offended that he published a very stupid Tweet, which in fairness was less stupid than almost every Tweet written by the President of the United States at that time, but was still very stupid.
This Tweet was received about as well as anybody who knew even the tiniest bit about the history of race relations in the United States would expect. Most responses simply consisted of the words "OK boomer." Indeed, like most of the bullcrap that spawned this retaliatory catchphrase in the first place, the Tweet was too asinine to merit actual constructive or thoughtful responses. Some were attempted anyway. I didn't bother, but if I had bothered, I would have simply asked a few questions in the hope of prompting introspection that would lead this misguided (white) guy to his own conclusions. I would have asked:
Were baby boomers legally bought and sold by millennials who took them from their homes in obscenely crowded ships, forced them to perform arduous manual labor, beat them with no repercussions, and had complete control over their lives, for hundreds of years?
Did evangelical Christians ever develop an almost universally accepted theology claiming that baby boomers were cursed by God because of their lineage, and therefore fundamentally inferior to millennials?
Did scientists ever develop almost universally accepted hypotheses claiming that baby boomers were biologically more primitive and less intelligent than millennials?
Were baby boomers at one time classified as three-fifths of a person by the U.S. government?
Have baby boomers ever been burned, shot or lynched because of their age or the year they were born?
Did eugenicists like Margaret Sanger regard baby boomers as an "undesirable" population and leave a legacy that would continue to systematically target their communities up to the present day?
Did the Home Owner's Loan Corporation ever label neighborhoods with high percentages of baby boomers as "risky investments" that would subsequently be denied mortgage loans for decades?
Have baby boomers ever been denied access to public pools, clubs, restaurants, theaters, libraries, hotels, etc. that were open to younger people?
Have baby boomers ever been forced to sit at the back of public transportation because of their age or the year they were born?
Did baby boomers ever have to use separate water fountains from millennials?
Is a job application with an "old" sounding name demonstrably less likely to be accepted than the exact same application with a "young" sounding name?
Do baby boomers disproporationately get pulled over while driving compared to millennials?
Are baby boomers disproportionately targeted and incarcerated for drug offenses and other non-violent crimes that millennials are far more likely to get away with?
Are baby boomers regularly murdered by millennial police officers with little or no provocation?
Do millennial supremacists march in American streets with few if any repercussions?
I notice that you had no problem spelling out "Boomer", yet only referred to the n-word as "the n-word". Is this because you actually know fine well that the latter word is much, much more offensive than the former, for very obvious reasons, and that only a complete imbecile could fail to recognize this?
The Tweet was eventually deleted with no explanation or apology, but it would forever be immortalized as yet another piece of our species' sad history, and the first organized retaliatory strike by millennials in a war that they sure as crap didn't start.
This weekend was the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I'm tired of explaining what that is twice a year, so from now on I won't. As usual I will fixate on a few details instead of attempting to summarize the whole thing.
I didn't much care about the changes to the Young Men's program, which will have approximately zero effect on my life, nor would I have cared about the corresponding changes to the Young Women's program - except for my hope that they would dispense with the longstanding age-based class names, "Beehives", "Mia Maids", and "Laurels". From the time I was a teenager, I thought those names sounded stupid. But after learning their historical significance and the reasoning behind them, I just thought they sounded stupid. Really, just because a name made sense in Utah in 1950 doesn't mean we need to hold onto it forever. For zark's sake, the "Mia" in "Mia Maids" stands for "Mutual Improvement Association" which literally hasn't been a thing since before the current Young Women's parents were in Young Women. So I watched the women's session, or to be more precise, listened to the women's session while playing "Plants vs. Zombies", just to see if these stupid names would be relegated to the dustbin of history where they belong.
Yes, I could have just waited until after to find out, but I wanted the pleasure of witnessing this long overdue moment firsthand. And also feeling the Spirit and stuff. I was not disappointed. Although, now that the archaic term "Mutual" is being entirely jettisoned as well with respect to both the Young Men and Young Women programs, the Mutual dating app (which I wrote about at greater length here) may need to be renamed as well to retain its significance to future generations. I recommend "The App for the Assistance of Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Marrying and Procreating Within the Boundaries of the Lord's Divine Law of Chastity". It's not catchy, but every word is important.
My karmic reward for watching an extra session for such a petty reason came swiftly. President Nelson said some words and then he started talking about temples and I was like Wait, this is the way he starts talking before he announces new temples, but he does that at the end of the Sunday afternoon session, so surely he wouldn't oh who am I kidding, of course he would troll us like this just because he can and at that moment the WiFi freaked out and the audio inexplicably cut in to the late Elder Perry talking about the joy of keeping the commandments with soft inspirational music in the background, and I frantically refreshed the page while breaking a commandment or two in my frantic verbal outburst, and then President Nelson was back and he was blurry and his lips weren't synchronized with his voice but that was fine, at least I could hear him, but wait, was this a rerun of the temple announcements from April, because it sounded kind of similar, but no wait, it was fresh and he totally trolled us and I would have been pissed if I had missed that session or that fragment of the session.
What follows are my very professional and spiritual analyses of those temple announcements. With this batch compared to the last one, there seemed to be a bit of a shift back toward building temples where the number of members and stakes justifies it, as opposed to prioritizing convenience for members in far-flung locations even if they be few. But of course both elements are still at play.
Cobán, Guatemala - I expected this one, but not for a few more years since it's kind of out in the jungle, but then, with the way some recent announcements have gone, I expected the unexpected which means I expected everywhere and nowhere at once. Cobán, Reykjavik, Mars, it's all fair game for President Nelson, isn't it?
Bacolod, Philippines - It would seem that the Philippines has somewhat improved upon its historically abysmal activity and retention rates, with stake growth on the increase and five of its seven current or future temples announced in the last decade.
Bentonville, Arkansas - Arkansas is one of the states in the United States without a temple, and the Rogers area is one of the few areas in the United States more than two hundred miles away from one. So it's been on people's lists for years and gotten really annoying. Bentonville should be close enough to shut them up.
Freetown, Sierra Leone - How can the Church have a faith-promoting independent film based on a true story named after this city, but not a temple? It's about time that situation was rectified. By the way, notwithstanding its imdb rating, I recommend the film. "God's Army" it ain't but on the plus side, "The Singles Ward" it ain't either. And it's not a comedy but because it's set in West Africa it has a few moments that are actually funny without an insider knowledge of Provo culture that most people neither have nor desire.
McAllen, Texas - I'm surprised all the Saints in Texas didn't apostatize after they were told to stop bringing their guns to church. Miracles do happen in this day and age. It may serve several members in northeastern Mexico as well, but then again it may not, because owing to policies and politicians who will not be discussed here at this time, traveling across the border has become an absurdly arduous and time-consuming process. Even for Americans!
Orem, Utah - This, in case I've failed to mention it before, is the city where I was born. Unless I'm mistaken we moved before my first birthday; in any case, I don't remember it one bit, and since it's basically Provo I've never had the slightest desire to go back and see it ever. Still, yay for getting a temple in the city where I was born. Especially since getting one in the town where I grew up is about as likely as Mars.
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea - This is one of those locations where a few years ago people were bragging about the dramatic growth of the Church, and then it just kind of fizzled out overnight. (See also: Madagascar.) Still, membership numbers more than warrant a temple even without taking into account their poverty and the long distances to their nearest ones in Australia and New Zealand.
Taylorsville, Utah - ANOTHER TEMPLE IN UTAH!!!!!!! HOW VERY EXCITING!!!!!!! I CAN BARELY CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT FOR ANOTHER TEMPLE IN UTAH!!!!!!!1
Of course, I'm not one of those "uTaH dOeSn'T nEeD mOrE tEmPlEs" folks, because my intellect is capable of grasping the concept that buildings have a finite capacity and sometimes can get too full.
My favorite talk was by Elder Peter M. Johnson. An African-American from New York City, his voice has a cadence not quite like anything I've heard in General Conference before, and it riveted me to his every word so that I got more out of his talk than most. He could have read a phone book and I would have paid attention. This also would have given phone books a reason to exist. The missionaries seated near me who appeared to have fallen asleep might not agree, but to each their own. So, you know, go ahead and watch it if you haven't.
With only a few minutes remaining in the final session, I felt somewhat alarmed that nobody, as far as I could notice, had remembered to utter the words "this historic conference". But President Nelson slipped them into his talk and put me at ease. That man never lets me down.
In closing, I would like to change subjects completely and note the passing of actress Diahann Carroll. I read this little book of comics once that I could have sworn was written by Charles Schultz, but it had a multiracial cast and almost exclusively focused on race issues, but I can't find out anything about it now, but anyway in one comic this little black boy was like, "I'm very disappointed in this book 'Black Beauty'. I thought it was going to be about Diahann Carroll." And all these years later I still think that's one of the funniest things ever.
Dihann Carroll will be remembered as the first black woman to win a Tony award (back when the Tony awards had standards, no less) and the first black woman to star in a non-stereotypical television role (I guess we're not counting Lieutenant Uhura? idk, I'm just going by what Wikipedia says), but to me, she will mostly be remembered a. for the aforementioned comic, and b. for her guest role in "The Star Wars Holiday Special" as singing Wookiee porn. I don't know how else to describe it. Between her dialogue and Chewbacca's father's horrific reaction to it, one marvels that this scene was allowed on television in 1978 or ever. And then one realizes, oh, of course, by that point in the Special the censorship people reviewing it had slipped into a coma. As for why it, and the entire Special, was written and filmed in the first place, one can only hypothesize that the creators couldn't find real drugs and drank gasoline instead. Even so. She was the first black character with a speaking role in Star Wars (since James Earl Jones technically played a white guy), and still the only one with a singing role that I'm aware of, and that's worth remembering.
It's a shame that "agenda" has become a dirty word. If I pointed out that Disney has a clear and unmistakable agenda to fill Star Wars with more women and non-white people, most would assume that I'm racist and sexist and see this as a bad thing. But Disney does have such an agenda, and I see it as one of the few things they've done (mostly) right with Star Wars. (I say "mostly" because actual character development seems to be less than an afterthought in some cases.) I'm not exaggerating when I say that the lack of women and non-white people was previously the biggest flaw in an otherwise stellar franchise. And as I've grown more sensitive to these things, I've implemented the same agenda in my not-yet-published and still-evolving novel.
Some years ago, before the new batch of Star Wars movies, I proactively went through my draft and made more characters female just because it seemed like the right thing to do. My two protagonists were already female (hence the working title that will definitely be replaced with something better someday, "Space Girls"). I had no agenda in mind when I made that decision at the beginning. It was just something I tried out and for whatever reason it made them more real to me and more interesting to write than my previous male protagonists who were flat and hollow and stupid, and I did this before Rey was ever a thing, before Disney even bought Lucasfilm, but now they'll make their official debut long after that fact and I suppose it will look like I'm just jumping on the bandwagon. It never occurred to me, though, to make them anything other than white. Crossing the gender barrier was somehow more intuitive than crossing the skin color barrier.
Of course, skin color is handled differently in the non-visual medium of writing, and often glossed over altogether. Most works of fiction in the U.S. have historically been written by white people to an audience of predominantly white people who will assume that all the characters are white unless otherwise implied or specified. So in the original 1980 novelization of "The Empire Strikes Back", Donald F. Glut makes no mention of Luke's or Leia's or Han's skin color, but introduces Lando as "a handsome black man". I presume Mr. Glut didn't and doesn't have a racist bone in his body. But this kind of unconscious bias is something we take notice of and try to rectify nowadays. Contrast it with Alexander Freed's 2016 novelization of "Rogue One", the most diverse Star Wars film up to that point. Every main character is given a detailed description of his or her appearance, but with no mention of skin color whatsoever.
Just a few months ago I tried to diversify my novel in like manner. Of course, most characters are never given a level of description sufficient to justify mentioning skin color or national origin, but most of them had boring "white" names and were white in my mind. My unconscious bias was at work because I'm white and I grew up surrounded by white people - my middle and high school combined literally had like five black kids - so of course that was how I would visualize the world unless prompted otherwise. I replaced a majority of these "white" names with various Hispanic, African and Asian names. All but one of the more prominent characters were also white (or half-white, in the case of one human/alien hybrid) so I changed some of their descriptions and tweaked a few of their names to rectify that. However, I didn't feel at liberty to make such adjustments to the two protagonists. They're at the center of the story I began nearly a decade ago, and to me they were like real living breathing people that I couldn't just alter as it suited me. The most I could do was decide that one of them is half Northern Paiute.
I did not use any labels like "white", "black", "Latino" or so forth, as they seem a bit heavy-handed for my purposes. Within the world of the story, national and ethnic boundaries are all but nonexistent. People of Earth live under one overarching government and collectively regard themselves as "Earthlings". Current categories of race within the Earthling species have been supplanted by the differentiations between Earthlings and other sapient beings from other worlds altogether. "Racism" is no longer about skin color so much as the number of eyes or tentacles someone has. So I just describe Earthling skin color as "pale", "tan", "dark" or what have you, and let other contextual clues like the names or accents fill in the rest. To me this makes sense and is an ideal which we should be striving for in the real world (even though our chance of meeting other sapient beings anytime soon isn't great). "Race" is a social construct that misleads people to believe in divisions within humanity that don't actually exist. Discarding it with all its associated terminology and baggage is, of course, quite impossible at this time. But I think we should be striving toward that end.
Now if anyone has actually read this far, I can imagine some of them asking, "Who the ---- cares? Why does it matter? Why are you SJWs so obsessed with this identity politics crap?" There are at least three reasons for me to have this diversity agenda.
1. The most obvious - inclusivity. If you haven't had the experience of growing up and seeing nobody of importance in the movies or on TV or in novels who looks like you, then you can be forgiven for not grasping why it affects people so much and why they're so happy for the situation to change. Even if you refuse to try to understand, it should be a neutral thing. You shouldn't feel personally attacked by people who look different getting more chances in the spotlight.
2. A related but more selfish reason - because I find it more interesting. I never gave a second thought to growing up surrounded by white people, but now it feels like a breath of fresh air whenever I have the opportunity to be around a substantial number of people who look different than me. Diversity for its own sake is just beautiful, okay? I don't know how else to explain it. And most of the name replacements I made in my novel are objectively superior to the originals anyway. Joaquin Tolentino is a much cooler name than Jacob Collins. Sorry.
3. Because, get this, it's actually necessary if I want to be realistic (which I do). This reason doesn't really apply to Star Wars because it's a fictional galaxy altogether, but my novel is set in this one, just in the future. And in the year 2153, the United States and Europe and probably all of Earth are going to be way more diverse than they are now. From what I can gather, in fact, white people are pretty much the slowest-reproducing demographic on the planet. In just a few decades they'll probably be the smallest minority of all (and since I'm not a Nazi, I have no problem with that and I'm not complaining in the slightest, just stating a fact). So visualizing a future world that's as dominated by white people as most current American movies, TV shows and novels would actually be absurd. So this means my white and now half-white protagonists are actually minorities after all!
I would agree, however, that this shouldn't matter. No such agenda as this should be necessary. In an ideal world, movies and TV shows and novels would automatically reflect the diversity that exists in real life without requiring conscious and deliberate efforts to make them so. But we, at least in the United States, aren't at that point yet.
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"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual.