The Courage to Embrace Those Far Away Places

After writing a book that takes place in India, and making online friends there, I follow the news from this amazing South Asian country. Much of it is positive and even uplifting.

Countless stories of personal courage and altruism fill the Times of India section called Good News Stories, and everyday headlines tell tales like how the tech savvy country was barely affected by the ‘WannaCry’ ransomware that froze computers in over 100 countries worldwide.

And yet, India has once again made the headlines in the United States with a horrific rape. This time, a jilted lover and his friends abducted and ultimately murdered a young woman on May 9. The details are horrible.

Along with the many tragic aspects of this incident is the side effect of how it serves to further separate the people of this world. No society exists on this planet that does not have its crimes; larger countries have more. Crowding, poverty, stresses from modernization and the integration of different cultures adds to volatility everywhere. But when the awful event occurs in the back yard of somebody else who lives far away from you, it is easy to think  “Oh, that’s the way they are.”

That is unfortunate at any time, but especially now. Thanks to recent events, my own country is seeing a surge of hate crimes with intolerance on the rise. Our world is facing a growing epidemic of nationalism, the frequent outgrowth of which is more hostility, a lack of international cooperation and even wars. Right now, we need all the cross-cultural empathy that we can get.

It’s a delicate matter to feel a sense of commonness when learning of a bad situation that we don’t think would occur in our own culture. (Of course, we could be wrong about that.) But surely it is no stretch to identify with the anger and loss of the victim’s family, with the sense of fear and outrage in the community, and with the confusion and shame of the perpetrator’s family. These all extend well beyond the specifics of the crime, and are woven into the stories of mayhem and destruction of any sort, in any place.

Far away places. They can be scary. They can be easy to demonize and hard to identify with. That is, until we look at the deeper emotions behind the events and see the common threads. Then we can weep for others and wish healing for them, because in our hearts we, too, know what it is like to face sorrow and find the strength to move on.

Enjoy this relaxing duet of two icons of Americana, Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow, as they sing about “Far Away Places.”

(For more thoughts on Far Away Places see Leaving a Light Footprint in a Far Away Place, As Far Away Places Edge Closer, Caring About Far Away Places and Those Far Away Places Could Be Next Door.)

Review of “Defriended” by Ruth Baron

This is not an easy needle to thread, and when I heard that I knew someone who knew someone who had written a fairly successful young adult horror novel, I decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did.
DefrieindedRuth Baron has written a thoroughly enjoyable book. Given that I am neither a big fan of horror stories nor of tales of unhappy misfits, this is high praise. It helped that the protagonist, Jason, has a better sense of humor and more common sense than most. Not only is he likable, but his world is filled with both teens and adults who are basically decent people who sometimes behave poorly. It’s not a story that makes you cringe or a world you can’t wait to leave.
The horror aspects center around the creepiness of a dead friend on Facebook and while there are scenes you might not want to read while alone on a dark stormy night, Baron shows class as she avoids inserting anything truly disgusting just for shock value.
If I had one quarrel with the book it was that the friendship between social klutz Jason and popular Rakesh was hard to believe. Many a charismatic kid has ditched his or her best grade school friend when they turned out to be a social liability in junior high. Okay, I like to think that kids like Rakesh exist, and Baron really tried hard to convince me that they do, but I’m not sure I believe her.
What surprised me most is that the book is also very much a crime novel, and a well done one at that. There are only so many options to explain a Facebook relationship with the dead, after all, and most if not all of them involve some kind of a crime. Baron crafts a clever solution to the situation and adds a twist or two to keep the reader guessing. It’s a fun read for mystery lovers of any age.
Check out the novel on Amazon or on Goodreads.