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In which I quote Country Joe & the Fish…

Our neighbor is a romance novelist. Geoff just sent me a link to her blog. One of the recent entries was a rant about how romance novels are not considered “real” literature. She made some excellent points, which I would never have considered.

If you take a second to think about it, you would realize that traditional romance novels are treated as sub-standard literature and generally relegated to the grocery store shelves, not the main display tables at Borders. And I suppose if you took another minute to think about it, you would realize that the characterization of the whole romance genre as somehow unworthy of literary appreciation is both pervasive and flawed.

But I don’t take a minute to think about that.

I have never taken a minute to think about that.

I have never said to a friend over a beer, “Hey, you know lately I’ve been really annoyed by our culture’s response to romance novels.”

My neighbor's post got me thinking that there are so many topics, about which other people are passionate, that I never seriously consider/discuss/debate. Por ejemplo:

  • Twisty just wrote a poignant entry here about the end of “Breast Cancer Awareness” month. While I have recently had occasion, via the loss of my mother-in-law in July at the hands of breast cancer, to think about that particular disease, and by extension, to think about the gross commercialism of that particular disease, it’s still not something that I have discussed in any depth with many folks.

  • Dooce recently wrote about what depression feels like here. Although I have had, and most likely will continue to have, my fair share of battles with that particular disease, I still don’t discuss or examine it outside of therapy.

  • My friend Jennifer wrote about the inappropriateness of certain Halloween costumes here. Geoff and I wandered the crowded streets of Salem on Halloween to check out the costumes there. Even my husband, who generally is staunchly opposed to “political correctness,” commented to me upon seeing a young white male dressed as Michael Jackson, “I can’t believe he’d dress in blackface! That’s just so wrong.” We definitely had discussions about the Slut-o-ween costumes, but we didn’t really discuss the “acceptability” of other costumes. Is this something we, “we” as a culture or “we” as a couple, should be discussing? I think so.

  • Mimi Smartypants touched on the subject of bystander non-intervention in objectionable social situations here. What do you do in that situation? What if it weren’t strangers on bus, but your friends or family members? What then? What if it weren’t something so fundamental to the question of parenting? People tend to get very touchy when you imply that their parenting skills are somewhat flawed. And I don’t blame them. But what if it were a topic less sensitive than that? What if it were your friends’ use of a specific word or phrase to which you objected e.g. “that’s so gay?” Do you say something then? I don’t. I probably should take that opening to start a dialogue on why I find such a phrase objectionable. But I really don’t.

The above examples are not meant to illustrate that I don’t ever engage in a critical examination of the world around me and my place in it (‘cause that would be a bit narcissistic of me not to, I suppose). I do, a bit. I examined some consumer choices here and here. I may have gotten a bit carried away by my feminist review of a show here.

The above examples are meant to illustrate, and did illustrate for me, that I need to focus not only on the issues that affect me personally, but also on the issues that affect others. I find that the act of listening to and understanding a person’s passionate rants makes me feel like I understand a bit more about that person. And that makes me feel less isolated and alone in an increasingly isolated and lonely society. And that’s a good thing.

So tell me this:

1-2-3 What are we fighting for?