What the Fresh Hell?
If you read last week’s post, you know I’ve been in a bit of a Trump Slump. Turns out I’m not the only one suffering at the hands of the cotton-candy coiffed thing currently residing in our White House. Other writers far more successful than I have been admitting similar afflictions. Take science fiction writer John Scalzi, for example. He recently wrote in an LA Times guest editorial piece that “It’s difficult to focus on writing, particularly fiction, when the world feels like it’s on fire and everyone you know is trying to decide between hiding in a hole or taking up recreational alcoholism to get by.”
“That’s me!” I thought. “That’s exactly who I am!” I go to bed depressed, only to be woken up in the wee-small hours by some ranting lunatic trying to destroy the universe. My husband says I need to shut my Twitter account down, but there’s a part of me that feels a burden of responsibility for living our current societal nightmare in real-time. Just like I’m compelled to witness the carnage of a bad car wreck as I drive by. Or watch a Dr. Pimple Popper video. Man, I can never get enough of those.
So, imagine my devastation and self-loathing when I discovered this week that I had been so busy watching the train-wreck known as our Buffoon-in-Chief purposely misquote HIMSELF in Phoenix, Arizona, and then blame the “fake media” for that transgression, I’d forgotten it was the 124th birthday of my literary idol Mrs. Dorothy (née Rothschild) Parker; Quite possibly the greatest satirist and all around wickedly remarkable party girl of all time. She also wrote a bit. (Sarcasm here – she’s one of the most underrated short-story writers of the early 20th century. Hemingway and Fitzgerald eat your hearts out!)
Although she’s known these days more for being the Queen of the Bon Mots, (Hello! - “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to” has never been more apt!) Parker was also a passionate civil rights supporter. After her move to Hollywood later in her career, she helped found the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, eventually becoming scrutinized by McCarthy and being placed on the Hollywood Blacklist because of her activities.
Her passion for helping society’s underdogs remained a foundation of her life even after her career faded. She bequeathed her entire estate to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After his assassination, her endowment was transferred to the NAACP.
But there was something else the great Mrs. P. did that so ties in to my self-admonishment this week. I didn’t just miss her birthday. I missed the 90th anniversary of the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. I’m sure you’re probably wondering who the hell they were. I’d certainly never heard of them before I read Marion Meade’s excellent 1987 biography of Dorothy Parker, What Fresh Hell is This? Turns out they were Italian immigrants who were likely framed for murder because they were social agitators. They were fighting for immigrants’ rights. However, their deaths didn’t quiet the madding crowd. It inspired it. It became the start of a movement. For rights. For progress. Hopefully Heather Heyer’s untimely and tragic death will have similar consequences.
And Mrs. Parker role? It took until 2017 for me to put the pieces together. The remarkable Mrs. P. took to the streets to protest the arrest and pending execution of these men. She was arrested for civil disobedience because of it. And it was apparently one of the proudest moments of her life.
How cool is that? I can't think of a better sign to be sent from across the ages, from a literary goddess no less, that while the struggle is real, you've got to keep fighting for what you believe in, no matter how insignificant your efforts may feel.