In My Secret Life

But I know what is wrong,
And I know what is right.
And I’d die for the truth
In My Secret Life.

Leonard Cohen, In My Secret Life

When they hear I have a blog most people who know me in real life assume it is a political one. They are bemused when they learn it isn’t. I don’t blame them. I’ve been talking about politics since…well…forever. It’s what my family did around the dinner table.

I’ve been an activist too. I’ve stuffed envelopes, passed out how-to-vote cards, cooked democracy sausages and driven people to polling stations. In what is either enlightenment or lunacy (depending on your point of view) I don’t have a party affiliation (in fact I’ve volunteered in some capacity or other for candidates from four different political parties over the years) but I have always been interested in people who have great ideas.

My choice to blog about a different passion – and to keep the subject matter very focused – was quite deliberate. I found that you can – or at least I can – actually have too much political discussion. It’s been good for me to have a space to discuss more genteel subjects. Like murder.

And I’m not really going to change that now. I promise this post will be a single aberration.

But like much of the world, political discussion has been dominating my life of late, though in one way not as much as I’d have liked. I can’t really put into words how much I have missed my mum, who died in August last year, these past few months. Missed the conversations we never got to have about the bizarre American election season just ended (sorry to my American friends and family I don’t mean to be rude and I’m not having a go at one side of the spectrum more than another but, at least seen from this distance, it’s been like watching a largely incomprehensible circus). Of course I have discussed it all – endlessly – with other family and friends galore but it’s not quite the same. On Wednesday as I watched the US election results unfold – during a highly unproductive work day here in Australia – I kept thinking of points and issues mum and I would have discussed, and/or argued about. Annoyingly I had tears in my eyes at one point and some numpty walked into my office and assumed I was upset at the result. I didn’t feel like telling them I was in the middle of delayed grief so now that person thinks I’m slightly deranged. Sigh.

One thing my mum and I would do at the end of an election campaign, especially one where we were on opposite sides of the political spectrum which happened more often than not, would be to revert to our other shared passion. Reading mysteries. And though I’ve not more than a page or two for a week now I’m determined to get back on the horse tonight.

As my blogging friend Mrs Peabody suggested earlier this week there’s probably two kinds of crime novels to look out for right now: respite crime (the cosier stuff that lets you escape reality for a bit) and gritty crime that explores the political and social themes that are playing out in the real world. Each kind has its purpose but I think I’ve found one that’s a combination of both.

givethedevilhisdueaudioSulari Gentill’s GIVE THE DEVIL HIS DUE sees the series hero, Rowland Sinclair, taking part in a car race but the dead bodies are not on the race track. I’ve already read this once in print but I downloaded the newly released audio version this morning. Readers of my other blog will know I am a huge fan of Sulari’s work and it does feel particularly pertinent now. Set in the 1930’s the books, including this one, feature characters from a range of social and political strata who manage to rub along together, learning from and listening to each other. Couldn’t we all do a little more of that? The series also explores the rise of fascism and how difficult it was to draw people’s attention to what was happening in Germany at the time. And no I’m not suggesting that the new President-elect is some modern-day Hitler but I do believe that ensuring evil acts are not allowed the cover of darkness is our collective responsibility and I will take my lessons in sensible activism wherever I can find them.

There has been much written and said in reaction to this week’s events. I know because I’ve spent way too many hours down internet rabbit holes, But my favourite – for all manner of reasons – is comedy show Saturday Night Live’s singularly unfunny opening to its November 12th episode.

Let’s all agree to never give up eh?

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20 Responses to In My Secret Life

  1. Mrs P. says:

    Great post, Bernadette, and thanks for the recommendation – Sulari Gentill’s series is definitely going on my TBR list.

    Democracy sausages!!! What a fantastic way to make voting a tasty experience, and a great fundraising idea too. Love the idea of compulsory voting as well, particularly when looking at the recent US voter turnout stats.

    Off to listen to In My Secret Life x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many people here grumble about compulsory voting but on balance I think it’s a good thing. Lots of political scientists over the years have tended to agree that it ensures we don’t elect extremists…the arguement being that because everyone is going to vote then parties need to appeal to the mass of people who are somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum. That doesn’t mean we don’t have oddball/extreme candidates, and occasionally one or two of them get a seat in the Senate but it’s hard for them to get control of anything much and they rarely hang around very long.

      Interestingly the fine for not voting is truly tiny (I think it’s $20 at present) but hardly anyone goes that route…even the grumbles turn up to do their duty (or get their sausage)

      As for the sausages…it just doesn’t seem like voting to me without them LOL. A lot of polling booths also have cake stalls (eat a sausage while waiting in line, buy a cake for ‘afters’ on the way out) and this year one booth in my electorate had a mobile coffee selling van, they did a roaring trade and made much needed funds for the local primary school (any selling that goes on cannot be for any of the political parties represented in the election so it is always other good causes that reap the benefits). When my brother voted for the first time after becoming a US citizen he did write home that it just lacked a certain something to have no barbecue going as he lined up 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, let’s agree. There is an uncomfortable familiarity to political currents of late.

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  3. I’m sorry you’re dealing with grief, on top of everything else, Bernadette. I’ve found, anyway, that it hits you at very unexpected times, or at least times you weren’t braced for it. I’m glad you’ve mentioned Sulari Gentill’s work, too – the perfect antidote to what’s been going on this week. And I couldn’t possibly agree more with your final point: let’s agree not to give up. That’s the last thing we should do right now…

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is peculiar how grief hits at odd moments Margot, but in a way I did welcome all the memories of debates past…they were a big part of my relationship with my mum and it’s good to remember our version of good times

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sorry for your loss, Bernadette. And I totally get those odd moments of grief. I was attempting to talk about cosmopolitanism in a meeting with my PhD lecturer last week and started crying — an indication that I wasn’t doing such a great job of coming to terms with the US election results after all.

        But yes, count me among the ‘Never give up’ brigade.

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  4. tracybham says:

    Nice post, Bernadette. This last few days I have felt somewhere between grief and being hung over. Flat, lethargic, sensitive, emotional. My husband and I have done our best to stay away from anything inflammatory on the internet. We don’t need anything to make us feel worse than we already do.

    Just last week, I discovered that the Sulari Gentill books are now being released through Poisoned Pen Press in the US in print. I had read the first book as an e-book (during my last visit to see my mother and probably my last visit ever to Alabama) but I just don’t do well reading e-books anymore so I did not get any further in the series. Now I look forward to reading more of that series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good idea to skip much of the internet this past week Tracy, I’m going to follow that advice this week and beyond. And I’m so glad to hear that Sulari’s books are going to have a chance for a wider audience

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  5. kathy d. says:

    Very sorry to hear about your renewed grief. It happens. It’s normal and it is painful, but hard to avoid. We loved people we spent our lives with until they are no longer there. And it’s a hard loss. And, yes, I, too, miss discussing politics with my parents at the dinner table and at other times.
    Speaking about the elections here, I ate my way through chocolate and other junk food last week and yelled at the TV and computer. This is an awful development. People are afraid, immigrants, other people of color, women and now Jewish people, too. Some people are posting horrors from WWII online.
    And not enough voices have come out against the results of this election and who’s in the White House. Bernie Sanders is one of a few. In the writing world, Stephen King and J.K Rowling have made good statements.
    But, seeing who has been appointed in two top positions in the White House, one, an anti-Semitic and ultra-racist guy, the other, a top Republican who wants to undo our senior medical coverage and other programs, I feel sick.
    What gives me hope are the young people who have protested for five days in a row.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d been thinking of you Kathy living through all this…it must be so hard from your vantage point. Not only watching the awful people Trump is appointing to positions of power and influence and wondering which of your friends and neighbours might be a target next – of either vigilantes who feel empowered by the election of such an unscrupulous, bigot or of real policy destined to make people suffer. But also watching the backpedalling that some media outlets and celebrities are doing. Not all at least but some, saying that he won’t be as bad as everyone thought. When in fact it’s highly likely he – and his entourage – will be worse than we could have imagined given they’ll have both houses of Congress as well as the White House under their control.

      It’s hard to know what to do from this distance but I will seek out opportunities to offer whatever support can be given from afar.

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  6. kathy d. says:

    Thank you, Bernadette. That is very kind. There are other bloggers who are good people. J.K. Rowling’s Twitter has been quite strong. And Eva Dolan’s (English writer), too. People are posting some very strong points there about the threat posed by the people in the White House.
    I’m waiting for the Democrats to do something.
    And the TV news people are just going along as if we are all dealing with just another administration. And even liberals on shows I watch are saying this. Not all.
    I think that the appointments in the White House by Trump will show people who they really are and what this administration is about.
    And opposition has got to grow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I liked the letter that Aaron Sorkin wrote to his daughters too – about staying in place and fighting back.

      I guess it’ll take the Democrats some time to re-group and plan what to do next but I’m sure they will get there. And opposition will come from all over I’m sure. At least I have to hope so.

      Stay safe

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  7. vicky blake says:

    I completely identify with grief for the loss of a parent being tied up with political events. My father taught politics and wrote about it and whenever things happen like the hung parliament in the UK or Brexit or Trump I miss him intensely and end up having imaginary conversations with him about it. Our politics were on opposite ends of the spectrum but … I miss him.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Anonymous says:

    Bernadette: Thirty five years since my Mom has been gone. I do my best to think of the good memories. I hope your thoughts of you and your mother on politics ultimately cheers you. They sound like the conversations we wish we had more often.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. kathy d. says:

    I guess I’m lucky that my parents were progressive people, took us to anti-Vietnam war and Civil Rights protests. And our dinner time discussions were always interesting and the point of view good.
    The politics led to me reading a lot of muckraking books when I was a teenager, so my social conscience developed.
    As the world became more complicated, my parents sometimes differed with each other, but always on the same overall spectrum. I had to figure out my own opinions then, but I did.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for a nice post, combining the political and the personal (which used to be a big thing in leftwing circles round here when I was a lot younger). You can’t separate them can you? But reading about others’ thoughts and feelings is a help.

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