Another Chapter in Living the Great American Novel

Last month, I wrote a blog post about Living the Great American Novel. I wrote it mostly about the aspirations of grandeur that I, and many of my friends had in our youth. Yet there is another side to this, the political ramifications. I thought about this as I spoke with a friend at a party last night. She’s a writer who has been doing political work, and is trying to find a balance between the two. To me, it all seems intertwined.

I guess a good starting place to look at this is my work blog post, What if Leopold Bloom worked at a Community Health Center?. There, I made a reference to James Agee’s book, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”. You see, while the mass of men may lead lives of quiet desperation, there are also fascinating stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things that make this world a better place. Some of this was reflected in an email from the clinical director at work about 30 years of HIV. I posted it on the company blog because it tells important stories of people at the health center over the past three decades in a way that makes me think of ordinary people doing extraordinary things for the sake of praiseworthy famous men.

There have been a few different stories in the news recently that have caught my attention that also reflects a little bit of this. The first story is of a Utah gunman who updated his Facebook status during a standoff. I’m not sure that I would list Jason Valdez as a role model, but he provides a fascinating look into a life that is so remote from the upper class white folks I’ve lived amongst.

Another story is of a man who robbed a bank of one dollar so that he could be taken to jail and get health care. It is an incredible story that illustrates some of what is wrong with health care in America. Then today, I read the article My Life as an Undocumented [Pulitzer Prize winning] Immigrant. It is an incredible story that puts the whole immigration debate in a new light. I encourage to read not only that story, but also the story behind the publishing of the story.

These are the stories of people living the Great American Novel. To all my political friends, especially the bloggers and the woman I spoke with at the party last night, if you want to bring about real change, step away from preaching policy to the choir, move beyond being ‘in’. Tell the stories of the people you meet, the people for whom all the political posturing isn’t just a topic to argue about, but makes a difference in the daily lives.

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