A Political Piece

Given the low level to which we’ve sunk in our political and social discourse, I thought it apropos to write an essay on the Parable of the Samaritan.

Below is the parable, according to the King James Version, courtesy of Project Gutenberg.

 10:25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

10:26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

10:27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

10:28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

10:29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

10:30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

10:31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

10:32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

10:33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

10:34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

10:35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

10:36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

10:37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Various writers attempted to ‘explain’ the parable in a variety of ways. Some almost make sense, and others are so far off the mark that one wonders how the authors functioned without caregivers. No doubt the audience for the parable would have had some idea of why a priest and a Levite, Temple duties already fulfilled, would leave a man lying (living or dead) by the road.

And then along comes the Samaritan, who does what they refused to do.

Wikipedia has an entire article on the Samaritans – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritans#Tensions_between_the_Samaritans_and_the_Judeans – that goes into their history and their modern situation.

Back in the time of Christ, the Samaritans and the Jews were not on speaking terms. The article mentions many of the conflicts, but basically, the Samaritans were not considered ‘true’ Jews. They were despised and abused by the majority population.

Jesus was telling his listeners that even a Samaritan could do right and good.

Right now, we have people who call themselves Christian going out of their way to mistreat those who are not Christian, who are LGBTQ, who are disabled, who are not of Northern European ancestry – basically, abusing all those outside a very narrow slice of humanity. They always wanted to do these things but dared not because society condemned such behavior.

It’s time for us to be the Samaritan of the parable: doing good for the victims of violence while the rest of society either stands silently by or assaults those who are different. Doing good for those who are despised because it is the right thing to do.

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Birth of a Story

One of Isaac Asimov’s fellow writers once asked him where he got his ideas. He replied that he got them by thinking and thinking until he was ready to jump out a window – to the relief of his friend (who, I deduce, had the same problem).

And that’s how it can happen. It also happens in other ways.

Plot germs come to me at the oddest times. I have several files of speculations based on ideas that I had while reading, watching movies or television, or working. I don’t yet have the stories to go with them.

Here’s the tale of a plot germ that bore fruit. (Note: all the steps you will read did not happen one after the other. I often had to stop and think, backtrack, and edit.)

I wrote a fantasy/mystery called Justice for the Werewolf, that developed from a thought I had while reading The Werewolf Book by Brad Steiger. The latter book has a number of flaws, such as treating Hollywood fakelore as legitimate, but it was the fakelore that gave me the plot germ.

According to fakelore, pre-transformation werewolves see pentagrams on (depending on the writer) either themselves or on their next victim. And this thought wandered into my head: suppose the victims’ pentagrams lead the werewolf to them? The logical next thought was that someone cast the spell that marked the victim. From there, I got werewolf as the weapon used by an assassin.

As I thought about this, I decided that the werewolf should be (initially) unaware of the transformation or killing. She would be the unwitting victim of the curse that ruined her life.

Now, since this took place in a world where magic worked and gods are real, why wouldn’t people eventually realize there was a shape-changing hitman on the loose? Why wouldn’t the werewolf herself come to the same conclusion?

And why wouldn’t she go to the police and confess, or simply kill herself?

My answer was social change and technological development. Various types of spells and magical practices fell out of use when non-magical substitutes were invented and proved easier to use and maintain. The nation-state changed in other ways, leaving them less vulnerable to the sort of dangers that mages had protected them from. Eventually, the nation-state drew away from ‘unsophisticated’ neighboring states; the mages themselves stopped learning or studying now-irrelevant spells, and then the old grimoires were destroyed and historical events reinterpreted to remove anything not already attributed to the gods or to the now-accepted magics.

Now that I had my background, I needed the story.

My viewpoint character would be the werewolf. The story would be about her search for answers and about the effects of the curse on her. A second viewpoint character would be the detective searching for what everybody thought was the handler/owner of a trained wolf. He eventually becomes the werewolf’s ally. Their efforts converge to prove that she’s cursed and reveal those responsible. Rounding out the cast are a few mages, a crime boss, and a number of supporting players.

All of that originated with a thought sparked by an entry or two in a book.

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If I Ran an Evil Conspiracy

  1. I will encourage the promulgation of conspiracy theories. That way, any hint of my Evil Plan will be lost in the noise.
  2. I will not panic or over-react when the Hero seems to discover my evil plan. Especially if s/he’s a True Believer in conspiracy theories. Odds are that anything I can imagine, the Hero can imagine. Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.
  3. Should I suspect the Hero possesses evidence of my Evil Plan, I will order my minions to covertly break in and search for, then remove, the evidence. Bursting in with guns blazing attracts attention, and has too often created vengeful Heroes. On rare occasions, it has also led authorities to join the Hero in his/her efforts.
  4. If I must kill the Hero, I will do so in a way that does not put anyone else on my trail. No paramilitary teams, rocket-launchers, explosives, or other means inappropriate to the target. Many people are victims of common criminals.
  5. I will not concoct a conspiracy that cannot be altered to fit circumstances. I should be able to take advantage of, or cope with, events that will affect my success. This has the added advantage of making the Hero look like a raving loony when things don’t go as predicted.
  6. Since I’ve successfully concealed my Evil Plan to date, I will not draw attention by kidnapping or killing the associates, employees, friends, or lovers of anyone able to stop me. This goes double if they only suspect that I’m up to more evil than someone in my position should be.
  7. If my goal is world domination, I will read the ‘Evil Overlord’ and similar lists for further tips beyond this one.

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