Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Who Says Authors Are So Smart?








A quote by a best selling author:

"I don’t want to sound like an ad, a public service ad on TV, but the fact is if you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don’t, then you’ve got, the Army, Iraq, I don’t know, something like that. It’s, it’s not as bright. So, that’s my little commercial for that."

Before revealing the author, if you don't know already, I have to comment on the quote. There are so many things wrong with this statement, I’m not sure where to start.

First, the most obvious: the Army is NOT full of the uneducated/illiterate. Trust me on this. I know LOTS of them. And, being in the Army (or any other military branch) does NOT mean you can’t or won’t read! This author is largely supported by the military, in fact, since his books are one of the staples of their free time while living in tents in the desert away from their loved ones. That’s much of what they do: they read. Tons of books are shipped over to help fill their downtime when they get it and to help them escape from where they are. Books are highly requested items.

Second, people do not join the military, especially nowadays when they know they’ll be going overseas, just because they can’t get anything else. Not true. They sign up because they have the brains to know how important it is to support your country and because they have the guts to do it. (I’m quite sure that author wouldn’t make it in the Army. He would never even get through boot camp.) Many of them actually sign up in order to help pay for college because they are bright and determined to make something of their lives and are willing to work hard for that college money instead of sitting around asking for free government handouts. Very bright, indeed. Top of the line Americans.

Third, even besides the military viewpoint, what makes him think he has the right to degrade those who are not good at reading/language? Seriously, does he think that’s the only sign of intelligence? It isn’t. We all have our strong points, but being better at one thing as compared to another does not make that group smarter. Not at all. Some of us are good at language, others good at science or math, others can build anything you need built and learn how to use any tool/machine someone can create. Is one more important or does it put those people above others? No.

I have very good language skills, I’m a good editor, and I’ve been told I have a way with words. But give me something to build from scratch and ... you better stay out of the building because it’s not likely to stand. And don’t try to ask me how tall or long something is unless you give me a ruler. Mechanics? Forget it? I can’t grasp the concept. So, between me and the person who can measure in his head and build houses from ground up or rebuild an engine and make it run better than before, which of us is the more intelligent? Can’t tell? Neither can I.

A good command of language does not make you smarter than anyone else. I know authors who really aren’t all that smart, which apparently includes the author of that quote.We, as authors, are part of the entertainment industry, as much as I hate to admit it. The entertainment industry as a whole needs to take a step back and realize their place in society. They are not the end all and be all. They are ... entertainment. Not that it isn’t important. Of course it is. At the end of a hard day of real work, people deserve to have some entertainment to help them unwind. However, it doesn’t come first. First, they need food, shelter, and safety. Without those three NEEDS, entertainment means nothing. Without all of those laborers (farmers, manufacturers, retailers, secretaries, mechanics, and of course our military), entertainment would be nothing but a joke. Who needs a novel when you don’t have clothes to put on your back or food to eat or a safe place in which to read it? Seriously, let’s remember what’s important, here.

My husband was a soldier. He fought in Desert Storm. The rest of his twenty years of career service, he did such a vast array of jobs I can’t begin to imagine being able to do. Bright? Very. He can figure out how to make anything work. I’m constantly impressed and humbled by his abilities. Try putting that author in charge of millions of dollars worth of weaponry and figuring out how to get a whole group of soldiers and all of the equipment to training and back again with not one piece of equipment unaccounted for, not to mention being in charge of a group of soldiers and training them well enough to get them all home again safely. Actually, don’t. What a fiasco that would be!

Yes, I have a good command of language, have two books published, am an avid reader, have a bachelor’s degree, and ... and nothing I have ever done can stand up to what he has done. I’ve been called a wonder woman (hm?) while he is the one in the background doing the daily hard labor that allows me to do what I do. At least I’m not arrogant enough to think I’m more intelligent or that my work is more important. It’s not. It can’t touch the importance of his work. In all reality, we work FOR them, not the other way around.

That author’s work, even though he’s a best seller many times over, does not come close to the importance of what our military is doing. He’s more arrogant than intelligent.

For those arguing that he didn’t mean it the way he said it, read his memoir/writing instruction book. Yes, he meant it. It wasn’t a one-time slip. He has a very low opinion of our military. I would love to be able to ask him how, if he thinks they are all illiterate morons, we have the world’s strongest and most powerful military. It isn’t because of the leaders, guaranteed. It is because of each one of our troops, because they are strong and smart and educated in so many ways we can’t begin to understand. And they are protecting us from having to live under Bin Laden’s rule, or Hussein’s, or Hitler’s, or whoever else would decide to walk in and take over if not for our military. Consider that, Mr. King. Try writing under those circumstances.

"We need a very strong military to protect the freedoms we do have."
Jerry Bruckheimer

"I’m inclined to think that a military background wouldn’t hurt anyone."
William Faulkner

"If everyone who graduated from high school was required to do some form of public service, you would have enough people in the military."
Montel Williams

"Successful organizations, including the Military, have learned that the higher the risk, the more necessary it is to engage everyone’s commitment and intelligence."
Margaret J. Wheatley

** I posted this on my writing blog earlier today and a couple of things said in comments need to be included:

1-- Today's military uses very high tech weaponry that takes a fair amount of intelligence and skill to use. The illiterate would never make it in to any service branch. These are not people who were drafted. They are volunteers who have to pass tests to prove they can do the jobs. If they can't, they get kicked out.

2-- This author's former multi-drug use (to the extent he says he barely remembers writing at least a couple of his books and had no idea what he was writing part of the time) helped to fuel the wars our soldiers are now fighting. Where do you think those drugs came from? They support our enemies. Illegal drug users are helping to fund their fight against us.

I would love to know what actual value this author has been to his country. He provided entertainment. Great, but if people weren't reading his books, they would be reading someone else's. *shrug* What real USE have you been to us, Mr. King? Try asking the same of any service member. They have an answer.