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That Thing with Feathers: Hope and Literature in a Time of Upheaval

Wired for story, we humans seek the solace and connection of resonant words in times of distress and upheaval. But sometimes what we need even more are words that challenge and disrupt. Mark Maynard looks unflinchingly at the conflicts around race and police brutality laid bare by unrest and protests in the streets as America grapples, once more, with race and injustice.


Crossing the Chasm

by Mark Maynard

Last night I watched the downtown of my own city smashed, burned, and broken. The Biggest Little City in the World certainly felt much bigger. We live in a house divided. But the inclination to seek unity is based on a false premise – that right now there is a moral and objective center where people of differing opinions can meet, and find the way out of the morass together. The center cannot hold because it is a chasm. There is no reason to strive to understand a point of view that is unequivocally immoral, nihilistic, and hateful. The Great American Lie is that we must build upon a flawed foundation of rugged individualism rooted in an innate capability and superiority of the singular, the exceptional, and the chosen. Do not let your sense of inclusivity and empathy – nor your inclination to listen and understand those that are different than you – allow you to compromise your morals and values. Do not tolerate the sirens of hate, fear, and irrationality. Acknowledge them for what they are, even when spoken by your neighbors, friends, and family. Extend your hand over the chasm and offer it to those willing to cross, but don’t move an inch in the other direction, towards a moral center that does not exist. Strive to welcome multitudes to the side of right, but be prepared to let the unwilling and the unmoved go – and do not follow them into the abyss of moral equivalence. At some point, we must turn our backs to the chasm, and those across it, and instead work together with the rational, the creative, the selfless, and the loving to build, strengthen, and defend the values we hold most dear.


MARK MAYNARD grew up on the north shore of Lake Tahoe in Incline Village, Nevada, a small town that blessed him with enough quirky characters to populate a lifetime of stories. Mark earned his MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) from Antioch University Los Angeles, and is author of the short fiction collection, Grind. He teaches at Truckee Meadows Community College and lives in Reno, Nevada.

This project has received funding from Utah Humanities (UH). UH empowers Utahns to improve their communities through active engagement in the humanities.

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