Straddling the Great Divide

Kate Flora here, thinking about the interesting situation I currently find myself in. What’s the great divide? Well, I think of myself as a classic East Coast liberal. I went to Northeastern, a radical law school, for my law degree. I’m a feminist, and went to law school, in part, because of losing a job at Tufts University, in a staff cut of one, because I challenged pay inequity between my salary and that of men with identical experience doing the same job. As a lawyer, I enforced the collection of child support from deadbeat parents, handled cases of battered children and represented the Maine Human Rights Commission. I’ve always thought of myself as the “girl in the white hat.”

I believe in protecting the rights of the little guy or gal. I want a government that protects those rights and isn’t run by corporations and heavily influenced by lobbyists. I want clean water, safe food, and net neutrality.

And now, my two most recent publications fall into widely disparate camps. On the 9781941110591-ObamaInheritance-ARC-GALLEY-070117.inddliberal side, there’s my story in a collection called The Obama Inheritance. The story came about when I reponded to this invitation:

CRIME + POLITICS: THE OBAMA INHERITANCE is a proposed anthology wherein contributors would riff on any one of dozens of teabagger-alt right conspiracy theories about Obama’s years in office and turn them on its head.  For instance, an agent of H.O.P.E. (Higher Operations for Proletariat Enlightenment) travels back in time to safeguard Obama’s birth certificate in Hawaii and winds up battling John Bircher-like saboteurs; an assassin stalks a radical college professor and student Obama who must deal with this fool using his kung fu skills; A young Michelle Robinson must use her wits and kung fu skills uncovering a plot to replace black and other progressive leaders with sell-out androids; a Trump-like individual makes a deal with the Devil to gain power; undocumented workers ban together to hire a masked luchador to bring down a corrupt Arizona sheriff; and a la the old cartoon show Super President, Obama slips into his secret identity as Prez X to quell a volatile situation in the ‘hood involving armed Promise Keeper types. In other words, stuff should be pulpy, sci-fi, over-the-top, thrillerish, psychedelic.

Teeing off from the so-called “terrorist fist-bump,” I wrote a story about Michelle Obama, and a vigilante group of women in high government posts persuading drug company moguls to roll back their outrageous price raises on critical drugs for children. In the reviews for that book, I got what every writer dreams of—Maureen Corrigan reading from my story on NPR. She said: A truly fabulous story kicks off this collection. Remember all those loud whispers, sparked by a fist bump, that Michelle Obama was a covert black power separatist? In “Michelle in Hot Water,” crime writer Kate Flora takes that conspiracy fantasy about the first lady and runs with it. Here’s how the story opens:

The big man with the Russian accent wore an expression somewhere between a smirk and a smile. Not a pleasant smile, but the smile of someone who likes to inflict pain and was about to do just that . … Michelle wasn’t afraid of him; bullies had been common in the part of Chicago where she grew up. Her years in the White House had shown her plenty more, even if they did hide behind expensive suits and artificial courtesies. No. … What scared her was the predicament she had gotten herself into and the trouble it was going to cause for her team: Faiza from State, Leela from the Surgeon General’s office, Charisa from the Pentagon, Lourdes from the FDA, and Alice from Justice.

And this terrific review in The Washington Post:

On the other side of the divide is this: Shots Fired: The misunderstandings, Shots Fired - Jacket.inddmisconceptions, and myths about police shootings which I co-wrote with retired Portland assistant chief Joseph K. Loughlin. From the jacket:

Get a deeper understanding of police shootings through interviews with officers involved in real-life cases

Today’s media is filled with discussions about officer-involved shootings. Too often missing from that discussion are the police officers’ voices and the reality of what happens in actual shooting incidents. Through actual interviews with involved officers, this book addresses common myths and misunderstandings about these shootings.

Shots Fired is a journey “behind the shield” and the experiences of the real human beings behind the badge. It explores true events through the participants’ own eyes and takes readers inside the minds of officers during the actual event. The officers detail the roller coaster of emotions and severe trauma experienced during and after a shooting event.

Along with the intimate, in-depth explorations of the incidents themselves, the book touches the aftermath of police-involved shootings—the debriefings, internal and external investigations, and psychological evaluations. It challenges many commonly held assumptions created by the media such as the meaning of “unarmed” and why the police can’t just “shoot him in the leg,” creating an understanding that reaches beyond slogans such as “hands up, don’t shoot.”

The book is valuable reading for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of police shootings—officers and police departments, reporters and politicians, and the public who rely on the police to keep them safe.

So how did liberal me come to be the co-author of this book? Perhaps because the purpose of the book is to help us all have a more informed conversation, one that doesn’t jump to conclusions based on policing we’ve learned from TV and the movies. One that goes behind the stories reported in the news. Because I believe liberal also means open-minded and willing to consider multiple aspects of an issue. Because I’ve spent the last fifteen years sitting with cops, both for research so I could write better informed police procedurals, and because I’ve been helping people in the public safety world tell their stories.

Because I’ve seen, in the people I’ve interviewed, the impacts of the work we ask them to do, and would like others to join me in a deeper understanding of those impacts. It’s not like TV. They don’t just holster their guns and walk away. Taking a life is never easy. Nor is a job where you see the humanity’s worst side every day.

So this fall, as I straddle the great divide—one foot in radical empowerment camp and another in the world of cops, I am hoping that readers will lift their fists in a resounding “YES!” when Michelle gets out of hot water, and I’m hoping that they will also take the time to read about police shootings from the police point of view.





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1 Response to Straddling the Great Divide

  1. I’m pretty far left, more so since Trumpty Dumpty took office, BUT the reality is this: Nobody (well almost nobody) is 100% anything. Scratch me deep enough and some of what I believe would Make Bernie Sanders sweat. The challenge, and it’s getting harder every day, is to find some common ground. The first indication of there being any is a sense of humor. If I don’t detect any, I beat feet.

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