Category Archives: writing



Hmmm, Let's Think this Over

Hmmml Soapbox?  Let’s Think this Over

The Soapbox and Free Speech

 As a young girl near the early years of the Cold War from 1945 to 1991, I got my introduction to the Soapbox, a small wooden platform, usually a sturdy box with someone standing on it. The man on it was shouting to his audience, about 30 onlookers who stood on the sidewalk and in the sand nearby, against the backdrop of the ocean’s roar in Long Beach, California.

He was pleading for the lives of the Rosenberg’s, Ethel and Julius, who had been sentenced to be executed after being found guilty of espionage for passing secrets about the atomic bomb to the Russians. At the time I understood what execution meant, and learned from the Soap-box man that the couple to be killed had a child.

I was on his side immediately, and tried to argue with a man standing next to me who was bellowing at the Soap-box man that the Rosenberg’s were traitors. Had I known then what I know now, I could have put up a better argument, since years after their deaths I learned they couldn’t have been traitors because we weren’t at war with Russia at the time.

Free Speech

What I also took away from that encounter, and others, since people frequently stood on Soapboxes in public places and made their thoughts well . . . public, was a proud tradition of free speech, even when I didn’t agree with the speaker.

“Free” to me also conjures up the idea that at all times those speeches were free of violence or intimidation. Sometimes the speakers were fanatics of one sort or another, but people milling nearby paid it no mind, and let them have their say, even if they were speaking gibberish, or boasting about their strange and sometimes bizarre visits on UFOs.

As much as I dislike the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis, and White Supremacists who kept popping up long after WWII was over, and unfortunately are still here, I knew they had the right then and now to speak unless they advocated overthrowing the government, verbally proposed violence, or encouraged someone to kill another person. Early on I knew they had a right to their rants, but that I was free to consider them “a*%h%$#s,” usually proceeded by “stupid.”

Finer lines, however, are drawn today. As a newspaper reporter, I continually kept up-to-date with words or phrases that were no longer acceptable, and replaced them with other dictated by editors with a few politics of their own, and the AP Stylebook. “Stewardess” became “flight attendant,” “actress” became “actor,” and “manic depression” became “bi-polar,” all much better and less oppressive terms. That was all well and good, and I continued updating myself on current uses as a freelance magazine writer, and with books published by traditional publishers who had a few quirks of their own.

I remember the flap over what to call older people. Certainly not “old people,” or “old folks,” since I knew that’s where I was headed. Boomers don’t like being called “senior citizens,” or “baby boomers.” “Older person,” “mature,” and my favorite, “upper middle-age,” are today’s preferences.

Political Tolerance

Still, questions nag me, especially when political correctness becomes so intolerant that college students “boo” speakers on stage at campuses for making jokes or saying something they don’t agree with. Worse, they deny and cancel campus speakers and guests if they don’t agree with their points of view. Students, and other citizens, need to hear any and everything to stretch their minds and to not be protected from the new, the opposite, the strange, the mean, the inflammatory, the ordinary, or the extraordinary.

Free speech for all means moving out of comfortable, cushy places in body, mind and spirit, and into the unknown where we’re not always right and not always wrong. It’s especially important for writers to let go of tight beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong and to resist bowing down to every convention that comes along.  Otherwise, the result is soupy mashed potatoes instead of a life that embraces differences, and writing that has meaning. Friedrich Nietzsche said it best: “Every conviction is a prison.”

Also, consider that” tut, tut, tch, tch,” people can be as annoying as White Supremacists.




lone horse rider


By Rita Robinson

Unplanned Adventures

Lightening flashed, thunder roared, and unrelenting rain bombarded our 21-foot RV as we crept along at about 20 miles per hour on I-40 near Nashville, Tennessee. We could barely see the windshield wipers slapping across the front window, and finally took an off-ramp toward a crowded Flying J truck stop.


Writing Inhibitors on Our Shoulders


Rural mailboxes along road against vast Idaho backdrop
Rural mailboxes along road against vast Idaho backdrop

Writing With No Inhibitors

by Rita Robinson

My daughter’s junior high school teacher was checking at the counter when I paid for two confession magazines that carried articles of mine. He had taken a summer job to ease the nearly three-month school vacation from teaching.

As he picked them up to scan, he asked, “Do you read these things?”

“Nope, noooo, ahh.” And then I mumbled. “I only write for them.”

Continue reading Writing Inhibitors on Our Shoulders


Using  Anger to Create Meaning in Writing
by Rita Robinson

When I hear someone say that anger is a weakness, I put it right up there with those who also say that swearing is a weakness. Tell that to Mark Twain who said in Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar, “When angry count four; when very angry, swear.” He also said, “Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.”

Anger, often caused by a perceived injustice, can be uncovered in story after story because it leads to the energy and passion to write a book, article, poem or short story in the first place. It can be the touchstone to writing what needs to be said, and provide the impetus to start getting it down on paper. That initial beginning, laced with anger, helps to make a person’s writing sing. In turn, that melody draws readers to what that writer has to say.