Friday, September 18, 2020

Art Does Not Apologize ... And Neither Do I

Over the past three and a half years, I have gotten a number of comments regarding my critical stance on Trump, expressed mildly at the top of my blog with the statement: "...in the interest of protecting the 1st Amendment, she did not vote for Trump." I've been repeatedly admonished, sometimes with a great deal of anger, to "just stick to writing." Politics, I have been told, should have no place on my blog.

The attitude that writers should "just stick to writing," as if what we write is completely divorced from the world we live in, is patently absurd. But more to the point, opposing Trump and all that he stands for is not "politics." It is a matter of life and death, quite literally.

To put it plainly, Trump is a fascist. He is also a racist, a misogynist, and a traitor. He has brought us nothing but chaos, death and destruction. He has allowed a pandemic to run rampant, and encouraged people who lack critical thinking to reject science and actively spread a disease that is killing men, women, and children by the hundreds of thousands. To support him is not only antithetical to every tenet of democracy, but to everything that comprises human decency. Opposing the erosion of democratic norms and principles that Trump has promulgated is not a political stance. It is a requirement if we are to continue living in a democracy.

Where do writers fit in? As citizens in a democracy, we must support the principles that uphold it: that all men and women are created equal, that all are entitled to the protection of the law, that we all have a voice. As artists, we have a duty to make sure that our voices are lifted to the full extent of our craft, and to resist the multiple pressures to "just stick to...," because that admonition simply means "shut up." Silencing dissent is the hallmark of authoritarian regimes.

The looming election, with all its anxiety-producing impediments - the attempted sabotaging of the USPS, the erosion of confidence in the electoral process, the multiple threats of election tampering, rigging, and hacking, the fear that the entire basis of the democratic system will be abandoned - requires that, as writers, we do, in fact, have to stick to writing - not divorced from the world we live in, but engaged with it in the deepest sense.

As a writer of fiction, I am vehemently opposed to using art strictly as a vehicle to make a point. That's not what I am recommending. Once your story becomes subservient to a point, it loses its impact.  Our overriding commitment is to tell a story the best way we can - with artistry, with beauty, with passion, and with honesty. The message should unfold naturally and organically as an inherent part of the story. An artist is inseparable from the art he or she produces. What we create is imbued with who we are. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, how you think will be apparent in every sentence. All writing is, in that sense, autobiographical. Your thinking processes are impossible to hide.

That is why every authoritarian regime makes a point of locking up, or simply killing, its artists. We are the eyes and ears of society, its conscience, its awareness, its embodiment in tangible form. When our society is in crisis, we do not hide our heads in the sand and pretend everything is fine when it clearly isn't. We speak up.

It goes without saying that you should vote. Even if you are depressed, anxious, or merely exhausted by the past three years - vote. And in the meantime, don't relinquish an ounce of your outrage. Because outrage is what we should all be feeling. With every word we write, with every breath we take, with every fiber of our being, we must continue to resist autocracy.

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