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The Unapologetic Geek

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Writing About Politics

Robert A. Heinlein
Heinlein: one of the most important science-fiction writers of all time, but also kind of controversial

A part of me wishes I could stop writing about politics. Though this website has changed my identity as a writer, I still consider myself, first and foremost, a science-fiction novelist. As such, airing my political views could be detrimental to my main goal of building an audience. Politics are inherently divisive, and it stands to reason that my politics are bound to turn some people off to my writing, not just today but down the line.

Politics have tainted many writers over the years, and some to such a degree that it is a massive part of their legacy. Look at Orson Scott Card, one of the greatest science-fiction writers alive today, whose deeply right-wing politics and homophobic sentiments destroyed his reputation (not to mention his sales) at exactly the moment his most famous work was getting turned into a Hollywood feature film, a moment that should have boosted his career instead of launching it into the ground. (Yeah, the movie kind of sucked too, but that's beside the point.) Even more historical writers have been tainted, like horror innovator and legend H.P. Lovecraft, whose racism, though socially acceptable in his lifetime, is so abhorrent to modern audiences they refuse to be seen reading his works in public today.

I don't consider myself a homophobe or a racist, of course, but I have no doubt my political views can be deeply offensive to some. In addition to that--and at the risk of hurting my reputation as a self-proclaimed futurist--I have no idea what political views will be deemed unacceptable and abhorrent a hundred years from now. If by some miracle my writing is still around then, I don't want it ignored because I happen to have a viewpoint that, unbeknownst to me now, is backwards and terrible. Maybe that's just putting the cart before the horse, though, because my more immediate concern is getting people to read my stuff while I'm still here.

Alas, these days, not voicing a political opinion is almost as bad as voicing a stupid one. There is a significant segment of the population that truly believes silence in the face of injustice is just as bad--if not worse--than the injustice itself. Hell, I think I might believe that, depending on how deep the injustice goes. There are even those who believe America is in an existential crisis bordering on civil war, and not taking a side is foolish.

Apple versus Android
I am of course referring to the growing bloodshed over smartphone manufacturers

Then again, is there anything more insufferable than an entertainer who can't get off his or her soapbox? Actors who become political activists are a prime example here, because while they may develop a core following among people who agree with them, their careers rarely ever skyrocket as high as their more apolitical contemporaries. It's relatively safe to be a liberal activist in Hollywood right now (it was pretty much the opposite before the sixties and seventies), but conservative actors and directors who come out of their "Friends of Abe" closet and start getting political rarely see their careers go in any direction but down the toilet as a result. Most of them end up working for the Hallmark Channel in between their many bookings on Fox News.

There's a certain smugness, fair or not, that emanates from entertainers who openly express their political views, left or right. It's as though, by virtue of their celebrity, they believe their political views are more valid than yours. I don't think this is actually true for the most part, but it certainly feels that way. With the public so polarized and with celebrities having more freedom to express their personal opinions in cesspools of unproductive discourse like Twitter, that smug impression is poisonous. It is impossible for some actors to proceed with their career without bringing their polical baggage along with them. As just one example, George Takei went from being Sulu to becoming a feel-good Internet celebrity to becoming a charicature of left-wing lunacy in the span of about ten years. He is now known more for his politics than he is for being in Star Trek.

I don't want to go down that road is what I'm getting at. I want to be judged on the merits of my writing, not on my political viewpoints.

However, not writing about politics is difficult. Some of the best articles on this site--not to mention the most clicked--are deeply political. It's a wonderful release for me, and I love doing it. Also, I can't pretend my fiction is free from politics either. I tend to inject a lot of politics into my work, even though I try to keep it more subtextual and even-handed than when I'm railing in a blog post about how awful Congress is. Besides, even though I took the entire summer off from writing political opinion pieces here, I wasn't so quiet on my personal Facebook feed.

Exploding head
Holding it in is dangerous

I have to face the likelihood that I am incapable of political abstinence. There's a part of me that wants to be quiet--this is true--but the rest of me is boiling over in a desperate need to go on a tirade about the president's astonishing incompetence and out-of-control Twitter feed, the idiocy of a transgender military ban, the danger of tearing down memorials to the past because we find some aspect of it offensive, Congressional Republicans' horrible betrayal of their stated principles and campaign promises, the Democratic Party's inability to learn any productive lessons from their stunning defeat last year, American universities turning into social battlegrounds rigged to favor socialism and abhor capitalism, the Great Free Speech War between the most awful and misguided people in the country (the alt-right and Antifa, and yes, the more I look into it, the more I think a moral equivalence between them is justified), how we're still talking about raising the debt ceiling instead of dealing with the debt, people turning Hurricane Harvey into a political weapon to rail against oil companies despite there being no evidence that manmade climate change has anything to do with it, people waiting to protest or support the president in Houston rather than helping people in need, and the insanity of a press corps getting the vapors because the first lady dared to wear high heels. I'm just itching to get into it, but I know my opinions will annoy some people.

Maybe what I really need is a disclaimer. I want people to know that I respect everybody's political opinions and strive to be humble in my own, no matter how snarky or hyperbolic I may seem. Know that I do not consider myself infallible, that I have changed my mind a lot, and that I will try to never hold your political viewpoint against you. I may get impatient with people who don't share my views (especially when it comes to economics), but barring the most horrible extremes (Nazism, totalitarianism, terrorism, etc.), I don't judge people for their opinions. All I ask is that you try not to judge me for mine.

Now then, let's talk about how insane that whole Scaramucci thing was...

-e. magill 8/31/2017

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