Monday, February 20, 2017

Should Authors Comment on Politics?

Well, I do. 

Within reason, of course. I've done it here, I've posted links here. I'll likely continue to as long as there are situations that I think need fixing.

Listen, celebrities do it all the time. You know who else does it? Politicians. And they're some of the least qualified rectal orifices I can thing of, with a few exceptions. 

I live in the US of A. United States of America. This is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, according to at least one song I can think of. And the very first right they decided needed protecting in this country is the First Amendment,  Free Speech. Pretty much in front of everything else. Now, a few people will turn around and say that it's freedom of the press not the average. I'll counter with it's the right to bear arms in order to form a militia, not to have a thousand rounds a minute and armor piercing bullets. So to those naysayers I'll just point to the Second Amendment, nod and smile. There may or may not be a finger involved. I would also point out that as it is a government by the people and for the people, we have every right to offer an opinion on how it is run. This government is SUPPOSED to run FOR us, not OVER us. 

When we do not speak up, we are not heard. When we are not heard, we are silenced. Not just with our voices, but with our words. How can we. as writers, remain silenced? 

The whole of he letter is below, but allow me to quote a man who was once insulted by copies of his books being burned, "If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own."--Kurt Vonnegut

Here's a reminder from one of the most powerful and significant speculative fiction writers of the last 100 years. He says his words so much better than I can on the subject that is near and dear to my heart and sums up every possible reason why the answer to our question today is "YES! A  THOUSAND TIME. YESSSS!"

"November 16, 1973
Dear Mr. McCarthy:
I am writing to you in your capacity as chairman of the Drake School Board. I am among those American writers whose books have been destroyed in the now famous furnace of your school.
Certain members of your community have suggested that my work is evil. This is extraordinarily insulting to me. The news from Drake indicates to me that books and writers are very unreal to you people. I am writing this letter to let you know how real I am.
I want you to know, too, that my publisher and I have done absolutely nothing to exploit the disgusting news from Drake. We are not clapping each other on the back, crowing about all the books we will sell because of the news. We have declined to go on television, have written no fiery letters to editorial pages, have granted no lengthy interviews. We are angered and sickened and saddened. And no copies of this letter have been sent to anybody else. You now hold the only copy in your hands. It is a strictly private letter from me to the people of Drake, who have done so much to damage my reputation in the eyes of their children and then in the eyes of the world. Do you have the courage and ordinary decency to show this letter to the people, or will it, too, be consigned to the fires of your furnace?
I gather from what I read in the papers and hear on television that you imagine me, and some other writers, too, as being sort of ratlike people who enjoy making money from poisoning the minds of young people. I am in fact a large, strong person, fifty-one years old, who did a lot of farm work as a boy, who is good with tools. I have raised six children, three my own and three adopted. They have all turned out well. Two of them are farmers. I am a combat infantry veteran from World War II, and hold a Purple Heart. I have earned whatever I own by hard work. I have never been arrested or sued for anything. I am so much trusted with young people and by young people that I have served on the faculties of the University of Iowa, Harvard, and the City College of New York. Every year I receive at least a dozen invitations to be commencement speaker at colleges and high schools. My books are probably more widely used in schools than those of any other living American fiction writer.
If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are. It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even our most sheltered children know that. And we all know, too, that those words really don’t damage children much. They didn’t damage us when we were young. It was evil deeds and lying that hurt us.
After I have said all this, I am sure you are still ready to respond, in effect, “Yes, yes–but it still remains our right and our responsibility to decide what books our children are going to be made to read in our community.” This is surely so. But it is also true that if you exercise that right and fulfill that responsibility in an ignorant, harsh, un-American manner, then people are entitled to call you bad citizens and fools. Even your own children are entitled to call you that.
I read in the newspaper that your community is mystified by the outcry from all over the country about what you have done. Well, you have discovered that Drake is a part of American civilization, and your fellow Americans can’t stand it that you have behaved in such an uncivilized way. Perhaps you will learn from this that books are sacred to free men for very good reasons, and that wars have been fought against nations which hate books and burn them. If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.
If you and your board are now determined to show that you in fact have wisdom and maturity when you exercise your powers over the eduction of your young, then you should acknowledge that it was a rotten lesson you taught young people in a free society when you denounced and then burned books–books you hadn’t even read. You should also resolve to expose your children to all sorts of opinions and information, in order that they will be better equipped to make decisions and to survive.
Again: you have insulted me, and I am a good citizen, and I am very real.
Kurt Vonnegut"

I couldn't have said it better in a million years.

James A. Moore


  1. Love that letter from Kurt Vonnegut! Had never seen it before. Thanks for sharing. Did McCarthy ever?

  2. he must have, or we would never have seen it. :) It was literally only ever sent to him.

  3. I wonder if the kids of Drake ever got to read Vonnegut. . . I sure hope so.